Looking Back September 16

Wearing high-waisted poodle skirts, cowboy boots and cowboy hats, three women stand out front of the Hotel Valley Ho. They’re waving and smiling, looking just to the right of the camera.

These are the Howdy Dudettes, and they were the official welcoming committee for the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce from 1959 through the early 1980s.

We may not be familiar with these women now or even know their story, but a black-and-white photo on the wall at Gallery @ Appaloosa Library provides a glimpse into how these women — and Scottsdale — looked 50 to 100 years ago.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Scottsdale City Hall and the Civic Center Library, Scottsdale Public Art is hosting “Historic Scottsdale: Live, Work and Play in the Early 20th Century.”

The exhibition is held in conjunction with the city’s other “Scottsdale Celebrate ‘68” events scheduled in October. They include a free family festival stretching from Scottsdale City Hall to the Hotel Valley Ho, a scavenger hunt around Scottsdale Civic Center, a live music tribute to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones at the Hotel Valley Ho and more.

“It’s a perfect time to reflect on the history of every corner of Scottsdale and the men and women who comprise our history,” said Joan Fudala, a community historian who is on the advisory board of the Scottsdale Historical Society and the Board of Trustees for Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.

The exhibition features historic photographs, hand-picked and curated by Wendy Raisanen, curator of collections and exhibitions for Scottsdale Public Art.

Raisanen pulled the images from the Scottsdale Heritage Connection’s Digital Collection, which allows the public to explore local history by searching its online database of thousands of digitized photos.

 “They visually provide a backstory on the places and faces of our community,” said Fudala, who wrote the text for the exhibition.

“We’re so fortunate that over the past 50 years the Scottsdale Historical Society and the Scottsdale Public Library have been preserving these precious reminders of where we’ve been so that we can better understand Scottsdale today.”

Photos include imagery of buggies bumping along unpaved, dirt roads, Scottsdale Police Department officers in 1959 sporting cowboy hats as part of their uniform and architect Bennie Gonzales showing off his design and model of the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall.

“A stroll along the wall of photos at Appaloosa can’t help but instill a pride of place, and perhaps make a connection to something in your past, too, no matter where you came from or what era you consider your own,” said Fudala.

“Historic Scottsdale: Live, Work and Play in the Early 20th Century” will remain on display through Oct. 31. For information, visit ScottsdalePublicArt.org or call 480-874-4645.