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

On this week’s show, we’re going to speak with Marilyn Russell. She’s a volunteer from Visit Tucson and she’s a relative newcomer to our community. We’re going to hear her story of getting from Philadelphia to Tucson and why she, after only a little over a year, is showing tourists all around. We’re also going to hear about some of her favorite spots since moving here.

Today is July 31st, 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 Tito Puente, “Philadelphia Mumbo.”


Good morning. It’s a beautiful sunny in the old Pueblo and you’re listening to KT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsor or a commercial radio station.

On this week’s show, we’re going to speak with Marilyn Russell. She’s a volunteer from Visit Tucson and she’s a relative newcomer to our community. We’re going to hear her story of getting from Philadelphia to Tucson and why she, after only a little over a year, is showing tourists all around. We’re also going to hear about some of her favorite spots since moving here.

Today is July 31, 2022. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday are focused on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to You, Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here at 99.1 FM. [email protected] also available on your

iPhone or Android using our very own downtown Radio Tucson app. Of course, on our show we have an email address, it’s [email protected]. That same URL will take you to all of our past episodes. You can find us on social media through Facebook and Instagram. And honestly, anywhere you listen to podcasts, you can hear the Life Along the Streetcar podcast as well. Well, one of the things we like to do on this show is informed about hidden gems. And today I’m asking a favor because I got a question about the return of the mermaids. As we wrap up July and we head into August, we’re all used to seeing that mermaid festival that takes place on Fourth Avenue in downtown celebrating our fabulously wet monsoon season. And I did a little research and could not find out. Didn’t do a lot of research, but if anybody has any updates on that, please let us know. Hit us up on Facebook or Instagram. I’d like to get more of those details out there, but I know 2019 might have been the last time

they paraded, so hopefully we’ll see them back here in 2022. Maybe I should have asked our guest when I had her on the phone the other day because our features from a woman named Marilyn Russell. She happened to be on a tour I was doing with the Tucson Trolley Tours and she is a volunteer with Visit Tucson. We got to talking and it turns out she’s only been in town for like 18 months. And so I’m thinking to myself, it took me 25 years to launch this show and explore. After 18 months, she is already a dose and giving instructions to newcomers into Arizona. So I thought it’d be a really good story to chat with her, kind of hear her backstory, which is a lot of fun, and figure out how she got from Philadelphia to showing tourists here around Tucson.

Marilyn russell. I visit Tucson. I volunteer on Fridays and I get to tell people all the fabulous places they need to see while they’re visiting Tucson. And then on the weekends, either Saturday or Sunday, I’m your gift store person, making sure people know we’ve got some great stickers and postcards and T shirts and making sure they get a little something of Tucson to take home with them from the gift shop. So it’s a great little gig, is.

A gift shop in the Pima County courthouse.

Corporate offices are upstairs and the little museum and gift shops is right on the first floor in that beautiful Pima County courthouse building.

Got it. So it is part of the Heritage Center. The visit Tucson. The gift shop is in there. It’s not a separate one?

No. Yeah, we’re all one big happy family.

We met on a tour that I was doing for the volunteers that visit Tucson, because it’s that Tucson Charlie Tours, which I’ve talked a little bit about on the show. We’re relaunching them in September and we like people to know about them. So we get to visit Tucson, group out to explore. And I would imagine someone like yourself that’s sharing all this knowledge about Tucson has lived here your entire life and just out there sharing everything you’ve learned.

Not quite. I’m a real newbie. I’ve been here a little over a year and a half. I was working remotely for a year. I actually did radio for a long time. So thanks for having me on your radio show.

Of course.

I really miss radio, but I’m sort of falling in love with tourism and I think it’s because I wound up in Tucson for no apparent reason other than I sort of Googled where does the sunshine all of the time and Tucson popped up. And I’ve always been a big fan of Arizona, the whole entire state. I love the north as well. Been to the Grand Canyon a bunch. So Tucson, who knew the sun shines 350 days out of the year and I literally tom. I was one of those crazy people that during the pandemic sort of just like said, I got to get out of here. I went personally. I’m sure a lot of people did. A lot of your listeners probably were out doing all the things all the time, going to shows, going to charity events, just being seen in and around town and having a great time. Of course I was in radio, so I was out representing my radio station everywhere and I went from all of that to nothing. I mean, everything shut down. We’re just now coming out of this pandemic and even still there’s a variant trying

to chase us down and get us sick. But you feel around Tucson, the life coming back into the city and we love it because we see tourists coming in. Spring was fabulous, summer is a little slow. Obviously it gets pretty hot in Tucson. This is my second summer and I’m finding it much more tolerable the first summer I was like, oh, Lord, what have I done? There’s not enough sunscreen for this Irish complexed, girl.

