Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Mysterious trophy finds a home

Citizen Staff Writer
Off the Beat

Dave Petruska

A number of old plaques and awards certificates that have been pulled out of storage are stacked in a small corner of the Tucson Citizen’s newsroom, mementos of our storied past.

Some were won by former Citizen employees who now work for the Arizona Daily Star, and I eventually sorted those out, walked across the courtyard, and dropped them off at the Star’s front desk so my friends could have some keepsakes.

But I was fascinated by the mystery of an old trophy and lugged it back to my work area last Tuesday.

There was no mention of the Citizen on the engraving, and I wondered why The Diamond Bill’s Sportsmanship Award, given during the Tucson Soap Box Derby in 1950, is in our custody and why only three names are on the award.

I probably should be busy hunting for a job in my spare time, with the closure of the Citizen looming. But that part of my brain that has made me a good reporter and editor just wouldn’t let this go.

I found out the Citizen used to be one of the sponsors of the Soap Box Derby. I’m still trying to find about Diamond Bill’s, so maybe some longtime Tucsonans can enlighten me because I couldn’t find anything in our archives.

I looked at the last name on the trophy, 1955 winner Tommy Ricksecker, and told my podmate – the immensely talented page designer Jennifer Lum – that I was going to use the enormous font of information available at my fingertips (the phone book) to see if any Rickseckers were listed. I discovered two.

I got Tom’s number during the first call, and the 66-year-old Ricksecker laughed last Wednesday when I got him on the phone and told him about my discovery.

“I didn’t win the local title, so I didn’t get the chance to go race in the nationals in Ohio,” Ricksecker said.

The Citizen had the trophy, he said, because he had to give it back before the 1956 races. I couldn’t find out if the sportsmanship award was ever given out.

I was only able to give Ricksecker half of his memories. The trophy had been topped with a big Soap Box Derby insignia and mounted on a wooden base, he said.

But that’s not the end of the story. Early last Wednesday, former podmate M.J. McVay, an immensely talented page designer, mentioned that she knew some Rickseckers back in her hometown of Findlay, Ohio.

And, yep, the Tucson Rickseckers have cousins in Findlay, and, yep, M.J. went to the same church as cousin Paul.

It’s a small world after all.

Famed Tucson bon vivant Dave Petruska, voted the city’s most eligible bachelor by his mother, is a copy editor for the Tucson Citizen.

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