Roy P. Drachman
1906 - 2002
Roy P. Drachman's grandparents were Tucson pioneers and Roy grew with his town, playing an active role in his community, as it states on the back of his book. Roy graduated in 1924, four years before Bob Nolan but he remembered him well. Bob was an outstanding high school track star and Roy was aware of him even then. He knew Bob's father, Harry, who must have had a "presence" because Roy remembers him as being about 6' tall when Harry was only 5' 6". Roy knew Bob's younger brother, Earl, best.
The following is an excerpt from a conversation with Mr. Drachman at La Jolla, CA, June 9/99:
The Nolan family wasn't very close and didn't spend much time together but they were nice people, good people. Bob and Earl Nolan were both stars.
I can tell you about the father of the two boys. His name was Harry. He wasn’t a tall man like Earl was but he was a very stocky guy about six foot, I guess, and was well built and, by gosh, he was strong as the devil. He was a tailor in Tucson and I never heard the boys speak about him. I don’t recall how I met Harry. He was around town and I was in the theatre business and he had a tailor shop. I probably went to him and asked if we could put a poster advertising a movie in his shop and that’s probably how I met him but I knew him and I knew who he was.
I didn’t know Bob very well. He was in high school when I was. He was a couple of years behind me and I know he was an athlete but the only athletic I recall him in was track. He was a pole vaulter. But Bob was a nice guy and I think he was well respected by his friends. He was quiet. You never heard of him much around town until later years but Earl was a tall, big guy and was a very good athlete. He was a boxer, a football player and he was quite a star athlete.
We had to bribe Earl with food to continue to play football for the university. Yes, he was [a growing boy] and he’d come down to the theatre, I was on the Fox Theatre in Tucson, on our main street at the main intersection of town and right next door to us was a small Greek restaurant and they had pretty good food and so we made a deal with them. He’d come in there every night and order two steaks – two T-bones – he'd eat that. And another steak would show up and he’d eat that. Then he was about with the biscuits and the gravy and everything else that went with it. Earl was also a decorated war hero. After the war he came back to Tucson and went to the university again and got his engineering degree.
Earl was very respectful of older people. There was a truant officer in Tucson by the name of Jake Meiers who was a former football player at the university of Arizona. He played back in 1912 or 13. Oh, he was quite a bit older than us, older than I. A very nice guy. Well, he told me that Earl would play truant from school and he'd be called to run him down, to find him someplace. And he'd say, “If you don’t go to school, I’m gonna kick the hell out of you.” And he thought I would! I wouldn’t even try. He was so much bigger and stronger than I was. He could have chewed me up.” But, anyway, Earl was a very nice fella.
My wife's father might have been related to the Nolans. He was a big man, not quite as big as Earl but a good-size man and he was from Florida and his wife, Emma, my mother-in-law later. She had tuberculosis and they recommended that she get out of Florida. They moved from Florida to West Palm Beach and they came to Tucson for her health and I met her [ my wife, Grace] when she came. I was at the old opera house then, the movie theater, and she’d lost something of hers or something, and she came to the office to see if we’d found something lost a couple of days before. We hadn’t but she came back and we tried to find it. We couldn’t find it but I got acquainted with her and that was the beginning of our romance. Other than that, I don’t know a thing about the Noble family. Grace, my wife, was the oldest of the children, she was 18 when we were married, I was twenty.
(The following is from a newspaper clipping sent to me from Jon Alquist at the Arizona Alumnus Association, University of Arizona)
Thursday, March 25, 1999
Famed Sons had roots in Tucson
Editor’s note: This is the 87th installment from a collection of memoirs written by lifelong Tucsonian Roy Drachman, 92, a developer and patriarch of a pioneer Tucson family.
Tucson’s Sons of Pioneers
There has been a considerable amount of mention recently in the press and in the electronic media about the famous Western group, Sons of the Pioneers. They make frequent appearances on the Tucson scene, often playing at the Triple C. None of the original members is living, and the current group is based in Missouri.
One of the original Sons of the Pioneers was a well-known resident of Tucson, Bob Nolan, who attended Tucson High School a couple of years behind me when I was a student there. He was a good athlete and was a pole vaulter on the Badger track team.
Bob Nolan’s fame will live for many years, not just because he was a member of the original Sons of the Pioneers, but also because he composed two longtime Western favorites, “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water”. Bob performed for years throughout the United States and Canada with the very popular Western singing cowboys.
Bob’s younger brother, Earl, was a truly great athlete. He was All-State in football at Tucson High. He went on to star in football, track and boxing at the University of Arizona and played tackle for the Wildcats while Tex Oliver was the coach during the mid-1930s. I believe he was the first football player from Arizona to play in the National Football League when he signed with the Chicago Cardinals, the predecessors to the St. Louis Cardinals and, more recently, the Phoenix Cardinals.
During Earl’s years at Tucson High and as a Wildcat, I became one of his best friends.
When he was a freshman at UA, he and his classmates were not allowed to compete on the varsity team. The freshmen had an outstanding team. They scrimmaged vs. the varsity once or twice a week and often outscored them
After Earl’s junior year, during which he made All-Border Conference, we Towncats got him a job with the State Highway Department in the Phoenix engineer’s office. When school started in the fall, Earl didn’t want to quit his job and return to school and the football team. He said that the previous year; while living in the football dorm and eating with the team, he was always hungry.
He said he’d return to the UA if, “Roy Drachman would guarantee that I’d have enough to eat, especially after practice.” The Grand Café was right next to the Fox Theater, which I managed at the time. I, with the rest of the Towncats, worked out an arrangement with the Grand Cafe whereby I’d bring Earl Nolan over to the restaurant every evening. He would order two T-bone steaks and anything else he liked and I’d see that they were paid for, much to Earl’s delight.
After Earl played professional football for several years, he returned to Tucson, got a degree in engineering at UA, married one of the Ahee girls and raised a daughter. I attended Earl’s wedding and remained his friend for the rest of his life.
As Earl reached his 80s, he began to have health problems. By then, he was retired, a widower and living alone. I went to see him a couple of times and had some good visits with him. His mind wasn’t as sharp as it had been, whether as a result of his stint as a heavyweight boxer or just because of his age, I’m not sure.
In a strange twist of fate, the last time I saw Earl, he told me something I wish I’d had known years before. He said his father came from New Brunswick, Canada, and had changed his name and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, before moving, eventually, to Tucson. He said his father was a bit of a rebel and moved to get away from his family. He changed his name from “Noble” to “Nolan” when he left New Brunswick.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In 1927, I married Grace Noble, whose family had moved form New Brunswick, Canada, to Florida and then to Arizona when Mrs. Noble (Grace’s mother) contracted tuberculosis and moved her family of three children to Arizona. Grace’s father, John Noble, was born and raised in New Brunswick.
John Noble was a huge man, about 6-foot-three, and well-proportioned. Earl Nolan was just about that same size. Earl’s father wasn’t very tall, but he was very husky. I remember hearing my mother-in-law speak about the large size of her in-laws in Canada. My son, Manny, is a large man and I often wondered where those big bones came form – until I heard Earl’s story about his father changing his name from Noble to Nolan.
As well as I knew Earl Nolan, I never had the slightest notion that there was a good possibility my children and he might be related, but it seems the possibility does exist. I guess I should do a little research and check out the matter.
Earl died three or four years ago, but his daughter still lives here.
Roy Drachman wrote a book of his own memories of growing up in Tucson. Although it claims not to be a history of Tucson, it does give us a sense of what it was like to live there in its early days. Mr. Drachman also talks about some of the earliest Tucson pioneers. The book is widely available.
Whitewing Press, San Francisco, 1999