Antique stores are fascinating places, right? Why? Because you can treasure hunt and perhaps find a link to your past. You can hold an object that was held by someone long ago. You can ponder their life, their surroundings, their circumstances. Perhaps their life was not so very different from your own.
And now, you stand holding a matchbook that they held. On their vacation. When smoking was cool, even normal. Away from their troubles. In a beautiful place.
Today for example, I’m sitting in the restaurant at the Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona. It’s been here a long time. Well, its predecessor was here a long time. They recently rebuilt the resort, but happily they retained the history of the place in the design and memorabilia on display. Complete with an issue of Arizona Highways from December 1950 next to the bar tray set up for martinis in my room. I love that.
When I learned I had the opportunity to come here today, to enjoy the resort and maybe have the luxury to sit and think and enjoy a pretty view, I realized something. Although I had never been here before, I knew the resort. Not because I had ever visited, but because I had held an object. A matchbook.
You see when my husband was a lad, he used to collect matchbooks. Some he gathered on his own, from his family’s trips to Florida or Arizona, and some were given to him. Maybe twenty or more years ago, his mom and dad gave the collection back to him in a display case. The matchbooks hang on dowels in a wooden case with a plexiglass door. They are precious little works of art, a window to the past. Small businesses, restaurants, car dealerships, real estate offices, airlines, all hoped that you would remember them when you lit your smoke.
Mountain Shadows opened in 1959. There was not much here back then. Arizona was cool place to come and refresh and get healthy. Movie stars loved it. Midwesterners loved it. In 1960 they expanded. Poured four million dollars into additional land and a golf course. In 1961 Del Webb, master planner and visionary, bought it. That is the matchbook I hold. Apparently, Mr. Webb held quite a few hotels, because on the back of the matchbook it lists three hotels in Las Vegas, the Hotel Sahara in Tahoe, the Newporter in Newport Beach, the Townhouse in Fresno, the Townhouse in San Francisco, the Townhouse in Phoenix, and Kuilima In Oahu, Hawaii. That’s impressive. I would have liked to have a martini with Mr. Webb. He got things done.
When you ride up and down the elevator at Mountain Shadows, there are photos of Lucille Ball and Bob Hope on the golf course on the walls. I guess the band the Monkees came here too. Can you see it all in your mind’s eye? Back then we did not have social media. The paparazzi snapped a photograph of you dinning or playing golf and it would end up in the newspaper. People did not ‘post’ about their stay like we do now. They did not post angry tweets at 2am. But I’m sure they had those moments. After all, they were human. Striving to work hard, be good at something and occasionally relax in the desert to refresh their bones. And after their steak dinner by the pool, perhaps they would light a cigarette, recommended by doctors, a great was to stay slim and show your independence.
Wow, we had that wrong. And only time will tell what we are getting wrong today. As I hold this little matchbook in my hand, and my iPhone in the other, I just wonder.
June 20, 2018
Mountain Shadows Resort