This is the 35th installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson and writing from my desk in Tucson, the Old Pueblo.…
We recently lost our eldest brother, Hector, after almost 50 years of mental illness. As many of you know, if you know him or have read about him, Hector was a huge Wildcat fan and that lasted the greater span of his youthful 67 years. Somehow, I feel his “Bear Down” spirit lives on. He missed the downfall of the Pac-12 but he was born in the time of the Border Conference and he witnessed and soaked in the beauty of the WAC and the transformation to the Pac-10.
I know he would see the move to the Big-12, or whatever it will be called, as an exciting adventure. Hector was one of those people we all see but also fail to see. If you travel through the world of sports and sporting events, you see individuals taking everything in and making your experience an even better one, you just might know it. Hector believed every year was a Rose Bowl year. A Final Four and a World Series was always possible. It was difficult to argue with him even when you had all the facts, like a losing record. Much like his faith in God, his faith in the Wildcats was based on, faith. And, it’s true, all of his prayers ended with, “Bear Down – amen.”
When my younger brother, Javier, and I were young, maybe nine and six, Hector would get us student tickets to McKale Center so we could all witness the dawn of Fred Snowden. We were there probably too much but also probably not enough. After one game, our other brother, Carlos, joined us in the basement hallway of McKale Center so we could get a glimpse of Bob Elliott, Jim Rappis, Coniel Norman, Eric Money or Herman Harris. Anybody really. We were there so many times this guy standing across from us in that cavern told Snowden he should take us into the locker room. That guy was David Bell.
Bell was someone everyone saw if they went to an Arizona game, a Tucson Toros game or any game involving Tucson High. He rode his bike everywhere. He had nothing to do with the games he saw but he had everything to do with them. He was killed riding his bike to a Sabino-Tucson basketball game in 1987. Unseen. Not many know the path they take around Reid Park is named after him. Had Bell not asked Snowden to take us into the locker room, then who knows how we would have ended up?
But it wasn’t just the sporting world. I noticed this very short, elderly couple at a lot of the functions our father would take us to in South Tucson. They played what looked like mandolins and they sang songs in Spanish. One day, I was walking down Sixth Avenue with my dad for some reason and there they were, singing on a corner. They talked to my father. To this day, I wonder who they were but our father taught us to notice everyone. I recall walking down a hallway at my father’s government building in Washington, D.C. and he stopped to talk to a custodian who I felt was elderly but was probably in his 50s.
This gentleman looked at me and he asked my father if I was Andy. I don’t know why, maybe the fog of being a teenager, but that blew me away. My dad was friends with Cesar Chavez and Mo Udall and I saw him speak to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy in his office, but this custodian probably knew more about me and my siblings than any of them. This gentleman was seen and unseen and it’s one of my favorite stories to tell about my father, even though it caused me to be a crying fool when I spoke on his behalf when he was entered into the Tucson High hall of Fame after he passed away.
When I graduated from Arizona, he told me that the only thing separating me from the people I will work with is a piece of paper. It wasn’t a putdown, it was a lesson to remember who I am. Let him bear the pride for me, as all fathers do. I should not be prideful over a piece of paper. It will open doors for me but leave the door open.
Our world is full of people we see and we need to see them. Like Willie Brock, who many see at swimming events across the county. He walks, takes buses and is sometimes offered rides by club teams to competitions. He has probably timed all the top swimmers in the Tucson area over the last decade or so and there’s Robert Martinez, who can be seen at almost every baseball and softball tournament in town, running this way and that way, trying to track down every foul ball. I think his record is 24.
There are so many more, I don’t know their names and that’s my loss. Speaking so losses, we all recently lost Joe Cavaleri, the Ooh Aah Man. Besides my brother, possibly the biggest UA fan we ever had, including the late George Kalil, another friend of my father’s. Kalil would bang his huge bass drum at every Arizona basketball game, both home and away until the WAC banned his drum in 1976.
These are all people in our neighborhood, was we remember from our childhood songs. Our neighborhood, “The Old Pueblo,” is filled with many diverse colors. The Old Pueblo might not be “Sweden” (whatever that means – but I know what it means) but it’s my home. It’s home to thousands upon thousands of working class people from various backgrounds. Every shade. All beautiful.
No, we don’t look like “Sweden,” we are a box of crayons – the huge box. The box every kid wanted in kindergarten, except for possibly one person.
I choose to see our people unseen and I choose to see the move to the Big 12 as my brother Hector would have. Excitement. Wonder. Faith.
Named one of “Arizona’s Heart & Sol” by KOLD and Casino del Sol, Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and a 2019 AZ Education News recognition. He was a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling and his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is a Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. He earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater and he was recognized by City Councilman Richard Fimbres. Contact Andy Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org