On this week’s show, we’re going to look forward to Tucson’s Modern Birthday on August 20 and we’re going to look back on an interview we did with Rick Collins of the Presidio Museum.
Today is August 14th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.
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On this week’s show, we’re going to look forward to Tucson’s Modern Birthday on August 20 and we’re going to look back on an interview we did with Rick Collins of the Presidio Museum.
Today is August 14, 2022. 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. 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 on 99.1 FM, streaming on downtownradio.org. Also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app. If you want to get us here on the show, our email address is [email protected]. You can interact with us on Facebook through Instagram. Facebook and Instagram? And of course, you can listen to our podcasts just about anywhere podcasts are found. If you want to hear some of these past episode and check us out a little bit more, head over to our website, lifelongthstreetcar.org. Well, next Saturday, it’s August 20 and that’s a significant day here in Tucson history. We call this sort of the birthday of the modern Tucson. There’s a lot of dates. We know that we have 4200 years worth of continuous agricultural
history at the base of a mountain. We’ve got 10,000 years of habitation and different cultures inhabiting this area. So Tucson’s region is much older than 1775. But that was the date the Spanish started building their presidio in Tucson. And that’s recognized as really our birthday. And Hugo O’Connor didn’t sound very Spanish, but he was in the employee of the Spanish army, I think they call him Hugo Ocanor. He was tasked with finding the new presidio spot for the Spanish. And after much searching, he chose an area that was just a little bit east of the Santa Cruz River. So we celebrate August 20 as our birthday going on 240 plus years since the founding of the museum. And we consider Hugo Connor Hugo Okinawa, depending on how you’d like to say it, as our founding father. So in honor of that, the Presidio Museum is hosting an event in the evening on the 20th. Normally they’re closed during the summer because it’s kind of warm. But on August, starting about 06:00 p.m., they’ve got an event
called All Things Tucson. And if you head out there, they’re going to be celebrating from about I think it starts at 06:00 p.m.. I see gates open at 06:00 P.m.. And now this is a free event. And around 630, all the activities are going to kick off. And they’ve got mariachis folklorico, they will have different dances. They have a Chinese lion dance and a Yoyo presentation with the Chinese Cultural Center because we know the Chinese heritage is also extremely important to Tucson’s development. So there’s going to be all kinds of activities, family fun. There are food and beverages available for purchase. And I found out that if you are a city or county employee, bring your ID or your business card because L Charles is going to be out there handing out a free taco for all the city and county employees. So we wanted to celebrate the celebration of Tucson’s birthday and revisit an interview we did with Rick Collins. He is one of those individuals that volunteers a tremendous amount of time
to showcase what the Presidio does here in our community. He will wear these Spanish colonial soldiers outfits and explain to a very eager audience how things take place. We interviewed him really early in the show. I had to go way back to 2017. This was episode from episode number six. We’re on 213 today. So all the way back to episode six, we found this interview with Rick Collins talking about the Presidia Museum. Thought it was very appropriate to share that with you here today.
The museum has been open since 2007 is my recollection. And I remember it opened in May, so it was very high and it’s been a really wonderful success. The northeast corner of the Presidio has been rebuilt on the original ground where the Presidio stood. And in fact, the whole Presidio is marked. If you go downtown, then you can walk around. The Presidio neighborhood is a very old section of Tucson. In fact, Tucson Museum of Art actually has a building called the Casa Cordoba House that is considered the oldest building in Tucson, dating to the 18 parts of it, dating to the 1850s. Old town artisans across history is a very old building with a traditional open courtyard. And of course, the duplex that we have on the corner, which we help to restore and eventually make a museum is actually dates to the late 1890s. And then the row house, like I said, dates to about 66 or so. And of course, the Presidio was moved into about 1776. There is dirt from the original Presidio inside those walls.
