The Tucson Rodeo ~ No Moonshine Allowed!

The Tucson Rodeo will be here soon.  I thought it would be fun to look at the history of this local institution.

The very first Tucson Rodeo was held in 1925 during the era of Prohibition. Tucson was a pretty wild, hard drinkin’ cowboy town, so a force of federal officials made the decision to “clean up” the city prior to the rodeo. They captured 25 stills, and an estimated 3000 gallons of moonshine was destroyed. Yep, moonshine in Tucson!

No more moonshine for you or your horse!

In 1925, a Mr. Leighton Kramer and the Arizona Polo Association created La Fiesta de los Vaqueros and the Tucson Mid-Winter Rodeo and Parade. The event would give visitors a taste of cowboy range work and glamorize Tucson’s Wild West notoriety. Without the Wild West drinking of course!   

1920’s rodeo

Fun fact: Prizes at the 1925 Rodeo Parade included a 750-lb. block of ice, 100 lbs. of potatoes and a “Big Cactus” ham.

1920’s “ice man” … Where would you like your ice lady?

Tourists, cowboys and cowgirls, and local high society members all enjoyed the very first Tucson Rodeo. 

And thousands of spectators crowded the downtown parade route.

Tucson rodeo parade


The first Tucson Rodeo was held at Kramer Field, (yes, that Mr. Kramer!), now a neighborhood called Catalina Vista, east of Campbell Boulevard between Grant and Elm Streets. 

After a few years the rodeo was moved to the abandoned municipal airport field at South 6th Avenue and Irvington Road. 

Vintage Tucson Rodeo poster

The rodeo has evolved to where the prizes are bigger and the crowds are bigger. 

 Cowgirls compete in barrel racing and you’ll usually see a pretty girl galloping around with an American flag.  

Sometimes the cowboys win.

Sometimes the cowboys lose.

Sometimes you are witness to kindness between creatures. At the rodeo you see it all!

The 2017 Tucson Rodeo is February 18-26 at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, 4823 S. 6th Ave. 

So get out your vintage cowboy boots. Your vintage janglin’ spurs. Your cowboy hats, shirts and belts and enjoy the rodeo!

Carol Fenn 1-2017

The Joy of Collecting ~ Pink!

Have you ever known someone who collected a color? Maybe it was that kind of wacky, but sweet neighbor who collected anything purple. Maybe she even had a purple toilet! Maybe it was your grandma who collected blue bottles, blue dishes and little blue salt and pepper shakers. Or maybe it was someone who collects pink!  If there is a color to collect, pink is probably the most popular. It’s so cheery. So sweet. And it includes pink elephants!

Pink elephant matchbook cover

There’s pink Pyrex and other assorted serving pieces.

Pink Pyrex

Pink kitchen utensils can make it more fun in the kitchen.

… and speaking of pink kitchens!  Check these out!

During the holidays you can get out your pink Christmas trees and ornaments.

Pink aluminum Christmas tree

 If you’re really lucky you might find some pink furniture.  

And don’t forget the fancier stuff like antique pink lustreware and depression glass.

Antique pink lustreware

Pink depression glass

And of course those adorable pink elephants. They are somewhat elusive, but they can be found.

Vintage pink elephant collection

Pink elephant barware circa 1940’s

It’s really fun to collect a color. You can go into the antique mall and usually find something to add to your collection.  I’ll bet there’s something there right now!  

Carol Fenn 1-2017

Tucson’s Folk Artist ~ Salvador Corona

For a few years there was a venue in downtown Tucson called The Maker House inside of the Bates Mansion. The Maker House venue is long gone, but I was fortunate enough to attend an event there and got a chance to enjoy the many architectural elements of the building. For example, the ceilings are spectacular with mounding like I’ve never seen. And then there is the mural by Salvador Corona.  

Mural – Bates Mansion – downtown Tucson

Salvador Corona, in his early years in Mexico, was a bullfighter. After being gored by a bull, and with encouragement from a colleague, he turning to painting.


He depicted 17th and 18th century colonial Mexico based on stories he heard while growing up in the Mexican state of Chihuahua; stylized landscapes; scenes of Tucson; etc.

