Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

Cele Peterson - Interview with Daniel Buckley

On this week’s show, we’re going to continue the conversation we started last week with Daniel Buckley about a Tucson icon, Cele Peterson. Dan had the chance to interview her just before she passed and developed a really good relationship. And he’s been sharing some stories about her life and her legacy.

Today is March 5th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app. Reach us by email [email protected] — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Helen Reddy, “I Am Woman.”

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning. It’s another beautiful Sunday in the old pueblo and you’re listening to Ktdt Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community. Spot sponsored all volunteer powered rock and roll radio station.

On this week’s show, we’re going to continue the conversation we started last week with Daniel Buckley about a Tucson icon, Cele Peterson. Dan had the chance to interview her just before she passed and developed a really good relationship. And he’s been sharing some stories about her life and her legacy.

Today is March 5. It’s 2023. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday are focuses on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core. And we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM streaming on And we’re also available on

your iPhone or Android by heading over to the Google Play or your App Store there and getting Downtown Radio Tucson. And then we’re in your pocket wherever you go. And another app you might want to download is the Tucson Festival of Books. That’s happening this weekend. It started on Saturday, yesterday and it’s going to the end of today. And I bring this up because as I mentioned last week, life along the Streetcar has a booth there and we’d love for you to come out and see us. It’s booth 213 and we are in a prime location right near the culinary tent. Tremendous amount of activity and foot traffic. So come on out and say hi. We’ve got copies of the book, information about the show and we would absolutely love to see you. As always, if you want to know more about us, you can also head over to for a lot of that information. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook. And our podcast is out there in the world. Wherever you listen to your podcast, including simply

telling your smart speaker to play Life Along the Streetcar podcast. I always like to do that and press my friends and family. They think I’m so cool. But the reality is I just have James, who’s my technical expert and he makes all this stuff happen for me. Well, we got another fun show for you today. We’ve got daniel Buckley is back. We had reached out to him a couple of weeks ago because we wanted to do a story as we rolled into March, being celebrating women in our history and people in Tucson, we’ve been very blessed with strong women. We’ve done stories in the past about Louise Fukar, Marshall, Monica Flynn. I mean, we could just there’s plenty to go around, but we’d never done a story about Seal Peterson. And given how much of an impact she had on the town and especially in downtown I thought we were overdue for that conversation. So I put out in the world, who should I talk to about this amazing woman? And I got a few suggestions, and multiple people came back and said, you should

talk to Dan Buckley. And when we found out last week the reason why is because before Seal Peterson passed, and I believe it was in 2010, dan was assigned to write a story about her. So he spent a lot of time talking to her and interviewing her, and that really kind of blossomed into a friendship. And he was there helping her work on a book and just really had a tremendous amount of information about her life. And he’s been sharing these stories, kind of mixing in the old and the new. It’s been so much fun. Dan Buckley himself is a Tucson treasure that I’m really starting to appreciate. He’s got quite a varied background that you don’t see in too many people. So he’s going to be back on the show in the future talking about him and what he does. But right now, he’s helping us understand about Seal Peterson. So we’re going to jump into really kind of the third segment of a four part series on Seal Peterson. We’ll do the last two segments today, and if you want to hear the first part, just

head over to our web page, And it’s the last podcast posted there, really easy to find. And then you’ll kind of get the back story that we talked about in more detail. But right now we’re in the midst of him telling us some stories. When we ended last week, he just shared some great stuff about Seal Peterson, and now he’s kind of jumping back into some more interesting stories.

And those stories are just so good. Another of my absolute favorite stories of hers was she had the store downtown on Pennington, and she talked one time about Christmas time, and a guy who she just thought the world of knew him, knew his wife. She and Tom apparently were very good friends with this couple. And the guy comes in before Christmas and he says to her, we’ll see him, I need some presents. She said, okay, let me get a pad and a paper, and you tell me who you got to pick things out for. And I’ll get things together. And he says, okay, well, of course I need a present for my wife. I need a present for my maid. I need a present for my secretary. I need a present for my cook. I need a present for my lover. I need a present for this that she’s still stuck on. A present for your lover,

but she is the picture of cool and discretion. And if he says he needs these things, well, she’s going to do it. So she puts together a gift for each one, and she runs through the whole list and everything with him. And she says to him, okay, I’m going to need addresses so that I can send these to the various people. And he says to her, well, just send everything to my house because these are all for my wife. She’s all of those.

