Mesa, Arizona has a very rich history of mysterious native tribes, Spanish expeditions and Mormon migrations. It is among one of the fastest growing areas in Arizona, and has continually grown over the years. From humble beginnings, Mesa has developed into the third largest city in Arizona and the 46th largest city in the United States. The Census Bureau now designates the Valley as the Phoenix-Mesa Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The culture and scenery of downtown Mesa in the 50s was similar to those of other Eisenhower Era cities. The Central Main Area experienced its most rapid expansion during the automobile age, and with the additional influence of Main Street’s designation as US Highway 60, development along Main Street followed an auto-oriented, suburban corridor pattern. People remember this as a time when Main Street and downtown was vibrant and full of activity. Here are some events that took place in the 50s that furthered the development of the city of Mesa:
- Mesa’s first shopping center opened in 1954 at the northeast corner of 4th Avenue (now Broadway) and Mesa Drive. It had a Wright grocery store, nine other stores and an off-street parking lot.
- In 1951, Arizona began integrating its schools three years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Two Mesa schools were integrated-Daniel Webster School i and Booker T. Washington School in 1954.
- Mesa became the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs in 1952. The Cubs played at Rendezvous Park through 1965, later moving to Scottsdale.
- In May 1953, a group of Mesa citizens organized the Better Community Council to fight racial discrimination. At the time, public facilities in Mesa were segregated. There were even separate black and white restrooms at the city hall. The Better Community Council lobbied Mesa restaurants and hotels to sign non-discrimination pledges. The group also led a successful effort to integrate the Rendezvous Park swimming pool.
- In 1957, a rocket engine manufacturer, Talco, moved its research division to Falcon Field, starting Mesa’s high-technology industry.