Let’s Go To The Drive In!

Back in the day this was one of the best parts of childhood. Dusk is approaching. The whole family gets piled into the Ford Galaxy, Chevy pickup, etc. and off you go. As you approach the theater you see the bigger-than-you-can-possibly-imagine neon sign of a cowboy on a bucking bronco. After paying by the carload you drive into the huge dirt lot with little hills and speakers on stands. After parking on one of those little hills it’s important to check the speaker immediately cuz you need to be sure that it works. Yep, it does! Now the kids are off to the skeezy snack bar for some popcorn and soda. It’s getting darker. Once everybody is situated in the car the movie comes on. Heaven.

A beautiful early drive in

The skeezy snack bar

Arizona got off to a late start in the outdoor drive in business. At the end of the 1940’s, there were only five drive ins operating in the entire state. But by the late 1950’s, during their heyday, there were about 50. Since that time, the number of operating drive-ins in the state has steadily declined. 



There isn’t a lot of information about the old drive in theaters in Tucson. I suppose we’d need to ask a movie-loving Tucson native if we wanted all of the info. But as far as I can tell the names of the drive ins here in the Old Pueblo were: The Apache, The Fiesta, The Prince, The 22nd Street Drive-in, The Midway, The Rodeo, and The Cactus, also known as The De-Anza. 

The Sunland, Calif. drive in my family went to

There is a group of people here in Tucson who are doing their best to get a drive in re-established. Let’s hope they do. Just leave out the skeezy snack bar!

Carol Fenn 6-2017

Mythological GRIFFINS In The Mall!

So I went in the Midtown MM Antique mall at 4443 E Speedway and look at what I found! The owners just brought it in today and I have to say it is one of the most beautiful pieces of antique furniture I’ve ever seen. 

Antique tiger oak buffet

This antique buffet is much more than just a buffet. It features exceptional tiger oak. It’s perfectly made. It’s in excellent condition. And holding up the two front corners are a pair of marvelously hand carved griffins.


The griffin is a fascinating mythical creature whose roots reach from western Europe to the Eastern edges of India. In any mythology, he is portrayed as a mix between an eagle and a lion. He is a kingly mythical creature who commands deep respect.  Griffin mythology reads a lot like dragon mythology in that griffins were thought to be very wise and wily characters who spent a good deal of time seeking out and guarding gold and treasures.   

Fireplace fender – detail

Some historians have guessed at a possible origin of griffin mythology: There have been several fossil findings of the pentaceratops – a dinosaur from the Cretaceous period – that were located near known gold veins. These findings may have been influential in the ancient belief in griffins. The pentaceratops had a beaked face with a four-legged body. Anyone digging for gold in an area with these bones would find a creature whose bones looked very much like what one would imagine a griffin’s bones to look like. From there, it’s not hard to figure out why people would imagine a griffin looking as it does and being known for digging for and hoarding gold.

Griffin bookends

Finally, the buffet was sold by Captain William Gadsby of Portland, Oregon. Mr. Gadsby was of English birth and lineage. He was born January 18, 1859, in Birmingham, England, where the family name has long been associated with mercantile enterprises. He joined the British army. He was stationed in Ireland and India and eventually settled in Oregon where he went into the furniture business, becoming quite revered in the Portland community.

The beautiful advertisements for this circa 1900 Portland furniture business have an obvious arts and crafts influence, which was popular at the time.

So come on into the mall and check out this stunning piece of furniture. It is a sight to see.

Griffin statuary


Carol Fenn 6-2017

Snowcones – A “Cool” History Dating Back To 1850

Prior to the 1850s, there were no snowcones. Imagine that! But, it is believed that they had their birth around this time in Baltimore, Maryland. Thanks to the industrial revolution, ice had become commercially available. (Prior to this if you wanted ice it had to be cut off of a frozen river or lake – not great for eating – yuck). Ice houses in New York sold man-made ice to the southern states. To get it there they would send a big horse-drawn wagon with a huge block of ice south. 

Ice wagon

The route to Florida would pass right through Baltimore where kids would run up to the wagon and ask for a small scraping of ice. Before long, mothers started to make flavoring in anticipation of their children receiving some ice. The first flavor the women made is still a Baltimore favorite: egg custard. Egg custard was an easy flavor to make as the only ingredients were eggs, vanilla, and sugar. In Baltimore today, a favorite is some ice with a dollop of marshmallow syrup on top. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Ice related collectibles

By the 1870s, snowcones had evolved to where they were being sold on street corners. At this time they were known as snowballs.  

The snowball’s popularity had risen to the degree that in the warm summer months, theaters would sell snowballs to keep their patrons cool. Because of this association with the theater, snowballs were soon thought of as an upper-class commodity. Signs in theaters instructing patrons to finish their snowballs before coming in for the second act are the earliest tangible evidence of these cool treats. In the theaters in Baltimore during this time hand shavers were used to shave the ice. 

Over the years we have found many ways to make crushed or shaved ice with many different tools. Shavers, crushers, etc!  

