History of Dateland, Arizona
Established in the early 1920's, Dateland Arizona was originally a water stop along the railroad lines.
Located just north of the Mexico border on Interstate 8 between Yuma Arizona and Phoenix in the Arizona desert, Dateland was a welcome site to weary travelers during the hot summer. The irrigation pond substituted as a swimming pool on a regular basis to travelers that would dive in clothes and all. Temperatures here in Dateland can reach upwards of 120 degrees for about 3 weeks every year. And it happens during monsoon season, the only time of the year that we have any humidity. Imagine traveling during this time with no air-conditioning.
During the 1940's, Dateland Arizona was the site for two of General Patton's desert training camps, Camp Horn and Camp Hyder. In addition, in 1942, three airstrips were built here in Dateland for training B25 Bombers. Unfortunately, the airfields were only utilized for about two months. The buildings that were built for the airstrips were later used as part of an Italian internment camp. Of course, all of the buildings are long gone, but the airstrips, and many of the original foundations are still in existence.
At one time, there was a hot springs located in Agua Caliente, just a few miles from Dateland. It was considered an exclusive resort, and was visited by many of the famous movie stars of that generation. But, eventually, the hot springs dried up due to the tremendous amount of agriculture in the valley.
In 1965, when Interstate 8 was built to replace old Highway 80, Dateland moved about a block north of its original location. The old building stood for many years, until it was finally torn down in 1997. All of the original pieces of the business still exist, the cafe, the gift shop, the gas station, the RV Park, and the Date Grove. The local community has grown a bit on the north side of the interstate, and we now have an elementary school that currently has an enrollment of around 150 students.
Because of the hot desert environment, the military still uses the Dateland area for periodic training. Many of the American troops that were in Iraq, or who have been to Afghanistan, have spent some time training here in Dateland.
For three generations now, people have been stopping in Dateland during their travels across southern Arizona.
Dateland's location in the middle of the desert between Yuma and Gila Bend make it an ideal stop, but history and memories have made it a tradition!
People stop here in Dateland not only for the obvious reason that we are a convenient stop, or because they want to buy dates, but frequently it's because their parents and/or their grandparents always stopped in Dateland and stopping here brings back good memories. Or sometimes it's because they or a loved one served in the military and they were trained here in Dateland. These visits are especially nice, because there is so much history and so many stories about Dateland that we don't know, and soon there will not be anyone to tell them.
On November 3, 2007 we received the following email. I wish I could put into words how touched our whole community felt hearing from Mr. Dethlefsen. There is so much history here in Dateland, and as the years go by, we are losing the opportunity to hear from the brave soldiers that served our country during that terrible time. Being stationed here in Dateland during that time was a hardship that we can't even imagine today. Dateland during the 1940's was a true test of man's endurance.
"On December 23rd, 1943, due to pervasive bad weather in the San Joaquin Valley, approximately 40-50 B-25 airplanes, arrived at Datelan AAF for temporary duty. This contingent, including instructors, students and ground support crews, was a B-25 pilot training group from Mather AFB, Sacramento, California. After three weeks of innumerable take-offs and landings, it became apparent that the Datelan runways had not been built to withstand this type of pounding. After completing the training of one class, the entire operation was moved to DAAF Deming, NM. Although the airfield remained in operation, there was very little activity thereafter. It had been in use for less than a month. For whatever reason, the military referred to this location as DATELAN. During my brief stay at this desolate oasis, the highlight of the day was walking out to the junction, sitting on the front porch of the general store-gas station, and watching the train go by."
- Bob Dethlefsen San Jose, California
For our readers, if you or someone you know has pictures or stories about Dateland Arizona, we would love to hear from you! We have been collecting information from and for the historical society, and would eventually like to add all this information to the web site.
We have even managed to find an old article from Life Magazine during WWII. There was a reporter on a troop train that was headed to Dateland Arizona, but the reporter was not allowed to reveal their destination in the article. It's a wonderful article, full of large beautiful pictures that Life Magazine is so well known for. I'm sure that most of the soldiers had no idea their pictures received national attention.