Sally Kiko was knee-high to a cotton ball when her family arrived in Goodyear in 1945. On Friday, Jan. 22, the historian and author helped the city kick off its nearly year-long 75th anniversary celebration during a small, socially distanced event at Loma Linda Park.
Sheltered from the rain by tents set up at the park, Mayor Georgia Lord, City Council members, city staff and commissioners, and several members of the public listened intently as Ms. Kiko talked about what it was like to grow up in the community.
Others watched the event, led by Arts & Culture Administrator Guylene Ozlanski, as it streamed live at goodyear.azgov/75 and the city’s Facebook page, @goodyearazgov. It opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, and an invocation by Jeremiah Smith, leader of the Goodyear Faith and Community Roundtable, and carried the theme, “It’s a good time to be in Goodyear,” throughout.
“Rather than recite facts and figures, I thought it might be more entertaining to tell you the history of Goodyear through my arrival here in 1945 at the old Litchfield Depot. I came by train,” Ms. Kiko said after she was introduced by City Manager Julie Arendall, who noted the kick-off and other events over the next 11 months will culminate in a celebration on Nov. 19, the day the city incorporated in 1946.
That day, the city will open a time capsule sealed 25 years ago on its 50th anniversary, and will seal another to be opened on its 100th anniversary in 2046.
“Our first home, with my parents, was at 124 Buena Vista,” Ms. Kiko said. “That house is still there.”
Just a year after Ms. Kiko’s family arrived, the August 1946 end of World War II marked the closure of Goodyear Aircraft, the area’s major employer.
“It was rumored that Goodyear would become a ghost town,” she said. “Instead, they incorporated. They were pretty nervy, weren’t they?”
While many employees returned to Ohio, where the aircraft company was based, many stayed, occupying Westwood Manor apartments (now Park Shadows), and a mobile home park on Western Avenue, the only housing available in the newly incorporated town.
Ms. Kiko recounted numerous events and milestones that have shaped the city over the years.
A summer flood during a very wet monsoon season in 1951 streamed from washes near the White Tank Mountains into the Beardsley Canal, and flowed south across open desert and farmland into Goodyear.
“I was 8 years old. I was excited. I mean, this was an event,” Ms. Kiko recalled of the weather event known as "the great flood."
“I was old enough to understand the damage that was occurring to the neighbors’ homes, but on a hot August day, I was enjoying the water quite a bit, too,” she said.
In 1956, she was in the first freshman class at the new Agua Fria High School. The next year, grocer A.J. Bayless opened the first air-conditioned mall in Arizona at the corner of Litchfield Road and Western Avenue.
“Growing up in Goodyear was much like Mayberry” she recalled. There was one police officer, very littled crime and everyone knew everyone else.
As time moved on, so did Goodyear and Ms. Kiko.
She graduated high school, and got married, living in Westwood Manor before the couple bought their first home on Santa Cruz Drive. Her husband’s work took the Kikos out of state, but they returned in 1988.
Two years earlier, a takeover attempt of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. by financier Sir James Goldsmith set in motion events that would change the face of the city and the region forever.
To raise the capital to stop the takeover, the company was forced to sell off numerous assets in Ohio and Arizona, including thousands of acres of farmland in the Southwest Valley owned by its subsidiary, Goodyear Farms.
“This opened up the land to development. The master-planned communities of PebbleCreek, Palm Valley, and the retail changed Goodyear quite a bit. The completion of Interstate 10 in 1990 “opened up the tremendous growth we see today,” Ms. Kiko said.
“I am so proud to call Goodyear home,” she concluded.
After Ms. Kiko spoke, Ms. Ozlanski introduced a video unveiling of the HeARTs of Goodyear, a series of 10 murals painted by artists from around the Valley on 5- by 6-foot fiberglass hearts at parks and other public spaces around the city.
“The public arts installation, HeARTs of Goodyear, has quickly grabbed the attention of our community,” Ms. Ozlanski said. “Each of the hearts represents a decade in the city’s history and our bright future.”
In the video, Mayor Lord, and council and commission members detail the history each heart represents against a backdrop of colorful images of artists working and the completed murals.
Another video featured developers Bruce Hilby and Richard Wilson, who came to the community in the 1970s, when its population was less than 2,600. Both have been instrumental in developing what Goodyear’s nearly 90,000 residents see today, as well as growth throughout the West Valley.
When he arrived in fall 1977 from Minnesota, Mr. Wilson was surprised to see farmland in the Valley.
“I thought it was all desert,” he said.
The area was so rural back then, Mr. Wilson remembered, motorists driving on 99th Avenue in spring and fall would encounter large numbers of sheep being herded to and from their farm in Tolleson to Flagstaff via a pathway next to Interstate 17.
Mr. Hilby addressed what it was like to be an early developer of Goodyear.
“When we started, we thought we were land speculators,” he said. “Then the 1987 downturn came and everything stopped and we discovered we were land investors. When the good times came again and things still didn’t develop on our land, we decided we were stewards of the land.”
In the last few years, development has come and “the transformation has been huge,” Mr. Wilson said.
Those who want to learn more from Mr. Hilby and Mr. Wilson are invited to attend an Oct. 26 lecture featuring both men.
Friday’s event concluded with a speech by the mayor, who also read a proclamation marking the beginning of the city’s 75th anniversary celebration.
“What a special time this is. This is a time to celebrate where we’ve been and all the wonderful stories that people tell. I often say when I come to this lovely park, ‘if those trees could just talk, can you imagine the stories they could tell?” she said. “Now, we have a city full of people who are creating stories ... and we will repeat this in the future with brand new stories and with the connectivity of history.”
Mayor Lord said she and her late husband, Ron, chose to move to area after decades of living all over the world during his career in the U.S. Air Force.
Though they looked at homes in cities throughout the Valley, “we kept coming back to Goodyear,” drawn by the city’s atmosphere and by its residents, she said.
“Let’s give an applause to Goodyear!” Mayor Lord said after reading the proclamation.
Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-963-1697.