Growing up in Tucson, I’d cruise up Interstate 10 at 75 mph heading into the big city looking for fun. In the 1970s, suddenly I noticed there were homes south of South Mountain and a freeway sign with a funny name.
I’d laugh at it. What did THAT mean?
Little did I know that one day I would live there, longer than I would ever live anywhere.
And I’d learn that “Ahwatukee” means “Land of Tile Roofs and Granite Countertops.”
I don’t go back quite 40 years here, as the Ahwatukee Foothills News does, but close.
As a single guy in 1984, I moved into a little Presley Development Co. starter home, just as the image of Ahwatukee as a lazy retirement community was morphing.
Its small local newspaper hit my driveway every week. Heck, I’m so old I remember when it was just the Ahwatukee News, before the name was changed to reflect the people it serves as the community grew south and west.
My house backed Warner Road, which had very little traffic because there was no interchange at I-10. Nor was there a fire station essentially in my backyard across the street. That came a couple of years later. The salespeople must have forgotten to mention that.
AFN didn’t forget. As a newcomer, I found myself gravitating to AFN, the one place I could go to learn what was happening in the Tuke.
When I got married, my wife and I found no place that we liked better. Ahwatukee was beautiful. It had, and still has, a small-town feel. We like that. We’re both from small Midwestern towns. The stories we read each week fostered that sense of community.
So, we stayed, and moved up to a larger home two miles away.
When we had kids and needed more room, it was the same story. Ahwatukee has so much going for it. Easy to Sky Harbor. Close to Arizona State. Not that bad to downtown Phoenix. An easy drive to Tucson to see my folks then.
So, again, we stayed. We found a perfect home for our family about a mile away.
I’ve been in Ahwatukee now for 34 years. I’ve seen it grow and change. It’s different but still great.
One thing hasn’t changed: the Ahwatukee Foothills News, founded by Clay Schad, as the voice of the community. I’m not sure even Clay knew what he was starting.
In the 1980s, AFN was full of folksy stories and features. The late Joe LeChaix wrote a breezy column, “Hot Flashes,” that seemed to be gleaned from the end of the bar at the Ahwatukee Country Club.
A column from the end of the bar, by the way, is a concept I support enthusiastically, and one I’m willing to bring back. I’m thinking I could hang out there, no more than four or five days a week, and talk to you. I’m going to run that up the flagpole here at work. I’ll get back to you.
I still love the Easter Parade. Both of our kids were in it. I enjoyed Ahwatukee Little League with my son and Victoria’s Dance Depot with my daughter, who also was a Snow Angel in Kimberly Lewis’ very first “Nutcracker.”
I always look forward to the Ahwatukee Bowl high school football clash between Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista. I love the sunsets over the mountains, and being adjacent to native desert in South Mountain Park.
I lament the loss of the Fourth of July fireworks show. In my first home, I could sit on the back patio and watch their reflection in my pool. They were fired just a block away at the country club.
I lament the demise of the beautiful Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Club. When it was pristinely groomed, it was fantastic.
It was a place where hacks like me could play easily, because it was short, and not feel that every round was the Masters. My son learned to play golf on that course.
AFN told me all about those things, and more, and got me thinking.
If the point of Loop 202/South Mountain Freeway is a Phoenix bypass, why not rebrand it as Interstate 10 to strongly influence traffic onto it from I-10 at 59th Avenue to the I-10/Loop 202 interchange in the Tuke? Then rebrand the current I-10 as the continuation of Loop 202 from the 10/202 interchange through downtown out to 59th Avenue, influencing that stretch for local traffic?
I am invested in Ahwatukee, but more to the point, so is this newspaper. As the years rolled by and its coverage matured, I grew fonder and fonder of it. I was working at a larger publication, but I started thinking that one day it would be fun to be part of the team that tells the story of our community and its people.
And now, through many twists of fate, I am. It’s pretty cool.
A good newspaper truly is the voice of the community it serves. We try to keep a thumb on the pulse of ours. We don’t slap “Ahwatukee” on it and deliver a publication that contains absolutely nothing about Ahwatukee. We believe that people have great interest in what’s happening in their own backyard, and we take great pride in being the only publication that brings that to you, free, every week.
For four decades now.
You can use it to wrap fish. You can make a pressman’s hat out of it. You can line the canary cage with it. But understand that its content is driven by our desire to tell your story. So before you repurpose it in any of those ways, please continue to read it. We also come to you at ahwatukee.com.
If you know something that we don’t and you want to share it, don’t hesitate to contact Executive Editor Paul Maryniak or me. We love story suggestions and tips.
We are grateful for the opportunity to satisfy the curiosity of our readers and the needs of our advertisers. A big thank you to all of you!
Over time, both I and the AFN have come to learn that what “Ahwatukee” really means is “home.”
Reach Managing Editor Lee Shappell at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 480-898-6825.