In 1939, at the request of the Mexican government, he traveled to New York City’s World’s Fair to represent Mexico.

Bed detail

His painted furniture attracted the attention of many wealthy American patrons, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Commissions followed.

After getting a commission to paint the rotunda in The Manning house in downtown Tucson he came to live in Tucson, wife and daughters in tow, in about 1950. He died in 1990. His studio and residence was located at 1701 East Speedway Boulevard, and then 902 North 4th Avenue. 

He was, for many years, one of Tucson’s leading artists. His folk art paintings of Colonial Mexico can still be found in some Tucson homes and businesses. He is also well known for his smaller-than-a-mural objects. Boxes, trays, frames, beds, screens, etc. 

 While in Tucson his work was sold exclusively through Frank Patania Thunderbird shops located next to the Fox Theatre and in the Josias Joesler designed Broadway Village. 

There have been two major exhibitions of his work: in 1989 at the Arizona Historical Society and in 2010 at the Arizona State Museum.

Today, his works can sell for a pretty penny, so keep an eye out for his distinctive style.


Carol Fenn, 1-2017

TUCSON’S “Festival of Lights” in WINTERHAVEN

Most of us who live in Tucson have enjoyed the Festival of Lights in the magical Winterhaven neighborhood. But did you ever wonder how it all began?

 In 1949 Mr. C. B. Richards created a cooperative water company and a modern residential development *north* of what was then Tucson. He named it Winterhaven. That’s right. The Winterhaven neighborhood not only has the Festival of Lights for two weeks every December, but it also has it’s own water company. This is why most of the homes have green lawns, as opposed to the usual Tucson desert landscaping. The residents are required to use the water that is supplied to them at a relatively inexpensive rate to keep their lawns lush.  

Mr. Richards was inspired to create the Festival after visiting a similar display in Beverly Hills, California in the 1930s. He purchased the first set of Christmas lights in 1949 and donated them to the neighborhoods. He purchased the now very tall Aleppo pines from a local nursery that was going out of business. They were planted at regular intervals throughout the neighborhood and electrical connections were hooked up near each tree for the Christmas lights.

So, this year, when you join the other 60,000 visitors to walk, bike, or drive through this sparkly, wonderfully enchanting, Christmas neighborhood, perhaps you’ll think of Mr. C.B. Richards and his wonderful light filled vision.

“A Spot of Beauty” – Rose Cabat

A couple of years ago when the Tucson Museum of art had a major exhibition of her work, I was lucky enough to meet Rose Cabat. I’ve always thought it was so interesting that this famous 4th. Avenue ceramicist was so well known by collectors all over the world, but here in Tucson I meet people all the time who do not know of her, or her work.  

Rose working in her studio

Rose Cabat (June 27, 1914 – January 25, 2015) was an American studio ceramicist who was best known for her innovative glazes on small porcelain pots that she called “feelies.” These are often in the shape of onions and figs.   Rose continued making pottery even at the age of 100.  She was the oldest living, actively working, ceramicist in America. She lived in Tucson.

After WWII Rose made crafty ceramics such as wind bells, animal figurines, etc. to help support the family. Meanwhile, her husband Erni worked in Tucson as a graphic artist and in advertising. They became friends with local artists, and helped to start the Art Center, the forerunner of the Tucson Museum of Art. 

Rose and Erni Cabat, mid twentieth century



In 1956, Rose and Erni took a pottery glazing class at the University of Hawaii. Thus began the development of glaze formulas which were later applied to those “feelie” forms that become Rose Cabat’s most famous works. In about 1960, she hit upon the basic form of the vessel which would become the foundation of the “feelies.” She created a pot with a delicate closed neck, which could not even hold a single slender flower stem. She said,

 “A vase can hold weeds or flowers, but can’t it just be a spot of beauty?”

By 1966, Rose Cabat was beginning to be recognized as a craft artist, with an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Tucson Art Museum loaned one of Rose Cabat’s blue-green feelies to the mansion of the Vice President, Walter Mondale, to be displayed in his living room along with other works of art.

 Now about those “feelies.” Yes, they do have a different “feel” than any other pottery. They have been described as sensual with an unforgettable texture. The silky satiny glaze has even been called almost spiritual. If you ever get the opportunity to hold one you will see what I mean.  