So it really does have the soul of where Tucson’s European birthplace at least started. There’s also the Hawkami House, which is 1860s and 70s. Sonoran row house a perfect representation and that encloses a museum. And so we’re a living history museum, meaning living history activities take place. So we’re representative of those people. But we don’t stop at the Spanish colonial part. We actually are building a Mexican contingent so that we can do the Mexican period and then, of course, we do the American period, which includes from 1856 when Americans first got here and we call it till 1912 when we got statehood. That’s kind of our cut off of interpretation. Part of the Presidio is to interpret the 2000 year old history of this place when it was just the Native Americans living in a pretty primitive way. And what happens beyond that point? Yeah, the second Saturday in a month, we actually will do a living history program. We have civilians doing all kinds of things civilians would do,
from making tortillas to making adobe to whatever that kind of thing. We have blacksmith. Our blacksmith program has turned out to be a premier program. We built a forge, a Spanish forge, for these guys, and it’s one of the most popular things that happen. They make nails and hand them to kids. They make parts for us. So if we need hooks, if we need tools for cooking, the blacksmith actually can make them for us and they’re made correctly.
I’m part of the interpretive program, too, and I’m part of the garrison. We call it the Tucson garrison. Generally we do Spanish colonial soldiers. We’re doing drill and we’re doing interpretation of what we call junk on the bunk, what they actually used in daily life. And being a soldier would be pretty tough. But hey, it’s two squares a day and a new set of clothes once a year. One of the most exciting things, and one of the most sought after things by the public that we do at the Presidio is fire the cannon. We have a four pound bronze howitzer, which is a reproduction on what was at the Presidio, and we load that gun up and shoot her off.
People just love it.
This is a great big swab. Make sure there’s no burning embers or anything from the previous shot. The board is clean.
Regular captain hands the cartridge. They inspect it to make sure it’s okay. They load it in and using the opposite end of the data, they formally ram it to the back of the muzzle. They then use a needle to pierce the cartridge. Very important job. It has to be properly pierced. That exposes the powder in the cartridge. They then take a small amount of loose black powder and they pour it down the charging hole. That is what they actually light, which will in turn lights the cartridge inside there. He covers it with his hat to make sure that none of the black powder blows away.
He grabs the fuse.
He blows on it to make sure that it is well lit. Steps forward. Cover your ears. Cover your ears.
That was the sound of the cannon firing off at the Presidia Museum. They do that throughout the year. On second Saturdays, they fired off a couple of times as part of their living history days. Normally in the summer, they take the time to stay indoors and stay cool. However, with August 20 coming up, they are going to be celebrating an event called All Things Tucson. Looking at the birthday here of Tucson and I’m thinking they might have some reenactments going on, perhaps perhaps the firing of the canon, but right now. We are in the middle of an interview we did back in 2017 with Rick Collins as he was describing Life in the Presidio and the reenactments and the portrayal of it by volunteers through the Presidio Museum. We’ll be back to the second half of that interview in just a moment. First of all, I want to remind you that you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtownradio.org.
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All right, we are back. And that was Paleo Dave, our Ledjay. Did I mention he’s a volunteer and he does a morning drive time show from seven to nine every day. Hope you get a chance to tune in. Very nice selection music to start off each and every weekday, plus some commentary that is always enjoyable from Paleo Dave. So we’re in the middle of an interview that we did back in 2017, all the way back in episode number six, which I think is kind of cool that we have this information now recorded almost five years later, and we’re talking with Rick Collins. He’s a volunteer with the Presidio San Augustine del Tucson Museum. He is describing life as we would have seen it in the 18th century from the Spanish perspective. And we’re getting ready for an event here on August 20. Coming up next Saturday called All Things Tucson will be held at the Presidio celebrating the birthday of modern day Tucson. Let’s get back to our interview with Rick Collins.
What was really neat about interpreting the Spanish colonial aspect is that no one knows about it. That the Easterners don’t learn about this in school, we don’t learn about this in school. But here we are talking about something that people don’t know which is the most important part of our heritage or a most important part of our heritage. Did you know that Coronado and DeSoto’s expedition were 300 miles apart at the same time? Had they just gone that 300 miles, we devolved you speaking Spanish right now, the country would have been connected. One of the most fun aspects that we do is we do a program called Friday at the Fort where schools actually bring their classes out and they do a Living History Skills Day. So they actually learn to be a soldier. They learn to make their own tortillas. They learn about food. We actually have them do tensmithing instead of forging. Obviously, they’ll learn chores, which by the way, if they don’t get to do it, sure they complain about, which is real
interesting, but so they really get an exposure to what it would have been like. And one of the most fun things is you’re in Tucson. A lot of these people can connect to people that were in the Presidio. And so these kids are descendants of Presidio soldiers or Presidio families and they see what their family was about, they see where they came from.
