New Year’s Eve – It’s Not Just About Making Noise!

In a few days it will be New Year’s Eve.  When I was a kid in ’50s and ’60s California the tradition on New Year’s Eve was to go outside and honk the horn on your car. All over the neighborhood, high and low, you’d hear the car horns blaring.  No guns, no fireworks.  Just car horns honking!  I distinctly remember trotting out in my bare feet and honking the horn on my mom’s 1960 Ford Thunderbird. 

As I got older and attended parties on the last day in December there were cute metal noisemakers, decorated with clowns or pretty girls. Twisting and twirling, they rang in the new year. 

I always thought this cacophony was simply celebrating a new year coming. Not so fast Spunky! There’s a lot more to the noise making than that.  

In cultures all over the world raucous noisemaking at midnight is said to scare away any malevolent spirits that might have evil designs on a household in the year to come. Traditional noisemakers run the gamut of pot lids, pans and wooden spoons, horns, bells and whistles. 

In olden Thailand, primitive guns were fired to frighten off demons. 

In China, firecrackers routed the forces of darkness. 

In the early American colonies, the sounds of musket shots rang through the air. 

Today, Italians let their church bells peal, while the Swiss beat drums.  

It’s not only noise that will keep the evil spirits at bay. In Japan many open the front door then the back door to let the evil spirits in then quickly usher them out.  Many will be happy to know that there are certain foods that can help the new year be perhaps better than the last. Eating any ring shaped treat (such as a donut) symbolizes “coming full circle” and leads to good fortune.  

Eating 12 green grapes at midnight will give you 12 months of happiness. Rice promises prosperity. Apples dipped in honey will bring good health, and dollops of whipped cream, dropped on the floor (and not cleaned up immediately) symbolize the richness of the year to come.

So on New Year’s Eve, donut in hand, make enough noise to keep bad spirits at bay, and don’t step in the whipped cream! Do these things and I’m sure you’ll enjoy a happy, safe and prosperous New Year.

 Oh, and don’t forget the champagne!   

Happy New Year!

Carol Fenn, December 2016

Christmas Memories ~ Old & New 


As we celebrate Christmas Day many of us think back over the years of decorating the tree with family ornaments, meals shared with loved ones, or perhaps what was our favorite gift ever. Mine was Barbie’s Dream Kitchen. I loved that kitchen! Those mid century colors were awesome:

I know of one lucky girl 🙂 whose favorite gift was a green stingray bike. The story goes that her mother drove for six hours to get that bike just in time for Christmas! I wonder if it looked like this (except in green of course!):

If you were a kid in the fifties and sixties you might see one of your favorite gifts in this photo. Barbie’s sport car, a toy robot, a Lionel train, an airplane, or tinker toys! Ah, Christmas memories …

As we grow older and develop new friendships and bring in-laws into our families more memories are made. New traditions are born. I make the same Christmas dinner my mother always made. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and crescent rolls. It’s delicious and, if I do say so myself, perfect. When my ex-significant other first sat down to this meal the first words out of his mouth were, “Where’s the macaroni and cheese?” … LOL … what? Well, as long as he was with us, the Mac and cheese became part of our meal. It’s gone now, and so is he. But I have to say, sometimes I miss that delicious cheesy dish!

Now might be a fun time to reflect. What was your favorite gift?  What new memories and traditions have others brought to your Christmas Day?  Will those traditions stay or will they go?  Merry Christmas memories to one and all!

~ Santa Claus During The Mid Century Space Race ~

After World War II America and Russia entered into the Cold War era. Things were already very tense, when in 1957, the Russians launched the world’s first satellite, thus placing the first man made object into Earth’s orbit. Named Sputnik, it’s launch came as an unpleasant surprise to most Americans who traditionally did not like being second in anything!

Space was seen as the next frontier that Americans wanted to conquer! Hence the Space Race between the US and Russia was born! Even little American boys and girls wanted to beat Russia at this game!

When President Kennedy said that we would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, Americans were launched even more into this new era of space toys, atomic design, and Santa Claus in rocket ships!

Yes, gone was the sleigh and the reindeer! (Even Rudolph!) All Santa needed to get to those chimneys was a well designed spacecraft and some rocket fuel.

Space age Santa adorned Christmas cards, advertising, store displays, even a parade float in California!

After a couple short decades of being in space Santa got his reindeer back (even Rudolph!) and now we see him in his more traditional sleigh delivering merriment wherever he goes! But those cute space age Santa images sure were a lot of fun weren’t they! 

Merry Christmas! HO HO HO!



