Back To School – Back Then!

Back in the day, before the first day of school, (which used to be mid-September) your Mom or Dad would take you shopping for new clothes and new shoes.

Shopping at one of those newfangled “shopping malls.”

No self service shoes back then

We loved our lunch boxes

In those days, the clothes, no matter how much they cost, a lot or a little, were quality, finely made, and they lasted until you grew out of them. And this was probably the only time you got new clothes until the next year.
After you were done shopping for clothes you might get treated to a brand new lunch box. Which one should you get? Yogi Bear, Peanuts, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Popeye, Underdog, Huckleberry Hound, Mary Poppins, Hee Haw, Batman, Julia, The Flintstones, or what? There were so many! Why is it so hard to pick?

So many to choose from!

Last, grab a composition book, a pack of pencils and maybe a cool pencil box. That’s all you needed. Everything else was supplied by the school.  Oh, and hopefully your mom will save some paper grocery bags so that you can cover your textbooks with them.

We didn’t have to pay for books but we had to protect them

Today, kids go back to school in the middle of summer and parents receive the school’s annual list of classroom supplies that they must purchase and deliver. It can be three or four pages long and can include, several cleaning products and even a Costco-sized package of toilet paper. It might even include a huge bag of flour! This is in addition to the school supplies for your own child. Masks, a backpack, paper, pens, folders, notebooks, a calligraphy set, fifteen new apps for their tablets, a graphing calculator, a scalpel, an electron microscope and a centrifuge. And clothing? You’ll be buying clothes all year because today’s clothes only last thru maybe a half a dozen laundry cycles. Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? And not to mention the expense. Many parents cannot afford all of these items, hence the school supply drives that pop up this time of year.

And I’m certainly not a snob about how people dress but just check out the difference in the crossing guards then and now.



Hey, to beat those back to school blues come on in to The Mercantile at 4443 E. Speedway, Tucson AZ.  You might find one of those old lunch boxes to help bring back those “back in the day” memories.

Carol Fenn 8-2017

Happy Birthday Tucson!

Today is Tucson’s birthday!! Happy Birthday to The Old Pueblo!

The history of Tucson, Arizona, begins thousands of years ago but officially dates back to August 20, 1775 when Hugo O’Conor establishes the Tucson Presidio. This year marks the official birthdate of the City of Tucson. Tucson becomes part of Mexico when it fights for independence in 1821. After the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, Tucson falls under the jurisdiction of the United States.

Arizona becomes an official territory in 1863. Between 1867 and 1877, Tucson holds the title of territorial capitol. In 1880, the Southern Pacific Railroad reaches Tucson. The population reaches 8,000.

Arizona became the 48th state in the Union in 1912. By 1950 Tucson’s population has reached 120,000 and by 1960 it nearly doubled to 220,000. 

Tucson becomes the 33rd largest U.S. city in 1990 as its population tops 400,000.

So happy birthday to our home. Raise a glass. Bake a cake. Gaze at the sunset. Whatever you do, enjoy this day, Tucson’s birthday!

Carol Fenn 8-2018

Collecting Milk Bottles ~ Tucson and Beyond

The image of the milkman delivering bottles of milk to the front door is forever etched on the mind of most people. But such deliveries are a thing of the past almost everywhere. Perhaps this is why so many have a fondness for milk bottles. These nostalgic bottles vary greatly in style, size, etc. This makes for a fun treasure hunt and if you come into the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Mall at 4443 E. Speedway you just might find a bottle or two.

Before there were milk bottles. San Fernando, CA, circa 1910. This is a truly amazing photo!

Those who have been bitten by the milk bottle collecting bug will find many examples to add to their collection. There is a vast array of different sizes, shapes, and colors. There are related bottles as well, such as those produced to hold cream or cottage cheese.

Some nice examples

The number of different dairies is too many to count. Most collectors specialize. Many focus on a particular dairy, or dairies within a particular geographical area. Such as Tucson, or Arizona. Rumors are that at one time Tucson had over forty active dairies so there are lots of bottles out there waiting to be found! Other than location, some collectors search out only cream-top bottles or bottles with a particular design – such as cows, clover leafs, human faces, or dairy barns.

Rare “A Mountain” bottle

Some rare Arizona bottles. Part of the collection of one of Arizona’s most important collectors.