That went in a completely different direction than I thought it was going.

Totally. And that was the beauty of Seal. And she really knew how to tell a story as as much as anything else. But, you know, you think of her accomplishments in the fashion world. I mean, she really was something.

Before we get into that because I definitely want to dive into that because that’s sort of the crux of Seal. Peterson but did this book ever get is it going to be completed or where is it in this production?

Here’s the deal. We got it done and she was gone. And it was short, very short. It would have been just a small little book. Her kids decided that they wanted to figure out what Photos should go with it and stuff like that. Well, then Katcha got cancer and I think the project just sort of fell by the wayside and that’s a shame, but I am reasonably certain someone in their family is going to dig it up and bring it to fruition. It really is lovely and would be ashamed not to. And it just shows page after page after page, story after story, just what a charming and body at times and really just like no one else you ever met. And I had the good fortune to know both her and Lalo Geeretto, the father of chicano music, who was also born here in Tucson. They were kind of cut from the same cloth. They knew each other and that generation really knew how to tell you a story.

Yeah, I remember having Dan, Lala’s son, on the show. It’s like my time in Tucson is after these legends have been here. So I’m looking for those connections and those pieces. And Dan was just a really good interview about him and Lollo in 1930. She starts this shop. It’s the base of her business. She spends her days every day in the shop. And from touching a sewing machine and creating an earthquake, I mean, really, she did right. That’s what happened. Everything got shifted around because of that fashion. But that’s what she was known for nationally. Correct. She was all over the place with her.

No, absolutely. She was the inventor of what she called the station wagon todds, which were in the 50s, women wore that standard of, here’s the dress you wear. This is what every wife wears. Well, Seal was like, we’re in the west, it’s a different place. You got to make this stuff out of jean material and make it about this area. She loved the southwest. As I mentioned, she grew up in Bisby and her dad owned the local mercantile.

She wasn’t born in Bisby.

Though, right?

She was born in Florida.

No, she was not. She was born in Florida. Okay. But they moved there when she was very small, I want to say four or five years old when they moved there. And their customers there were everybody from the elite management of the mines, as she referred to them, women who worked in a house that was not a home,

a way of saying things. And she had stories. It was a going boond house when she was growing up there,

minor stories. She literally saw a man swept to his death in his bathtub when a flash flood went right through his house and just swept him away.

Oh, my goodness.

She told a story about she was always deathly afraid of cabs because she saw somebody get shot in getting out of a cab in Bisby in those days. So her Bisby life really influenced everything. Her dad had been a tailor before he opened up that business. And so she kind of grew up with sewing skills and things of that nature. She knew how things were put together, and she had nobody could snap off the five seas of Arizona faster than Seal Peterson and tell you every event that she had helped create to celebrate every one of those damn seas. She was a great, great mind, really. A great mind.

So she opens a store at some point, it’s in downtown. It’s on pennington. And this is in the heyday of downtown. We’ve got all these stores, Steinfeld, Levies, everything’s down there. And then people start to slowly leave. And I understand she didn’t. She stayed as long as she possibly could in downtown with her store.

She did. But she also opened up branches elsewhere. That’s how Elcon began, was Seal saw the writing on the wall. She saw that downtown was not going to be where things were, and she had the wherewithal to be willing to pull up stakes where the ones that died, died right there. But again, Levies and places like that. Levies was the anchor at Elcon, so I think she probably talked them into doing that enterprise that really got Elcon Mall started. I don’t know that for a fact, but I’d be willing to wager if you dug into things, you’d probably find she had a good deal to do with it.

I think if you dug into a lot of things in Tucson, you’d find that Seal Peterson had a lot to do with it. My name is Tom Heath. You were listening to Life Along the Streetcar and downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on downtown And we’ll be back to the last segment of our interview with Dan Buckley about Seal Peterson in just a moment. But first, I want you to hear a little bit something from Paleo Dave.

