The Arizona Rough Riders

Rough Riders was the name given to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, a response to the understaffing of the United States Army as a result of the American Civil War. A young Theodore Roosevelt was offered the command of this regiment to fight in the Spanish-American War. While Theodore desperately wanted to be part of the fight he was smart enough to realize that he did not have the necessary experience to command a combat regiment. He deferred command to his friend Col. Leonard Wood, a Medal of Honor winner from the Indian Wars, while he accepted a commission and second-in-command as a Lt. Colonel. 

Rough Riders

Arizona Rough Riders

The regiment’s number was 1200 volunteers. Of those 300 (25%) came from Arizona! The Rough Rider’s ranks included cowboys, indians, socialites, polo players and just average citizens who responded to the nation’s call to arms. The majority of its other members came from Texas, New Mexico and New York. One of the volunteers from Arizona was Bucky O’Neill.

Bucky O’Neill

In the late 1800s, the charismatic Bucky O’Neill, had travelled west to the Arizona territory. He started a newspaper, formed a posse to track down train robbers, became mayor of Prescott, AZ, and was generally full of adventure. During his time as mayor of Prescott, he volunteered to become a Rough Rider. 

Bucky O’Neill was the first to enlist and he put together all of the 300 Rough Riders from Arizona. He then set sail with Teddy Roosevelt to Cuba. Roosevelt wrote endearingly about O’Neill’s character, recounting how O’Neill was the only man to dive into the sea when two black soldiers fell overboard. Shortly afterward, Roosevelt would be devastated when the 38-year-old captain was killed in the battle of San Juan Hill. Upon O’Neill’s young death, Theodore Roosevelt wrote this about him:

Statue of Bucky O’Neill

“The most serious loss that I and the regiment could have suffered befell just before we charged. O’Neill was strolling up and down in front of his men, smoking his cigarette, for he was inveterately addicted to the habit. He had a theory that an officer ought never to take cover—a theory which was, of course, wrong, though in a volunteer organization the officers should certainly expose themselves very fully, simply for the effect on the men; our regimental toast on the transport running, ‘The officers; may the war last until each is killed, wounded, or promoted.’ As O’Neill moved to and fro, his men begged him to lie down, and one of the sergeants said, ‘Captain, a bullet is sure to hit you.’ O’Neill took his cigarette out of his mouth, and blowing out a cloud of smoke laughed and said, ‘Sergeant, the Spanish bullet isn’t made that will kill me.’ A little later he discussed for a moment with one of the regular officers the direction from which the Spanish fire was coming. As he turned on his heel a bullet struck him in the mouth and came out at the back of his head; so that even before he fell his wild and gallant soul had gone out into the darkness.”

If you would like to read more about Bucky O’Neill and the Arizona Rough Riders there is a wonderful book, “The Arizona Rough Riders,” written by a Tucson man, Charles (Charlie) Herner. The book is in your local library and is also available on Amazon. 

Carol Fenn 5-2018


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

~ A French Country Kitchen in Tucson ~

If you come into the Midtown Mercantile Mall right now you might not smell French cooking but you will certainly visualize it. Upstairs in the gazebo you’ll find everything you’ll need to make your own kitchen start speaking with a French accent! Oui oui!  

Upstairs in the gazebo ~ Our French Country Kitchen

You’ll find antique cutting boards, copper molds, bundt pans, heavy copper pots, French decorative plates, serving pieces, rolling pins, madeleine molds, wooden spoons, ironstone bowls, bread molds, beautiful antique olive buckets, vintage cookbooks, etc., etc.  

Madeleine anyone?

Vintage cutting boards

Don’t forget to look up! Check out those copper pots.

Antique copper fish mold

Vintage rolling pins

Once you’ve decorated your kitchen here’s a somewhat simplified recipe for “coq au vin” that you can make in your crockpot. Then, you you can experience the aroma of your own “French country kitchen.”

“Coq au Vin”

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

4 slices bacon, roughly chopped 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil, divided 

1 (12-ounce) package white or baby bella mushrooms, quartered 

2 carrots, chopped 

1 medium yellow onion, chopped 

2 cloves garlic, chopped 

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth 

1 1/2 cup red wine 

2 large sprigs fresh thyme


Arrange chicken on a large sheet of waxed paper. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Lightly coat chicken all over with flour and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden and just crisp, 3 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels and set aside. Discard drippings and wipe out skillet. Melt 2 tablespoons butter (or heat oil, if using) in same skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned all over, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a large plate as done and set aside.
Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter or oil in same skillet. Add mushrooms and cook until edges begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots, onions, garlic and salt and cook until vegetables just begin to soften. Transfer vegetables and broth to crock pot. Arrange chicken on top. Sprinkle bacon over chicken. Add wine and thyme sprigs. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.  Enjoy!

Carol Fenn 2-2017

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