Best of Phoenix

Best of Phoenix 2015: Rose Ann Mulville Appleby and Her Siblings Used to Surf the Canals

For more of the best people, places and things to do in Phoenix, check out our 2015 Best of Phoenix awards. 

I was born in the desert, in Buckeye, 83 years ago in May. I'm the sixth of 10 children. We were born right at our house in Buckeye, and this was back when it was just a little farming community, a very small town. My dad had a blacksmithing shop, and he did welding and machine work. Back then, you didn't throw stuff away when it broke; you fixed it. That's what my dad did: He fixed your stuff for you. My two younger brothers worked for him, and they learned how to build things. Those two were so talented. They could build anything.

That came in handy, because we had to entertain ourselves back then. My brothers made little putt-putt cars that had lawnmower engines. You had to pull a cord to get them going and then jump in and take off. They also made a covered wagon. We got a mule from someone, and we tied it to the wagon and we rode that thing in the Hellzapoppin Rodeo Parade. That was a Buckeye thing. I think they still do that parade out there. People would get dressed up. They'd wear those Mexican hats with the little balls hanging down off the brim. We rode the covered wagon in the parade, and we used it to go out for picnics. We tried to get rid of it. We gave the mule away, but he kept running away from his new owners and coming back to our place.

My brothers made a surfboard so we could go surfing on the canals. There was a rope attached, and they made this thing — I don't know what you'd call it — that stuck way out of the back of the truck, and there was a rope attached to it and someone would be driving the truck, and someone else would be on the surfboard, out in the canal, hanging onto that long thing sticking out of the back of the truck. People just lined up to take a turn surfing the canal. The neighborhood kids. The canals were paved on both sides, you know. If any of us had hit the side of the canal, all that cement, oh, dear. I can't think about it now, as a grown-up lady.

Daddy and Mom knew we were waterskiing the canal. We were using their truck! In a little town like that, you didn't worry about that sort of stuff. Dad figured we knew what we were doing.

My husband and I moved to Glendale in 1972, and that's where I raised my kids. Now we live in Sun City. I miss small-town life. You knew everyone, and you didn't have to lock your doors. My granddaughter can't walk home alone — it's not safe to.

But I'll tell you something. If my kids said they were going to go out and surf the canal, I wouldn't have let them. No way. That kind of stuff is dangerous! — as told to Robrt L. Pela

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela