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What was life like in metro Phoenix in the 1960s? Take a peek back in time

What was life like in metro Phoenix in the 1960s? Take a peek back in time
While already experiencing rapid urban expansion, Phoenix in the 1960s was only beginning to leave its imprint on the map.

By the beginning of the decade, the city reached half a million people, less than a third of the city’s population today. Entire cities and suburbs that exist today were once barren desert and meadows, with developers just embarking on the journey to create more suburbs and new towns.

But the city was already changing at a rapid rate, with many people coming to the Valley from around the country seeking Phoenix’s growing economy, its striking desert landscapes, and its warm winters.

Much of the city’s suburban growth occurred during the 1960s. By the end of the decade, Phoenix was well consolidated as a metropolitan area, with continuous, unabated growth.

Here’s a peek at what life in the Valley was like in the age of Barry Goldwater, rock-n-roll, and the hippie movement.

Phoenix gets its first zoo

The Valley’s first major zoo opened in November 1962.

It was first called Maytag Zoo, named after Robert E. Maytag, who rallied friends and animal enthusiasts the year before to gather support for building a zoo in Phoenix.

The zoo later changed its name to the Phoenix Zoo in 1963.

First Arizonan to run for president

In 1964, the Republican Party nominated Arizona’s U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater for president — the first Arizonan to win a party nomination.

Although Lyndon B. Johnson easily defeated him in the November elections, Goldwater’s campaign set the tone for a rise in conservative politics nationwide.

A desert underwater

Floods from late December 1965 into January 1966 washed out all Salt River crossings in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Scottsdale.

The flooding surrounded Sun Devil Stadium with water and closed a runway at Sky Harbor.

This is a photo of the Central Arizona Project canal under construction that would bring Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson.

This is a photo of the Central Arizona Project canal under construction that would bring Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson.

Central Arizona Project authorized

The Central Arizona Project, largely considered an engineering marvel, was authorized by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. This monumental project alleviated concerns about Phoenix’s water supply during that era.

Johnson signed the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968, which approved bringing Colorado River water to the Phoenix area by 1980.

The Central Arizona Project would then become Arizona’s largest single resource of renewable water supplies and a lifeline for the state’s continued growth and development.

Suns put Arizona on the map | In front of 7,112 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the expansion Phoenix Suns began the major pro sports era in Arizona, winning their debut game 116-107 over Seattle on Oct. 18, 1968. In just eight seasons they would reach their first NBA Finals, and the triple-overtime Game 5 loss in Boston is still considered by many as the greatest game in NBA history. The expansion Suns were run by 28-year-old GM Jerry Colangelo, and their nickname was chosen in a "Name the Team" contest run by The Republic. For 20 years, the Suns were the only "Big Four" franchise in Arizona.Suns put Arizona on the map | In front of 7,112 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the expansion Phoenix Suns began the major pro sports era in Arizona, winning their debut game 116-107 over Seattle on Oct. 18, 1968. In just eight seasons they would reach their first NBA Finals, and the triple-overtime Game 5 loss in Boston is still considered by many as the greatest game in NBA history. The expansion Suns were run by 28-year-old GM Jerry Colangelo, and their nickname was chosen in a "Name the Team" contest run by The Republic. For 20 years, the Suns were the only "Big Four" franchise in Arizona.

Suns take the court

The Phoenix Suns began playing as an NBA expansion team at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, becoming the Valley’s first major professional sports team.

The team’s name was selected from about 28,000 entries in a “Name the Team” contest sponsored by The Arizona Republic. Because 377 people submitted the “Suns” name, the contest winner, Selinda King, was chosen by drawing. She won $1,000 and season tickets for the first year.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix in the ’60s: From the Suns and a flood to Goldwater and a Zoo

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