It’s tough to get a word in as longtime Ahwatukee Foothills residents flip through old photo books and compile memories of the early days of Ahwatukee.
“We saw the ad in the paper that said, ‘Ahwatukee is coming,’” said Rosalie Toth, who purchased her home in 1977. “It was a big page, one page after another of ‘Ahwatukee is coming.’ We didn’t know what it was, who it was, or anything. We wondered what is Ahwatukee? One time we were driving down here and Steve said, ‘Let’s go south and see if we can find Ahwatukee.’ We did and we fell in love with it immediately. It was so pretty.”
Eddie Schluttenhofer remembers looking at model homes in Ahwatukee in 1973 with her husband, Charlie. Their salesman, Pete Meier, told them at one point that the road surrounding a lot near the golf course would never go past that point. She laughs now, looking back on how much has changed.
“That’s a beautiful lot, you should have taken it,” Meier fires back with a smile. As pictures are sorted he recalls each of the sales he made when he was first working for the Presley Corporation, from the name of the homeowner to their lot number. Meier has helped resale most of those original homes.
Barbara LeChaix, who moved to Ahwatukee in 1978, recalls how big and wide 48th Street was.
“It was this huge, wide, wonderful road we could ride our bikes on,” she said. “We were so naïve to think it was built just for Ahwatukee. It was bigger than the freeway at the time. Now it is a freeway.”
Ahwatukee was originally marketed to families, adults and retired adults. Forty years ago the only buildings in the area were the ones built by Presley Corporation, besides a Circle K on Elliot Road. There was the Adult Recreation Center, now the Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center, the Ahwatukee Country Club and the Ahwatukee Retirement Recreation Center, now known simply as the Ahwatukee Recreation Center (ARC).
Schluttenhofer, Toth, LeChaix, Meier, Bob Fischer and other longtime residents have been asked to compile a history and create a table display for the ARC’s 40th anniversary celebration later this month. With 40 years of memories to sort through, it’s not an easy task.
“Our neighborhood has grown and grown and grown,” Schluttenhofer said. “There was nothing. There wasn’t a grocery store. The freeway seemed like it was 10 miles away. It didn’t bother us at all. It was only a two-lane road at the time. We bought our house out here, it didn’t take too long to build, and we’ve been here ever since. I’d never go any place else.”
The ARC helped form the community, the group agrees. Everyone knew each other because they all spent their free time volunteering and socializing at the center.
LeChaix said the center made Ahwatukee the perfect community for them. She was still young when they were looking to enter a retirement community and her husband was only 58. Both were still looking to be active.
“It just seemed like this place needed us as much as we needed it because there wasn’t a lot going on yet,” LeChaix said. “My husband was a person that got things going.”
The first club to be formed at the ARC was the Retired Homeowners Association of Ahwatukee, which was basically the social club, and eventually became the dance club. The next was Ladies Bridge. As interest grew more arts and crafts classes were started and fitness classes took off. Now, there’s always something going on at ARC. The monthly newsletter has more than 50 clubs, classes and activities listed.
LeChaix said she’s been active in the entertainment committee so she’s seen how activity directors in other centers run the show. At the ARC, all of the activities and events are organized by the members.
“We have a board of directors that are active and we have our employees, but they basically coordinate all the clubs and the schedules,” LeChaix said. “We have our own board and we plan everything. Everybody has their own funds and checking accounts, still under the control of the ARC… The unique thing about the ARC is we really are involved. Everything we do is volunteer.”
It’s the members who have made the ARC so successful and it’s the members who will keep it going for another 40 years, the residents agree.
The ARC will celebrate its 40th anniversary with an open house on Jan. 25 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visitors can watch live demos of activities and take guided tours through the building. For more information, visit www.arcaz.net or call (480) 893-2549.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or firstname.lastname@example.org