Chapter 2 Early Tucson Page I of III
The tourist business began blossoming when the Tucson Sunshine Climate Club was established in 1922. It was the idea of Jesse James, the Dodge automobile car dealer, to have an organization, separate from the chamber of commerce, whose sole purpose would be the promotion of the tourist trade for this area. He sold his idea to a few men who then sold others, and together they put up enough money to start the promotion program.
Tucson was one of the very first communities to go into such a promotion program and the results were good from the very inception. The organization was run by a board of directors of businessmen who hired a manager, Terry McGovern, who did an outstanding job as Tucson's tourist promotion director. He was succeeded by Hamilton Keddie, and I was the third manager of the Tucson Sunshine Climate Club, serving from January 1940 until October 1945. My successor was William Chamberlain, whom I had brought into the organization as a publicity man.
At the time the Sunshine Climate Club was formed, Tucson didn't have much in the way of tourist accommodations to offer. The organizers of the Sunshine Club recognized that something had to be done about the matter. They began plans for the construction of a tourist hotel on East Broadway. A corporation was formed and stock was bought by most of the Tucson businessmen, not primarily as an investment on which a return was expected, but more as an investment in Tucson's future.
An agreement was made with a national hotel firm with headquarters in Buffalo for the management. In fact, the hotel company ended up by owning the hotel, with the Tucson investors owning stock in the local operation. The El Conquistador Hotel was built where the El Con Shopping Center is now located and stood for years as a landmark. It had about 200 rooms in a large main building of attractive Spanish architecture and in a group of cottages. It operated only during the winter season and provided visitors with first-class accommodations for many years. The local investors never got a return on their investment and would have been surprised if dividends were paid.
As the tourists came to Tucson, more accommodations were provided by people who built and operated guest ranches and small tourist inns. In the late thirties Tucson was truly the guest ranch capital of the world with over 115 guest ranches operating in Southern Arizona. Most of them were small, but as a group they offered a wide variety of resort accommodations, from pseudo ranches to genuine working cattle operations which would accept tourists.
At that same time, Tucson also had fifteen private schools catering to children of wealthy eastern families. Between the tourists and the families who came here to visit their children in private schools, Tucson's economy received an injection of money that kept it quite healthy even during the Depression.
The Southern Pacific Railroad was very cooperative with such promotional efforts, since it was the primary system for transporting tourists in and out of Tucson. In 1940, the Rock Island and the S. P. combined their efforts to establish the "Arizona Limited," which was run daily out of Chicago to Tucson and Phoenix. It was a deluxe train that became very popular overnight and did much to establish our area as a favorite resort for people from Chicagoland. It operated only during the tourist season but was a great success until the war put an end to its runs.
During the early part of the 20's, Tucson went through a big battle over where its first high-school building should be constructed. Before this, the high school operated in a building, with the Roskruge Elementary School sharing half of the structure. It was located on East Sixth Street where Roskruge School is now.
The Steinfeld interests owned a great amount of land along North Stone Avenue, just north of Speedway. They were anxious to have the high school built on part of their property, recognizing that the value of the rest of their holdings in the area would be enhanced. Others in the community thought it should be built nearer the center of population, on the site where Tucson High School now stands. The town was split over the matter, with an election finally held to determine where the high school would be constructed. By a narrow vote, the electorate chose the more central site. At that time the city limits were located at the corner of Speedway and Stone Avenue. Growth took place in that general area later, but not like it would have, had the high school been built there.
Another battle took place in Tucson over the construction of the Broadway subway under the S. P. railroad tracks. Today it is hard to understand why anyone should question the need for such a passage, but at the time it was a proposal rather than an actuality, and there were many who opposed it. They argued that it was not needed and that its construction would make a few property owners rich.
There was a heated fight over the matter, culminating in an election that showed more people favored its construction than opposed it. It was built as a narrow, two-block-long underpass with one line of traffic each way. However, it did open up the area east of the tracks and permitted Broadway to become one of Tucson's principal east-west thoroughfares.
Another matter over which early Tucson was divided was the construction of a dam in Sabino Canyon to add to the community's water supply and to create a lake for recreational purposes. There was much discussion, reports by federal agencies counter reports by local groups and of course, great discussions wherever people gathered.
