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Pioneer Recalls Memories Of Early Lake Havasu

Pioneer Recalls Memories Of Early Lake Havasu
Nicole Matheson / 07 Jul 2021 / 13 Comments » Comments

By Nicole Matheson

As the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City draws close, RiverScene caught up with one of the city’s pioneers, Chuck Harley of Northern Arizona.

Harley lived in Lake Havasu starting at the age of 6 from years 1963-65 and 1968-74, and he has some priceless memories of the fledgling city.

What Was Havasu Like?

“We went to Havasu because my father was on the construction team that was building the city streets, roads and utilities. Dad was an equipment operator. Mom was a housewife. I have two sisters, both younger than me. We stayed until late 1965, then moved back to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California.

“Then in early 1968, we moved back to Havasu. Mom worked at the Nautical Inn for several years.” Harley said. His father had a lot of friends that were pilots, and was able to get some striking aerial pictures of Havasu in those years.

Havasu Pioneer

An aerial photo of Lake Havasu looking towards the Island. Photo courtesy Chuck Harley

So, what was Lake Havasu like back then?

“The early days in Havasu were interesting, fun and an adventure. We had to go to Kingman or Needles to get groceries and drinking water, as there was not yet a grocery store in Havasu. The only store in town was out on Highway 95, The G & P Store. They sold gas, soda, beer, milk and fish bait. Just basic essentials.”

Recreation In Early Havasu

“For recreation we would go to the lake!” Harley said. “Fishing was great! Swimming was fun! We also would swim every day in the pool at the Arnold Apartments where we lived. There were only about 300 people in Havasu in 1964.”

But of course, some recreational activities for a young boy were not as charming. “I remember catching large scorpions and bringing them into the house. Mom really did not like my pets!”

A fun fact, Harley says that, “There was no bridge over the river south of Havasu to get to Parker! The road was dirt all the way there, but no bridge. To get to Parker, we had to go to Needles then south from there to Parker.”

There were frequent celebrity tennis tournaments in Havasu in those years, and Harley has a great memory as testament to this.

Actor Sebastian Cabot waves at the crowd during a London Bridge Days Parade. photo courtesy Chuck Harley

“During one of the celebrity tennis tournaments, there were lots of stars there that did not even play tennis, but they came to hang out and be seen. My father went to the Nautical Inn to pick up Mom when she got off work. He went into the bar to wait for her. At the bar was Dan Blocker (of ‘Bonanza’ fame) and several other stars sitting at the bar. One empty stool was next to Dan, so Dad sat down. Dad was having a good time joking and talking with Dan and the other stars when several ladies came over and asked for his autograph.  Dan Blocker poked Dad and said, ‘go ahead Charley, sign it.’ So Dad signed his autograph and passed the autograph book on to Dan and the others. I wonder what the ladies thought when they tried to figure out what show ‘Charley Harley’ was a star in!”

Overall, Harley says that, “I have great memories of Havasu. It was a great place to grow up!”

Do you have any early memories of Lake Havasu that you would like to share? Be sure to leave a comment!

Chuck Harley’s mom watches over him as he plays in the swimming pool at the Arnold Apartments. The apartments used to be located at Mesquite and Smoketree Ave. Photo courtesy Chuck Harley

Havasu pioneer

An aerial view of The Nautical Inn taken by Charley Harley in 1969. Photo courtesy Chuck Harley

An early aerial photo of a mobile home park in Lake Havasu by Charley Harley. Photo courtesy Chuck Harley

Chuck Harley and his family swimming in the lake. Photo courtesy Chuck Harley.

13 Comments » Comments:

13 Responses to “Pioneer Recalls Memories Of Early Lake Havasu”

  1. I was there from 1965 to 1978. We lived in Downey Ca. and flew to Havasu on the weekends. We had a trailer in the Site Six trailer park. My dad’s name was Dewey Morrison. He flew a V35TC Bonanza. We probably crossed paths at one time or another. It was definitely a fun place to grow up. There were 5 or 6 couples that flew in from SoCal.

  2. Sharon says:

    Would Chuck have any early pictures of the bridge construction ? If so please contact me at my email address and I would be willing to buy them!!

  3. Dee says:

    Awesome! Loved the pictures.

  4. Klurp Hall says:

    My cousin Bill and Anna have lived here for over 20 years !
    It’s a great town and we come visit every summer.
    The town has grown up almost still no Costco unfortunately!
    We really enjoy it and the family lifestyle has to offer here in lake havasu city , so much so I have relocated to Arizona lake house for permanent vacation !

  5. Alan Averill says:

    I started going to Havasu when l was 8 years old back in 1962. A friend of my father would take me fishing from Black Meadow Landing, occasionally we would boat towards the city. I have fond memories of Havasu over the years and live hear now ! We use to use mud dogs for bait and would catch a stringer full most every time we would go out.

  6. Benny Santo Pietro says:

    My family moved to Lake Havasu in 1966 my father had the first electrical company called blue river electric that did only residential we wired hundreds of houses in Lake Havasu did you know the London bridge is hollow on the inside? Not many people have had the opportunity to see inside the bridge but my father and I did my graduating class in 1979 was the first graduating class from the high school there to have four of us that were the first to go from kindergarten to 12th grade I have many fond memories of Lake Havasu even though I live in California Havasu will always be home

  7. John says:

    Was there a woman named Ruth involved in the London Bridge construction can’t remember her last name but she was from Wyoming

  8. Tom says:

    My family lived there from 1965 to 1970. We owned the Western Auto store. We lived in the trailer parks next to Site Six and the original airport. Later we moved to the Anderson apartments. I bet I knew Chuck and I remember Benny’s family. Fond memories of the early days of Havasu. My wife and I just visited there earlier this year on Route 66 Trip out to the coast. Stayed at the Nautical Beach Resort (former Nautical Inn). Man has it grown up and changed. I only recognized the bridge, lake, mountains and landmarks.

  9. Barbara Schamp says:

    Loved to read some history of Havasu!

  10. Lisa says:

    I have the same question as Sharon:
    Would Chuck have any early pictures of the bridge construction ? If so please contact me at my email address and I would be willing to buy them!!
    ~Lisa

  11. Mary says:

    Went to Black Meadows since I was 8. Friends with owners Jacobson family. Had a wedding reception at the restaurant in 1963. Owned a home in Havasu City for 20 years. It will always be my best life memories. Live in CA today. Mary Dwyer Walters.

  12. Diane says:

    We visited Havasu as our friends flew out on Mcculloughs flight and they decided to move there. I remember seeing the parts of the bridge that came over were numbered; riding in a dune buggy underneath the bridge before it was finished.I loved the bumpy road coming from Vegas to Havasu. I will have to get my pics out.

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