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  • Mystery CastleMystery Castle Phoenix, Arizona
    Sitting at the foothills of the South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona, a very mysterious sight awaits the welcome visitor. Named aptly as the Mystery Castle, the strange and unique looking structure was the brainchild of Boyce Luther Gulley, who started building the special castle for his daughter, Mary Lou, in the 1930s. When Gulley found out that he had tuberculosis in Seattle, Washington, he moved to Phoenix and began the construction using any materials he could find, or that were as cheap as possible. Boyce passed on in 1945, leaving the property to Mary Lou and her mother, whereupon they moved in. Somehow, the story came to the attention of the nation, and soon a magazine was interested in reporting the unusual story and the name of this quite different structure, and in 1948, a Life magazine cover story was printed, with the title, "Life Visits a Mystery Castle: A Young Girl Rules Over the Strange Secrets of a Fairy Tale Dream House in the Arizona Desert". The cover photograph showed Mary Lou standing on the cantilever staircase that went to the roof of the castle, and Mary Lou and her mother started giving tours of the eccentric home. There has been a lot of speculation as to what all materials have been used for the construction, but some ideas have included cement, calcium, goat milk and mortar was used to hold it all together, making the three story structure, with 18 rooms, something of an oddity in the hot desert sun of Arizona. The solid materials that were used included; automobile parts, adobe, telephone poles, stone, salvaged railroad ties from an abandoned mine and other unusual building materials. There is a dungeon, cantina and chapel among the many rooms, with a few yet unfinished, and the plumbing and electricity didn't get installed until 1992. By March of 2009, Mary Lou Gulley, was still living in the castle, but unable to lead the tours that visitors stop by to enjoy. She is always somewhere in the castle while guides take visitors around, but in her weakened condition, can only sit and enjoy the many memories of her father and the wonderful house that he built for her. The castle is a designated Phoenix Point of Pride.  Boyce, sitting alone in his home in Seattle, considered what kind of life he would have, especially with a wife and 3 year old daughter, and the tuberculosis that would slowly kill him. He didn't think that it would be the kind of environment to raise a daughter, and certainly not a good one for his wife, who would be the one taking care of him, as well as their daughter, Mary Lou and the entire household responsibilities. So Boyce decided to slip away in the dark hours of the night, and went to Phoenix, where the story begans anew. It was in 1929, that this happened, and when Boyce arrived in Phoenix, with little money and no plans, other than dying, he bought a parcel of land, 80 acres, that sat on the edge of Phoenix. For the next 16 years, he explored the region around his construction site, scavenging anything useful that he could find for little or no money. It was a constant labor of love, for his young daughter, who would be the beneficiary of the remarkable building. He continued working, always mindful of the death that kept growing inside him, building slowly but surely, often remembering the many times that he and Mary Lou had gone to the beach in Washington and built sandcastles in the sand, only to have them washed away with the tide, at which point Mary Lou would always cry. He would never contact his daughter or wife, just working on the home for her, when he was gone. It was another strange circumstance that would end his life in 1945, as he had been riding in the desert, always on the lookout for usable items, his horse threw him into a cactus bush, and as he brushed himself off, he felt the pangs of pain in many places that had needles and scraps in them, but a much sharper pain in his stomach. Somehow, a cactus needle had penetrated his stomach wall and became lodged in one of his organs. During the last few weeks of his life, Boyce continued his labor of love, slowly feeling the life ebbing away, and finally passed on. Mary Lou and her mother came to the extraordinary castle in 1945, when she was just 18, and learned of her father, and the strange tale that made him build the marvelous castle for his daughter. Some 20,000 people come here to visit with Mary Lou, although she is getting much older and slower; but still has wonderful stories of her father and the people that she discovered that had come here out of curiosity. Evidently many famous folks had come by and left mementos of their visit, like the kerchief from John Wayne. Mary Lou enjoys the visitors coming here to see what her loving father did for her and to hear the outstanding story of this incredible castle. 

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  • Hall of Flame Museum of FirefightingHall of Flame Museum of Firefighting Phoenix, Arizona
    The Hall of Flame Fire Museum and the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, is found in Phoenix, Arizona, on an acre of land filled with 90 completely restored relics of fire apparatus on exhibit that date from 1725 to 1969. The majority of the displays are American, but there are also some from Japan, England, Germany, France and Austria. The museum sponsors the firefighters hall of fame, that honors the many men and women that has given their lives in the line of duty or decorated for heroism, for their fellow Americans, without thought to their own lives. This hall contains a gallery that has been devoted to the history of wildland firefighting in these United States. The hall of flame is sponsored by the National Historical Fire Foundation that was started by George F. Getz, Jr. in the year of 1961. The great story of this wonderful museum and organization started with George and Olive Getz in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in 1956. They had just acquired a 1924 Type L2 American La France fire engine from Oshkosh, and George loved to give rides on it to the little children that lived in Lake Geneva. It has been lovingly restored and is one of the marvelous exhibits that sit at the hall. George started the hall of flame in 1961, creating the foundation as a nonprofit that would promote the numerous programs for a museum he planned on calling the Hall of Flame. He started collecting fire paraphernalia after he had received a Christmas present of the 1924 La France given to him by his wife, Olive. The couple became fascinated by the rig and soon started a lifetime of collecting. Another vehicle that they acquired was a 1931 Ahrens Fox Type N fire engine from North Tarrytown, New York in 1989. By 1961, the collection had grown to such an extent that a museum would be needed to show it all, and they opened one in Lake Geneva, close to their home. Within a few years, they would move it to Kenosha, where it stayed until 1970, when the Getz family moved to the Phoenix area. George decided he should move the museum as well, and in 1974, the hall opened in its current location. It has continued to grow, from a single gallery into six, plus a library, restoration shop, storage galleries, theater, darkroom and administrative offices. The hall is 50,000 square feet, with 35,000 of that showcasing the marvelous items and relics that have been collected or donated over the years. There are more than 130 wheeled items, thousands of small pieces and their library that contains more than 6,000 holdings and more than 50,000 graphics. George passed on in 1992, and his grandson, also George, became the next president, with another son named Bert and his son or George's grandson, Bert and granddaughter Lynn are members of the board. It is a family affair that has grown into a fantastic museum with special love and admiration for those special kind of people that make up a firefighter. The Getz family is certainly blessed to have had such a wonderful leader, father and grandfather, that has allowed them to carry on his great legacy.

January 11, 2011