Best Of Tucson®

Old-Fashioned Fogies

Before she became Tucson's first policewoman in the late '20s, Nora Nugent ran the Palms Cafe downtown, "Where You Eat Better for Less." It served inexpensive meals along with fountain drinks.

Nugent opened the business after her husband died, leaving her with three sons to raise on her own. Eventually, she closed it in order to join the Tucson Police Department, a job she held until budget cuts eliminated her position.

While with the force, Nugent worked with young people, especially girls, concerning problems which she blamed on "the change in tempo of modern life."

"We have so few homes left," Nugent told the Arizona Daily Star. "I mean by homes a place such as I had as a child or as most of my generation had; a place where our friends gathered for happy evenings of games, dancing, songs.

"Even if their home conditions are fairly good," Nugent added, "their associates lead them away, and they grow to feel that their parents are old-fashioned fogies."

By 1925, the number of adults and children in Tucson was increasing substantially. The city by then covered more than six square miles, with enrollment at the University of Arizona more than 2,500 students. The Southern Arizona climate was called "the finest in America," and as the nation focused on the trial and conviction of John Scopes for teaching evolution in a Tennessee school, tourists in large numbers were flocking to town.

Some of those travelers journeyed on U.S. 80, the mostly dirt-and-gravel, cross-country route which linked Florida to California. This highway, also called "The Old Spanish Trail," provided a thrilling experience for the adventurous automobile driver.

When they reached Tucson, these motorists might have stayed in a city-sponsored auto park on St. Mary's Road near the Santa Cruz River. Boasting both a clubhouse and store, the auto park provided campers with wood, water, showers and use of a phone.

But most of those visiting Tucson in 1925 arrived by train and stayed in one of the city's two dozen hotels, many of which were clustered around downtown's depot. Charging anywhere from $2 to $8 a night for a room, these facilities provided convenient accommodations to the traveling public.

One of the establishments was the Congress Hotel, located right across the street from the train station. Opened in 1919, it offered two floors of rooms above ground level shops and a cafe.

In November 1925, the hotel's restaurant proclaimed in a newspaper ad: "Cheerful foods are to be found here in abundance. We serve a variety of fare that will allow you a wide range for your food choice. And our service is sanitary and polite."

The advertisement also urged people to "Eat Thanksgiving Dinner With Us."

Despite the rapidly changing times, that meal might have provided a chance for fogies and their children to at least sit down together.