Phoenix history: The Lazy R&G Ranch helped make for happy employees, who were then better employees.
“Children, it’s time!” And with that, eager kids scrambled onto Mr. Train for the long awaited afternoon tour around the Lazy R&G Ranch.
Eugene Pulliam and his wife — publishers of The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette — broke ground on Phoenix’s third company recreation area in late 1952, with the facility opening May 30, 1953.
Located on a 20-acre parcel at 4747 E. Indian School Road, it would include a pool where many learned to swim, a barbecue area, a baseball field, a pavilion, and other elements intended to provide a place for company employees, their families and friends to have fun, relax and be outdoors.
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Tucked back from the road in a heavily landscaped area, many motorists wondered what the place behind the sign was.
Approximately half of the property was planted with orange trees. Employees were eventually allowed to pick five bags of that luscious fruit.
The company hosted numerous events, including fashion shows and Easter Egg hunts, but according to Michael Ging, a former employee, “Christmas and the Fourth of July were the big events.”
The fireworks show was huge and “Americana at its best.” Those firework shows are vividly remembered even today by those who watched at the Ranch and from afar.
Ging’s first encounter with the Lazy R&G was as a paperboy for The Phoenix Gazette. As a reward for subscription sales, the paper invited the top selling carriers to the Ranch. There, they could use the pool, eat ice cream, find other goodies at the snack bar, and enjoy a barbecue. It was super special to be in this park-like and private setting.
The Ranch was a place where couples met, and later married — sometimes holding the wedding at the Ranch. They brought their dates to this family-friendly atmosphere for a picnic. And many children of employees invited friends for a treat at the Ranch and a ride on Mr. Train.
Teens loved to loll around the pool during the summer and wait for the evening movies in the pavilion.
Ranch fades away
Times changed, and eventually the ownership of The Republic sold the back portion (the citrus area) to Scottsdale Unified School District for the expansion of Arcadia High School in 2005. In 2009, Gannett sold the remaining acreage, but to date, it has not been developed.
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Companies like Salt River Project, Goldwater’s Department Store and Phoenix Newspapers believed that “a happy employee is a better employee,” and based on the memories of the R&G Ranch, they were successful.
Donna Reiner is the co-author of three books on Phoenix history.
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