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"The Trouble In Tombstone..." Topic

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689 hits since 30 Sep 2005
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Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Sep 2005 2:57 p.m. PST

Approx. two months ago, I took a "breather" from TMP and was getting ready to move. I left my partner Mike Mitchell to run one side of Hawgleg, from Houston, while I handled another side of it back in Sin City (Las Vegas).
While I made the moved I did some "touristy things", including spending a day at Tombstone Arizona.
Now I will admit it, I like "tacky tourist towns".
But I don't like Tombstone.

Here's the deal.
I was there 20 odd years ago…and it has changed physically, remarkably little. Yes there are some new businesses that are up and running, but the local layout is the same.
The problem lies with the mentality.

Tombstone was put on the national register of historic places/landmarks in 1962. It was put there as "the best remaining example of a historic 19th Century mining town." Sorry folks but that OK corral thing had nothing to do it…

However, OK corral and the gunfights are the towns bread and butter. People come to Tombstone to see Cowboys blast one another in the streets and NOT to wander down to some dark hole in the ground and see how gold and silver was mined.
And this is where the real issue of the town is.

Recently in the last few years there has been a "movement" by many businesses and retailers to "cash in" on the "Old West gunfighter" angle. Allen Street/Fremont Street has been closed off to vehicle traffic and the area has been made to resemble an "Old West town", (although with more of a hollywood flair than a realistic one).
The businesses want to bring in the customer (and their dollar). Yes you have Western Wear, Bookstores, restarautns, a tour of the Bird Cage Theater, and Big Nose Kates still serves beer and food. But you also have smoke shops, and cheap tacky souvenir stores that seem to be run by people that are only working there because the carny had no openings for them, or left them behind.
And yes, business is good….for now…
Then you have the other side of the track, the "historical purists". They see the retailers are people "coming in to kill the goose that lays the golden egg." It's the same argument that we hear on the east coast concerning preservation of ACW battlefields and developers. The Historically minded want to keep the town as "historially authentic" as possible to keep it on the National Register and to get people to actually appreciate the town for what it is, and not to see it in a "amusement park" atmosphere for what they feel and think that the retailers are making it out to be.
These two mentalities are fighting it out on the streets of Tombstone, and because of the recent changes the National Register has actually put Tombstone on the "threatened" list and has threatened to have them removed from the list if it continues to slide downhill.
The Town is pretty much evenly divided over the situation.

I spent the day wandering it, and while enjoying some parts of, I was saddened to see what had happened to other parts. Just by walking around, and meeting some folks I ended up telling a couple that "Sorry ma'am…Jesse James, (or Billy the Kid) never was here…"

I can see both sides…The Retailers want the's their livelihood…and people come to the town to watch folks get shot in the streets during the gunplay.
Yet the historicals, are worried that eventually people will see it as "just another tacky tourist trap" and end up instead going to Old Tuscon which is only 50 miles away and has more things to do there that is "Old Western".
And then when the dust settles, the retailers will be gone, and the town will be bare bones again…

It's sad.

So I am wondering if anyone else here has made it to Tombstone and what your impressions of it were?

Michael T. Murphy

WarWizard30 Sep 2005 3:36 p.m. PST

Never been to Tombstone. But when I was in Gettysburg last month I discovered the local business people and population are signing a petition to keep a CASINO from being built in Gettysburg.

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Sep 2005 4:50 p.m. PST

yeps…We had the same problem with Brandy Station a few years back…a developer wanted to build a stock car track on the battlefield…

LeadAsbestos Inactive Member30 Sep 2005 6:09 p.m. PST

I live in Niagara Falls, NY, where we have one of the wonders of the world, and where people are leaving in droves to escape a crippled economy, toxic waste, drugs, and a huge per-capita crime rate.

When the Seneca Nation offered to open a casino here, to boost our economy, and to drag some tourists from the gorgeous and successful Canadian side, I thought it wa sthe best idea I ever heard, a sour local gov't batted the idea around for years w/ no action. (The root of all our local problems, along w/ the corruption!) People complained , of course, because gambling is evil or something, but there are new businesses springing up, and tourists are flocking in, bringing much need $$ and a little hope.

We all see different needs I suppose.

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member30 Sep 2005 8:25 p.m. PST

Murph, I assume you must have been to Calico ghost town when you were in the area before? Thoughts?

Two California tribes (neither with any historic claim to land in the area) are pushing to open a casino here in Barstow, and a third (with a tenuous geographic connection) is trying to horn in. The Gubernator has reneged on his own standards and has agreed to a compact with the two, which opens the way for them to go forward for DOI approval, if they can get it past the legislature.

On the one hand, this is a perfect spot to relieve Californians of their gambling dollars before they get to Primm or Vegas, which is why a whole string of communities along I-15 are trying to do the same thing (it didn't work with outlet malls; why would it work with casinos?). On the other hand, the local city council has taken the developers' promises hook, line and sinker, and don't understand that there's a very expensive price to pay down the road. Property values have already shot up from speculation, and the population is all for it, because otherwise, the economy is so bad. Blind fools, the lot of them.

Indian casinos (which is a misleading term, because in very few cases do the tribes benefit from them in any way resembling the vast sums the developers and lawyers make off them) are a booming indistry, and are trying to weasel in anywhere in the country they think they can convince the locals that there are fifty shekels in it for them. Fortunately, Congress is beginning to get a dim view of "reservation shopping".