I should have Googled most days with sun, but temperatures under 100 give me the combination of factors and I knew kind of for full disclosure, we talked about this before. Part of the reason I wanted to have you on the show is because I knew you had been recently relocated here and you came from east coast, right? Was it Philadelphia?

Philadelphia, okay.

And you literally just you just Googled and said, I’m going to move to Tucson. There’s nothing here pulling you other than the sense of adventure.

I didn’t know anyone. Yeah, it was just that sense of adventure. I just knew, I don’t know, something was calling me here. But I literally took my apartment sight unseen. It turns out I’m in University West. I was pretty cute. Everyone’s very young because they’re all students. But there’s another energy there that’s kind of tangible. But I have a great little pool and so the heat is not so bad when you can dip your toes into any water anywhere. And I’ve since learned since I’ve been here that there are places not too far, really, like up in Mount Lemon or up in Sabino Canyon where you can actually go put your feet in the mountain water, which is really spectacular.

And pretty chilly, too.

It’s chilly, but it’s perfect. It’s so beautiful in Sabino Canyon. So I went from like jumping into my at home walk in closet recording breaks for my radio station to coming here, to looking out the window and having those views of mountains east and west and really north and south. I can’t see south too much, but north I can definitely see from where I am from the city. And it’s just breathtaking and it’s like, well, if I have to slow down, not really slowing down, but if I have to be indoors a little bit more, this is not a bad place to be. And it really did allow me, Tom, the freedom to be outdoors so much more. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the east coast in the summertime, but it’s hot. But it also comes with like 90% humidity. Like you walk, you sweat, you walk, you sweat.

You can find shade, but it doesn’t matter because that humidity will find you no matter where you are.

Yeah, it’s pretty brutal, but nine months out of the year here, it is perfection. But don’t tell anyone because I don’t want too many more people to come.

Well, that’s the problem, though. You’re visit Tucson. So how long have you been in Tucson when you connected with visit Tucson and why? Because again, it does surprise me that someone brand new to our city would then become an ambassador. Although I guess it makes sense as you’re out exploring.

Yeah, I think I just needed a place for this love affair to be heard. I think people really sense the genuine passion in my voice and my presentation. Like when I tell people where to go, they know that I’ve been there. My feet have touched on that ground and I know what I’m talking about because I came here sight unseen. And so, of course, visit Tucson makes perfect sense to me because I thought, well, number one, maybe I can make a few friends. Number two, I’m going to learn everything I need to learn about Tucson. There’s a thing that I found with Tucson and maybe you find this too, Tom, or maybe people mention this to you.

Things aren’t always what they seem. Here you take a few steps and you’re like, I don’t know about this, just keep going. There is something magical that’s going to happen in those next six steps, I guarantee it. Like even to the point where you’re walking down Fourth Avenue, which Philly would consider Fourth Avenue here like our South Street. And things don’t look very welcoming. They even sometimes look a little dirty. But once you walk through the doors you’re like, oh, it’s like this is spectacular. But you forget like we are an old dust town. So everything is dusty and sometimes it looks a little dirty, but don’t worry because on the inside, everybody’s making sure everything is perfectly clean and sanitized. And so dining out here has just been a joy. And even on those super hot days, you’ve got misters just about everywhere. And that’s fun too.

I think some of the charm of finding a place that initially you might not want to go to is when you walk in and you have that delicious meal, that great cocktail or you great conversation. It’s sort of like that quest you overcame that fear. And sometimes it’s just simply like intentionally. Maybe we don’t want it to be too attractive. We want to keep it somewhat controlled. And if you make it through the doors, you deserve to be here.

I feel that like that’s a Tucson thing. Tucson keeps it very real and I love that. That’s kind of a silly thing too. There’s not a lot of pretense. What you see is what you get. And what you get is always good.

What you get is always good. I have to agree with that. I’ve been very happy with what I’ve gotten here in our urban court. We’re going to take a short break and be back with our interview with Marilyn Russell in just a few moments. But I want to remind you that you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar on downtown Radio 99, One FM and available for streaming on

This podcast is sponsored by the Mortgage Guidance Group and Noble Home Loans. If you enjoyed this podcast, keep listening or head over to for all of our past episodes. Current events and things to do while visiting Tucson. Tom Heath and a MLS number 182420 nova and a MLS number 3087 BK number 090-2429 equal housing opportunity.

