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Havasu’s Early Days: An Interview

Curt and Denise Baker have spent over 40 years in Lake Havasu and continue to enjoy the surrounding beauty and friendliness of the people.

Curt and Denise Baker have spent over 40 years in Lake Havasu and continue to enjoy the surrounding beauty and friendliness of the people.

Curt Baker recalls moving to Lake Havasu in April of 1973 after relocating from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. “It really was a frontier town, the atmosphere was anything goes.” He first read about Havasu and the famous McCulloch flights while stuffing flyers for the free trips in the Milwaukee Journal newspaper. The town was just starting to grow, so the community leaders wanted people move to Havasu. “There were maybe 5,000 people when I moved here, and the community really didn’t want to alienate the people they had, so the cops were pretty lenient. If there was a beer party, the cops would show up and give everyone a ride home. As more people moved in to town, rules became a little more prohibitive.”

 

Denise Stevenson made the move from Michigan to Lake Havasu in 1976 after she and a friend hitched a ride cross-country from a guy they knew. “I thought Arizona was beautiful, so I headed out to find myself.” And apparently, that’s when Curt and Denise found each other. One could say it was a match that could only be made in Havasu. Both gravitated to the Pour House, a drinking establishment, restaurant, and early icon on upper McCulloch. “They had get togethers for people that moved from different states and the owners were from Michigan, so I fit right in.” Denise worked as a waitress and Curt worked as a short order cook. In fact, Denise also worked at The Nautical and the London Bridge Resort for many years before receiving an associate degree from Mohave Community College and settling in as an Advocate for Domestic Violence Survivors for the Interagency Council.

Denise and Curt began dating, and Denise recalls going on dates at the drive-in theater out in Desert Hills. “The movies were great, but after working outside in the hot sun all day, Curt would always fall asleep!”

The early days of landscaping: Curt works on a small project back in the late 1970s. Back then the road was known as Seacoast, but today, the street off of Saratoga is known as Silversmith Drive.

The early days of landscaping: Curt works on a small project back in the late 1970s. Back then the road was known as Seacoast, but today, the street off of Saratoga is known as Silversmith Drive.

Curt started his own landscaping business in Havasu in the seventies, Landscape Experience, and still continues to work as a landscaper in Havasu to this day. Both have fond memories of dating in the early days of Havasu, “It was just a fun place back then, we felt very comfortable here. We left our doors unlocked and our keys in the car.” Curt reminds Denise of the time someone took their car for a joyride—but they got it back. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but there was so much to do that didn’t require a lot of money—hiking, riding dune buggies—it was the perfect place to be if you loved the outdoors,” according to Denise.

 

“People were so friendly when I moved here,” Curt states, “The early days really were like the old west. Everyone had a pick up, cowboy hat, a rifle in the rack, and a beer between their knees.” Curt says that the town was divided between the cowboys and the hippies, but noted that barring a few fist fights from time to time, everyone got along. But life wasn’t easy, work was hard to come by. “If you wanted to go somewhere on the weekend, there was no gas available on Sundays—and you couldn’t buy beer before noon,” laughs Denise. “But we always felt safe.” Curt recalls a time where he would spend parts of his summer sleeping under the stars down at the park and no one would bother you. “The worst that ever happened was that we were chased by some coyotes.” Denise recalls how the donkeys would roam the streets freely and that it wasn’t unusual to see them on downtown McCulloch and Curt discusses how all the construction people would hang out at J.J. Donuts on McCulloch. “No matter how hot it was out, everyone would get a large Styrofoam cup of coffee and just hang out.

You may have to look long and hard to see anything that looks like a park, but Curt and Denise have fond memories of gathering with their friends at what is now known as SARA Park.

You may have to look long and hard to see anything that looks like a park, but Curt and Denise have fond memories of gathering with their friends at what is now known as SARA Park.

Married on March 25, 1978, Curt and Denise both consider Havasu home. Not only did they raise their two sons, Scott and James, who also live here, but now they’re also enjoying their three grandchildren. While they both have fond memories of the early days raising a family in Havasu, they appreciate the growth in the city and the accompanying amenities. “We love the lake, the mountains, and the great outdoors. We couldn’t think of a better place to grow up and raise a family. Havasu has been and continues to be a great place to live.”

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