Scottsdale old-timers

This photo was taken by Lois McFarland at the Scottsdale High School Old Timers Reunion March 28 1987, From left, Bill Cavalliere (Class of 1931), Dorothy Cavalliere Roberts (Class of 1933), and Fred “Yam” Cavalliere (Class of 1940). (Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library)

For over six decades, the daughters of Lester and Labeula Steiner Mowry have observed a Palm Sunday tradition, although their event is quite a cry from what it was originally. 

In 1961, the Scottsdale couple decided to host a grand soiree to celebrate their silver anniversary.

They quickly realized that their celebration of love celebrated more than that. 

“They had all the friends that they knew from Scottsdale or still lived in Scottsdale come to this party and when they got through with it," recalled their daughter Eleanor Brierly. 

Brierly recalled her parents saying, "This was too much fun, we shouldn't let time go by like this. Let's set up a time every year, let's meet and let's call it ‘old-timers."

She added, "They loosely said ‘if you lived in Scottsdale in the 40s to early 50s, you’re old-timers.' Back then that was a way for people to stay connected, whose lives didn't touch at all.” 

This set the tone for a Palm Sunday tradition that Eleanor and her sisters –JoAnn Mowry Handley, Diana Mowry Green, Rebecca Mowry and Becky Mowry – maintained after their dad passed away in 1998 and their mom in 2007. 

“We kept up the tradition and it is traditionally on Palm Sunday because everybody can remember that,” Brierly said. 

Although the 1961 event began at the sister’s childhood home off Main Street and Goldwater – which is now the home of The House Brasserie restaurant – the event has since relocated.

It will take place at El Dorado Park Recreation Center off McDowell Road along Miller Road – which can accommodate the anticipated crowd of over 100 patrons and offers handicap accessibility. 

Though the event is meant to be a congregation of those who remember a Scottsdale that had one high school (Scottsdale High School) and was dominated by agriculture, it has since grown to accommodate people who have a more faint memory of that time and enjoy the nostalgia it brings. 

Because of this, the big attraction of the event occurs when attendees break open the annuals from Scottsdale high schools that date as far back as a century. 

“We've got annuals from the 20s and it's just so much fun to watch people go through the annuals and wonder what happened to people and ask others if they knew someone,” Brierly said. 

It also gives way for people to reflect on what Scottsdale used to look like. 

“I think that the thing that I miss is that connection to the way Scottsdale was because in the 40s, early 50s before it was a town, it was extremely rural and very cultural,” Brierly said. 

Brierly admits that this can cause people to linger even after the event is packed up but she still gleams about the stories that get passed around at the event. 

She added this was something that was deeply missed two years ago, when her event was canceled by the pandemic. 

“I was such a part of our lives like many other things that we weren't able to keep doing,” Brierly said. “We just missed that fellowship; we missed that one-on-one and that actual physical connection.” 

With fear over mass gatherings slipping into the void, Brierly remains as excited as ever to reconvene with her fellow “old-timers” for another reunion and reminisce about “the good old days” today. 

“We want everyone to experience that connection to the past,” she said. “There are things in the past that we just do not remember but we find that this kind of memory hits a chord with people and we want them to have an outlet for that.”

If you go:

Scottsdale Old-timers’ Reunion

When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. today, April 2.

Where: El Dorado Park, 2311 N. Miller Road, Scottsdale.

Cost: Free.

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