Not that I have a strong opinion on the subject.

I need to get back to Maine, where the voters, being Mainers and thus sensible, turned down a proposal for a Penobscot-Passamaquoddy casino (which would have been on trust land) in 2003.


AzSteven30 Sep 2005 10:10 p.m. PST

I worked in Tombstone in 1985, while in college at the University of Arizona. I was a reporter and photographer for the Tombstone Epitaph, the local paper which was run and staffed by the UofA Journalism Department.

That was the time the town really began to shift to the Retail Tourist Trap environment, though it really took about 10 years to take hold. The town itself is pretty small; it depends on tourism and servicing local ranchers, farmers and miners (there are still a lot of small mines in the area). Like most small towns it was not particularly wealthy, and most of the town's youths were waiting for their earliest chance of getting out of town.

For me, working the paper, the town was really a series of about six cliques, all mutually hostile to one another, all trying to move the town in a certain direction. Unfortunately, in most of the cliques the effort wasa not to move the two in a specific forward direction; the goal was to do whatever could be done to harm one or more other cliques.

Two of the cliques were the local historians. The OK Corral thing was of course the focus of the town, and there were a number of local historians who made it their goal to keep the legend alive. There were other local historians who made it their goal to keep the truth alive. The third clique were the Re-enactors, who were really there for the show. Then you had the retailers, who were also divided into two cliques, and lastly the locals, who just wanted to have a town to live in.

The result of this was an inability to move the town forward, but an amazing ability to obstruct or destroy progress. What was starting to happen was the two retiailer cliques (one more based on souveniers, one based more on real estate) started to attract outside funds, and then things really started to go out of control. The result has been the sad state of Tombstone that you saw.

Old Tucson, ironically enough, was burned to the ground about 10 years ago and rebuilt. Before the fire, Old Tucson was a functioning movie studio with elements of a theme park. When it was rebuilt, all pretense of movie studio was lost, and many locals ceased to come to the park. Old Tucson is now teetering on the brink, but management is apparently going to try to revive the studio operation, so interest might come back. My brother worked there for five years as a stuntman (one of those guys you see getting shot and falling off of rooftops), so I spent quite a few wasted summer days out there once upon a time; I would love to see Old Tucson make a comeback.

CPT Shanks Inactive Member30 Sep 2005 10:33 p.m. PST

There is a Wild West theme park going up in Williams on I-40, don't know how it factors in, but it is not as out of the way as Tombstone. It sounds like Tombstone is in the throws of the curse of the mining towns, boom and bust. It also sounds like the faction driven community it was at the time of the shootout, only the factions have changed, and they aren't literally gunning each other down now. Very civilized.

Personal logo Ironwolf Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2005 1:38 a.m. PST

Family and I went out there three years ago. Enjoyed spending the day at Tombstone. The really best part was going down to Allen street at night when most everything is shut down. Stop in at the tavern and drink beer and chat with some of the locals that dress up for the tourists during the day. Very friendly people who love their town. Nothing like being in Tombstone, Az. At midnight drinking beer and watching a man dressed like wyatt earp singing Ironmaiden's run to the hills on a kereoki machine!!!!

The G Dog Fezian Inactive Member01 Oct 2005 1:15 p.m. PST

Ironwolf, that's a scary picture your painting…

At least it wasn't Maiden's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner"

rmaker01 Oct 2005 10:28 p.m. PST

I was there back in the early '80's, they were already pushing OK Corralism back then. Bisbee (despite being somewhat modernized) struck me as more of a mining town than Tombstone.

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Oct 2005 10:40 a.m. PST

I've always liked Bisbee…It's an interesting place in it's weird quirky little way. Only place I've ever seen a school teacher, (in her 20's) dressed in leather boots, fishnet stockings, and carrying a stiletto!…

And this was at a BAR!!!!

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Oct 2005 10:41 a.m. PST

Mr. Chodes…
When you mean Williams…do you mean Williams Arizona?..Right outside of the Turn off to the Grand Canyon?

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Oct 2005 1:45 a.m. PST

I've always wanted to do "Calico", but I never got the chance…the closest I got to it was unloading tanks at the rail head at Yermo…big fun there…

Personal logo mmitchell Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Oct 2005 9:41 p.m. PST

I have vivid memories of Old Tucson from a 1970s summer trip with the family. Think I'll ask mom to dig up some old photos so you can mock my Brady Bunch hairstyle…

Stephen Miller04 Oct 2017 2:56 p.m. PST

Just stumbled onto this thread from 12 years ago by accident. I moved to Arizona with my parents when I was 15 in 1961 and went to High School there my last 3 years, graduating in 1964. When we lived there, it was a fully functioning small town with a weekly paper full of local news (yep, still the Tombstone Epitaph), two grocery stores, post office, bank, doctor, drug store, hardware store, general store,--well, you get the idea. After graduation, I moved away and didn't get back there till 2001. The high school I had attended (built in 1920) was still the high school, but the stores that help make a town a town (the ones I listed above) were mostly gone, replaced by sovenier shops, and gunfight shows every day of the year except Christmas Day (when I was there the only gunfights occurred during one week in October for Heldorado days.) I've been back 4 or 5 times since, usually for high school reunions (although the town finally built a new high school), but now it's "tourist trap", not the town I remember.

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