For those of you who know Vic Linoff, president of the Mesa Preservation Foundation and past president of the Mesa Historical Museum’s Board of Directors, you know that he is an “accumulator.”
For those of you who don’t know him — I’ll tell you what an accumulator he is.
Linoff, a history buff and owner of Those Were the Days, an online book shop in Mesa, was quick to spring into action last week when the East Valley Tribune sought help preserving thousands of photographs, slides, negatives and microfilm from the newspaper’s archives.
As the Tribune moves into a more “green” and “digitally-equipped” office at Fountainhead Parkway in Tempe, we wanted to ensure that our files found the right home. That our history — which includes mastheads from the East Valley Tribune, Mesa Daily News, Tempe Daily News, Scottsdale Progress and Chandler Arizonan — not only lived on but was available for public viewing and research purposes.
Enter the Mesa Preservation Foundation, which hopes to develop a Main Street historic district in the downtown area in the future.
Driving up in a Honda Pilot minivan last Friday and later his son-in-law’s pickup truck on Wednesday, Linoff and his wife, Vicki, loaded up the archives so the information can be preserved for future generations.
It will be temporarily housed off-site so it can be sorted by East Valley cities and towns for local historical societies that would be interested in it — Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale. A Minnesota native who has lived in Mesa since 1966, Linoff serves on the boards of numerous historical societies throughout the East Valley — including Mesa, Tempe and the Arizona Jewish Historical Society as well as the Tempe Historical Preservation Foundation.
As Linoff rifled through some of the Tribune photo files, it was like someone watching fireworks — his “oohs and ahhs” came often as treasures were unearthed, including photos of buildings throughout the city that no longer are standing and bound editions of the Mesa Tribune from 1950.
“For a historian, getting to go through a newspaper’s archives is really like a kid in a candy store,” Linoff, 68, said. “It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A newspaper’s records are some of the most valuable sources of information there are, and usually the first place of record people go when conducting historical research. Microfilm is one of a historian’s most important tools. A newspaper serves a multi-farious role — it documents a city’s history, it should be a responsible community critic, and it is a business that plays an active role in the community.”
“We’re grateful to (the East Valley Tribune) for donating the materials to us,” Linoff said. “By donating the material, it now will be available to a broad audience. Normally, the public is not allowed into a newspaper’s archives to do research. Knowing the circumstances of which we’re getting the material for public consumption, we’re delighted to be the ones to help find homes for it.”
As the negatives and photographs were emptied out of filing cabinets this past week, the tip of the iceberg of treasures pulled from yellow folders included 1960s-era exterior and interior photographs of the Southern Pacific Train Station at Third Avenue and Macdonald Street. The train station, which featured two western-themed murals on the inside, was destroyed by a fire in 1987.
There also were photographs of the Mesa Theater in downtown Mesa and the former Mesa City Hall building at 53 N. MacDonald — showing the former fire station next door. The former city hall building now houses the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
And the photos of people who helped shape the region were countless — there were photo files of senators, past governors, legislators and mayors — John McCain, Jon Kyl, Raul Castro (the first Mexican to be elected governor), Rose Mofford and Fife Symington.
Other photographs showed the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) under construction in 1997, Fiesta Bowl parades, numerous Fiesta Bowl games played at Arizona State University and Super Bowl XXX that was played at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996 between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
There are photographs of highways under construction, law enforcement officers and schoolchildren.
“One literally could spend years going through it,” Linoff said of the images. “No doubt, there are other unknown treasures that can fill in many blanks of a story. I’m of the belief that we don’t own anything, but we’re caretakers while we’re here. We can preserve materials for another generation, and if you take care of them, they’ll survive.”