Preparing For What May Come
Tom Heath: Good morning Tucson! It’s a beautiful day in the Old Pueblo. Thank you for spending part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored rock and roll radio station. This week, we discuss zombie apocalypse paranoia and how a downtown shop has been keeping Tucson in the nation safe since 1951.
Tom Heath: Today is January fifth of the Year 2020. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening toLife along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts and 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 at 99.1 FM streaming on downtownradio.org. Also available anywhere you go with your fancy phone. If you head over to your App Store and download the Downtown Radio Tucson app, you’ll have us whatever you need us for us on the show.
Tom Heath: You can get a hold of us by email [email protected]. We are on Facebook. We are on Twitter. And if you’re just joining us recently, you don’t know about our fantastic web page LifeAlongTheStreetcar.org, which we have all of our past episodes and feature interviews available for playback. Well most of them anyway and today we’re going to start with news from the 1920s.
Tom Heath: It was built in 1929. It’s the Spanish colonial revival style Courthouse. It’s downtown and it has that beloved Landmark-ish Dome. It’s Mosaic rooftop. There is one of old Pueblos most photographed and recognizable structuresm easily identifiable in a picture. And portions of that Courthouse to the east were part of the original Presidio that runs through Tucson in that area. You can actually see there’s little Granite striping on the on the outside of it marking where those walls are.
Tom Heath: Until 2015 that Courthouse was actually used by the county for courts and other County offices in 2015. They built that modern facility. They moved folks out of there and it’s been under a renovation since. Well Visit Tucson, our Convention and Visitor’s Bureau moved in there for their office space not too long ago. And as of this January 18th, they’re actually moving their Visitor Center to the historic Pima County Courthouse. It’s going to be part of the Southern Arizona Heritage and Visitor Center.
Tom Heath: So the visit Tucson is going to operate the space in conjunction with Pima County and they will have not just visitors information. They’re going to have Maps, information about the Sonoran Desert, believe there’s going to be a gift shop and eventually they’ll be exhibits that feature our Region’s nature, our culture, food history, you name it. You’ll be able to find it in this Visitor Center.
Tom Heath: The courthouse will go through expansion again. Not expansion but the renovation will continue throughout the year. We expect the U of A’s Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum to open up by the end of 2020, sometime in the fall is when it’s slated. So it’s going to be an upgrade from where they currently are now. They’ve got 3,500 square feet at the bottom of the Flandrau Space Center and I’m going to move over to 11,000 square feet in this new space. Plus it can be about 8,000 more square feet for Library research. And a lab it’s in there.
Tom Heath: Gem and Mineral show every year in Tucson draws people from around the world. We know how well respected the University of Arizona’s program is so combining at this new space is going to be very exciting. The year will culminate at the courthouse in January of 2021, a year from now when we expect the official opening of the January 8th Memorial. And you probably are aware of this. But Gabrielle Giffords our congresswoman was the victim of a shooting, many members of the public and her staff passed during that event and the January 8th Memorial is providing recognition of of those individuals and a celebration of civil discourse in our community. It’s gonna be a busy year for our courthouse and it starts in a couple of weeks with the January 18th moving in of Visit Tucson.
Tom Heath: It’s a new decade or is it? there’s a little controversy Brewing some say 2020 the beginning of a decade other say that 2021 is what actually starts us into a new decade. Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching way too many movies, it’s that this type of confusion and argument can lead us into a zombie attack or some other type of Armageddon scenario. It seems inevitable at this point. We’re continuing into this Uncharted Territory of the future with each passing day and perhaps one of those Doomsday’s very well may be upon us. Luckily for us here in Tucson. We have a source of supplies to ward off any such disastrous destiny.
Tom Heath: Since 1951, Miller’s Surplus has been serving our community for many downtown locations. And over those last 70 years, their business model, their merchandise options and their customer demographics have changed. But in their current location since 1967, Miller Surplus has remained a constant in a changing. Environment and provide a Tucson with the place to go for that specific item they may need for work, play or apocalyptic fighting.
Tom Heath: George Landa walked into the store as a customer in 1999 and hasn’t left since. He now manages this retailer on Sixth Avenue and he sat down with us recently for a look at this iconic downtown store.
George Landa: Miller Surplus started in 1951 and I can show you a picture. That hotel, the Arizona Hotel. Like I believe they call it down here, used to be a Marriott down on Congress and right the front of the Pancho Villa’s statue where the gazebos at where they do wedding stuff like that. That and the TCC were all built under what was called urban renewal and that’s where the original Miller Surplus used to be the hotel Tucson.
Tom Heath: Okay.
