General History

They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial (1914-2014): Tucson’s entertainment in 1914

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A postcard in the early 1950s shows the State Theater (formerly the Tucson Opera House) to the right with the Fox Theater (which opened in 1930)

A postcard in the early 1950s shows the State Theater (formerly the Tucson Opera House) to the right with the Fox Theater (which opened in 1930) in the far background.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS:
General history
J.F. “Pop” McKale
The games
Comparisons then and now
Wildcats nickname
Military service
Rankings
LAST WEEK:
No. 60: Famous people born 100 years ago
No. 61: Other 100-year anniversaries
No. 62: Chain events leading to World War I begin
No. 63: Three yards, cloud of dust prevailed in 1914
No. 64: 1964 homecoming celebration
No. 65: Color barrier broken in 1949
No. 66: Three members of team also part of band

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Clipping of actual L.A. Times article published Nov. 8, 1914

Clipping of actual L.A. Times article published Nov. 8, 1914

Excerpt from L.A. Times, Nov. 8, 1914, authored by Bill Henry:

“Arizona’s cactus-fed athletes, despite heroic efforts on the part of their two halfbacks, (Asa) Porter and (Franklin) Luis, went down to defeat before the Occidental Tigers yesterday afternoon, the tally with all precincts heard from being 14 to 0 in favor of the Tigers.
Confident of rolling up a big score, the Tigers took the field with grins on their faces, but before the game was 10 seconds old they knew they had a battle on their hands.
The Arizona men showed the fight of wild cats and displayed before the public gaze a couple of little shrimps in the backfield who defied all attempts of the Tigers to stop them.”

This site will conduct a countdown in a 100-day period, leading up to Arizona’s 2014 football season-opener with UNLV on Aug. 29 at Arizona Stadium. The 100 Days ‘Til Kickoff countdown will include information daily about the historic 1914 Arizona team that helped create the school’s nickname of “Wildcats” because of how they played that fateful day against Occidental.

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A night out on the town for J.F. “Pop” McKale and members of the Arizona “Varsity” in 1914 inevitably meant a stroll through downtown and a stop at the Tucson Opera House, later known as the State Theater, at 51 E. Congress Street.

The owner of the Opera House was Joe Scotti, a major benefactor of the university at the time. Scotti offered the “Varsity” $100 if it defeated Pomona College in the season-finale on Thanksgiving Day. Arizona won 7-6 and Scotti delivered.

Commercial radio broadcasts did not start until the early 1920s and TVs were not in widespread use until the 1950s, so a trip to the Opera House was a must to be entertained in Tucson.

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Shakespearean actors performed at the Opera House en route to shows in Los Angeles. Traveling minstrel shows were often staged. Operas and plays performed by local groups often filled the 1,000-seat capacity at the facility.

Silent motion pictures also became popular at the opera house in 1914 with the films made in Tucson by the Lubin Production Company of Pennsylvania and the French-owned Éclair Film Co.


Caption here

The 1914 Arizona football team that earned the honor of being named the first “Wildcats” was composed of (front row, left to right): Verne La Tourette, George Seeley, Leo Cloud, Richard Meyer, Asa Porter. Second row: Franklin Luis, Lawrence Jackson, Ray Miller, J.F. “Pop” McKale (coach), Turner Smith, Harry Hobson (manager), Orville McPherson, Albert Crawford, Ernest Renaud. Back row: Albert Condron, Emzy Lynch, Charley Beach, Vinton Hammels, Bill Hendry, George Clawson, Harry Turvey.
(AllSportsTucson.com graphic/Photo from University of Arizona Library Special Collections)

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What they were talking about on this day in 1914

Wednesday, July 1, 1914

Treasury figures show the federal government went through its first fiscal year under the Woodrow Wilson administration with its income exceeding its ordinary expenses by $33.7 million. The treasury surplus, however, was wiped out because of expenditures on the construction of the Panama Canal which have been paid from the general fund. From that fund, approximately $34.8 million was spent on the canal. When that was charged a deficit of about $1.01 million was on the books.

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On Jan. 11, 1913, Lubin released a short documentary called “San Xavier Mission, Tucson, Arizona.”

In October 1913, the actor and director Webster Cullison established a studio at the Sorin mansion, on 430 North Main Street. Five months later, the entire crew of the Éclair headquarters in Fort Lee, N.J., moved to Tucson.

“It is only two miles from the mountains, possesses scenery of practically every desirable description, and has the advantage of almost constant brilliant sunshine,” Cullison was quoted as saying in a literary work by Rogelio Agrasánchez Jr. titled Early Filmmaking in Tucson, Arizona.

Europeans were reportedly fascinated by the news of the Mexican revolution involving Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata at the time. Cullison is quoted saying by Agrasánchez that the Éclair company seized the opportunity to film “Western and Mexican stuff,” because the subjects “are selling well across the water in Europe because of the interest of Mexican troubles.”

Activities at Tucson’s Éclair Film Co. were in full swing by September 1914, when the Arizona “Varsity” and other students started the school year. At one time the company had a working force of 55 persons. They made about eighty films in nine months. Some of the most important movies were Picturesque Tucson, The Girl Stage Driver, The Caballero’s Way, The Stirrup Brother, Bransford in Arcadia, When Death Rode the Engine and The Renunciation.

The newspaper ad for "Picturesque Tucson" shown at the Opera House just a few days after Arizona lost at Occidental

The newspaper ad for “Picturesque Tucson” shown at the Opera House just a few days after Arizona lost at Occidental

Many of the scenes were shot at South Meyer Avenue, San Xavier, the Tohono O’odham Reservation, Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park.

According to Agrasánchez, a newspaper reported that one of the Éclair artists, Henry Alrich, was severely wounded and confined to a hospital after trying to subdue a wild cat that broke loose. A camera recorded the incident, which later became part of a Western Éclair release.

Wild cats (or bobcats) were perceived to be a dangerous animal. No wonder the Arizona student body jumped at the chance for the nickname after Bill Henry of the Los Angeles Times wrote that they played with the fight of wild cats against Occidental.

Picturesque Tucson was exhibited at the Opera House on Nov. 12, 1914, five days after Arizona played Occidental. The movie contained street scenes, residences, the university, the San Xavier Mission, and the fire department in action. Cullison presented a copy of Picturesque Tucson to mayor I. E. Huffman.

The following month, due to financial reasons stemming from France’s involvement in World War I, Cullison announced that the Éclair Company was leaving for Los Angeles.

The Tucson Daily Citizen reported on Dec. 29, 1914: “The city has profited by their payrolls and the advertising received through their pictures.”

Lubin also ceased its film-making operations in Tucson in 1914 after losing almost all of its prints in a devastating fire at its Philadelphia headquarters that year.

The Tucson Opera House, which later became the State Theater, closed its doors in 1952. It was shut down to make way for an office building. The structure has since been demolished and is now a parking lot.

The last movie shown at the State Theater was fittingly called When Worlds Collide. The old world met the new progressive world and now we are only left with memories, old photos and press clippings.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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