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Narrator: Janie Ellis

Arizona summers have always been celebrated by finding new ways to beat the heat. Valley families flocked to canals to take a dip and enjoy a picnic. Swimming parties were popular among young society, where they built bonfires and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. Sometimes 300-400 recreationists lined the canal “beaches.” One woman’s brother and his daredevil friends found a way to recreate the California surfing scene in Arizona, but don’t try it this summer. Canals are still great recreation spots but for safety reasons, swimming – and “freeboarding” – is no longer allowed.

Fun Facts:

  • Vada Thomas, Merle Brown, and Jamda Graves are ready to dip their stocking-covered toes in the canal, showing off the bathing suit fashion of the 1930s. Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society Collection, Scottsdale Public Library.
  • Children swimming in a lateral of the Grand Canal. Cottonwood trees used to line many of the canals, but were cut when it was realized they consumed hundreds of gallons of water daily.
  • View of Arizona Falls


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