Centennial: Interviews With Ghosts of Tucson’s Past

February 2, 2012

By Teya Vitu

What better time than the Arizona Centennial celebration to visit with figures of the past, those names etched in the annals of Tucson over the past 100 years?

Of course, the folks who put their stamp on Tucson in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s aren’t with us any more, but 10 famous Tucsonans of the past, as depicted by actors, will appear at the Fox Tucson Theatre.

“A Special Chat with Noted Tucsonans of the Past” is a free presentation that takes place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. February 11 at the Fox.

“We are doing interviews with some of the people who defined Tucson,” said Eileen Warshaw, one of the chairs of the Downtown Centennial Committee, which is presenting the chat. “It just seemed like a natural fit. We wanted to show what Tucson was like and how we got to where we are.”

Actors will depict Fred Ronstadt, who came to Tucson in 1882 and opened his first hardware and housewares store in 1901, with the Ronstadt name remaining on the Downtown retail scene until 1983; Isabella Greenway, the first female member of Congress from Arizona and first owner of the Arizona Inn; Madeline Berger, who built the Temple of Music and Art; Carlos Jácome, who arrived here in 1876 and whose name remained a Downtown department store fixture until 1980; Monte Mansfield, who played an instrumental role in bringing Hughes (today’s Raytheon) and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to Tucson; Morgan Maxwell, who founded Dunbar/Spring School for African-American children; former Mayor Lew Murphy; Josiah Moore, the Tohono O’odham man who brought gaming to southern Arizona; fashion magnate Cele Peterson, who oversaw her clothing stores for nearly 80 years; and Esther Tang, whose family started the Chinese grocery stores in Tucson.

These historic figures will be “interviewed,” and their answers will be based on what they actually said in the media over the past 100 years.

“It’s honoring the hard work that our ancestors put in to give us the foundation for this modern city,” said Warshaw, executive director of the Jewish History Museum.

Arizona’s century will also come alive just outside the Fox. An 1800s stagecoach will be parked out front as will cars from each decade since 1912 that will be supplied by Tom Peterson and Jim Click.