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Ready for Departure: Sky Harbor’s Terminal Two Is No More

This is the central panel of Paul Coze's The Phoenix mixed-media mural.EXPAND
This is the central panel of Paul Coze's The Phoenix mixed-media mural.
Craig Smith

A crowd had gathered on Tuesday afternoon to say “farewell” to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s Terminal Two. The jet-age airline terminal, designed by architectural firms Weaver & Drover and Lescher & Mahoney, was closing for good that night and would be torn down soon.

Opened in May 1962, Terminal Two’s 330,000 square feet made it the country’s seventh-largest airport terminal at the time. Back then, travelers flowed past a restaurant, barbershop, clothing store, and a games arcade on their way into and out of a space featuring polished terrazzo floors below and a three-panel mosaic mural by local artist Paul Coze above.

“In 1962, I dated a boy named Don Brown, and we would come here to play pinball,” said a woman named Kay who’d stopped in to say goodbye to Terminal Two. “I was dating him when I met my husband, who was a doctor. Don was just a painter. He disappeared, and I was suddenly engaged to the doctor. I’ve always thought my mother had something to do with that.”

Kay nodded her head in time with the Herb Alpert song blaring over Terminal Two’s loudspeakers. “Don was a wonderful, nice boy,” she said. “I wonder whatever happened to him.”

A woman dressed in a vintage PanAm stewardess costume — blue wool pencil skirt and blazer, with little gold wings clipped to her lapel — walked past. “I remember when they wore those,” a man named Mario said. “My mom wore gloves and a hat when we flew to Los Angeles in 1970. They had menus you ordered lunch off of. I mean, it was a one-hour flight.”

Mario shook his head. “I remember I ordered the pastrami.”

A man who said his name was Benny wore a foam-rubber airplane around his middle and posed for photographs with partygoers.

“I’m Chuck Yeager,” he told one of them. “The first pilot in history to fly past the speed of sound.”

Benny said he worked for the city of Phoenix. “This is the city’s property,” he said of both Terminal Two and the foam-rubber airplane. “We also have one of these costumes that represents Amelia Earhart. We wear them to represent the airport at the Fiesta Bowl parade every year. We march with the big inflatable airplanes.”

“Is Amelia here?” a girl named Candace asked Benny. “No, she’s not,” he said. Candace stuck her lower lip out. “Amelia Earhart is on vacation. If she was here, I wouldn’t be. We pretty much don’t ever both show up for these things.”

A man wearing a Wallace and Ladmo T-shirt asked Benny about the Paul Coze mural, which was partly obscured by an addition that jutted out into the lobby. “That was built post-9/11,” Benny said of the addition. “They had to double down on security, so blocking this part off let them have one way in, and one way out. You have to go upstairs now to see all of the mural. Kind of a bummer.”

Nearby, a woman named Kim pointed to a photograph of a diorama of Terminal Two. “I remember when they had that model in Terminal One in 1959,” she told her husband, Doug. “I remember standing on a stool to look at all the little cars and the little planes.”

Kim also remembered boarding planes by walking right out onto the tarmac. “It was a while before they came up with that little tunnel you’d walk through,” said Kim, who recalled coming here to eat at the Terminal Two restaurant on special occasions. “For your birthday, they gave you your own little cake.”

She couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant. “It was over by where security is now.”

Kim worried that the compass rose etched into the terrazzo floor wouldn’t be saved. She said she offered to raise money to help rescue the compass. “I know they want to save it, but the city didn’t like my idea of doing a GoFundMe to help with that.”

“I told Michelle Dodds at the city that I wanted a hunk of the carpet from over there,” Kim said and pointed toward Terminal Two’s entrance. “It has little airplanes printed all over it. I should have just brought a pocketknife with me.”

A man named Larry showed Kay the camera he was carrying. “I’m documenting the terminal for the Library of Congress,” he explained. “In 100 years, people will look at my photos and see what Terminal Two looked like.”

Kay said she’d heard that the mural was being relocated. “Oh, yes,” Larry hollered over a Baja Marimba Band song. “They’re taking it over to the car rental place.”

Larry was sad that people thought the mural was a painting. “It’s a three-dimensional thing. The phoenix bird’s head is actually made from date palm fronds. The pickaxe is made from Styrofoam. And that water shut-off valve there is a steering wheel from a child’s push-car.”

A few feet away, a woman named Meg waited to photograph the compass rose. “People keep standing on it,” she complained to a stranger who also wanted a picture of the rose. “I’m not leaving here until I get my photo taken with that compass. Because, listen. Tomorrow there’s not going to be anything here but a pile of rubble.”

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