But It’s A Dry Heat…

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Cover of the 1952 edition of Oren Arnold’s Arizona Brags.
Image credit: John Larsen Southard Collection

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A humorous early twentieth-century postcard comparing the temperatures of Tucson and Yuma to those of Hell.
Image credit: John Larsen Southard Collection

Arizona’s climate, one of the state’s 5 Cs, is something to boast about during the winter months. Early tourism campaign slogans such as “Summer Days All Winter” were used to great effect in efforts to draw out-of-state visitors to enjoy the spectacular weather found here from November through March or, at best, April. However, the wonderful winter weather inevitably transitions to the far less desirable and often eye-popping extreme heat of an Arizona summer. These high temperatures have prompted quips such as Dick Wick Hall’s story of a seven-year-old frog who never learned to swim due to his being raised in the dry, dusty Sonoran Desert, and Mark Twain’s story of a soldier from Fort Yuma who died and “went straight to the hottest corner of perdition,” but found that after living in Yuma, he needed a blanket to live comfortably in the cooler climes of Hell.


Humorist Oren Arnold compiled a number of jokes, claims, facts, and anecdotes — many of them climate-related — for inclusion in his 1947 book entitled Arizona Brags (revised and republished in 1952). As we slide into the brutal heat of yet another summer, some of Arnold’s ‘facts’ may help to bring a smile to our collectively overheated faces. Among other assertions, some believable and some outlandish, Arnold’s book jokingly claims:

— “The devil himself carries a palm leaf fan in Arizona.”

— “It never rains. Only reason an Arizona home has a roof is to have a place to put the TV [antenna].”

— “It stays so dry in western Arizona the fish kick up clouds of dust as they cruise the Colorado River.”

— “Any Phoenix doctor says that his medical practice is twice as hard as that of doctors in any other part of the nation. He can’t tell his patients to go to Arizona for their health.”

dry heat, Arizona weather, 5 Cs, 5 C's, John Larsen Southard, John Southard, Arizona history, Arizona historian, AZHistorian, boosters, boosterist, boosterism, Arizona postcard, tourism, sunshine, it's a dry heat, its a dry heat, Williams Field, World War II, swimming pool

A postcard showing the swimming pool at Williams Field, later to be known as Williams Air Force Base. While airmen such as the Milwaukee native native referenced in the above joke might have initially found the Sonoran Desert climate to be unbearable, the large numbers of World War II veterans who chose to relocate to the Valley in the post-war period indicate that one need not be a native to “stand the weather.”
Image credit: John Larsen Southard Collection

— “A young GI from Milwaukee was sweating out his first summer at Williams Air Force Base near Phoenix. A native Arizonan explained that a man had to be born and reared here to stand the weather. ‘What!’ exclaimed the soldier. ‘You mean folks live here when there ain’t no war?’”

— “It gets so dry in Arizona the jackrabbits carry canteens and the trees chase after dogs. Only mud is the kind the politicians sling. Rivers are just lines to crease a map, and to furnish Arizona cattle a dry, sandy bedding ground.”

And finally, a joke related to something all Arizonans have been guilty of at one time or another…

— “A citizen of Phoenix died and, of course, went down below. The devil greeted him and was showing him around the place. The ex-Phoenician kept mopping his brow. Finally he spoke up.

‘Gosh, it certainly is hot down here.’

‘Yes, it is,’ Satan nodded. ‘But it’s not humid, it’s a healthful, dry heat.’

‘Phooey!’ scoffed the Arizonan. ‘I’ve heard that old guff before.’

‘Oh sure you have,’ Satan smiled affably. ‘Fact is, you told it. That’s why you’re here.’”

The U.S.S. Arizona Silver Set

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A photo of the June 19th, 1915 U.S.S. Arizona launch ceremony. In addition to being christened with champagne, as is tradition, the ship launch ceremony also featured a bottle filled with water that had passed over the top of Roosevelt Dam, a structure that was then the pride of the state.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and other dignitaries dedicated Arizona’s newest memorial, the World War II Memorial at Wesley Bolin Plaza, earlier today. The monument features a fourteen-inch gun from the U.S.S. Arizona, which was sunk in a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor seventy-two years ago today. The Arizona is the iconic symbol of the December 7th, 1941 attack, as represented in photos and newsreels of the period and by the solemn 1962 memorial that sits above the ship’s sunken hull today. The gun now incorporated into the new memorial standing on the plaza across from the state capitol is available for display only because it had been removed for relining prior to the “date which will live in infamy,” thus saving it from destruction. The ship’s silver service is another item on display today due to its being removed from the vessel prior to that tragic Sunday in December of 1941.

The silver set was gifted to the ship by the people of Arizona, the youngest state in the Union at the time of the battleship’s June 19th, 1915 christening. Manufactured by Reed & Barton of Taunton, Massachusetts, the elegant eighty-seven piece set featured depictions of saguaros, Gila monsters, and a Grand Canyon scene alongside more traditional nautical imagery such as mermaids, shells, and Neptune. Unique among Navy silver sets, several pieces of the U.S.S. Arizona silver collection were plated with copper in tribute of the metal’s importance to the state economy.

Taken off the ship in January of 1941 as part of an effort to prepare for the likelihood of war, the silver service waited out the conflict in a Bremerton, Washington storage facility. After a relatively short period aboard the U.S.S. Tucson, the silver sat unused until Arizona Governor Howard Pyle lobbied the Navy to return the priceless set to the Grand Canyon State. The United States Navy granted Pyle’s request in 1953, returning the silver set bearing a seemingly incongruous mix of Sonoran Desert and nautical imagery to Arizona, where it can now be viewed at the Arizona State Capitol Museum. To view a collection of photos documenting the silver service, please visit http://azmemory.azlibrary.gov/cdm/search/collection/aslsilver.

Arizona and Daylight Saving Time

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An anti-Daylight Saving Time quote included in a March 11th, 1968 Tucson Daily Citizen article entitled “3-1 Margin: Poll Shows Most Favor DST Death”

Why Doesn’t Arizona Observe Daylight Saving Time?

While residents of 47 of the 48 contiguous states started this week by setting their clocks back one hour in observance of Daylight Saving Time (Indiana joined the party in 2006), Arizonans have not had to heed the advice “spring forward, fall back” for nearly half a century. How did this come to be the case?

Until the late nineteenth century, most Americans used the sun’s position in the sky to determine their local time, with noon being the point in the day when the sun was seen directly overhead. Although this practice meant that localities within the same state might observe slightly different times based upon their respective locations, the solar-based timekeeping system generally worked well for communities prior to the advent of relatively rapid intercity transportation.

America’s growing rail network necessitated a more uniform and precise system of measuring time. As there were then no federal laws regarding time standards, railroad companies joined forces to craft a uniform system, resulting in the railroads and many municipalities voluntary adopting a five-zone time system known as standard time. This privately-devised system was the precursor to the World War I-era Standard Time Act that formally introduced both standard time and daylight saving time in an effort to save electricity during the war effort.

Press reports indicate that daylight saving time, a system designed to permit more everyday activities to be conducted at times when electric lighting would not be needed, initially proved popular in Arizona. The October 11th, 1918 Coconino Sun reported that the law resulted in “a saving in bills for artificial lighting,” with many residents “[noticing] that their electric light bills at home were less than in former summer months.”

Though effective for reducing energy usage, Daylight Saving Time was widely unpopular, resulting in it being repealed shortly after Armistice Day, although Standard Time has remained the law of the land from 1918 onward. The Daylight Saving Time policy returned on a nationwide basis during World War II, but was a state-by-state decision following the war. Piecemeal retention of the Daylight Saving Time system prompted railroads and other transportation concerns to advocate for a federal solution to the growing problem of state-legislated time standards, resulting in the Uniform Time Act of 1966. This law mandated use of the Daylight Saving system, although it did permit states to opt out of the scheme. Arizona observed Daylight Saving Time in 1967, although the widespread usage of air conditioning units led to Arizonans being less enthused about the policy than their 1918 counterparts.

While the Daylight Saving standard helped Arizonans to reduce energy consumption during World War I and World War II, a new set of concerns emerged by the late 1960s. Parents complained that it was difficult to convince children to go to bed during daylight hours, moviegoers voiced displeasure at the idea of another summer of later than normal drive-in films, and nearly all objected to the idea of an extra hour of heat during their activity-filled days. Arizonans concerned about the aforementioned issues, as well as matters not listed, called upon their legislators to pass an exemption from the federal law, which state solons did in time to preclude their constituents from springing forward in early 1968. A March 10th, 1969 Arizona Republic editorial highlighted the value of this exemption by reminding readers that under the Daylight Saving system, summer sunsets would occur at approximately 9 p.m., at which point, “it’s still hot as blazes!”