Chapter 2 Early Tucson Page II of III
Dooley was a father confessor for many a guy in trouble of one kind or another. The parents knew that Dooley was a "right" guy, and, while they didn't encourage their offspring to hang around a pool hall, they knew they weren't going to get into much trouble at Dooley's.
Dooley was cramped for space, and he got his landlord to dig a basement under his place where he could add more pool tables and take care of more customers. When the addition was completed, Dooley announced he was going to have a grand opening which would feature a pool tournament to determine Tucson's champion pool player. The event was scheduled for Halloween and a gay night it was.
All of us Drachman kids learned to play pool at the YMCA, and once in a while we'd sneak into Dooley's for a game; but all of us had been told to not hang around Dooley's as we were too young. (We were in the thirteen to fourteen range, and probably a little on the young side at that.)
That evening started out as the usual Halloween, with a big gang of us roving up and down the streets on the east side looking for something to push over, tear up or carry away. There were about twenty-five of us. Eventually some of the guys began to get rough and were breaking streetlights, throwing rocks at passing cars, etc.
I knew they were heading for trouble with the police and suggested to Dick Drachman that we leave the gang and go downtown to see a movie. We had already seen the movie, so we went over to Dooley's where there was a large crowd. Many were in the basement picking at the plaster on the wall trying to find a diamond that Dooley said fell out of his ring into the plaster when it was being mixed. The wall had a rough finish and for years people were looking for that diamond. Knowing Dooley as I did, I believe he was up to one of his practical jokes, but he never did admit it.
The pool tournament was about ready to start, and it was suggested that Dick enter the tournament since he was a very good pool player for a thirteen-year-old kid. He took off his coat, which I held for him, and entered the tournament.
One after another he beat his much older opponents. Some were drunk, and others were just plain unlucky when they played Dick. He went to the finals and played a man three times his age and beat him when the older man miscued on a shot at the last ball, which was sitting in the mouth of the corner pocket. Dick knocked it in the pocket and was declared the city pool champion. After accepting a jointed pool cue in an expensive leather case, Dick and I went home.
Unfortunately the next morning on the sports page there was a headline reading, "Dick Drachman Captures City Pool Title." The story went on to tell about the tournament, whom he beat, etc., and even mentioned that his cousin, Roy, held his coat. Our fathers could read, and they read the riot act to the two of us. My dad thought it was funny, and, while he didn't approve of my hanging around Dooley's, he accepted my explanation that I was afraid if I stayed with the gang the night before I would have gotten into some more serious trouble.
Dooley Bookman, whose real name was Julius, was one of the most unusual characters to grace the Tucson scene during my lifetime. In addition to operating the unique combination pool hall and smoke shop, he was crazy about kids -- all kids regardless of color or social position. Every year on Halloween, Dooley would stage a Mardi Gras in the block on Stone Avenue between Congress and Pennington, which the city would close for the day and evening. All of the merchants in that block cooperated with Dooley in this popular annual event. Nearly all of the kids wore costumes of some kind, and there were all kinds of awards given for the various types of costumes, and for kids of various ages. There was always a couple of bands, lots of free candy and ice cream, and lots of little gifts for the kids.
The block would be jammed with people from dark until almost midnight. Dooley always dressed in a different kind of costume each year and would offer a special award for the first youngster who identified him. Dooley was only about five foot two, slender and not much bigger than many of the children who showed up for the Mardi Gras on Dooley Street, as it became known. He mixed with the crowd and generally was not recognized for a couple of hours.
He did this just for the pleasure of the children, although it always cost him quite a bit of money which may or may not have come back to him as an indirect result of the advertising his place received. Dooley died at the early age of 45 in 1935, and, with his death, Dooley's Halloween Mardi Gras also died, much to the sorrow of several thousand Tucson youngsters and hundreds of his friends who looked upon his place as Dooley's men's club.
Another smoke shop that got a lot of attention and business in those days was Jimmie Rand's, a tiny spot on East Congress next to Litt's Drug Store, which was on the corner of Congress and Stone, His place was about 10 feet wide and 30 feet deep. It had a narrow stairway in the rear that led to a very small room on a mezzanine that did not have enough headroom for a six foot man to stand erect. The upstairs room had a large poker table with seats for seven or eight.
Jimmie Rand was a "tubercular" but had effected a cure which allowed him to work the long hours that kind of place required. In addition to the smokes he sold, he also handled magazines. When punchboards were allowed, Jimmie had them too.
One of the things that Jimmie had which was better than any other in the town was a daily "baseball pool." For a dollar you could buy a ticket in the day's pool. You then rolled dice, and the numbers on the dice determined which big league teams were yours for the day. Each player had two teams. Further rolls of the dice determined which innings were yours. If, at the end of the game, your ticket had the highest total score, you won the day's pot, which many days would run up into the $400 to $500 range. This gambling game was a popular one with Tucsonans for several years but was finally closed because it was illegal.
The poker game upstairs was a hit-and-miss affair. It was not a "house" game in that the players did not have to pay part of the pot to the house. It was just a place where businessmen could find a little action in the dull afternoons or evenings. I saw some pretty stiff games in that little joint.