Mid century modern ice crusher

In Hawaii they have big vintage shaved ice machines made out of cast iron. Their shaved ices tend to be flavored with local fruits like pineapple, coconut, and guava.  

Hawaiian shaved ice machine

Most of the smaller tools are collectible today and they can, of course, still be used to make a snowcone. Fire up the vintage ice crusher and pull out the marshmallow syrup! Who’s ready for a snowcone!

If you didn’t have this, your friend did!

In the Midtown mall we’ve been known to serve snowcones. We hope to have them again in the near future. Now you can not only enjoy this cool treat, but you know it’s history as well!

Carol Fenn 6-2017

That Wild Wild Car in the Midtown Mall!

In 1995 there was a short lived series on TV called, “Legend.” It has been said, if “The Wild, Wild West” and “Maverick” had a child, it would have been “Legend.” The science fiction western, set in 1876, was based on Ernest Pratt and his adventures as “Legend.” 

The car and the stars

This smart, funny, and exciting show only lasted for 11 episodes but there are legions of fans who still love the show, discuss it on social media, watch it on DVD, and wish it would come back.


Richard Dean Anderson stars as Ernest Pratt, a gambling, hard-drinking writer who has created a dashing literary hero, Nicodemus Legend. Legend is the main character in a wild series of dime novels set in the dangerous untamed West. Pratt has created Legend in his own image, and all the novels are written in the first person. Because of this, many of his 1870s readers believe that Ernest Pratt is indeed Nicodemus Legend. The irony is that while Pratt himself is something of a lost soul, he has created in Legend a romantic hero who embodies all the optimism and creative spirit of America in the 1870s.

Legend’s vehicle in the Midtown Mall

Legend’s sidekick, Bartok, creates steampunk-like inventions that spring from his visionary mind. All of these inventions are fascinating and many are well ahead of their time. Legend’s audience was treated to such creations as the first All-Terrain Vehicle, which Bartok has named the “Bartok Steam-Powered Town and Country Quadrovelocipede.”

You can’t get more steampunk than this!

 … And guess what? That vehicle, the exact one used in the series is right here in the Midtown Mall! And it’s for sale for only $11,000.  How exciting to be able to see, and have the chance to buy, this beloved piece of television history! It’s made to look like a steam powered vehicle but it’s actually built on a Volkswagen engine. It has an automatic transmission and power brakes. The wooden wheels were made by the Amish in Pennsylvania. And, guess what else? The series was filmed right here in Tucson.

Amish-made wheels

So come on in and check out this great one-of-a-kind automobile. We’ll see you in the mall! 4443 E. Speedway, Tucson, AZ

Carol Fenn 6-2017

~Fiesta Red ~ Radioactive? Orange?

Homer Laughlin’s vintage Fiesta red dinnerware? Is it really radioactive? And is it really red? I’ll answer the second question first. Collectors of early Fiesta know that Fiesta Red (some call it radioactive red) is not really red. Not “fire engine” red or “barn” red. Nope. It’s orange/red. With the emphasis on the orange. Why it was called red instead of orange is something of a mystery.  

Yes, this is red

And this is red!

And this is orange

“Fiesta red” – looks more orange than red, right?

As to it being radioactive, on March 16, 2011, the Homer Laughlin Company posted this statement on its website, in response to a Good Morning America broadcast about radioactivity in the home:

“Included in the Good Morning America report was a product that has not been sold in the market for nearly 40 years, Antique/Vintage Fiesta dinnerware. The anchor narrating the segment passes a radiation measuring tool over several products including the Antique/Vintage Fiesta plate that was produced nearly 70 years ago. The narrator also stated that it was taken off the market because when people heard about the uranium in the glaze, they did not want to buy the product. In fact, The Homer Laughlin China Company stopped manufacturing all Fiestaware in 1972 because of low sales. The product that was used within the segment has been discontinued and has not been available for close to 40 years time. Fiesta today is frequently tested by federally licensed independent laboratories and is lead free, microwave/dishwasher safe, oven proof and made in the USA. . . .
Prior to World War II, it was common practice for manufacturers of ceramic dinnerware to use uranium oxide in color glazes. The Homer Laughlin China Company was no exception, using this material in the original “Fiesta Red” glaze, among others.
In 1943, the U.S. Government stopped all civilian use of uranium oxide because available supplies were needed for the war effort. Homer Laughlin stopped producing the red glaze color at that time and for that reason. Nonetheless, this interruption in production is believed to be the source of the rumor that Fiesta’s red glaze was removed from the market because it was radioactive. In truth, the red glaze emitted far less radiation than some other consumer products. Following the lifting of wartime restrictions, Homer Laughlin again began producing the red glaze in the 1950s, using a depleted grade of uranium oxide.
Homer Laughlin stopped all use of depleted uranium oxide in 1972 and it is not used in Fiesta Dinnerware which is produced today.”

The general recommendation today is to enjoy displaying your Fiesta red but don’t eat off of it and don’t put it under your pillow 🙂

Carol Fenn 6-2017