George Landa: So the owner of our store Mr. Sloane came to came to Tucson and he married Mr. Miller’s daughter, and then he was fresh out of the army World War II and he came to Tucson. He just worked it down to Tucson when he got out of the army. His destiny was come to come West. And he met Mrs. Miller and he and he moved into with the Millers Surplus people and he bought out Mr. Miller, and in 1967 is he took over this building here. And this used to be Apache Motors.
George Landa: Because the strip higher on Sixth Avenue was all the car dealerships at that time my first exposure to Miller’s Surplus in the 70s was this was the best place on the planet to get bell-bottoms, hip-huggers, those Navy bells and you get Levi’s for like two fifty three dollars.
Tom Heath: So you and you were saying earlier that the Surplus world has changed but at that point it was still really Army-Navy surplus.
George Landa: Yeah, Army Navy stores are all over, they started actually the on the east coast and migrated west. But those Army Navy stores you can come in there were Stacks the stuff, you know fatigues, Vietnam jungle booths and the prices were always cheap, right? That’s why you go there. It’s Surplus. Its a surplus store, you know?
Tom Heath: Miller Surplus. It’s kind of like if your zombie apocalypse. Is that you’re preparing for?
George Landa: Paranoia sells. Okay. I’ll never forget when I got here 1999. It was the Y2K when people freaking out buying buying water purifiers, gas mask. Because he’s got the grid was going down that night.
Tom Heath: So you’ve been here 20 years ago. You just walked in one day and never left you said.
George Landa: Yeah, I just walk in I needed a pair of socks. And then I ran into the owner who I used to buy my bell-bottoms and Hip Huggers from in the 70s and I go hey, what’s all this money doing on the floor? And he says what money? I’m not doing all this great product. You nobody’s selling nothing around here and we just started talking and and he offered me a job. I spoke with his manager the next day and on October 28th 1999, I’ve been here ever since.
Tom Heath: Who’s your who’s your client who comes in?
George Landa: We have phases. Okay, because like with the Y2K and after 9/11, I mean you could this place was it was a madhouse. I’ll never forget 9/11. I mean I was list, I’ve I used to wake up to sports radio and and I heard him talking about plane crashing into the building into the Empire State. I’m sorry. I’m the World Trade Center. And then I hear this the newscast and it told me I need to get to the store. I just it’s just one of those gut feelings that came here. There were prepper survivalist outside ready to come here desperate to get ammo cans, water purifiers, gas masks especially.
George Landa: And so we’ve got a group at that time. Plus we also had December 21st 2012 the end of the world with the Mayan calendar, people were tripping on that. The end of the world crowd was some of the calls were this was serious stuff to them. We had one customer. His name was Rusty who moved to Benson. He told me he found a tunnel and he had put up gates at the tunnel, and it was his tunnel and for years. He was stockpiling MREs and water and he was dead serious about it. He was dead seriously, and it was the end of the world. He came by and told me goodbye and I’ve never seen him again. I don’t know if he still Underground
Tom Heath: Do they buy into things like zombie apocalypse or is that just a
George Landa: When those kids were getting eaten in Florida? That’s when and those zombie shows were on TV The Walking Dead. I believe it’s called the zombie apocalypse was coming. We even have the we sponsored the Zombie Walk downtown. They had a Zombie walk. So we were the official sponsors of the Zombie Walk and it was great because we had zombies running all over the place and one of our companies Major Surplus made the three-day zombie survival kit; had a knife in it, water purifier, some MREs, flashlight, fire starters and if we sold out of the kit so about 300 of those kits. So whenever there’s something going down it’s great for sales, but we have a great working class because they buy the quality of lines of our work boots and he in Georgia Boot, American Made boots by Thorogood and Danner
Tom Heath: So it’s not just a paranoia and
George Landa: No, because you got you’ve got real military people coming to shop. They buy their uniforms here, but you got your regular and then you got your security firms
Tom Heath: We’re talking with George Lana. He manages the Miller Surplus over on 6th Avenue right there south of Sixth Street. He’s telling us a bit about how it got started. We’re going to learn more here in a few minutes about some of the trends that they’re seeing in clients and conspiracy theories as well. But I want to remind you first of all that you are listening to Life Along the streetcar and Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and we’re always available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot org.
Tom Heath: Welcome back to the show. If you’re just joining us. We’ve got our interview today with George Landa. He is the manager of Miller Surplus on Sixth Avenue there just south of 6th Street and we’re talking about the how he got started in this business what Miller’s has meant to the community over the years and so I started talking about their demographics and they’re kind of changing business model and now we get into the second part of our interview here. We discuss a little bit more about the types of clientele. And some of their concerns that they may have that they’re seeking out some of the survivalist gear.
