I recently came into the possession of my grandmother’s bar stirrer collection. Last week, while I was painting a bar cart that I inherited from my mother (picture later in this post), I finally had a chance to dust them off and see exactly what was there. My grandmother, Adelaida Guerra (who I named my oldest daughter after), was a Cuban/Spanish American born in 1921 in Tampa at the Bigelow-Helms House at the end of Bayshore Boulevard. It used to be called Bayside Hospital. She and her twin sister, Juanita, were the first set of twins born there. Her family owned the Arango y Arango cigar factory in Ybor City on 19th Street and 2nd Avenue. We have all sorts of crazy family history…good and bad, including conspiracy and murder! We seem to find out more each time someone goes digging through family keepsakes and newspaper articles on the internet. I’m super sentimental, and I love the family history.
Anyway, my grandmother LOVED to travel, play cards, and she loved to drink too. Classic vodka martinis. For as long as I can remember, she had a massive collection of bar stirrers (there are over 200 left) that she collected locally and from her travels around the world. My parents just got rid of a custom built bar they have had for years and passed this collection on to me. It would be junk to most people, but not me. My husband thought I was crazy as I was sorting and dusting each one off individually…then placing them into categories based on location. As far as Tampa goes, there are stirrers from The Columbia, Las Novedades, the Derby Club, the Tampa Club, a LOT of stirrers from some place called Rubin’s Spanish Restaurant (any native Tampans remember this place? I found an old photo of the dining room in the USF library’s resources, but I don’t know where it was located), the Don CeSar and Fisherman’s Wharf. That place was a family favorite for us during the summers spent at my grandmother’s and her sister’s houses on Indian Rocks Beach (yes, the twins bought beach houses right next door to each other). That restaurant is long gone now. There are also some fun ones from other places in Florida, like Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and the Poodle Room at the Fountainebleau in Miami Beach. We lived down south for a couple of years when I was a baby, so I am sure my grandmother had a few cocktails there! There are of course multiples of each stirrer! There are even some from old airlines that don’t exist anymore…PanAm, TWA and Piedmont. And the Playboy Club too!
I found out that this collection is probably worth a little bit of money (people are selling antique bar stirrers on EBay of course!), but I would never part with it.
All of this organizing started when I finished painting a bar cart that my mother “gave” me and said I could paint any way I like. But she says she wants it back eventually. Is that her way of getting a free paint job on her bar cart?! 🙂 I love to paint furniture but don’t get to do it very often, so this was fun. Here it is beneath a portrait I did a while back of Abby our cat. I used a dark raw umber, red oxide, which looks like burnt orange, and a pale aqua to create concentric rectangles on each level. You know I love perfect shapes!
So Grammie’s collection now has a new home on my custom painted bar cart.