Cream top

More Tucson examples

Common milk bottles can be found for anywhere from $5 to $25. The prices go up from there. It’s not unusual to see milk bottles with price tags of $50, $100, and a whole lot more.

Rare Flowing Wells bottle

So put on your treasure-huntin’ shoes and get out there and grab some of these fantastic little pieces of history.

A pretty little Sunset Dairy bottle

Carol Fenn 3-2017

On Collecting – 4 and 20 Pie Birds

Pie birds are small ceramic kitchen tools used to vent steam when baking pies. After a dish is lined with pastry, the funnel is placed into the center, the filling is added, and the top crust is molded around the figurine. While baking, the hollow center of the pie bird allows steam to escape the filling and prevents juices from overflowing.

The earliest pie birds were often plain white earthenware objects used to advertise kitchen product manufacturers, with company names, etc.

Taking inspiration from the popular “Sing a Song of Sixpence” nursery rhyme, which mentions “4 and 20 blackbirds, baked in a pie,” ceramic designers eventually moved away from utilitarian and came up with charming new forms.

While most pie birds are “birds,” they can also be almost anything else, but are still called “pie birds.” Elephants, dogs, people, cats, etc. They’ve all taken their turn as a beloved pie bird.


Pie birds are not only useful, but they also make a great collection. And, as any collector will tell you, the fun is in the variety! Pie birds have been made all over the world for many years so there are a lot of them out there. Come on into The Mercantile. The search will be fun and you just might find a pie bird … or two!

Carol Fenn 3-2018

It’s Vintage Pi Day 3-14!

That’s right!  It’s pi day out there in the world.  March 14th. 3-14. 3.14… Here in the mall we call it “Vintage” Pi Day!  I’ll be making a lemon meringue pie with fresh Meyer lemons off my tree. What pie are you going to make? Do you need pie making supplies? Well, we’ve got them here at the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Antique Mall at 4443 E. Speedway. And, of course, these vintage items are much more charming and longer lasting than just about anything you might buy new at a big box store.  

First you’ll need a cookbook … we’ve got ’em

Old measuring cups

Charming measuring spoons


Beautiful vintage rolling pins

A vintage pie plate – with recipe!

So come on in. Get your pie making gear. And get busy on that delicious pie!


Carol Fenn 3-2017

The Garden Sanctuary

Due to the nature of my business, I get invited into a lot of Tucson yards. Often, in those yards, I’ll come across a small garden sanctuary. It can be very small, with just a single statue, or it can be more elaborate with a Madonna, other statuary, running water, plants, flowers, etc.  

No matter their size these sanctuaries always warm my heart. The shrine might be honoring a lost pet, a fellow human, religious devotion or Mother Nature.   

If you want to construct a sanctuary the Midtown Mercantile Mall is a good place to start. We have thousands of items to choose from and some of those items just might fit perfectly into your very own garden sanctuary.   

Come on in to The Mercantile. We’d love to help you get your sanctuary started.

Carol Fenn 5-2018

Make A Fairy Garden For Your Garden Fairy!

Every fairy needs a garden
Of that there is no doubt
But fairies, they’re always busy

Granting wishes and flitting about
Perhaps you’d like to help them

Build a garden where they can stay
Cozy, cute and magical

I hope you’ll find a way
Come in to The Mercantile

And we can help you out
We’ve got the pots

We’ve got the plants

We’ll even show you how.
You’ll walk out of our door

Fairy garden in hand
And when you get home

Just give a little call
Your happy fairy will hear you 

And will know exactly. where. to. land.
– Come to our March Mash-Up!

“Peter Cottontail Hoppin’ Through The Secret Garden”

March 1-4 Thursday – Sunday

We have everything you need to make your very own fairy garden.

Your fairy will thank you!

Carol Fenn 2-2018

Cluck Cluck – Collecting HEN ON NEST Dishes

Due to their variety, collecting hen on nest dishes can be a lot of fun. They are not the absolute easiest collectible to find, but not the hardest either.   

So pretty. Much desired by collectors

For more information …

Carnival glass

Over the last 150 or so years, a wide variety of glass companies have produced about 250 different forms of glass hen covered dishes. These dishes are referred to as an animal dish, hen in a basket, hen on a nest or the rather frugal, hen on nest. Most collectors use this term, “hen on nest.”

