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Nifty Nook: 1940

Nifty Nook: 1940

May 1940. "High school students crossing the street. Phoenix, Arizona." Medium format negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Admin. View full size.


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600 Block of Van Buren, Not the 700 Block?

A search of reveals that the Nifty Nook was at 601 E. Van Buren (as of November 1939) and Sunnyland Bakery was at 605 E. Van Buren. This suggests that the cross street at the right is 6th Street, not 7th. The stop sign at the extreme left edge of the photograph is probably 7th Street.

6th Street does not exist at Van Buren any more, but the screenshot posted by TimeAndAgainPhoto, of the ASU downtown campus, is closer than the one from ceraurus of 7th Street.

["Ceraurus"? - Dave]

Clarification: The screenshot that user "ceraurus" posted in a previous comment.


View is looking southeast from the northwast corner of 7th Street and Van Buren. Behind the camera is Phoenix Union High School. It is the high school which many in my family attended up to 1960 and which I attended briefly in 1964 before East [Phoenix] High School construction was completed. In the background is Monroe Elementary School which my grandma Callie B. Wilkins [nee Jones] claims she attended. It was briefly an AFEES (Armed Forces Entrance and Examination Station) in the 80-90's. The PUHS campus has been replaced by office buildings with some of the original classroom buildings serving as a University of Arizona extension.

School crossing

The young man in the middle of the street is not admiring the young ladies walking away, he is the school crossing guard. He is operating the stop sign for a safe crossing for all his classmates. You can see the base of the unit between his feet.

Another view from 2017

I have no idea how the "TimeandAgainPhoto" post knew the location of this photo. I looked for some clue (i.e street signs) but could not find anything. But thanks to their information I was able to find this street view from about the same angle as the original with the aforementioned school on the opposite side of the street from their post.


Thanks for all the amazing gifts you Shorpy folks have presented over the years, Dave, but I need to tell you that never has a photo affected me like this one.

I see these high-schoolers of 1940, and think of my late father, the second of seven kids born to Dutch immigrants in Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose eighteenth birthday fell on the very day the Nazis invaded The Netherlands: May 10, 1940.

He'd recalled that GR's southwest side, populated at that time mostly by folks of Dutch heritage, was eerily hushed during those months — "way too quiet," as he described it. Frustration, anxiety and fear swirled through the community, with many Dutch-Americans unable to obtain any information on the well-being of friends and loved ones living in the "Old Country".

I observe these young ladies crossing the street, and they don't seem to be the happy-go-lucky, carefree kids I'd expected to see. Like they know something's coming. Something dark.

Scoping 'em out

Love the guy in the road checking out the two chicks walking away. The stop sign seems like good advice.

RC Cola

I remember when i was a child in the 60s RC cola was the king of the marketplace in my hometown of Robbinsville N.C. It is kinda sad that the brand has been lost. The drink still exists, but the taste is gone.

Fill 'er up

You can have a hamburger, five different kinds of soft drinks, and ice cream - or you can splurge on a Spanish Dinner. Decisions, decisions.


Below is the same perspective from May of 2008. The view is looking southeast from the corner of what I believe was Sixth Street (which no longer intersects here) and East Van Buren Streets. The large building in the background on the right is the Monroe School at 215 N. 7th Street. Constructed in 1913, it remains but can no longer be seen from this vantage.

Same difference

That 35-cent Spanish Dinner seems so inexpensive but it's the same as $6.40 today.

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