First family

Today is a special day for resident Sally Atchinson.

On Feb. 12, 1972, she and her two children received the keys to their new home on Calaveras Avenue in Fountain Hills, making them the first residents in the community. Exactly 48 years later, Atchinson is still here.

“Lots has changed,” Atchinson said. “But we loved the idea of living in a brand new town.”

The Atchinsons didn’t seem to mind remoteness. They moved here from six miles outside Apache Junction, another quiet community in the desert.

“It was really precious to see the town develop,” she said.

She painted a picture of a town where houses were scattered far and wide. The developer, McCulloch Properties, Inc., had committed to bring pavement to each home that was built, creating a number of one-lane roads that led from one house to perhaps a dirt road, to another strip of pavement to the next house.

Saguaros were dug up and preserved in one place, creating a saguaro forest. The cactuses ultimately were replanted throughout the community.

“Living here in the early days was really a great adventure, especially for a kid,” Atchinson said.

Her son, who was 10 at the time, loved climbing in the enormous drain pipes that were placed around town.

“And all I could think about was him running into snakes,” Atchinson said. “A nice cool, shady place for snakes.”

In the beginning, Atchinson’s children were picked up at their house by a McCulloch employee, who then drove them to meet a bus on the Beeline, taking them to school in Mesa.

“Life was a lot more complicated without cell phones, and in the beginning we had no landlines to homes,” she said. “We drove to Saguaro and Shea boulevards to use a payphone there.”

When the Atchinsons moved here, their plot map showed Orme Lake to be created by damming the confluence of the Verde and Salt rivers. That plan was scrapped when Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation members took their cause to the U. S. government. They won their case and the lake was never built. Atchinson still has the map showing the lake.

Atchinson said she would do it all again.

“There are few disappointments,” she said. “The Avenue of the Fountains was to be a space filled with fountains. I wish that had happened.”

But overall, Atchinson loves her community.