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Famous Visitors

Over the years, many noteworthy and famous people have stopped in to take a look around, browse the gift shop, take a load off and/or eat a good meal. Here's a list from the "Then and Now" book of some people you might recognize…..


TEDDY ROOSEVELT and his entourage passed through on their way to the dedication ceremonies at Roosevelt Dam in 1911. Legend has it that he stopped for lunch, was very gracious to the proprietors and sat on the front porch smoking a cigar after enjoying lunch in the clear air and spectacular scenery.

CLARK GABLE stopped at Tortilla Flat on his way to and from Roosevelt Lake, which he visited often. It’s reported that he always had tomato juice to drink.

GLENN FORD and IDA LUPINO made the movie “Lust for Gold” in Tortilla Flat and even brought their own saguaro made of aluminum with them.

ALAN LADD and LORETTA YOUNG reportedly shot some scenes for a western movie in the mid-thirties.

BARRY STORM, author of “Thunder God’s Gold” lived at Tortilla Flat from 1942 – 1945, then moved to a cave not far from town.

JOHN WAYNE was also reportedly a frequent visitor.

Veteran western movie star BEN JOHNSON would frequently visit Tortilla Flat.

PAUL HARVEY and his daughter had a “good day” in Tortilla Flat. Sources said he was a very nice man.

THE DIRTY DOZEN made an impression by how polite they were.

The famous founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, COLONEL SANDERS and his wife were charmed by Tortilla Flat.

DON JOHNSON and BARBARA STREISAND came for a visit during our rebuilding phase. They were very much incognito and reportedly enjoyed our patio BBQ and Cowboy Band.

TED de GRAZIA, the honored Native American artist came through and we hope he was inspired by the scenery.

BUCKY KITCHEYAN, Geronimo’s grandson also stopped by and he was said to be a gracious man. His business card holds a place of honor among thousands on the restaurant’s walls.

ROBERT CORBIN, the Arizona Attorney General in the 1980’s dedicated the rebuilding of the restaurant and bar in July of 1988.

And last but not least – each and every one of YOU locals and those from abroad who have left their dollar bills on the walls of our restaurant (which includes currency from over 80 countries) – thank you so much for your contribution to our history (and wallpaper)! Just so we don’t leave anyone out, additions are always gladly accepted!

For more history and information, the book “Tortilla Flat Arizona Then and Now” is available for purchase in our gift shop.

Our Written History (in videos)

You can read more about the history here with links to our written history video collection.

Gertrude Ritcherson's Letters Video Series

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3

Part 4      Part 5

In 1913 young Gertrude Ritcherson visited Roosevelt Dam. We’ve obtained a copy of her diary entry while on the trip. If you would like to watch the series posted on social media please click the links above. Enjoy 7 days in the life of a young girl and her journey across the valley with her family starting August 26, 1913.

Read her journal here

Bill Goforth Remembers Video

Part 1

and Part 2

In 1994 contact was made with Mr. Bill Goforth. He was living in Dove Creek, Colorado. At the age of 94, he was still able to share many fond memories of Tortilla Flat. 

Read Bill's letter here

Barry Storm Video

In 1942, author and songwriter Barry Storm drifted into town. Stories of the Lost Dutchman captured his imagination. Barry rented a cabin and wrote a successful book. Publishing had to wait due to the town being wiped out by a flood in 1943. Because of this, Barry moved into a cave above town. His book entitled, “Thunder God’s Gold” was published in 1946. Movie rights were soon sold to Columbia Pictures. Barry revised the book and Columbia Pictures produced it as “Lust for Gold.”

Leo Burnett Video

Leo Burnett is a legendary advertising agency based in Chicago, they created icons like Tony the Tiger and The Pillsbury Doughboy. In May of 1977 Tortilla Flat got a letter from the agency about using our name in a commercial.

The Santee – Perkins Exchange Video

During the Great Depression, Phoenix’s WPA office was producing a guide for Arizona but there was a problem with Arizona: nobody knew how Tortilla Flat got its name. Ross Santee of the Federal Writers Project mailed Tortilla Flat’s postmaster a letter asking for clarification on the name. Twelve days later, the postmaster general of Tortilla Flat sent a reply. Watch the video to see how the Santee-Perkins exchange influenced the naming of Tortilla Flat.

Read the letters and see the Arizona Guide here

C.E. Cherry Video

Carlton Eugene Cherry wrote us a letter in 1981. In his seventies then he reminisced about his childhood. He included photographs of his family and their “two horsepower recreational vehicles.” He wanted us to remember this: "People ‘vacationed’ to Tortilla Flat long before automobiles and RVs came along.”

Thank you, Carlton for visiting Tortilla Flat and keeping history alive.

Building New Archives

As we continue to be the caretakers of Tortilla Flat, we welcome your stories, experiences and photos to create a stronger legacy for the town.

Please send photos, letters, and stories to:

Here are some of the submissions our friends have sent in

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