Tom Heath: This is a huge footprint. You’re telling me it’s kind of grown over the years that the footprint stayed the same but you’ve expanded out into what used to be warehouses on
George Landa: We had we had to because the Surplus industry just changed after 2000. I mean, you couldn’t get military surplus hardly any more because the military branched it out. At the times some of the manufacturers like Condor, Major Surplus make replicas of some of the items in there, but the specially companies like CamelBak and JanSport, they make duffel bags and backpacks that kind of cater to that era but they’re modern they’ve been modernized. So we had to change our demographics. We cater more to the working class,
Tom Heath: but I noticed the camping obviously tons of camping gear and all kinds of supplies…
George Landa: For the outdoor lifestyle their tents, sleeping bags. There’s specialty items, knives are specialty items and knives are so intense now,
Tom Heath: so you’re kind of like on the front lines of if you see a run on something you got to start thinking. Hey, what’s coming? What if someone knows something…
George Landa: Some of our manufacturers of our boot companies are military suppliers. So when we can’t get boots when we can get MREs for examples, there’s something going down out there.
Tom Heath: Yeah, so you might not know exactly what it is. But you know that there’s something about to happen.
George Landa: Yeah. Yeah. We know it’s in the Middle East they’re stocking up for that. And yeah, the government gets first dibs kind of makes sense. I should hope so,
Tom Heath: I don’t think the government Supply the military over Zombies as a priority most days until the zombies come and it might change. But yeah, okay of the things that you’ve is there anything to just sort of stands out outside of what we’ve already talked about is just a crazy experience.
George Landa: Well, these are perilous times these random shootings are ridiculous. I mean, it’s a few weeks ago. There was a shooting in I just remember this lady was all scared and she came in to buy mace because she was just terrified. Had to go down the street. She just needed to because some shooting that happened somewhere just affected traumatized down here and these people take the protection of themselves and their family and the Second Amendment. They take it very serious.
George Landa: I mean when New York City got flooded, I think it was called Hurricane Sandy. There’s this Army-Navy Store in New York City down by Ground Zero and that man lives in New Jersey and he told me when that flood-hit. I mean he was okay and his name was because he had the survival gear. He had solar lights in his house. He had tons of water and he had food, but the people from the streets did and they were trying to break into the houses. These people do anything to protect their house. Yeah and a few years ago. We had Lisa Ling down here from CNN and she was doing the show because in Philadelphia there was a one of the biggest Preppers survivalists is out of Philadelphia, but we didn’t know he shops here. Hmm because he’s his bunker is here and so ABC came down here and hung out here for about a week doing a story with people.
Tom Heath: Well, you get to all kinds through here, then
George Landa: We do we get the guys from The biggest catch, that fish show come in here and sometimes Dianne Keaton comes waltzing in. along
Tom Heath: we got somebody in a bunker and Philadelphia and Diane Keaton just another Surplus. That’s your that’s your variety there the do you offer so no firearms?
George Landa: No. No, we’re not in that department.
Tom Heath: And then do you do classes? Do you do self defense classes or training or anything like that
George Landa: No, nothing like that, but a lot of our customers do they have got defense courses. Has their advertising up front. Okay Run Okay.
Tom Heath: So some of with comes in with mace you might be able to help them out?
George Landa: Oh yeah, with mace and the right close to where the belts to wear the gear to add to their Duty belts. Okay, so given given them some sort of guidance on the equipment, but they could use one of maybe one of your other clients for forgetting personal self defense course and stuff like that. But I mean we’ve got guys in here that were we have one of our employees was retired army 25 years guarding Leavenworth. They know a little bit about the industry and they can guide People on what to wear how how the tactical gear works.
Tom Heath: Is that a lot of your staff of they’ve been around for a while here or
George Landa: we do we’ve had a few retired that we’re from the Vietnam ear that worked in our Surplus area. Okay, and those are those were great times because they had great stories.
Tom Heath: Well speaking of great stories, George Landa has a great stories. We’ve been speaking with him as the manager of Miller Surplus giving us a little bit of their 70 some years history here in Tucson and what they’ve I think what they’ve been as far as stability for many reasons within our community. We we sat down with George we actually ran into him because he’s a musician here in town and the story about Miller Surplus sort of came up organically, but we’re Do on a future show here is talk more about George his growing up and sort of his move into the music world lot of interesting pieces of Tucson history involved with that story.
Tom Heath: Well, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio. 99.1 FM Anna available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot org really appreciated and very necessary. You are probably aware that we’re a volunteer run station all of our DJ’s are show hosts world. Volunteers we just love what we do but it does take money to keep the station going. So if you are so inclined head over to Downtown Radio dot org, hit that donate button and find out about how you can support us here on the station.
