Saguaro Kitsch

Submitted by Michael Ely September 16th, 2010
Certifikitsch WinnerClassique d Camembert
First some facts about saguaros: The giant cactus tree often associated with the West grows only in the Sonoran Desert here in Arizona and Mexico. It does not grow naturally anywhere else in the world. Saguaros grow very slow (they can take 40 years to grow ten feet) and when fullly grown, a saguaro can stand 20 to 30 feet tall, weigh up to several tons and live to be two hundred years old.
Saguaros have always played a part in Arizona kitsch. In fact, everywhere you look, you will see examples of this from advertising signs to souvenir shot glasses. Just a few examples I have around the house: vintage salt and pepper shakers, a vintage candy dish, a vintage souvenir plate, a vintage coffee can, a vintage coffee cup, a drain stopper, a cornbread pan, an old vase, a vintage lamp shade, an old decanter bottle and on and on, but my favorite piece of saguaro kitsch is the saguaro cowboy car antenna topper (a rubber saguaro man wearing sunglasses and dressed in a cowboy hat and scarf). This particular antenna topper used to be readily found in tourist stores here in town, but in more recent times they have become difficult to find (so it is possible that they are no longer being manufactured and only old stock is left). No matter, I have an extra one (still in the package with pink sunglasses) just for you, Allee. Ya just gotta have a saguaro cowboy car antenna topper somewhere in your wonderful museum!
Last but not least, my partner and I compose soundscapes and this is our track dedicated to the majestic saguaro and the scenic beauty of Arizona –

12 Responses to “Saguaro Kitsch”

  1. Allee Willis

    I love you putting the cactus reference shot first, giving context for your fabulous collection, especially given that you live in the land of fabulous cactuses. All your pieces are great but hands-down my favorite is the fourth photo of the little cactus man standing defiantly atop his cactus pad.

    I love the knotted handle on the coffee cup

    Extraordinary is the shot of the little cactus in the kitchen drain. Is that a little tile?

    Cactus cake pan or whatever one calls a pan that lets you pop out little baked cakes of cactus is thematically essential to have in your particular kitchen.

    Cactus vase is really really good. How tall is it?

    Lampshade is gorgeous. Do you know what year it’s from?

    Is the lumpy thing with ‘Arizona’ written on the gold base and crazy looking cowboy on the donkey with the pointy rabbit earred head a liquor bottle?

    Antenna cactus!!


    • Michael Ely

      Thank you for the lovely award! That makes my day!

      The cactus on the drain stopper is made of painted metal.

      The cactus vase stands 5 1/2 inches tall.

      Not sure exactly how old the lamp shade is, but I’m guessing it’s from the 60’s. It is hand-painted and signed by the artist. I found it 16 years ago in an antique store which was going out of business.

      Yes, the lumpy thing (a mountain or a butte of some kind) is a liquor bottle. I believe it is a Jim Beam whiskey decanter. There are several old Jim Beam Arizona decanters, but I’ve never been able to find this one on ebay or in a search, so I’m not sure of the year.

  2. Mark Milligan

    I love this, and you obviously put some time into the entire post!

    It reminded me of the first time I went to Tucson, and the people I was with asked me how to pronounce saguaro. I’d only seen it in print and said sa-gwar-o of course.

    The back road through Florence from Phoenix to Tucson is my favorite road for seeing these fantastic creatures.