~ Christmas Windows in Black and White ~


Whether your winters were spent in balmy California or snowy New York, if you grew up in the ” black and white days” as my daughters used to kiddingly call the 1950’s and 1960’s of my childhood, I’m sure you have fond memories of “Christmas Windows.” If you’re too young to remember this, well, I’ve got a few to show you. Enjoy!

Who doesn’t remember getting bundled up in your best winter coat and going downtown to see these magical displays. Most of them filled with Santa, reindeer and toys. Oh, the toys! Winter scenes with Santa, robots, space toys, dolls, and fluffy stuffed dogs and teddy bears.  

Children and adults would clamor to the windows. The children wishing. The adults wondering … “how am I going to afford that toy” LOL

Occasionally there was a window with never moving children waiting for Old St. Nick.  I wonder if he ever came down that chimney 🙂 

In studying Christmas windows I found that in the early mid century some car dealerships dressed up their windows with an Oldsmobile or a Chevy. It might be a bit difficult for Santa to get an automobile down the chimney but, hey. Magic!

Nowadays, it’s hard to find any Christmas windows here in Arizona. However, from what I understand, part of the fun of going to New York City this time of year, is to see these wondrous displays, which are still going strong there.

Here in Tucson, if you want to get in the mood for Christmas you should come in the Midtown Mall. We might not have Christmas windows, but there are wonderful Christmas vignettes around every corner and throughout the building. Merry Christmas!

Christmas At The MERCANTILE Mall

‘Twas a few days before Christmas when all through the mall

Vintage ornaments were waiting

To brighten your hall.

The Santa hats were hung from the rafters with care 

Oh my goodness 

They’re so high!

How’d they get them up there?

I turned every corner

I searched every nook

And Christmas was everywhere

You should come take a look.

Through the end of December

They’re having a sale

On Frosty the Snowman, 

“Noel” for your yard

On ornaments


And trees 

Big and small.

Now as I was leaving

I spied an old sign

A favorite of many,

Certainly mine.

And what did it say?

That happy old sign

It reminded us all

No matter our age … to …

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!”

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MAYNARD DIXON ~ Much More Than A Winter Visitor

I recently found this little old painting of indian ponies.

My little indian ponies painting


It immediately made me think of the famous American artist and long ago Tucson resident, Maynard Dixon.  He spent his winters here.  And he died here.  But he was much more than a winter visitor.  I think whoever painted these ponies might have been inspired by his work. Now I didn’t pay much for my modest little work of art, but a 1941 Arizona painting by Dixon, shown below, and titled, The Coming Storm, sold for $520,000 in 2011.

Maynard Dixon The Coming Storm 1941, Tucson, AZ


Maynard Dixon was born in 1875 in Fresno, California. He grew up in the midst of some interesting characters – his aristocratic Confederate family, mountain men, and vaqueros. He started sketching at the age of seven and at a very young age he sent Frederic Remington two of his sketchbooks. Receiving encouragement from Remington, he decided to become a professional artist. Early on he accepted numerous illustration jobs. He got work from several San Francisco newspapers, etc.

Dixon went to work for the San Francisco Examiner in 1899. His reputation as an illustrator grew and soon he was working as a free lance artist for many publications including Harper’s Weekly, Sunset Magazine, etc.

Soon Dixon decided to find “the real west.” He traveled to New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Here he worked as a wrangler, studied the daily doings of a cowboy, inhaled the stark beauty of the desert southwest, and became sympathetic and wonderfully observant of the lives of native Americans.

This sojourn to the West in 1912 was prompted by a desire to portray the realistic West he knew was there, rather than the mythic West the New York illustrators wanted him to portray. At this point he gave up illustration.

From 1912 on, Dixon was recognized as a painter. Meeting and marrying Dorothea Lange, the famous American photographer, had a great influence on his art. They married in 1920 and by 1925 his style had changed dramatically to even more powerful compositions, with the emphasis on shape and color. A true modernist was born. His low horizons and cloud formations, mysteriously simplified, became his trademark.

Known not only for his composition, his use of our desert colors is unparalleled, as in this New Mexico painting.

Dixon’s second wife was the San Francisco muralist, Edith Hamlin. In 1939, the couple built a summer home in Mount Carmel, Utah near a stand of cottonwood trees. They spent the colder months here in Tucson, where they also had a home and studio. It was here in Tucson that he created some of his most stunning landscapes.
In 1946, Maynard died at his winter home in Tucson. In the spring of 1947, his widow Edith brought his ashes to Mount Carmel where she buried them on a high bluff.



If you are a dealer keep an eye out for works by Dixon. After all, he lived here. He painted here. He died here. Certainly his art is here.

#maynarddixon, #tucsonarizona


CJ Fenn, 2016