Walking history books: The greatest generation wont be forgotten

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Inside the Granite Reef Senior Center in Scottsdale the pace of life is slower, with card games, pool tables, and an occasional game of ping pong.

In a different time in history though, these men and women were busy making history, and have been dubbed the greatest generation.
Walk into the senior center and you’ll find dozens of fascinating stories.
Gil Gifford, known as “Mr. Microphone,” has been the MC of the Parada del Sol Parade in Scottsdale every year for 40 years. He was also named the “official bugler” of the city of Scottsdale, played in the US Army band, and took part in what he calls the “shadow government” of the city of Scottsdale in the ’50’s, ‘60’s and ’70’s.
Gil’s proudest accomplishment, though? His time spent working with youth.
“I directed boys clubs for more than 30 years,” he said.
Stories like these, that make up the fabric of the history of Scottsdale, were starting to be forgotten. So the Scottsdale Public Library and the Granite Reef Senior Center teamed up to create the Walking History Books program.
Seniors will be interviewed on camera, and their stories posted in an on-line library historical catalogue.
“That really helps us understand where Scottsdale has been as a community, and how it has evolved. Those are the kinds of stories we want to capture,” said Aimee Fifarek with the Scottsdale Public Library.
The website will also help connect family members who are separated by generations and distance.
“You could have a niece or a nephew back in Michigan go to the Scottsdale Public Library’s web site and see their grandma or grandpa and hear them talk about what it was like to grow up in Scottsdale,” said Nick Mollinari with the Granite Reef Senior Center.
The website also features Chuck Luthy, telling war stories from the South Pacific during World War II.
“An ammunition ship got hit and it exploded. It was bright as daylight,” he said.
There is also plenty of Scottsdale history. Naomi Jones remembers moving out to her home “way, way out in the country,” at 32nd Street and McDowell.
“There were only four houses between McDowell and Thomas on the west side,” said Jones.
Gifford says the Walking History Books program has made him feel like his story was important, and said that if no one recorded his stories, “they would just fade off into the great beyond and you wouldn’t see them again. You wouldn’t know anything about it.”
The Granite Reef Senior Center is looking for more Scottsdale seniors to share their stories for the Walking History Books Program. For more information, contact the center.