The mid-January opening of Fountain Hills Elementary School was a major milestone for the community and it kicks off our 1975 History Lesson.
After numerous construction delays, a total of 155 students attended the first official classes in Fountain Hills.
Students had been attending classes in a converted office building on Colony Drive. The local School Board had earlier told the Mesa School District that the Fountain Hills elementary students would not be returning for classes in the Mesa school system as of September 1974. The school was finally completed in January 1975. A full dedication ceremony was held in April with some 400 residents in attendance.
The grand opening of the Fontana Racquet Club (It was later known as the Fountain Hills Swim and Racquet Club and Club Mirage) was a huge success.
Held on Sunday, Feb. 16, 1975, the event featured a number of Hollywood celebrities playing tennis. They included Claudine Longet, Robert Stack, Barbara Anderson, Doug McClure, MacDonald Carey and Lloyd Bridges. Tennis professionals were Bobby Riggs and Tony Trabert. Riggs was coming in following his recent “Battle of the Sexes” match with Billy Jean King.
A crowd of 3,000 was on hand filling the bleachers brought in for the matches.
The number of celebrities passing through our community continued.
Les Brown and his Band of Renown brought back the Big Band swing sounds of the 1930s and ‘40s to Fountain Park.
In the next of a series of celebrity events sponsored by the community’s master developer, McCulloch Properties, approximately 7,000 people attended the Les Brown and his Band of Renown concert on Feb. 23.
The crowds continued to grow at the free Sunday afternoon concerts.
Some 8,000 people were on hand Easter Sunday, March 30, to see Percy Faith conduct the Phoenix Symphony orchestra. He was a noted conductor and composer. The tunes he played were scores from Broadway shows and motion pictures he created. He led them through the music he wrote called the “Percy Faith Sound.”
After taking a break for the summer, the concerts resumed Sept. 24th with popular Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler leading the Phoenix Symphony.
With more than 20,000 people in attendance, McCulloch Properties Vice President Charlie Thomson presented Fiedler, a long-time fire engine enthusiast, with a fire chief helmet that read “Chief.”
Churches were in the news in 1975.
The Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church which began in 1974 with Pastor Glenn Atchinson delivering his weekly sermon from a bar stool in Little John’s bar and restaurant. The popular nonconformist pastor later rode a motorcycle for his travels and became active in local politics. He was also elected president of the Fountain HiIls Chamber of Commerce.
The United Brethren in Christ Church also had an active personable man for its pastor. His name was Ed Mast. He became an active member of the Noon Kiwanis Club. His church was the first to have over 100 members in the community. He began services in the Model Home Center on Oct. 26, 1973. The United Brethren congregation was the first to build a church building in the community. Ground was broken on Oct. 6, 1975 for the first phase multi-purpose building.
Local Lutherans selected Reverend Phillip Dybvig as their first pastor. In his interview with The Times, he predicted the local church would be named Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church. Prior to his arrival in 1975, a preaching service was used by the congregation.
News from the local Catholic Church of the Ascension was not good.
There was an announcement during the Bobby Riggs tennis event calling for all deputies to meet in the clubhouse immediately. We didn’t know what was going on until the next morning when it was announced by the Sheriff’s Office that a local priest and a Boy Scout leader had been arrested and charged with child molestation.
Both men were convicted and served jail time.
I’ll have more memories on what happened in 1975 in our next History Lesson.