Savoring the flavor of the stories Bonnie told us . . .

2010-06-27T00:00:00Z Savoring the flavor of the stories Bonnie told us . . . Arizona Daily Star
June 27, 2010 12:00 am

On Gay Alley, where prostitutes and bootleggers plied their trades:

In the 1920s a blue ribbon committee headed by a prominent University of Arizona faculty member came to the conclusion that no matter what action the City Council took, the world's oldest profession would, alas, continue to prosper right here in the Old Pueblo.

As a bow to respectability, however, a tall fence was erected at the entrance to Gay Alley during its final years. "You could walk around the fence; you just couldn't see through it," said (Roy) Drachman.

On hearing the World Series before radio was easily transmitted to the Old Pueblo:

That's right, sports fans. Commercial radio didn't set up shop here until 1926, when KGAR (later KTUC) began transmitting from its studio at 30 S. Stone Ave.

Though the station, which was affiliated with the Tucson Citizen, did broadcast a play-by-play account of the 1926 World Series, it would take some time before a majority of Tucson households were listening to the games on their very own radios.

In the meantime, there was always the megaphone - and the news wires - clacking away down at the local newspaper office. . . .

"Every play will be megaphoned to you in the Citizen bleachers by a leather-lunged human radio broadcaster," trumpeted the Citizen in its Oct. 2, 1922, issue.

On the coming of professional baseball:

It all began in May of 1927, when voters approved a bond election that allocated $35,000 for a municipal baseball park and athletic field in a place we now call Hi Corbett Field.

Ted Williams played spring ball here. So did Bob Feller, Satchel Paige and Willie Mays, here in the old ball field in the heart of Reid Park.

On the old UA campus:

Even those of us who once pondered there tend to think of it as "The Brickyard."

No longer a cluster of quaint old buildings, the University of Arizona has gorged on entire neighborhoods.

On UA basketball:

They've had a coach who ran off to Hollywood, a one-eyed player who made a run for the presidency and a "court" that just ran, period - at least when it rained.

"Humble beginnings" doesn't begin to describe the birth of basketball on the University of Arizona campus.

On nurses at St. Mary's Hospital:

I left my tonsils there in 1954, my appendix in 1962.

What made both ordeals bearable were the nurses who stood at my bedside, sliding Jell-O into my mouth, cool cloths onto my forehead.

These were the nurses of St. Mary's Hospital, gliding down the halls in their white caps and uniforms or - for the nuns - long flowing habits.

On the history of Valley of the Moon:

Imagination will not let it die.

Time, vandals and a tangle of weeds have all tried, over the years, to snuff out the fairyland dreamscape of George Phar Legler, who died in 1982 at the age of 97.

And just as surely, time, volunteers and a labor of love always seem to come along to revive that jumble of rocks and caves and towers and fishponds and gardens that Legler spent more than half a lifetime creating on Tucson's near northside.

On the end of Prohibition:

It took a day to get here, but by 8 a.m. April 8, (1933), legal beer was again flowing into the parched throats of customers lined up at Steinfeld's lunch counter.

On how Howard Hughes and his legendary company, now Raytheon, came to Tucson:

It took the sale of a pig farm and the humoring of a general who was prone to jumping on the beds of the Pioneer Hotel. But when it was over, the country's most famous recluse had made his decision.

Howard Hughes would bring his guided missile plant to Tucson. "Manna from heaven" read a Star headline in February 1951.

All it took was securing the options on 32,000 acres, enough secrecy to fuel the plots of a hundred "Get Smart!" episodes and the willingness of a still-new-to-the-game real estate man who knew how to keep his mouth shut and his suitcase packed.

On a disaster long forgotten:

What a fearsome sound it must have made, roiling out across the desert.

On Jan. 28, 1903, two passenger trains collided head-on east of Tucson, in the heart of what we now call Rita Ranch.

Fourteen people died on the spot, their bodies mangled and burned almost beyond recognition.

So great was the force of the 2:55 a.m. collision that the Pullman car at the rear of the eastbound train was jarred loose, rolling 14 miles down the track into the Tucson train yard it had left just minutes before.

On the Tucson High Class of '42, reveling in innocence on the eve of the Pearl Harbor bombing:

The dress was formal, the occasion the senior prom, and the night the last of carefree innocence the Class of '42 would ever know.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 1941. More than 100 couples swirl and sway across the floor of the Tucson High School cafeteria - transformed for one night and one night only into a "Snowland" wonderland.

0n Mount Calvary:

The roads were ruts and caliche, the horse was the preferred mode of transportation and statehood was still a dozen years away in 1900.

That was the year a series of revivals led by an out-of-town preacher sparked the beginning of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.

What is now Arizona's oldest black Baptist church began with a bedrock of 10 men and women.

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