Yeah, we have a small museum and it does contain actual relics found in the property. And the current goal is to start building an exhibit which will take you through time and show you all aspects of all cultures that were involved in the Presidio. And it’s going to take some money and some funding and some time and time, but we’ll do it. When the Presidio was being rebuilt, they found walls, they found three pit houses where the Pre historic people lived. One of the clever things that was done in the rebuilding of the Presidio is even though it had to be offset because of modern construction standards, they were clever enough to mark the original wall where it exists. So you can actually go here’s exactly where it was. And if you look at the Tucson Presidio in that northeast corner, you are standing where all of our past has stood at one time before. It’s so rich. One of the wonderful things about the Presidio is we’ve managed to make a thematic gift shop so it’s not knickknacks and kissed,
it’s actually things from there. You can buy tobacco, canteens and well, nobody smokes anymore. You could still collect it like you would a native pot. You’ve got blacksmithing things, items that the blacksmith made right there on the spot. And we’re trying to get more of that. And it’s neat too because you can actually buy brandi cups that the soldiers who are doing interpretation actually carry. So there’s all these kind of items and people like that and they pick it up. There’s a little staff. The executive director is part time and then there are a couple of people get paid a little bit to help out. But overall it’s a volunteer effort. It takes a lot of volunteers. Obviously a lot of the volunteers are retired because that’s the volunteer population. But we have a surprising amount of people who are from the community. We’ve got engineers from Raytheon. We’ve got TUSD security. You’ve got people who were in the Navy, you’ve got people who are in the army, you’ve got people who’ve been
in medical television. It’s just from 100 different angles people come, but they have one thing that they’re interested in and they’re interested in history. And the second thing is they’re interested in preserving the community’s history.
The game exhibit. There’s still some tortillas and bread left, I think. We have the food exhibit. We have our musicians playing music from the period. Down to my left we have in the courtyard, we have the Buffalo Soldier exhibit.
And one of the big issues that any museum has is we really need the support of the community to keep the Presidio open. And personally, I consider it involves so much of our community’s history it would be a shame to ever see it go away. When we talk about community involvement and everything, it’s interesting. We get Easterners by the truckloads during the wintertime and the inside joke we have is we’re the best kept secret in Tucson among Tucsonians. Normally we don’t see a lot of people from Tucson here and they don’t tend to come downtown quite yet still. And I just think Tucson aren’t aware of it for whatever reason. And we’re trying to involve the Mexican American community more and I think we’re doing a good job with that. We’re trying to have more Native American representation and programming. We’re trying concerts, we’re trying a lot of different items to get more people to come in and grow a bigger, better, more inclusive audience. It’s always got activities. There’s the living
history. The second Saturday, the Friday at the Fort. Kids programs over Thanksgiving weekend. We’re having blacksmith for two days doing interpretation there. We have individual interpreters that show up on various days and you have to check the calendar to find those out. We also do the Turquoise Trail tour. So we actually take you downtown on a tour. And we have other little that we give about downtown history and Presidio history.
I love the spell of black powder in the afternoon. If you have any questions about what you saw, please do not hesitate to ask. That was our final canon fire.