As the Antiques Roadshow appraiser, David Rago has said, “While some modern studio pottery is intellectual or even angst-ridden, the work of Rose Cabat … expresses pure joy in its design and decoration.”

Cabat pieces on display at an American Art pottery show and sale

I have been lucky enough to own a piece by Rose Cabat. It came from the estate of Berta Wright, another mid to late twentieth century Tucson resident who also made many contributions to the mid century modern movement. It’s also hard to find people who know who she was. Ah, Tucson. So many interesting people have called you home. 

Carol Fenn 1-2017

The Joy of Collecting – Lady Head Vases

If you see a single lady head vase you might think, oh that’s cute. But once they are put together into a collection they look wonderful! And, what fun it can be to find them. One here. One there. One at an estate sale, a yard sale, or your friendly aunt gave you hers. Or you go in an antique mall, search space by space and you find three of them! Oh how the ladies at home will love their new friends!

The terms “head vase,” or “lady head vase,” refer to a style of vase popularized during the forties and fifties. Originally, head vases were produced by florist companies to hold small bouquets of flowers.  

Early American head vase manufacturers include Betty Lou Nichols, Ceramic Arts Studio, and Dorothy Copley. Betty Lou Nichols opened her first ceramics studio in 1945. Nichols’ highly desirable vases often are ladies with intricately curled hair and fancy fabric ruffles along with pouting lips and three dimensional eyelashes.

Betty Lou Nichols head vase

Head vase subjects range from Disney characters to exotic foreign females to the Virgin Mary. Many of the most collectible head vases are of famous figures like Lucille Ball and Jackie Kennedy.

Lucille Ball

Jackie Kennedy

After WWII they were produced in Japan by the likes of Enesco, Lefton, Napco, and Ucagco. These imports were generally much cheaper to make and of a lesser quality but they are still very cute today.

If you want to add to your knowledge there are some nice books on the subject.

By the seventies head vase manufacturing ceased so now the only way to add to your collection is to go out and search for them. One at a time. Here and there.  The Midtown MM Mall is a good place to start building your collection. Come on in. I walked around the other day and saw quite a few lady head vases that you can add to your collection.  

Carol Fenn 1-2017

Tucson’s Josias Joesler and That Joesler Blue

“Joesler Village” “That estate sale was in a Joesler house.” “Joesler blue” … These are some of the things you will hear if you live in Tucson. But what does it all mean?

Josias Joesler was born in 1895 in Zurich. His architectural legacy would eventually come to articulate the romantic revival Tucson style of the first half of the 20th century. 

Josias and Natividad Joesler

He was educated in Germany and France, he lived in Spain, Cuba, Los Angeles. He married his wife Natividad and the two moved to Tucson in 1927.  Soon he became very busy designing commercial and residential buildings with his signature style. 

Broadway Village

A very prolific architect, his buildings, commercial and residential, feature traditional southwestern hand crafted decorative motifs. Some of these include hand applied plaster, open brick work, hand hewn beams, colored concrete floors and decorative iron and tin work. Often the instant you walk into a Joesler house you will recognize it as such. If you walk in and instead of seeing a living room wall in front of you, you see a big plate glass window looking into the back yard, a good guess would be, “Joesler.” He embraced the idea of open spaces and being able to see out into nature.  And the accent color on many of the doors, woodwork around windows, etc. is in a beautiful soft blue.

His major surviving commercial architectural buildings are spread throughout Tucson. There are a few on Fourth Avenue.  A good example is the Broadway Village Shopping center on the corner of Country Club and Broadway. Other major commercial buildings include Saint Philips Church at Campbell and River Road, St. Michaels Episcopal Church at 5th and Wilmot, the Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch, and the original old Ghost Ranch Lodge on Miracle Mile.

Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch


Many of his residential buildings are in the Catalina Foothills Estates and in the Historic Blennman-Elm Neighborhood and there is a string of his homes on Country Club just south of Broadway.

And that “Joesler blue?” … some might call it cornflower blue, but since Josias Joesler used it as an accent on so many of his projects, if you live in Tucson you call it Joesler blue!

Carol Fenn