V. Memories of the first TGMS Show.
That first show was held in Helen Keeling School with seven dealers [sic] including my mother. The school was obliging and helpful to the mineral dealers and made a bit of money for itself by providing a snack bar and hearty meals during the show weekend.
The regulations of those early shows were nothing like the strict criteria for the Main Tucson Show today. The dealer next to my mother was named Tanya and she designed and sold jewelry, not even gemstone jewelry, but metal and enamel jewelry. Tanya, beautiful and sophisticated, was also very kind to the unworldly 12-year-old in the next booth. She talked to me of fashion and travel during the empty hours of the show. [Note: No other record of a dealer by that name survives, but in those early days, no detailed records were kept! B.J.]
The show was held at the Pima County Fairgrounds for many years and eventually moved to the Convention Center. The early shows at the Fairgrounds were the best times ... small enough to retain an informal family atmosphere. Mineral dealers from around the country gathered and exchanged news, bought and traded minerals, and played outrageous practical jokes on one another. My mother, who had a sharp tongue and was a shrewd businesswoman, was often the target of their pranks. Fortunately, she had a fine sense of humor, but that didn't always save the perpetrators from her wrath!
Bob Roots, a popular dealer, used to park his camper at our house each year. He would sleep in his truck and take his meals with us. Bob was a favorite of my sister and me. He brought us small exotic gifts every year. Because our house was in downtown Tucson, on the slopes of A Mountain, and because my mother was well liked despite being such a tartar, each evening after the show closed many of the other dealers and collectors like Ed McDole would gather in our living room and swap stories. I was allowed to sit on the sidelines and listen! (McDole was a particularly spell-binding storyteller!)
The dealers were a diverse group. There were some unconventional and eccentric characters--independent free spirits with a touch of the Bohemian. Others were academic, scholarly types. The one characteristic they all shared was their passion for minerals. My favorite memories of the Tucson Show are of those evenings after closing, listening to dealers and collectors sharing their joy and delight in doing what they loved. My mother sold her rock shop when she was 81. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show never lost its luster to her. She attended her last show at the age of 92!"
[Note: The special fellowship and camaraderie of the entire hobby, as well as the pranks, were clearly evident in the early days of the Show. While competition was keen it sometimes took a back seat to the kinship dealers and collectors felt for each other during the shows. This often took the form of practical jokes dealers played on each other, probably in part to relieve the tension of trying to make a living selling rocks and partly as an expression of the friendly spirit that existed within the rockhound community. The following recollections by Diane Rutledge Bain reveal this very clearly. B.J.]
In the 1950s, lapidary slabs with "life-like" images became very popular. Dealers and collectors tried to have at least one outstanding life-like slab. People would brag about seeing so-and-so's waterfall or church, or whatever, in the patterns of the stone.
My mother acquired an agate slab showing the image of a gray tabby cat that was quite remarkable. At the Tucson Show that year, in an unofficial newsletter that was passed around to the dealers each day, there was a notice that read, "Anyone who hasn't seen Ann Rutledge's pussy can do so after the show tonight.--has already had the opportunity, he even held it in his hand, and he claims it is quite exquisite." Mother never found out who had inserted that notice but she was livid!
Another fine pastime at the Show was for a dealer to lure another dealer into purchasing a fake of some kind. At that point the deception would be revealed and the dealer who had failed to spot the fake would be laughingly heaped with scorn.
Clayton Gibson and Dan Caudle were always available to set up lights for the dealers. There was a fussy dealer who always complained about the lighting and just about everything else. One year, another dealer came in after Show hours and changed the cranky dealer's light bulbs to lower wattage bulbs. The lights looked as though they were working fine, but the display was rather dismal.
One year, when the Show was held at the Pima County Fairgrounds, the restrooms were closed on set-up day and temporary ones were in use. Claude Motel switched the signs, resulting in a male dealer entering the women's toilet. Mrs. Murchison was in there at the time!
Lloyd Harris, a collector and a friend of my mother's, had one of the largest Japanese stibnite specimens I have ever seen. A woman who collected stibnite wanted to buy it, but Lloyd told her it was not for sale. My father, sensing some fun to be had, later told the woman that Lloyd said he would be willing to "trade" for the stibnite if she would agree to meet Lloyd after the Show. The collector readily agreed to these terms--Lloyd was an attractive man! My father then had to confess to her that he had made it up as a joke.
Claude Motel dedicated much of his time at the Tucson show to pranks he played on my mother's booth. Sign switching was always popular. For example, Claude liked to put the "Grab Bag--$2.00" sign on mother's fine mineral display each year. Putting out his business cards in place of mother's was also routine. Dealers looked down on tailgating at the time and one year mother found a huge "Tailgate Area" sign on her booth. The possibilities for sign mischief were almost endless!
At one show, mother had a wonderful calcite and smoky quartz specimen from Cumberland, England for sale. A collector from Palo Alto was interested. Another dealer, as a joke, said that mother could reattach crystals better than anyone, absolutely undetectably. The specimen had not been glued, but the collector failed to buy it; the damage was done. This became a good tale that spread quickly, with people taking sides and having a great time. Nevertheless, the thwarting of a sale was serious business. The dealer who made the comment had not intended the consequences, since he felt mother's reputation would prevent anyone from taking his comment seriously. However, collectors were always ready to be suspicious of dealers.
Although the dealers, as I recall, were not a hard-drinking crowd in general, there was a teetotal dealer from the Midwest who some of the other dealers would always try to get tipsy. He always carried a thermos of some herbal concoction, so dealers would slip alcohol into it when he wasn't looking. The concoction apparently masked the taste pretty well. The dealers claimed the man was more likable when he had had a few. I don't know if he ever discovered the tampering.
