Tom Ziegler has been tending bar at the Tap Room inside Hotel Congress for 51 years. But hardly anybody knows his name — at least not his Christian one.

Nobody calls Ziegler “Tom.” Not the regulars who visit during his daytime shift. Not the guys who deliver the beer and liquor. Not the hotel’s managers, desk clerks or maintenance men. Not even the owner.

To them, and everyone else, Tom Ziegler is, and has always been, simply “Tiger.”

You don’t have to spend much time around Tiger to deduce that cheerful irony drips from his nickname like beer down the sides of an overfilled pint glass. He’s not at all ferocious or cunning; on the contrary, he is gentle and exquisitely mannerly, much more apt to peer over his spectacles than bear his teeth.

Tiger is of slight, wispy build, with excellent posture and a full head of silvery hair that he parts on the left. He smokes frequently and elegantly, and he is fond of wearing crew-neck sweaters over Oxford shirts — a little bit Truman Capote, a little bit Mister Rogers.

Tiger is 76 years old, and he first stepped behind the business end of the Tap Room bar in 1959. My only concept of 1959 comes from history books and Happy Days. But to give you some context, here are some of the events Tiger might remember from his first year on the job:

  • Two stars were added to the American flag to commemorate Alaska and Hawaii gaining statehood.
  • A band of guerilla revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara overthrew the Cuban government.
  • A chartered plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed in Iowa.
  • Berry Gordy started Motown Records in Detroit.
  • The very first Daytona 500 was won by Lee Petty. (That’s Richard Petty’s dad.)
  • And a new toy called the Barbie doll hit department-store shelves.

I’ve never lasted at any one job more than four years. I cannot imagine doing the same job — and relishing it — for more than half a century.

Remember Jesse Helms? It seemed like he catatonically sat in the Senate since the dawn of time. Well, Tiger’s tenure at the Tap Room is longer by 21 years. Does it feel like Dick Clark’s been ushering in New Year’s nearly as long as Father Time? Child’s play — Tiger’s got 13 years on him. Tiger’s even been making margaritas and pouring beer longer than Mick Jagger’s been caterwauling as The Rolling Stones’ frontman.

I know very few septuagenarians who hold down regular jobs; I know even fewer who work as bartenders; I know fewer still who report to work sucking on a cigarette and looking like their mother has dressed them for the first day of elementary school.

But I do know one: His name is Tiger, and, like the hotel where he prowls, he is an Arizona treasure.