Greetings and salutations, downtown radio listeners. Paleo Dave, your unfrozen caveman DJ, here to spread the good word about the scrambled sunrise rock mix happening every weekday morning from seven to 09:00 A.m. Right here on downtown radio from the earliest days of Psych punk and new wave to 80s college rock, 90s alternative, and the ongoing wave of 21st century indie rock. It’s all right here on the Scrambled Sunrise. So tune in via 99.1 FM if you’re in the greater downtown area or streaming worldwide via Downtown radio.

And now that we’ve heard those fabulous words from Mr. Paleo, Dave, and I do hope you tune in to hear him every day. He’s got a fantastic set of music going on from seven to nine. But hey, we’re going to finish up this last interview segment with Dan Buckley. It’s been a four part interview and this is part four spanning over two weeks. Really entertaining storyteller. And we’re going to finish up here talking about Seal Peters, some of her business legacies and other impacts in our community.

The testament to her brilliance is the fact that her business existed for probably another eight to ten years after she passed at 101 years old. And she was like 20 ish when she started that business. So that’s a pretty hefty 81 year career. You got to be kidding me. Gosh.

Everything in the legacy, the things that I’ve learned over the years about.


Wouldn’T have been a children’s museum without her.


The impact of that. And now I think it’s so appropriate that City High has her store as part of their campus and the kids are being educated in that building. It just seems very serendipitous.

She would love it. She would love everything about it. It would just tickle her heart. No, I mean, absolutely. It would thrill her no end to know that she had done that.

Yeah. And as we’re recording this, the rodeo is coming up and that was a big piece of her.

Absolutely. Yeah. No, she was a big part of the rodeo parade. Well, actually, she and the Ronstadt family, who were Linda’s dad, gilbert Ronstatt and his wife were Seal and Tom’s best friends. And that’s part of why Linda played there for her 100th birthday. In fact, some of the first gigs that Linda and her brother Pete had with their group were played at Seal store. So she always had her finger on the pulse of everything.

So linda ronstad is getting her start in seal peterson stores.

Yeah, well, in terms of in those days, she was singing the parts, as she referred to it, behind her brother Pete and her sister Susie in this I can’t remember, I think they were called the New Union Ramblers, something like that. And this is 1950s. She was still in high school at that point. And Linda and Seal are very much kindred spirits. I mean, Linda graduated high school when she was 16 and went to the U of A, and as she says, for about a minute. But, you know, school was not her thing. She really wanted to, you know, go to California and make a career in music and by God she did it and that’s its own incredible story.


And I thought the interview is going to help sort of clear things up in my mind because I’ve been reading so much and I’m just even more. You just can’t do justice to Seal Peterson without having years of time to tell that story everywhere. Her legacy and her influences are just tucson is just dripping with her success even to this day.

Even in the field of architecture. She was one of the first ones to hire some of the greatest architects in the city to build her own house, to build her stores. As she used to say, fashion is life. And she would just reel off everything that you do in your life that is fashion. And I never thought of cars or anything that is so much a common part of who we are as fashion. Until I sat down with Seal and started talking about these things. That was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me was well, and I had a similar thing with Gilbert Ronstadt when his dad where I spent one whole summer every Wednesday and we would start recording at one and we would finish at four and then we’d shut off the recorders and he would tell me the stories he couldn’t tell me on the record while we had some beers. And it was kind of like that with Seal, only minus the beers, but it was very good. Those two lived a time in Tucson’s history that it just leaves you slack jawed when you hear stories Gilbert used

to tell about hanging up your gun belt at the Santa Rita Hotel and she told me about there being cattle sales in the lobby of the Santa Rita.

It’s unimaginable in our time but that was just life in Tucson at that point.

