Looking Back On How Payson Celebrated Its 100th Anniversary



Twenty-five years ago this month, Payson had the main celebration of its 100th anniversary. While the week of celebrating for its 125th anniversary is still three months away, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at things from 25 years ago.

The anchor of Payson's Centennial celebration was a Centennial Ranch Supper and Dance at the Winchester Saloon on July 17. Numerous people from old families were recognized, including the Pyle twins Myrth and Myrl, Richard and Valda Taylor, and Roxie Cline. Special entertainment was furnished by the WOWS (Women of the Winchester Saloon). A barbecue beef dinner was served at this event, prepared by Edward Childers. The cost of the evening of entertainment was $12.50 and benefited the Cowbelles' charity.


The Pyle twins, Myrl and Myrth, were honored when Payson celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Throughout the year the Payson Roundup ran a series of columns about Payson history, including a special section in early May. Some of the key contributors to that special edition, as cited by the Roundup, were "the Haught family, the Pyle family, Ralph Fisher, Doris Lederer, Marguerite Noble, Margaret Coffin, Jayne Peace, Barbara Sues, Joan Lasys, Nancy Aldridge, Livy Rehmert, and countless others." Today, most of those people are not around, with Jinx Pyle and Jayne Peace Pyle being the significant exceptions. Indeed the guard has changed quite a bit.

One story highlighted the more recent changes in Payson, a story that could undoubtedly be repeated come the Roundup's commemorative publication in October. "In 1958... Beeline opened road to valley." During the 25 years since 1982, the Beeline has once again been significantly upgraded, becoming a four-lane highway all the way from Phoenix to Payson, further opening up the path for desert dwellers to escape to the high country. An interesting tale was told in this story in 1982, which illustrated just how tough a road it was from Phoenix to Payson before the Beeline was paved in 1958.

"At one time, a Phoenix firm advertised that anyone buying a piano from them would receive free delivery anywhere in the state. They undoubtedly were newcomers to Arizona. A resident of Gisela decided to take them up on their offer and the fun was on.

"The piano was loaded onto a buckboard and began its perilous journey to Gisela. The buckboard, slightly larger than a buggy, was pulled by one horse.

"The journey was by way of the Apache Trail, Roosevelt Dam, Rye and into Gisela, via the sand-washes of Hog Canyon.

"They had promised to deliver and deliver they did, although the story is, it was the end of their advertising promising free delivery ‘anywhere in the state.' No one knows for sure but it may well have been the end of the horse, too."

Speaking of Gisela, a Feb. 19, 1982 Payson Roundup article talked about Jayne Peace and her recent book on Gisela. 25 years later this authoritative book on the area south of Payson has been reprinted and Jayne has written numerous other books about the area's history.

The advertisements of 1982 also provide some insight. Century 21 was in Payson then, but it was Fetters Realty back then and none of the Realtors with them at the time are with the current incarnation of Century 21 in Payson, Century 21 Metro Alliance. Valley National Bank was the prominent bank locally in 1982, and a bank with a longstanding tradition in Arizona. Since then it's changed its name a couple times, due to mergers. First it went from Valley National Bank to Bank One, and more recently, it changed from Bank One to Chase.

The Pizza Factory wasn't around in 1982, but "The Pizza Station" was, located "next to the ole Hopi House."

And last, but not least, my mom's favorite, The Payson Candle Factory wasn't a "longtime" institution, but a relatively new business that had opened just three years before, in 1979.

The logo for Payson's 100th anniversary was also quite different. It was circular in shape. Yet ironically, some themes just don't change. An elk was featured prominently in the 100th anniversary logo, just as it is in the 125th logo.

Willard Taylor was Payson's mayor in 1982, and was elected to another term as mayor midway through the year. Taylor was Payson's second mayor and had been in office since 1976.

It's worth noting that in recent times, Payson has had continuous changes at its top position -- no mayor has served two consecutive terms since Vern Stiffler served consecutive terms from 1996 through 2000.

The relations between Star Valley and Payson were different 25 years ago. The headline of a story dated April 21, 1982 read "Star Valley tired of being thruway." How ironic that as Payson celebrates 25 years later, the same headline could probably apply to Star Valley today. In the April 21, 1982 article, Peggy Hopkins, who was owner of the Walnut Grove Lodge and Trailer Park, said that, "what we really want to do is have people stop in Star Valley, not just drive right through it." How the Town of Star Valley develops and interacts with Payson over the next 25 years will probably be a key story when Payson celebrates its 150th Anniversary in 2032.

Zane Grey convention

Speaking of celebrations, before I get to more details about the 125th celebration, I want to mention the recent Zane Grey's West Society Convention that was held in Payson June 18 through 21. It was their 25th convention and things are starting to change within the Zane Grey community. In the past six months Zane Grey's two remaining children, Loren Grey and Betty Zane Grosso passed away. Loren's and Betty's sides of the family were not close, something which appears to be changing, as a new generation of Grey descendants takes over. Grey Murphy, the grandson of Betty Zane Grosso spoke at the convention. He is part of the new Zane Grey Inc. Board of Directors, which manages Grey's estate. They believe that they will be finished going through Loren's and Betty's items by the end of this summer, meaning that new Grey information could come out after that. Murphy also is taking over Loren Grey's former spot on the Zane Grey's West Society Board of Directors, as representative of the Grey family. If you're not familiar with the Zane Grey's West Society, I encourage you to check their Web site at www.ZaneGreysWS.org.

Now back to the 125th celebration ... it is not too late for you to get involved. The celebration will occur from Oct. 2 through Oct. 7, with the bulk of the celebration on the weekend of Oct. 5,6, and 7. There will be a golf tournament at Payson Golf Course on the 5th, and a fund-raising "Mystery Dinner" that night. A timeline parade will anchor events on Saturday the 6th and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a historic quilt show at the Julia Randall Rock Building that day as well. If you have not had the opportunity to take an up-close look at this historic building, the quilt show will be a great opportunity to do so. Coinciding with all the fun that day will be the 7th Annual Western Heritage Festival with live music at Rim Country Museum. On Sunday the 7th, there will be a number of exhibitions at the Payson Event Center that you will not want to miss.

Corporate and individual sponsorships are still available for the 125th celebration. Proceeds from the entire celebration will benefit the Northern Gila County Historical Society, helping them better preserve and present local history. For more information, visit www.Paysons125th.com. Also, look for a Roundup special insert the week of the celebration.

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