Chicken fingers on the house at Lucky Wishbone

The Bone' has endured with certain flash  

The flashing, stylized neon star with the strobe-like burst of white light on North Swan Road near Broadway certainly qualifies as odd in these days of code-enforced sign-sameness in Tucson.

Equally odd is the persistence of the business it advertises. Lucky Wishbone's deep-fried menu of chicken parts, steak "fingers" and fries has survived nearly 60 years of health fads and is still growing.

Plans are afoot to replace the "Bone" at 10 N. Swan Road with a new building. The sign, said owner Clyde Buzzard, will remain. "It's kind of an ugly thing that stayed around."

He has the same view of his business. "Fried foods are very unpopular," he said, "but we're terribly busy."

Fans of "the Bone" are rabid, judging from its Facebook page, where patrons pine for their steak fingers and fried gizzards from as far away as the Congo. "We're local yokels, but we're world-famous," Buzzard said.

While he makes no health claims for his food, Buzzard said the chain went to "zero trans-fat long before McDonald's did" and is downright obsessive about keeping its vast vats of vegetable oils clean.

The sign, whose iconic image is incorporated into the company's logo for its six locations in Tucson, was designed and erected in 1953 by Arizona Neon, Buzzard said.

When he took it down to repair it a few years back, city sign inspectors warned him that if he changed anything about it, it would lose its "grandfathered" right to remain. They wouldn't let him replace the bulb on the south side of the sign, which is why it flashes only on the north face, Buzzard said.

He said he checked and rechecked those rights with the city of Tucson as he made plans to move his business - but not the sign pole - to a lot he owns adjacent to the restaurant at the corner of Swan and Broadway.

The Lucky Wishbone restaurants were started by Derald Fulton, but Buzzard was with him at the beginning and became one of three managing partners as the chain expanded. Buzzard also owns the Lucky Wishbone at 990 S. Harrison Road.

And the underlying reason for the restaurants' longevity, according to Buzzard: "We're lucky."

Originally published March 22, 2009.

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