Well, Dan, we’re going to have to talk much more often. This is just a tremendous wealth of information and a connector to a part of our history that is just fascinating and I appreciate you taking the time and spending it with us today. And this probably is going to end up being a two part episode because there’s nothing in here to edit down. This is just what needs to be told and I look forward to hearing your story in the future because you are very weird. Well, dynamic was the word that came to mind. You’re polite and some of these other stories of people that you’ve gotten to interview and create maybe an oral tradition of some of their stories and I look forward to Seal Peterson’s book at some point making it to the public.

I really hope that they get back to it and take it on. I know her grandkids are very interested in it. The unfortunate thing is our lives go on and things kind of get pushed by the wayside. I know I’ve got a couple of projects of my own that have kind of gotten shoved into corners here, there, and everywhere that I hope I live long enough to get done. But we’ll find out the next exciting adventure, as they say.

Well, Dan, thanks again for your time, and we’ll definitely be in touch.

All right. Thank you, Tom. Pleasure.

All right, sir. Thank you.

Bye bye.

Wow. You hear about people that have made Tucson great, and we always say we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. Seal Peterson is one of those remarkable pioneers that transformed Tucson into a lot of what we love today, or at least I do. And I’m very appreciative that she did all that and can only imagine what life would be like if she hadn’t entered into the picture. And also a huge shout out to Dan Buckley. He spent a lot of time with us. And again, I got to research him, getting ready for the show. He is such a dynamic person. I can’t wait to have him on the show and talk about his impact on Tucson. He’s a great storyteller. He has had a chance to interview some wonderful people. So we’ll have Dan Buckley back on a future episode. And as a reminder, you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar on downtown Radio 99.1 FM and always available for streaming on

You’re listening to Ktdt, Tucson, Arizona, 99.1 FM, downtown radio. I’m Brother Mark, host of a show called Radio Club Crawl that airs every Tuesday at 03:00 P.m.. We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson, and we give you a tasty taste of their music. You want to check out what’s happening around Tucson? Check out Radio Club crawl. Tuesdays, 03:00 P.m. Right here on Ktdt. Tucson, Arizona. 99.1 FM. Downtown radio.

Thank you very much.

Enjoy your evening. Bye bye. Well, we’ve launched into march. It’s Women’s History Month. We celebrate women that have made Tucson fabulous. And, you know, next week it’s going to be fun. I get to do a little crossover episode. You know, speaking of women who make Tucson great, had a chance on a different podcast that I do called Meet the Artist, which is a product of the Tucson Gallery down there in the proper shops on Fifth in Congress. But every week we bring a different artist in and do a little meet and greet with the public. And before that, I have a chance to do a podcast and you can listen to all of those over at the or on their Spotify channel, Tucson Gallery. But we did one recently with Jessica Gonzalez and it was just really a powerful story. It’s another woman that’s making Tucson great. So

we’re going to bring some of that over next Sunday to Life Along the Streetcar because her murals are all over the urban core and she’s doing some amazing things. So that’ll be next Sunday. You don’t want to miss that. That’s going to be Jessica Gonzalez. As we celebrate more women who make Tucson a fabulous place. After that, we’ve got some other things lined up. Always willing to take on new stories, new topics. If you have something for us, head over to instagram or facebook, tag us in something, share something on our page. Let us know what we should be talking to the world about. And by the world, I mean the handful of listeners in a very small radius that are probably paying attention. But it is a podcast. You never know where that’s going to go. I did an interview recently with someone here in town and they gave me a really nice feedback about my interview style. So who knows, maybe I’ll become all super famous. But hey, if you want us to share something out, tag us, Instagram, facebook.

You can always email us, [email protected]. You can head over to our website there as well. And there’s a contact button and feel free to do that and take a look around. We wrote a book not too long ago, chronicled some of our early interviews that were influential to us and we thought influential not just to Tucson, but but how we made this show and and how the short show sort of took shape. And that’s called My life along the streetcar. That’s available. It’s also at booth 213 at the Tucson festival of books. There’s a few hours left. Come on down and check us out. We’ve got a really good spot there. Well, we’re celebrating women. It’s March, so we’re going to leave you with a little music today. In honor of that, this is a song all the way back from 1972 by Helen Reddy. It’s called I am woman from the album of the same name. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.