A final note from Diane: "Looking over these recollections, they seem a bit sophomoric nowadays. Still, they were sweet times and I miss them."
[Note: While we extol the wonders of the desert in winter and the abundance of minerals here in Tucson, perhaps the fellowship and the heart-warming happenings at those early shows are really why the TGMS Show grew exponentially early on. Unfortunately, much of that neighborly and friendly feeling has been lost in the vastness that has become "The Tucson Experience" today. It is hoped that this text will bring back to readers some of those early warm memories. B.J.]
Richard A. Bideaux
My recollections of participation in the first TGMS Show in 1955 are few but vivid. A little context to begin: My interest in mineral collecting started in 1948 while I was still in high school. By 1950 I had won first prize in the high school division in mineral competition at the Arizona State Fair in Phoenix. And by 1954 I had swept four first prizes in their adult competition. So, I was well prepared to enter a competitive exhibit in the first TGMS Show, which I also won.
Additionally, with Jon Browne, a friend from the College of Mines, we signed up for a table to sell some of our vanadinite which we had collected from the Old Yuma mine outside Tucson. As I recall, the table cost us $15 and we sold $15 worth of specimens! Our selling table was just a card table placed at the end of the much longer wooden tables that Bob Roots covered with specimens.
They say you only remember the ones that got away. My other memory of that first show is that there was a crowd of potential buyers in front of Bob Roots' tables as he was setting out his specimens for sale. From the other side of the room, through an opening in the crowd, I saw Bob put on the table a specimen of a characteristic sky-blue color. I knew it must be a rare cabinet-sized leadhillite specimen from Tiger, Arizona. I drifted over in that direction, but just before I could grasp the piece myself, a hand reached out from the side and took up the specimen. The hand belonged to Dan Caudle, and he didn't put the piece back down. Nor did I ever find an equivalent piece for my collection.
[Note: Richard Bideaux was instrumental in bringing the Tucson Ring Meteorite to the Show in 1972. Following is his account of how that was accomplished. B.J.]
When I asked for the Tucson Ring meteorite to be sent out for display at the Show, the Secretary of the Smithsonian eventually called me to try to talk me out of it. I knew Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater had singlehandedly gotten the Smithsonian budget through Congress that year, so I mentioned that we might well ask Senator Goldwater if we could use military air transport to carry the meteorite to Davis Monthan Airbase in Tucson. Actually I had no intention of doing that, and did not so. But he then said, "Oh! You know Senator Goldwater--etc." So, that clinched the deal.
After he agreed to send the Ring, I joked with him that I might suggest to the Tucson Zoological Society that they request the loan of the Smithsonian's stuffed elephant (knowing the roof had been taken off the building to get the elephant in!)--no comment from him!
When Bob Jones asked me to write about my memories from the first Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, I realized how much information I had forgotten. My friends Larry Meyer, Burton Miller and I belonged to the Amphitheater High School Science Club. On occasion, the school took weekend trips to abandoned mining localities such as Helvetia, Silver Hill and other mines in the Empire Mountains. (Can you imagine a school accepting responsibility for this type of field trip in this day and age?)
Larry mentioned that his neighbor, Dan Caudle, belonged to a club called the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society. He said this group discussed minerals, localities and collecting. They met in the Old Main building on the University of Arizona campus on the first Monday of the month at 7:00 p.m. (Or was it 7:30?)
After going to a number of meetings, we decided to join the Society. It was exciting and rewarding. It was really handy to have the meetings in the Old Main building since before and after the meetings we would run upstairs and get lost in the mineral and mining book section of the library.
There was some discussion about a mineral show that would be coming up in February at the Helen Keeling grade school on Glenn Street. Wow! I lived just six blocks away! So, we all decided to put in separate exhibits showing off our self-collected minerals. It was nice to be a junior exhibitor and be able to set up our cases at the same time as the dealers were setting up their booths.
At that first show in late March I remember seeing wonderful wulfenite and vanadinite from Los Lamentos, Mexico and from the Glove mine in Arizona, along with an exciting array of other specimens from Mexico and the Southwest. This was thrilling to me, since I had never seen such beautiful minerals in such abundance--and for sale! But what teenager in 1955 had $7.50 available to purchase a great Erupcion mine wulfenite?
On Saturday morning, my parents and I again went to the Show. I decided to look at all of the exhibits, including mine, to see which cases had won ribbons. I saw Dick Bideaux had won a first place red ribbon. [Note: In those days adult first place ribbons were red. B.J.] When I walked by my case, there was a first place blue ribbon for the best junior case! Well, that was just a wonderful moment in a young boy's life. All of the effort and fun of collecting wulfenite, aurichalcite, platternite and other minerals had paid off!
Several days later, the Tucson Daily Citizen published a small article about the Show and the ribbon winners, mentioning my name. Needless to say, I was hooked. And here it is, fifty years later, and I'm still hooked on minerals!
Diane Bain was 12 years old when the first TGMS Show was held in 1955. She was there because her mother, Ann Rutledge, was one of a handful of dealers doing the show. Diane currently works in the Arizona Department of Mineral Resources. The following is excerpted from her notes on that first show. Her accounts differ slightly from others, as would be expected after some 50 years.
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|Title Annotation:||50-Year History of the Tucson Show|
|Author:||Bain, Diane Rutledge|
|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
|Previous Article:||IV. 1955 rules of competition.|
|Next Article:||VI. Tucson Show "firsts".|