Finally the chamber of commerce became embroiled in a bitter battle over the matter, with the board of directors split. When the city and the chamber board agreed that the dam should not be built, the manager of the chamber, Al Condron, who had been a lifelong resident, resigned and moved away from Tucson.
One of the most important developments in Tucson's history occurred in the later twenties when a man by the name of T. N. McCauley moved here, bringing with him the corporate headquarters of the Dos Cabezas Mining Co. This company was organized by McCauley in the East, although the mine was located in the Dos Cabezas area near Wilcox.
After his move McCauley soon announced that he would construct Tucson's first skyscraper on the site of the Consolidated National Bank. This made him an instant hero with the local businessmen. There had been rumors that McCauley was a slick operator who had made millions selling worthless mining stock in the Dos Cabezas company to widows and other unsuspecting souls, but when he announced his large building, almost everyone overlooked his bad points and welcomed him into the community.
He brought to Tucson with him a group of young executives, many of whom remained to become fixtures on the Tucson scene. Walter Clapp, Ed Tout, a mining engineer, and Stanley Williamson were a few who proved to be good citizens of the Old Pueblo for many years.
Not long after arriving here, McCauley purchased control of the Consolidated National Bank and also Tucson's largest hotel, the Santa Rita. I well remember one time when he said how proud he was that the Consolidated's deposits had reached $6,000,000.
The Steinfelds, Albert and his son, Harold, announced that they were going to build the Pioneer Hotel on Stone and Pennington where a fruit stand and doctors' offices were located.
This building was announced soon after McCauley stated he would construct a ten-story bank and office building. The Steinfelds wanted to top that and stated their structure would have eleven floors. Both buildings were built at practically the same time, and all of a sudden Tucson had two skyscrapers in its downtown area. It was many years before a third high rise building changed Tucson's landscape.
In the late twenties Tucson was shaken by the shooting of Tom Marshall by his elderly wife. Mrs. Marshall was one of the city's wealthiest residents and one of its most generous citizens. They lived across from the university on Second Street in the midst of a large amount of land owned by her.
At the time I lived on Palm Road, which was about a half a block from the Marshall's back yard. The night of the shooting, I heard the shots and then heard the moaning of Tom Marshall before he was taken to the hospital. He lingered on for a few days and then passed away, following an operation.
Of course, Mrs. Marshall was arrested and released under bond. There was a great deal in the newspapers about the murder, and, naturally, many rumors as to why the kindly old lady had shot her husband, Tom, who seemed to be a paragon of virtue and a good husband, although no one accused him of being a mental giant. Mrs. Marshall was the one who had the money; Tom had been employed at the university as a maintenance man before the marriage.
Feelings ran high in the community. Mrs. Marshall's attorney, George Darnell, was one of the best in the state, and he asked for, and was granted, a change of venue. The trial was held in Nogales, where it was felt an unprejudiced jury could be more easily selected.
It was alleged by the defense that Tom Marshall had infected his wife with a venereal disease, contracted by him from one of his girlfriends. For this and other reasons, the jury found her not guilty, and she lived out her life in Tucson, continuing her generous ways of helping many college students, contributing to local charities and giving land and money to her favorite university, Arizona.
The 1920s were eventful years in Tucson. Besides the events previously mentioned, there were other happenings which caused much excitement in some cases, hard feelings in others, and people to leave town in one or two instances.
During those years an editor of the Tucson Daily Citizen by the name of Lyons was giving the police department and the sheriff 's office a bad time by alleging that they were permitting the operation of gambling, the peddling of dope and the sale of illegal alcoholic liquor. He claimed that he had evidence of their being paid off by the criminal elements in Tucson.
The Citizen carried articles daily on its front page reporting new evidence that Tucson was vice-ridden and presenting information that made people wonder. Lyons finally challenged the police by stating that on a certain day he would call from his office and have a man deliver some dope to him in his office. He made the call and the dope was delivered. Of course, this was extremely embarrassing to local police officials and really put them on the spot. Yet, suddenly no more was said about the matter, and the Citizen announced that Mr. Lyons and his family had left Tucson for parts unknown.
A few days later word got around as to what had happened. It had been learned that Mr. Lyons liked the ladies. One very attractive one, under hire by some interested parties, called on Mr. Lyons to ask his help with a family problem. He became very interested in her problem and soon was involved with her.
