When I was a kid growing in in Phoenix/Glendale in the 1960s, my grandmother used to take me out to Mexican food quite often. There was one place that was her favorite and soon became mine at a very young age.
When my grandma came over and said, “Let’s go to Woody’s” I knew what she meant: she was referring to Woody’s Macayo’s Mexican Food which began in Phoenix in 1945.
There was no other place like Woody’s Macayo’s Mexican Food.
When my grandmother took me out to Woody’s Macayo’s in the 1960s and 1970s, it was more than just a delicious meal of some of the finest Mexican food served up in the Valley of the Sun. It was a quiet, reflective time to spend with my grandmother talking about the latest issues besetting my dysfunctional family life.
My grandmother always found my insatiable appetite for hot, spicy Mexican food both fascinating and amusing. She had never seen someone from our family (other than herself) enjoy Mexican food so much. Here was a Swedish/German kid (Me) a Phoenix native who ate hot spicy peppers and salsa like they were going out of style. I put hot salsa and Jalapenos and Green Chili peppers on everything. My mouth would burn and tears ran down my cheeks but I enjoyed every bite of my favorite spicy foods in my favorite Mexican restaurant.
But Woody’s Macayo’s was even more than great Mexican food, more than time spent with my grandmother, it was, in a sense, a symbol of the “old Phoenix” that existed in the “old America” before the crime, decay and violence came to define everyday life in the Valley of the Sun.
When my grandmother and I were having a Mexican lunch or dinner at “Woody’s” in the 1960s and 1970s, the Phoenix metro area in which we lived was around 200,000 in 1972 when I was 13 years old. (My grandmother lived in Glendale and we lived in Phoenix on the border of Glendale.)
Today, the Phoenix metro area is almost 5 million people.
A few years after opening several locations, Woody built a huge, iconic “landmark” restaurant in central Phoenix, on Central Avenue which is the “main drag” running north and south right through the middle of downtown Phoenix and the “heart” of the Valley of the Sun. It was designed as an ancient Aztec temple, and you could see it from miles around. It made a statement. It was a comforting reminder of the “Old Phoenix” with its traditional family Mexican food restaurants.
Sadly, last year, after serving up some of the finest Mexican food since 1945, the Macayo’s family, (Woody’s daughter and grandchildren) sold the business to a faceless, mindless corporation and closed it’s iconic, landmark restaurant.
The same thing happened to Garcia’s Mexican Food over 30 years ago. The family sold it to a corporation and the quality and human connection went down the drain. (NOTE: See the gang graffiti in the top right of the above photo? In the last few years, as Phoenix has descended into a violent, third-world cesspool, with violent street gangs running amok, iconic, beloved landmarks like Woody’s Macayo’s are prime targets.)
My grandmother is now gone.
Passed away from this life in 2015 at the age of 91.
And now, as of last year, so is Woody’s Macyao’s. Gone. Forever.
Woody’s Macayo’s is never coming back: and neither is Phoenix.
My beloved city, the place of my birth and childhood, passed away some time ago. It is hard to say when Phoenix died. The “infection” or pathogen began sometime in the 1980s.
That is when thousands upon thousands of people from New York, Chicago, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey moved to Phoenix with no connection to it’s land, people or culture of the Southwest and permanently ravaged it. New Yorkers didn’t like our “lax gun laws” so they lobbied to change them. Chicagoans didn’t like our “lack of diversity” so they lobbied for more refugees and immigrants.
Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun has never been the same after out-of-state outsiders moved in and made unwanted changes to our way of life.
The difference between Phoenix then and now, between a small medium-sized city of 200,000 people and a massive metro area of 5 million is shocking. (Phoenix is a lot like LA now in it’s size, sprawl, “diversity” and violent street gangs.)
I no longer recognize the place of my birth.
And I never wanted to live in “LA.”
Today, depending upon which part of town you are in, Phoenix looks like either Juarez or Mogadishu, with the sound of constant gunfire and gang members hanging out on street corners selling drugs and flashing gang signs as you drive by.
But once upon a time, there was a different Phoenix, and a different America.
I remember those times and cherish them.