Day Ten: Playing Hooky from School While Learning to Swim in Phoenix (1975)

Map-HonoluluToPhoenixDay Ten (Sept. 3, 1975): Usually, when you play hooky from school, you either hide out at home, maybe catch a movie at the cinema, or sneak away to the beach or a swimming hole.

But not my family … No-o-o-o. We do it in grand style. Instead of attending the first day of classes in Honolulu, Hawaii, my little brother Kurt and I found ourselves playing at a motel swimming pool in Phoenix, Arizona. (Kurt would’ve started the fifth grade, and I the sixth, at Kapunahala Elementary School.)  Honolulu to Phoenix is 2,905 miles, so there was very little chance of us getting caught by the school truancy officer.

I know my little head was a little worried because I wrote: “Back in Hawaii we were soposed (sic) to go back to school today. But we’re going to miss the first 2 weeks.”

But honestly, this was the best education a kid could have. These memories and learning experiences trump the first two weeks of any school year, anywhere.

Another Lazy Day and a Visit to Papago Park

The constant go-go-go of touring must have finally caught up with Mom and Dad. Sightseeing is hard work. We didn’t leave Newton’s Inn, in Phoenix, until around 11:00 in the morning.

Dad drove the family to Papago Park, a hilly desert municipal park mostly in Phoenix (1200 acres) and an extended area in Tempe (296 acres). I don’t know if we saw all the cool geological figures, such as the eroded “Hole in the Rock” red sandstone formation.

During World War II, the park had a POW camp with up to 3,100 prisoners from 1942 to 1944. One of the largest mass escapes occurred on Dec. 23, 1944, when 25 German prisoners, including  German U-boat commander Jürgen Wattenberg, dug a 178-foot tunnel and fled into the Arizona desert.

I don’t know what the German translation is for “This is sh*tty and really sucks, meinen Kamaraden … We’re lost in the desert, I’m hungry and thirsty, let’s go back.” But that’s exactly what happened when many of the prisoners, who knew nothing about the desert or climate, surrendered themselves to U.S. authorities.

My kid brother and I weren’t that impressed either: “We went to the Desert Museum. The Desert Museum was more like a shop. It was junk!

The family drove through downtown Phoenix and returned to Newton’s Inn, apparently now closed. It was in the swimming pool that I triumphantly realized:

“I finally can swim across the pool in the deep side. But I’m a bit scared of jumping from the diving board. We swam about 2 hours then came back, took a bath, then got dressed to go out. We went out to eat at the Alpine Village Inn.”

Two observations about our lazy day in Phoenix:

(1) Coming from Hawaii, it’s a bit ironic that I finally learned how to swim in a motel swimming pool in the middle of an Arizona desert. But, hey, water is water!

(2) Did the U.S. military really capture all 25 German POW’s from the Papago Park escape?  I mean, all that German food at the “Alpine Village Inn” in the middle of the desert … ?

The Alpine Village Inn in Phoenix (now closed)
The Alpine Village Inn at 5025 North Sevenue Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona (permanently closed)

Interactive Google Map of the places mentioned above:

Map-PhoenixToPapagoPark

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