Let’s get back to our interview with Marilyn Russell. She’s a volunteer with visit Tucson, and she’s only been in town for a little over a year, kind of hearing about her passion for all the cool things there are to do. As we get into this next episode, I want to talk a little about history because she’s coming from Philadelphia, and that east coast is filled with all kinds of historical moments and significance. So I want to get her take on what she thought about our history here in the desert.

Being from Ohio originally, but spending a lot of my life here in Arizona, I look at the east coast and I look at, like, Boston and Philadelphia and Washington, and I think of all the history that’s there. But when I came to Arizona, I didn’t understand how important our history was. And I think that’s been really the impetus for this show was sort of this history and culture that a lot of people know but so many of us. It’s just like a hidden gem that we have to dig a little bit to find more information on.

Yeah, that’s what definitely appealed to me, too, is we forget that there were first peoples. There were certainly people before we colonized. And while I love the history of the 13 colonies and I’m very proud to be from Philadelphia, and that Liberty Bell speaks volumes, having that native American culture here and learning from the native American people has just been so refreshing. I had an incident here, and I had to have a surgery. Shout out to Banner. Did a great job, but a native American person smudged me in my healing process, and I’ve since gone on I went on air with our local Fox affiliate in Philadelphia. I’m told that story about smudging. I represented for the American heart association, and they were just teasing me. And I’m like, you guys don’t understand. This has so much meaning in the native American culture. And I felt a sense of empowerment after the smooch. So things have just really I don’t know. There’s a reason why I’m here, Tom, and I’m still searching for it.

But in the interim, I’m eating my way through Tucson. I’ve gained £25 since I moved here.

The city of gastronomy, well, that was.

A friend of mine works for UNESCO and she in Philadelphia. She works for Global Philly. She said, oh, you’re going to do some eating. It’s UNESCO awarded city of gastronomy, and boy, she was not kidding. And the second place I went to, let me shout out barrio bread, because that was the second place, literally, that I went to when I moved here. And I pulled up and you know how the line at the bakery, I pulled up and they were just getting ready to close. And I said, oh, no, you don’t understand. I came all the way from Philadelphia for this friend and they’re like, who is this crazy lady? But sure enough, they were out of bread. But the nice man, it wasn’t Don. I guess it was one of his other bakers. He said, Listen, I’ve got two loafs from yesterday. Don’t judge because they’re yesterday’s, but I want you to have them. It was not the best bread I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve since talked to Don on Instagram and been over to Barrio Chara and met him a couple of times. He’s wonderful, but I thought,

what a nice gesture. He didn’t have to do that for me, but he thought I was really passionate and now I’m a lifelong customer because of that sweet generosity.

We talked about it recently on the show and I don’t think it’s any news to people that are listening to, at least to this format. He was recently awarded the James Beard Award as the best baker in the country, which that type of honor to have that. And we’ve had a few James Beard aboard. We’re winners, we’ve had finalists. But that is just such a prestigious thing to bring back to Tucson. And doing it using our local ingredients, using things that are native to the area, just makes it all the more special, right?

The Mexican and Native American blends of grains and spices and flavors. It’s just magical. That whole Sonoran Desert. I mean, I’ve just tasted things. I’ve just never tasted anything quite like and I’m very addicted to several of those things. The Guacamole is the best I’ve ever had, that’s for sure.

Well, on this show, we had the pleasure before he retired of having Chuck Huckleberry on and talking about the Pima County Courthouse and the revitalization of that as a tourist center. And he kind of walked us through the different components of it, but we really did more of an overview. I’d love if you’ve got a few minutes to share kind of the Southern Arizona Heritage Center and kind of the feel of that space and what you experience when you walk through there. I think that’s a piece that a lot of people don’t understand. The interactivity and really all the history that’s packed into that space.

Well, there are certainly better spokespeople than me, many of whom are in charge of theirs at Tucson. So I don’t know that we got to get to that next guest. But it is very magical in that when you walk in, first off, the people at the front desk and the people are so nice here and in particular at the visitor center, everybody is so welcoming and they’ve got a nice huge cache of volunteers that love being a part of what’s happening there. But there is some Native American artifacts and history that’s certainly well learned. We have a massive Navajo basket. It’s one of the first things that you see when you walk in. But also there’s a piece of a presidio wall and lots of artifacts from the desert here. So there’s a lot to see and do. There’s a giant interactive map that people really love to play with. And you can push the buttons and see where the highways are, where the mountains are, where the borders are. That’s always fun. And the kids love it because there’s a whole section of all

the animals and representation of the desert and they all make noise. Of course, the Wolf House and the l who. But a lot of history and certainly resources. We’ve got maps, we’ve got every brochure for every agency in the city of Tucson. The thing is, you’re really never at a loss for things to do here. People come in, they’re like, what do we do? Well, here we go. We can even tell you on a really hot day how to go indoors and how to have fun for free and great family fun too. So I think it really is being in that new section. Before visit, Tucson was over at the University of Arizona on campus. But being the center now in the city and having the Alfay Norville Museum right just on the other side, it feels like the center of the city now.

