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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Days of Dillinger revived

    Courtesy+of+Hotel+Congress
    Courtesy of Hotel Congress

    In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Tucson Police Department’s capture of gangster John Dillinger and his cohorts at Hotel Congress, the landmark establishment will host an array of ’30s themed events this weekend.
    Let’s rewind to the year 1934 — swanky swing music, economic grief from the Great Depression and underhanded gang activity.
    “Around 1934, Dillinger and his gang went through a series of bank robberies and they needed a place where he could lay low for a while,” said David Slutes, booking director at Hotel Congress. “He came to Tucson at one point and found a place at Congress.”
    During the legendary gangster’s stay in the Old Pueblo, a fire broke out at Congress, sending a plume of flames up the elevator shaft. According to Slutes, firefighters had to evacuate the entire hotel — including the third floor, where the Dillinger gang was residing.
    “The firefighters told these funny-looking guys they had to leave,” Slutes said. “They gave the firefighters $15 tips to bring down these heavy suitcases.”
    The suitcases were completely filled with firearms and $28,000 in cash.
    The firefighters recognized the gang and reported the incident to the police, according to Slutes.
    “TPD prides themselves in being the only law enforcement department to ever find and capture Dillinger’s gang without firing a shot,” Slutes said.
    This weekend, you can relive the days of Dillinger at Hotel Congress and downtown.
    “Dillinger Days have gone back to 1994,” Slutes said. “It started as an in-house lobby performance event and it was called ‘The Dillinger Re-enactment.’ The city took it over as a way to make it a big event downtown. Then the city couldn’t fund it anymore, so Congress took it over.”
    The weekend features for all ages in the Tucson community.
    “The demographical break is all across the board. There a lot of families and a lot of seniors,” Slute said. “It’s ages 10-100. It’s a good scene and it’s free.”
    Tonight, Hotel Congress will transform into a speakeasy complete with whiskey tasting, cigars, food, a ’30s memorabilia museum, vintage firefighting equipment, a fashion show and a swing band.
    Events on Saturday include fire truck rides at Maynards Market and Kitchen, historical lectures, a Dillinger walking tour, live music, old time radio programs and a turn of the century-style magic show. A Dillinger re-enactment show will take place at the Hotel Congress Plaza so people can relive the classic capture. There will even be an appearance from the newly restored 1934 fire truck that put out the fire at Hotel Congress.
    “There is a big buzz about it this year,” Slutes said. “It’s going to be very busy.”

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