After Jimmie passed away, a man by the name of Otis Leggett operated it for several years. He was better known as "Lockjaw" Leggett, and I was responsible for his nickname. One day when he and I were there alone, a beautiful girl with a large bust walked by. Otis said, "Gosh, I'd like to bite her on the bosom, get lockjaw, and have her drag me all over town!" I told the story on him, and from that time on he was called "Lockjaw."
In the days when Dooley's was at its peak there were a couple of other pool halls in town, but they were like pool halls everywhere, hangouts for unsavory characters as well as young men looking for something to do. A few pool hustlers hung around these places looking for a sucker who thought he could play pool. Once in a while the hustlers would play each other, and the audience would bet on their favorite. The best pool player around southern Arizona for years was a man from Douglas by the name of Shy Greenberg. Shy had attended the University of Arizona and was an excellent athlete. He could do anything and do it well. He was a very fine baseball player, having played in the Coast League for Vernon and then being sold to Detroit of the American League. He didn't report for spring training because of illness and dropped out of the game after that.
While at the U.A., his roommate played in the finals for the intramural tennis title but was beaten by a boy that Shy disliked very much. He vowed to the winner that he would beat him in the tournament the next year, although he had never played tennis in his life. He started playing every day, and the next year he won the intramural championship, beating the winner of the year before!
Some of the other crack pool players of those days were Jake Schleisman, Bob Greenleaf, cousin of Ralph Greenleaf, a national champion pool and billiard player. And then there was "The Professor," a very tall, dark-haired man with a flowing mustache, and who always wore dark clothes. The only name we knew him by was "Professor." They could all shoot the eyes out of the pool or billard balls, knew all kinds of trick shots, and knew all the angles on hustling would-be pool players. We loved to see them tie into each other for big stakes. There was a lot of patter that went with their unusual talent.
One evening Shy Greenberg came to my office to borrow $25 which he said he'd pay back the next day plus $5 interest. He kept his word and paid me $30 the next evening. A few days later he came again and wanted to borrow $50 which I loaned him. He brought me $60 the following night. This continued several times, until one day I asked Shy, "Are you doing some bootlegging between here and Nogales?" He said he was. I told him that I was not going to finance his bootlegging operation any longer. To which he replied, "Hell, we got a good thing going. We could make some pretty good money together." I thanked him but said no thanks.
When T. N. McCauley decided to sell his properties in Tucson in the early thirties, a man by the name of Barney Goodman came to Tucson from Kansas City to buy McCauley's interests in the Santa Rita Hotel, the Consolidated National Bank and the bank building. However, some kind of problem developed that prevented him from operating the bank. The Valley National Bank bought the Consolidated Bank and the building from Barney Goodman.
Barney brought to Tucson his own crew to run his newly acquired Santa Rita. This consisted of Nick Hall as manager, Ed Myers to handle the finances, and Benny Klein to handle the food and liquor departments. They formed a good team and for many years did an excellent job of competing with the Pioneer Hotel with an old place that was about worn out.
When they first arrived in Tucson they made announcements about the physical changes that were to be made to old hotel, which no one believed. But they did remove columns from the dining room and created the lovely Rendezvous Room for dining and dancing. They also created a nice cocktail lounge on the mezzanine and the Mountain Oyster Club rooms in the basement. They brought in Don Cave and his band to provide dance music, improved the quality of food, and converted the Santa Rita into one of the places to go when having an evening out.
Nick Hall also began wooing the motion picture studios to come to Tucson to make their westerns. He was successful in his efforts, and the Santa Rita became the Hollywood headquarters in Arizona, with many companies coming to Tucson to make movies.
The Santa Rita brought many fine entertainers to the Old Pueblo. One I remember with a kind smile was Jane Jones, a tremendous middle-aged woman of about 275 pounds. She sang songs of the type Sophie Tucker made popular for many years. We got to be good friends, and I loved to listen to her sing.
One night we took her out to Mildred "Mickey" Loew's house to attend a little midnight party. Mickey had an English bulldog, Duke, which, as we walked into the house, was lying on its belly with its back feet stretched behind him and his front paws in front of him. Jane took one look at him and said, "My God, if I could have gotten into that position when I was a young woman I could have made a million dollars!"
Barney actually owned the Consolidated Bank for a few days and, as part of the consideration when he sold it to the Valley National Bank, he took a stack of unpaid notes, nearly all in a default position, many signed by prominent local businessmen who were having serious financial problems.
My cousin, Oliver, had a note at the bank which Barney had acquired. He wrote Oliver and demanded payment. Oliver came down to see me just before he was to see Barney about the matter. He said, "I'll tell that tough guy that if he can't wait, I'll declare bankruptcy, and he won't get anything for his note." Sounded like a great idea.
In about an hour he came back, with his tail between his legs, and shaking his head. "That guy Goodman is a tough guy and too smart for me," he said.
I asked him what happened, and he said that when he threatened to go into bankruptcy, Barney told him, "Fine. I know an attorney who can save you a lot of money. He specializes in taking people through bankruptcy. Let me know if you want his name." Oliver said he'd think about it. Oliver later paid the note.
At the time Barney Goodman learned that he could not operate the bank nor own the building, Hi Corbett obtained an option to buy it and needed only $15,000 cash to acquire title to the property. Try as he would, he just couldn't raise that small amount of money from any source and had to let his option expire. That makes one realize how tough things were during the depression.