In this community, they were part of a dying breed, trying to retain their tenuous, dissolving hold on rural life in the midst of city progress. Smiling in their direction, I felt an empathy with them. They politely returned my smile until they noticed the sticker on my blouse declaring “I Support Camelback Academy.”
My husband grabbed my arm and propelled me into the auditorium of the Glendale City Council. “There’s strength in numbers,” our pastor had addressed us. “We’ll be gracious and kind while never lowering our stand of unity.” Someone else referenced Ecclesiastes 4:12 “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Did that apply to our opponents who were also presenting a united front, I wondered.
We found seats in the section with people from our church and the parents, teachers and students of Camelback Academy. The others, a much smaller group, sat on the opposite side. Some looked angry, others looked sad, but all looked determined. They were not going down without a fight, hoping to close the school and help preserve their small area of rural living.
Our hearing was scheduled after several hearing requests for liquor licenses in the area. The irony was not lost on us church folk. I closed my eyes, drowning out the drone of voices and remembered how this area of Glendale had looked in 1973.
We’d bought a house that year in a new development surrounded by farms. Our tract homes would be inundated with frogs, caterpillars then butterflies, depending on the time of year, a by-product of the surrounding fields. My small children grew and the two oldest would eventually deliver newspapers to our opponents that lived on the dirt road next to the church and school property. It had been a dirt road for years because they didn’t want to be annexed to the city.
Our small church was established on Camelback Road in the early 1970’s. By 2003 the area was predominantly homes and businesses, choking out the farmers. Our church became a larger, flourishing church that had opened a charter school on the property. That was the protest of the residents – that the school generated too much traffic and chaos to their quieter way of life.
Somehow they influenced the city leaders, prompting them to red tag the school one afternoon, closing it indefinitely until a hearing could be set. How do you tell families of school children that the doors of their school have been closed when they would arrive the following morning?
Our pastor had made a connection with Jim Weiers, our state’s Speaker of the House. He contacted him, and Jim Weiers showed up at the church that evening, placing a call to Glendale Mayor, Elaine Scruggs. Much to the chagrin of the dirt road residents, the school was open the next morning.
So here we were at the hearing with both sides having the opportunity to speak before the council. One by one people approached the microphone and shared their hearts. Jim Weiers was there on our behalf and spoke eloquently, quoting a long ago statesman, whose name escapes me, about how schools and churches improve the quality of any neighborhood. He also spoke of how America’s forefathers founded our great nation on Christian principles.
“You approved several liquor licenses this evening,” Mr. Weiers addressed the council. “How much more important it is to approve the continuation of this school.”
Our threefold cord of strength and unity prevailed that night when the council voted in favor of our church and school. That little Glendale farming community of my childhood memories would continue to watch as progress marched on, bringing them the Jobing.com Arena, home of the NHL Phoenix Coyotes currently in the playoffs. Glendale also became the location of the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, where the Super Bowl was held in 2009.
Sometimes I close my eyes and recall the sights and smells in the 1950’s when my family took afternoon drives down Grand Avenue through the small farming community of Glendale. We’d buy produce at stands along the way.
In 2012, few farms still exist in the area.
Today that dirt road remains dirt. I think of the residents there who stood for something, just as we stood for something. There was no wrong group that night. But the sands of time yielded to a progress that some didn’t want or welcome.
**Verse is KJV. This is a true story!
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