The historic courthouse and all of the components there are sort of not only the center of the city, but it’s really kind of that starting point because you’re so close to everything. It’s like this should be a first stop. Pick up your materials and then go. What are the hours of the visitor center that’s open there, do you know?

Seven days a week. Seven days a week from 10:00 A.m. To 05:00 p.m.?

Yeah, I thought it was just during the week. I didn’t realize it was open on Saturdays and Sundays.

That’s something I’ve no, I only work weekends. I’m there either Saturday or Sunday.

Interesting, the things I learned hanging out with you.

For me, there’s a little bit of a danger zone because we’re so close to the Old Town artisans and that’s without question my favorite place to shop in Tucson. And those are right out back. And of course, even if I wasn’t in Tucson, but that Gabby Gifford story resonated nationally. And so to be here now and watch that recovery and be in the building that houses the memorial every time I walk through that memorial going into work, I just take a moment to appreciate life, just having everything right there. It really is your first stop when you come to Tucson. And then from there, trust me, the adventure begins.

I can’t tell you that I’d been in Tucson for 25 years before I actually got involved. And for you to do this after just a few months, it’s just remarkable. I think it’s just a great story. We take things for granted when you live here. So I appreciate that you have taken your time to be a part of the fabric here. Marilyn, thank you for your time. This was just fantastic. I will keep you apprised of things happening. I will look to hear when you are back on the radio here in Tucson. Maybe joining Downtown Radio if you want to explore that option. But we’re just so excited to have you in Tucson and you’re such a great ambassador for 18 months or so. It’s just been great to have you here.

Oh, thanks. Yeah. No, I mean, now that I’ve done everything and seen so much, I certainly hope to put it to good use. Either more hours I visit Tucson or doing something where I can show people around. I mean, it’s funny, when people come in, they’re like, well, where’s this? Let’s go here, blah, blah, blah. I almost say, let me get my car, I’ll go with you. I’ll take that.

Was Marilyn Russell. She’s a volunteer and she works with Visit to Tucson, showing people about all the cool things to do here in Tucson. She is herself relatively new. Been in town from Philadelphia for about 18 months. Comes to us with a large background in Radio, the DJ with a very popular show back in Philadelphia. Trying to entice her to maybe take on a show here at Downtown Radio. That’d be fabulous, wouldn’t it? I wanted to thank her for her time, being a volunteer and all, sharing what she loves about Tucson and the authenticness of being able to tell people, you know what, I just did that and I loved it. Well, my name is Tom Heath. You’re listening to life along the streetcar and downtown radio 991 FM. We’re available for streaming on

This podcast is sponsored by the Mortgage Guidance Group and Noble Home Loans. If you enjoyed this podcast, keep listening or head over to for all of our past episodes, current events and things to do while visiting Tucson. Tom Heath and a MLS number 182420 Nova and a MLS number 30 80.

Definitely head over to, not just to get some cool items, maybe make a donation, but also to check out our fabulous DJs and programming. I talk a lot about Sundays because that’s my day, but we’ve got stuff happening all week. One of my new favorite shows when it comes to the week is the Roadside Rest Stop. This is a gym and Dave’s roadside rest stop. It’s on Mondays at five. It’s a nice rock mix and it’s fun to go out and I walk in my dog and listening to music from Jim and Dave. Glad they’re on our station. But Monday through Saturday we’re a rock and roll radio station. Sundays we have more eclectic music styles and our talk shows like today. I want to thank Marilyn Russell for talking to us about her trip from Philadelphia to Tucson and how and why she got involved with visit Tucson. Maybe you’ll see her if you’re checking it out at the center down there, the Heritage Center at the Pima County Courthouse. Well, in honor of Maryland’s hometown we’re going to leave you

a little music today by Tito Puente. It was just recently here at the Rialto Theater and from a live version of album we’re going to play you out here with the song called Philadelphia Mumbo Mining. My name is Tom Heath. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.