Glass hen on nest covered dishes have been made in sizes ranging from less than 2 inches to 8 inches in length. In addition to the variation in size, the type and color of the glass ranges from milk glass, carnival glass, depression glass, pressed glass, Victorian glass, lead crystal, etc.

Ruby flash

Prices vary. Some are less than $20. Most are less than $100. But some of the rare Hen on Nest dishes can sell for a lot of money. In 2009, a Fenton hen on nest with combined yellow, blue and green sold at auction for $2500. It had an estimate of $100-200. 

Sold for $2500

A great collection

In the Midtown Mercantile Mall as of 9-17-2017

We have quite a few hen on nest dishes in the Midtown Mercantile Antique Mall right now. Come on in to 4443 E. Speedway, Tucson AZ and check them out. You can start your own collection!

Carol Fenn 9-2017

The Colorful History of PYREX

In 1915, chemists at Corning Glass Works in Corning, New York, developed a special glass that they branded as “Pyrex.” It could take extreme temperature changes. This made it ideal for scientific experiments, railroad lamps, and, of course, cooking.

Early advertising

It is clean!

Corning’s first line of clear Pyrex ovenware came out in 1915, featuring casseroles, custard cups, a bread pan, pie plates, etc. On this early Pyrex the word “Pyrex” can usually be found on the base. Pyrex was very popular with homemakers who’d previously cooked in metal pans and earthenware. Now they could bake, serve, and store their food in the same attractive dish! Also, as you can see from the old ads, there was a strong emphasis on the fact that, after use, it would get so “clean.”

Collectors today love the colorful Pyrex products that were produced from 1947 until the late 1960s. These new Pyrex products were made out of opal or white glass, sprayed with a bright color, and sometimes printed with an attractive pattern.

A collection

Pyrex just for Tucson?

The original nesting bowls are among the most beloved of the vintage Pyrex. The very first, and most popular set, is the solid “#400 Multicolored Mixing Bowls.” It includes a 4-quart yellow bowl, a 2.5-quart green bowl, a 1.25-quart red bowl, and a half-quart blue bowl.


In 1957, the #300 nesting bowl sets were introduced. These only had the three smaller bowls. In 1967 Pyrex introduced the very popular “New Dot” pattern. These are white glass with three rows of dots in a single color. It is a 3 bowl nesting set, and each bowl had its own dot color: orange, red, and blue. A fourth 4-quart bowl with green dots was introduced in 1969. It is the most valuable of the set.

Cinderella bowls

Cinderella bowls with pouring handles came out in 1958. Casseroles were made in similar colors. Many were offered as promotional items or Christmas specials. Others were a part of huge kitchenware sets, so that homemakers could fill their kitchens with matching Pyrex patterns.

The Jetson’s would love this!

In 1956, 2 quart Jetson-like casseroles on stands (with candle warmers) came out. My mother had something similar to this to go with our Jetson-like kitchen. I wish I had it today. The dish and the kitchen LOL

Some collect by color

There’s a lot more to talk about when it comes to vintage Pyrex. Refrigerator sets, measuring cups, later Pyrex, and all the different patterns, etc. Perhaps we’ll discuss these things later. Stay tuned! … and come on in to the mall. Our merchants usually have some vintage Pyrex!

Carol Fenn 6-2017

Tucson Rodeo Posters!

It’s rodeo time in Tucson!  

In 1925, Frederick Kramer, president of the Arizona Polo Association, created The Tucson Rodeo, known as La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. The event gave visitors a taste of cowboy range work and glamorized Tucson’s Wild West background. It also gave cowboys a chance to win some cash! The first rodeo featured four events—steer wrestling, steer tying, calf roping, and saddle bronc riding. The purse was $6,650. 

The first Tucson Rodeo was held at Kramer Field, now a neighborhood called Catalina Vista, near the U of A. 

Advertising posters are an important part of any event, and Tucson rodeo posters have certainly been an important part of this tradition.  Over the years there have been some spectacular posters inviting folks to come to the rodeo. The tradition continues today. The folks who run the rodeo are still producing some great artwork.  

So, pull on your cowboy boots, dust off your western hat, and get on down to the rodeo, and don’t forget to check out this years poster while you’re there!

Carol Fenn 2-2018