- The state’s name has several possible origins. The Basque words aritz ona mean “good oaks,” while several theories involve Indian words for “small spring” or “silver bearing.”
- Arizonans celebrated statehood the morning of Feb. 14, 1912 with gunfire, church bells and a dynamite explosion that nearly blasted the top off a mountain in Bisbee. And a Phoenix couple held off on marriage long enough to become the first new couple. Joe Melczer and Hazel Goldberg took the vows upon getting the news, with the assistance of a 3-year old ring bearer named Barry Goldwater.
- The iconic World War II photo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima included Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Sacaton. The Marine disliked the fame, struggled after the war and died in a ditch at age 33.
- The largest prisoner of war escape in the U.S. during World War II occurred in Phoenix’s Papago Park in December 1944, when 25 Germans tunneled out. They planned to reach Mexico by floating down the Salt River, unaware it was dry. The escapees created more drama than trouble before being captured.
- The Poston War Relocation Center near the Colorado River was one of the nation’s largest internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII. In one of the nation’s darkest hours, more than 17,000 Japanese were forced into the camp from 1942 through 1945. Japanese south of U.S. 60 were forced to move there, while those to the north of the line could stay in their communities. The line cut through Phoenix, Glendale, Tempe and Mesa.
- The Wallace and Ladmo Show ran from 1954 to 1989, making it the longest-running local children’s TV show in the U.S. Even adults liked the subversive humor and fans included rocker Alice Cooper and a young Steven Spielberg.
- The Miranda warning — part of every arrest and crime drama — resulted from the arrest of Mesa-born Ernesto Miranda. He confessed to abducting, raping and robbing a woman in Phoenix but later appealed his conviction because he hadn’t been informed of his Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate himself. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that police had to inform suspects of what’s now known as the Miranda Warning. Miranda died in 1976 after being stabbed in a fight, and is buried at the Mesa Cemetery. His killer was never brought to justice.
- Plenty of Arizonans launched unsuccessful presidential bids: Republicans Barry Goldwater in 1964 and John McCain in 2008. Democrats Mo Udall ran in 1976 and Bruce Babbitt in 1988, falling short of the nomination. Republican Dan Quayle and Libertarian Barry Hess launched unsuccessful bids in 2000. The humorous Udall joked Arizona might be the only state where mothers tell their children they can’t grow up to become the president.
- Your license plate declares Arizona as “The Grand Canyon State,” but nobody ever bothered to make the nickname official. A push started in 2009, when a California schoolgirl wrote to the state’s historian to determine if the name was official, and research caught history buffs off guard. Lawmakers finally passed emergency legislation last week to make it official. The bill should reach Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk Monday, the state’s 99th birthday.
Other official Arizona things:
• Motto — Ditat Dues, or God Enriches
• Tree — Palo verde
• Flower — Saguaro bloom
• Bird — Cactus Wren
• Gem — Turquoise
• Neckwear — Bola tie
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