Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Northern Arizona University (1978-1981)
I attend Northern Arizona University (the "Lumberjack" was our mascot) in Flagstaff just after graduating from high school in Rochester, New York. The NAU campus is the largest, geographically, in the U.S. The town is small and contains a large Native American population. The air is so clean that many electronics companies take advantage of it by locating there (electronics do best in clean air). I also remember the air often containing a rather pleasant wood and pine odor, due to the sawmills in town and the dry, pine forests in the area. The San Francisco Peaks—at 15,000 feet—dominate the sky in the northern direction from the campus. The many pines in the area are deceptive because they suggest a fair amount of rainfall, but, in fact, Flagstaff gets very little precipitation (although quite a bit of winter snow). It is also surprising, given its location in the middle of the Arizona desert system, that Flagstaff gets a lot of snow and cold in the winter. During my freshman year, the temperature plunges down to 32 degrees below zero, which was the nation's low for that day. (On that same day, interestingly enough, Phoenix – a mere two hours to the south – has the nation's high for the day.) The Lumberjack football team plays in the skydome, which is the world's largest wood framed dome. I play broomball in the dome, and my dorm mates are on my team (see photo of the team).
We would regularly walk to Shakey Drake’s -- a bar a short distance north of campus for beer-drinking (bottom-less pitchers, it seemed) and listening to live music (for many of us, our favorite band was Loosely Tight, who seemed to play there every month, if not every week).
In Peterson Jam air guitar shows (see photo below), my band, "G-Force," plays six shows at various locations. Our second to last show is at a disco, after which the disco announces that they have reformed and would henceforth not play disco. Our last show (where the photo was taken) is an outdoor lalapalooza in front of over 1,000 people. It is a huge event, complete with an elevated stage and big walls of speakers. The shows are increasingly sophisticated, using flashpots, colored spotlights, and strobe lights controlled by "roadies". The instruments become increasingly authentic in appearance, with genuine drums used in later shows. Other bands consist of "Jack Daniels" (a country-western band including Jackson Wells and Jeff Daniels—hence the band name), "The Rackets" (consisting of Scott Korey, Jim Kuhl, Brad Lefevre, and Dave Newell and playing pop rock), G-Force, and "TNT" (consisting of Tony Kees and Tom Curran and playing hard rock). We even have "groupies" and noise complaints while practicing (each band holds weeks of rehearsals to prepare).
In 1980, Flagstaff had about 40,000 people in it. When I attend NAU, there are approximately 14,000 students at the school. The university was established in 1899, and the campus is enormous, sprawling over 730 acres. The town is 140 miles north of Phoenix, which had about 1,508,000 people in 1980.
In addition to those listed above playing air guitar, my friends at NAU include:
Phoenix sits on the Salt River. It is the largest city in the state, and the state capital. Founded in 1868 on the site of the irrigation system of the prehistoric Hohokam Civilization—the people of the civilization were known as "canal builders." Completion of the Roosevelt Dam in 1911 spurred on rapid growth by providing large amounts of water and power. The construction of three airfields during World War II caused the population to grow substantially—many seeking the almost constant clear skies and clean desert air. Population growth was over 100,000 from 1980 to 1986. The growing workforce has drawn Goodyear Aerospace, Sperry Flight Systems, Motorola, and Western Electric. Scottsdale, a suburb to the east, is a wealthy retirement community, and features fabulous winter homes. Many call the city the "Valley in the Sun."
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