Day Eleven: Passing Through Quartzsite, Arizona en route to Disneyland (1975)

Leaving Phoenix via Quartzsite, Arizona

RetroSign4-Day Eleven (Sept. 4, 1975): Dad was fond of announcing how many miles we would be driving, especially long-distance journeys. Today was no different.

We left Phoenix at 7:00 in the morning on a 402-mile drive back to California. At some point, Mom and Dad switched places and Mom drove, while Kurt and I napped in the back seat.

About 125 miles west of Phoenix on Interstate 10, we arrived at Quartzsite, Arizona, which sits in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.  Quartzsite’s website bills the town as “a mecca to visitors and exhibitors for rocks, gems, mineral specimens and fossils during the town’s famous two-month-long gem show”. In other words, rocks.

Burial marker of Hi Jolly (1828-1902). Photo Credit: Jeremy Butler
Burial marker of Hi Jolly (1828-1902). Photo Credit: Jeremy Butler

All my Journal notes is that we “mailed a letter Dad made (and then) we stopped at a camel’s grave….” It seems appropriate that a camel would be buried in this small town, with its desert climate and a record high of 122 °F (50.0 °C) on July 28, 1995.

But there is no camel buried here. According to Wiki, “Quartzsite is the burial place of Hi Jolly (Hadji Ali), an Ottoman citizen of Greek-Syrian parentage, who took part in the experimental US Camel Corps as a camel driver.” He lived from 1828 to 1902.

About 33 camels were acquired mainly from Egypt and Turkey. The goal of the U.S. Army was to determine whether the camels could effectively be used as pack animals in the southwestern desert climate. The advent of the U.S. Civil War interrupted the experiment, and the surviving camels were auctioned in 1864. It was an interesting but failed experiment.

Welcome to the Cosmic Age Lodge

Nothing could be further removed from Civil War-era camels than a pop-culture visit to the Spage Age motels of Anaheim, California. My family looked at four of the motels near Disneyland before selecting the Cosmic Age Lodge. The others included the Apollo InnStardust and Space Age Lodge. Back then, I wrote “They were all the same” – thematically, at least.

Many of these, including the Cosmic Age Lodge and the Apollo Inn, have since been torn down. They were great examples of Googie architecture and Populuxe culture (“popular” + “luxury”, a consumer culture and aesthetic popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s).

Flyer for the Space Age Lodge
Flyer for the Space Age Lodge

Postcard for the Cosmic Age Lodge
Postcard for the Cosmic Age Lodge

We grabbed dinner at the coffee shop at Jolly Roger Hotel, about a mile from Disneyland. I’m sure the place was decent in the 1970’s. But take a look at the horrifying hotel reviews on Yelp, and you will understand why Jolly Roger Hotel permanently closed in 2014.

After dinner, we retired early at the Cosmic Age Lodge. The next day, we would take the short walk to Disneyland and enter “the Happiest Place on Earth” for the next two days.

Interactive Google Map of the places mentioned above:




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