The 100-Year Floods

Many Arizonans shared one unique collective memory of the '70s. No, it wasn't 8-track tapes, Farrah Fawcett's hair, nor even the CB radio craze. It was...the floods! Dams store water in reservoirs for use during drier months. Sudden, excessive rainfall can fill the reservoirs and water must be released...sometimes lots of water. And in Arizona in the '70s, there was a lot of sudden, excessive rainfall. In the first half of the decade, three powerful storms hit Arizona killing over 30 people and destroying or damaging nearly a thousand homes.

Between October 1977 and February 1980, there were seven floods. Phoenix was declared a disaster area three times and 18 people lost their lives.

"It was terrifying, and that was the time that the helicopter reporting really came into the forefront in television news. Jerry Foster flying over and showing the flash flooding, and the cars and the cactus going down the river."
Mary Jo West, broadcast journalist

"How many 100-year floods did we have in the '70s? It seemed to me we had one everyother Tuesday. I first got here and I had to cover one of them. They kept saying, 'This is a hundred-year flood.' And I said, 'What does that mean? They said, "This is the severity of a flood that will only happen once in a hundred years."
Jana Boomersbach, journalist
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Bicentennial Celebration - Not So Much

America threw a party and Arizona decided not to attend. The Bicentennial was celebrated on Sunday, July 4th, 1976, the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. For America's eastern states, the party began well before that and went on for months. There were elaborate fireworks, parades and even commemorative Bicentennial coins and stamps. While there seemed to be an event every week in Boston, Philadelphia and other major cities east of the Salt River, most Arizonans had a different reaction.

We posed the question to journalists, city officials, broadcasters, Arizona natives: What did you remember about America’s Bicentennial? And well, at least the answers were consistent.

"The Bicentennial came and went. I don't remember a single major thing in Phoenix, Arizona happening during that time. I don't think we celebrated it."
Jana Boomersbach, Journalist

"You know, I really don't."
Al McCoy, sportscaster

"I don't recall vividly any great occurrence in '76 in the Bicentennial in Arizona."
Raul Castro, Arizona Governor
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Don Bolles

No crime shocked the state like the murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles. Bolles’ stories had exposed land fraud, organized crime and government corruption. And, like something out of a crime novel, on a hot summer afternoon, Bolles went out to his car, started the ignition, pulled out a few feet and a remote-controlled dynamite bomb exploded. Three men were eventually tried for the Bolles murder.  Their cases were not settled until the 1990s.

Despite all the investigations, trials and convictions, the murder of Don Bolles continues to haunt Arizonans.

"Well, we couldn't believe it happened in our little city, first of all. Who would murder anybody in Phoenix?"
Alice Cooper, Arizona native

"It made you feel vulnerable, and you realized that this isn't just a little place of cactus and margaritas; and all of a sudden it was a dark and dangerous place."
Bob Boze Bell, Journalist

Read the transcript.