Collecting Bottles From Brothels
In her early days, Iris Fischle collected coins and stamps just like the other kids.
My, times have certainly changed.
Now, the 78-year-old Anaheim native collects miniature liquor bottles advertising notorious brothels.
“I call them cathouse bottles,” she said.
She is quick to point out, however, that while each of her estimated 1,000 bottles has a map on the back showing where the bordello is located, “I didn’t go there. I buy the bottles from businesses that sell them, like liquor stores in Reno.”
She said collecting the bottles is a social outlet with other collectors, but she tells the story about the first little bottle she bought that advertised the Moonlight Ranch in Nevada.
“I had a nephew tell me, ‘Oh, Iris, I was there, but don’t tell my mother,’ ” she said. “I never did, and I didn’t ask any more details.”
She said her late husband tolerated her penchant for collecting the liquor bottles that show women in various stages of undress.
“When I brought them home, he would just shake his head,” said Fischle, who has loaned part of her collection for an exhibit at the Anaheim Museum.
“Except for one,” she said, which “they thought was too risque.”
Fischle also owns thousands upon thousands of swizzle sticks--and that’s after the recent sale of 7,000 of her collected swizzle sticks.
“I was paying some bills and at the same time I got a good offer for the sticks, so I sold them,” said the Anaheim High School graduate who belongs to the 600-member International Assn. of Swizzle Stick Collectors. “Besides, I had duplicates of most of them.”
The sticks of varying shapes and colors are hung as decorations on the walls of a hall in her home.
Later this year, she will visit Puerto Rico to search for swizzle sticks and watch turtles lay their eggs.
“This is the good time to see the turtles,” said the well-traveled grandmother, who plans to attend a swizzle-stick convention in Las Vegas on Monday.
While some of the swizzle sticks are sent to her by friends, many came to her the natural way.
“Those are the ones that were in drinks I paid for,” said the one-time Orange Coast College student who is enrolled in a continuing education learning-experience class at Cal State Fullerton.
She said that collecting swizzle sticks puts her in contact with some interesting people, “but besides that, it’s something different and cheap to buy . . . if you have to.”
Many times, good finds turn up at garage sales.
“It’s the hunt that counts. If you find something no one else has, then it’s special,” she explained. Liquor bottle and swizzle-stick collecting are just part of the active life of the woman who also has “busy hands.”
She knits, crochets, embroiders, makes rugs and recently created a clock wall decoration from used apple juice cans.
“When I went to football games, I would knit,” said Fischle, a widowed mother of four daughters who have given her seven grandchildren. “I have to have something going all the time.”
And that also means participating in the Jim Beam Club, whose members collect bottles from that liquor-maker.
While all of her cathouse bottles are full, most of the Beam bottles are empty. “Not that I emptied them all, but I helped,” she said, smiling.
When she finds time, Fischle also likes to collect retractable measuring tapes. She has 60 of them.
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