That was our interview with Rick Collins back from 2017. Episode number Six. Over the years we have talked with April Beret and Gail Hartman of the Presidio and those interviews are available on our website, lifelongthstreetcar.org. If you head over there and just type in Presidio or Turquoise Trail, you’ll get some additional information of kind of how the museum has evolved. One of their projects that Rick and I talked about back in 2017 was a Duplex, which is right next door to the Presidia Museum gift shop and they were working on plans to renovate that. Well, the money has come through. Part of some projects with renewal, and the renovations are at least starting. So that’s five years later, we do have progress. Things are moving in the right direction for the Presidia Museum. And then the Turquoise Trail, which it began as something called the Presidio Trail. It was started by a board member at the Presidio Museum and a local Tucson attorney who wanted something to do during the day
in between courts. So the Turquoise Trail, which starts from the Presidia Museum and as Rick mentioned, towards the end, there winds around downtown and talks about all the history and cultural impactful areas and events. We did an interview with that. So if you were to go to the website and search for the Turquoise Trail, you get the good history from Gail Hartman. Well, my name is Tom Heath. You are listening to life along the streetcar in downtown Radio 991 FM and available for streaming on downtownradioorg.
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All right, episode two, one three here. We’re approaching the end of our show. We look back at the Presidio Museum with Rick Collins from 2017 interview that we did back then. And I don’t know if you noticed, but we had some background noise and we had the blacksmith and the cannon. That’s when we really kind of put a lot of energy into this. Now we just talk to people. So maybe I should go back to that. It’s a lot of effort, though, to record all this different information and piece it together. But that was kind of cool to have the undercurrent of the museum in the background. And then it occurred to me as I was listening to that commercial for Fabulous Downtownradio.org on our website, Life on our Facebook page for Lifelong Streetcar, we actually have the video that corresponds with that interview. So if you head over to our Facebook page, you’ll find the Rick Khan’s interview. And it was a voiceover. And as he’s talking, we have video and photos kind of playing underneath of it, so
I’d forgotten that. But we’ll try to bring it more current on the Facebook page if you want to check that out. And August 20 this Saturday, celebrating the birthday of Tucson, the founding of the Presidia Museum in 1775. We know the history goes well before that. That is our modern, more European history. We know at the base of a mountain, there’s 4200 years worth of continuous agricultural history of many different generations of people in this region. And we know that there are people that have been here for 10,000 plus years. So we certainly know that Tucson is more than a few hundred years old. We’ve covered a lot of the stories, so you can find stories about Mission Garden, which talks a lot about that history on our web page. And we’re always looking for topics. So if there’s something out there you think we should be covering, something of interest, it doesn’t have to be a history or a museum. We’re doing modern events, social, cultural, economic, things that happen in the urban
core or things that happen outside that impact the urban core. We are definitely looking for those topics. When I started the show, I had a list of about 50 things that I wanted to cover. And honestly, even though we’ve got 200 and some episodes in, I haven’t covered some of them because we just keep getting new requests or we do an interview and it takes us into a different direction. And that’s just super exciting from where I sit to get that evolution happening. So that comes from you. Please let us know if there are topics. You can reach us at our email address. It’s [email protected]. We also are on Instagram with Facebook, and we’re on social media with Instagram and Facebook. So check those out. The Instagram page too. Check it out. We’ve really got some cool photos. I’ve taken a lot of those and I have someone that helps me with the filtering and editing of them to make them even more attractive. But I’m really proud of our Instagram page, so maybe head over there
and give it a follow or like or whatever you do on Instagram. And we would certainly appreciate that. And certainly last but not least, downtownradio.org, the creation that gives us the opportunity to share all this with you. Please support. Head over to Downtownradio.org. There is a donate button. Please make a little donation if you are so inclined. A recurring one is something that keeps the station on track because we’ve mentioned it many weeks. This is a volunteer effort. There are no paid staff members or board. Our DJs, all the show hosts are volunteers just sharing something that they love with the community. And it’s something that we hope you enjoy. And if you do, we could use that support. August 20. Kind of a birthday celebration. You’re going to find more information over at the Presidio if you want to come out there and have some tacos. Remember, you get a free taco if you work for the city or county and you bring your badge or your business card. El Charles taking care of
you. There’s also going to be activities for the entire family. It’s a free event at the presiding museum. Starts around 630. I think they actually open at six. And the first event is at 630. Celebrating that birthday. And with that note, we’re going to leave you a little music today from BB. King. This goes all the way back to 1979 from an album called Take It Home. It’s the Happy Birthday blues. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.
Oh, happy birthday. Happy birthday.