Tom Heath: Now since we’ve been doing the show, we get more and more requests to highlight events. And there’s so many great ones happening in Tucson. It’s kind of hard to stay on top of them, especially this time of year. Not sure we’re going to get to be able to feature all of these particular events, but this will cool things happening and a little The radar in some cases otherwise some are more known than others. We’re going to share a few that we think are important coming up if we miss something we apologize. Just let us know and we’ll try to get on a future episode.
Tom Heath: Got a couple things coming up and I’m going to cover them and I decided in the least glamorous to the most glamorous in the least glamorous category, but important let’s not Not slide it, but the least glamorous category is the composting 101 from Mission Garden. The friends of Tucson’s birthplace. We cover Mission Garden a couple times on the show. In fact, it was our very first story ever way back when we launched their hundred and Seventeen episodes ago. The mission Garden is located on 946 West Mission Lane and on second Saturdays at nine am starting this upcoming Saturday the 11th, and then one in February and one in March and I believe they’re going to continue after That as well they’re going to do different methods of composting and some of which they actually demonstrate in the garden and they’ll cover the types of materials. And what do you should not include in your compost as well as that Scientific stuff, you know like the balance of high nitrogen and high carbon elements and all that good stuff for for composting but are our friends over their mission Garden one is to be aware of that.
Tom Heath: And then January 20th we have Dillinger days a little bit more like little bit more exciting maybe than composting, but Dillinger days on the 20th will have more about that. I think next week. We’ll talk a bit more about Dillinger in that and that era but that’s a celebration of the capture of John Dillinger, which was lead. Here in Tucson and resulted as the from the fire at Hotel Congress. They celebrate that every year.
Tom Heath: And then starting this Friday and probably the most glamorous category is Tucson’s 6th annual Jazz Festival. The Jazz Fest takes over locations and venues downtown for about 10 days their Centennial Hall. They’ll be at Fox Theater. They’ll be at other venues and we’ll have the whole lineup you can get over to Tucson Jazz Festival dot-org. For the for the whole line up there, but a couple big ones coming up, you know kicks off this Friday and then on Saturday David Sanborn’s the Jazz Quintet will be at the Fox Theater well-known name within the Jazz World. Grace Kelly, Aubrey Logan will be at the Rialto on the 12th. all kinds of stuff coming up. We’ll link to the Tucson jazz festival dot-org so you can see all the things that are happening there.
Tom Heath: But remember this is the sixth annual and one of the things that makes this one Special here in Tucson is they do that free concert on Martin Luther King day will have details of that on an upcoming show, but it all starts with the Jazz Fest. January 10th through the 20th and will link to all those details. If you know something we should be covering please do hit us up on social media send us an email contact at Life along the streetcar dot-org there’s events that we’re should be posting or covering and we’re not let us know so that we can share with the world all of these hidden gems that you all know about.
Tom Heath: I’d say 2019 was a very successful year for that 50% maybe a little you higher percentage of that of the shows that we cover the features on our shows were recommended by listeners or by other guests. So there’s kind of a thread that went throughout 2019 and it was a really a lot of fun to be an interview interviewer in those those episodes. I hope you enjoyed listening to them as well. We’re looking forward to the same kind of excitement here in 2020, and we need your input. It for that and if you’re new to the show kind of trying to figure us out. We have a footprint of a mountain to the U of A. We chose that specifically because it’s kind of that streetcar line, which we consider the urban part of Tucson and that was sort of the the reasons behind the geography of our show will cover a mountain to the U of A. We don’t touch on specifically political topics. Although we do cover social economic and cultural events and some of those tinge on politics, but we try to focus on the event or the that are making Tucson a great place to be.
Tom Heath: History and culture are big part of that as well. So if you know of one of those topics give us a shout out on Facebook and us up on Twitter if you’d like and then you can always email us contact at Life along the streetcar dot-org for any events or stuff. You would like us to cover love to hear from you. But we do know we’re covering in 2020 is more from the music scene.
Tom Heath: We want to thank George Landa for being on the show. They talking about Miller’s Surplus and their iconic role here in Tucson providing practical and sometimes impractical tactical gear and clothing for tucsonans. George is also an accomplished musician with a band called Los Naughty Dogs, and we’re going to have more about that story coming up here. And then as we roll into 2020 expect more from the history and culture of Tucson right through future Economic Development. We are always here, 11:30 a.m. Every Sunday and 89.1 FM. You can stream us on Downtown Radio dot or get our sweet app from the App Store.
Tom Heath: Hey, we’re going to leave you with some music today. That’s very appropriate. I think for our feature leaving you with the Distortionists and their song “Fashion tips for the Apocalypse”. My name is Tom Heath and you’ve been listening to Life along the streetcar, please tune in next Sunday for more news. from our Urban core.