By a strange coincidence, a photographer happened to step out of a closet in this lady's bedroom and caught Mr. Lyons naked as a jaybird. And, by another coincidence, the photographs happened to get into the hands of police chief, who advised Mr. Lyons that he would arrest him the next day on charges of adultery, which in those days was not considered the petty crime it is today. Mr. Lyons got the message. There would be no "tomorrow" for him in Tucson. His family, including a daughter in my class in school, followed him within a few days.
Another man who left Tucson, but under much different circumstances, was the president of the university, Dr. Cloyd Heck Marvin. He was an outstanding educator, and, after leaving Tucson, occupied some very important positions, the last being president of George Washington University in Washington, D. C.
Around 1923 he had been employed to succeed Dr. Rufus von Kleinschmidt who had left the university, under pressure, to be kicked upstairs to the presidency of the University of Southern California, where he scored a great success. Dr. Marvin was very young to hold such an important position and a bit on the pompous side to boot.
I was in school at the university during his tenure and thought he was a pretty nice man, although we saw very little of him. I remember that the day his first child was born he called an emergency meeting of the entire student body about 9:30 a. m. to tell us of his good fortune and to announce that the balance of the day was a school holiday, whereupon some leather-lunged guy yelled, "Hooray for the iceman," much to the delight of everyone including Dr. Marvin.
However, he didn't get along very well with the faculty. Among other things, his age was against him. The faculty soon was embroiled in the matter and split into two camps over the merits of Dr. Marvin. The regents were naturally involved, as were many people in the community. It wasn't long before he announced his resignation, left Tucson, and the university was looking for another president.
There was much for young fellows like myself to do in Tucson in the twenties. Two or three combination swimming pool-dance hall spots around the edge of town were respectable and generally attracted nice people. However, if a guy were looking for trouble, he could find it, day or night, at any one of these spots.
Wetmore Park on the north side of Tucson had the largest pool in town and was a popular place during the warm months. It also had a large dance hall where traveling bands, as well as local groups, would provide the harmony to dance to. Clearwaters, on the west side at the foot of A Mountain, also had a pool and dance floor. These places attracted large crowds on the weekends when the college kids would take over, and, of course, the high school kids wanted to be where the collegians were.
The Blue Moon was doubtless the most popular dance place. It was located on Oracle Road and Drachman Street, and while it had no pool it was for twenty years Tucson's number one dance spot. Many of the famous big bands played there over the years.
Two places in the downtown area lasted for quite a spell as dance halls patronized by "nice" people. One was the Wintergarden, located on the second floor over the Opera House on Congress Street. The other was the Frolic, located in the, Rialto Theatre building on Congress, just east of Fifth Avenue. The life of the Frolic was short. It was having a struggle to make ends meet because the owners were attempting to operate a rather exclusive club in a town that wasn't ready for one. It finally burned out, and the building converted to stores.
A dance band in Miami, Arizona, provided the best music in the state at that time. Francis Gilbert's Band would visit Tucson, Phoenix and other Arizona cities often during the year and would always attract sell-out crowds. Both of the state's largest cities tried to entice Gilbert and his band to move permanently from Miami, but he would have none of it. His popularity lasted for years, and his music brought much pleasure to thousands of young people. He was a tall string-bean band leader who nearly always ended up getting pretty drunk before the evening was over-but who cared!
The place to go in Tucson for all college men and high school lads was Dooley's, run by a lovely little guy by the name of Dooley Bookman, who came to Tucson to play drums for my dad in his theatre orchestra. Dooley's was located on the west side of N. Stone Avenue between Congress and Pennington. His cigar shop, where he also served sodas and sandwiches, and had four pool tables in back.
He ran the place with an iron hand and permitted none of the type usually found around a pool hall to come into Dooley's. During lunch hour it was the gathering place for dozens of young men who would play pool, eat and visit, just as they would at a private club. Indeed, it was their club, and Dooley operated it that way.
On the weekends all the college and high school boys in town would meet there before they would go pick up their dates. They'd get their shoes shined next door, have a soda, and go from there for the evening. After their dates, they'd again gather at Dooley's for a drink and exchange lies about their conquests.