A Written History of Cactus
Today, Cactus as well as Cactus 3, (and formerly Cactus 2), are beloved by all as a haven where like-minded individuals can gather ‘round spinning tales of yore over a frozen margarita. But few know the actual history of this indelible landmark. In this article, we will go through the ups and downs of the Cactus empire, as well as dole out a few fun facts you might not have known before.
1910-1913: Samuel Irving Kaktüslieben 3 is born unto mother Mary Eliza Kaktüslieben née Dünkel and father Samuel Irving Kaktüslieben 2 on December 26th, 1910 in a small Vienna town called Crëmersbraümen. The family emigrates to seek a better life in the Americas, settling in what they believe to be the capital of the whole country: New Jersey. They make their living as roadside hucksters, selling a frozen concoction made of tequila and lime juice that they claim cures syphilis.
1914-1918: War breaks out! Samuel Kaktüslieben 2 enlists to fight against his motherland and “Americanizes” the Kaktüslieben name to “Cactus” in order to avoid the anti-German sentiment of the time. He is wounded on the battlefield and would have succumbed to death from dehydration had he not had a vial of his famous elixir on hand. The tequila-lime juice hybrid proves to be popular amongst the other soldiers who often drink it before charging into battle.
1918-1919: Samuel Cactus 2 returns home to his family and immediately opens shop to sell his miracle elixir which he now dubs a “Margarita,” named for Martin Garita, the man who saved his life in battle. By this time, Samuel Cactus 3 has dropped out of primary school in order to help his father sell the drink. He even serves as the unofficial mascot for the store: “Sammy Cactus.” While a modest success at first, the business fully blossoms after opening a second shop five feet from the original. Soon, every New Jersey resident is spending their evenings at the various Cactus establishments. Things are finally looking up for the Cactus clan.
1920-1933: Due to prohibition in the United States as well as the Great Depression, Samuel Cactus is forced to close up both of his shops. The family, now destitute, travels west to seek greater fortune. Along the way, the family spends a week with another wagon train, that of the Sportscolümn family, who have also recently fallen upon hard times. The two families share stories over the fire as well as their dreams of opening up a place where people of all ages can come together and enjoy a drink. The family never makes it all the way to California and decides to settle in the midwest when both their horses get bitten by a snake, fall ill, and drown. The state they settle in…Iowa.
1933-1941: Prohibition is over! And Sam Cactus 2, with the help of his now adult son Sam Cactus 3, are running the most swingin’est jazz club in town: Cactus & Sons. Hep cats from all walks of life come to their family’s club to listen to the music of the day and gulp down a margarita or two. Sam Cactus 3 dreams of one day owning three restaurants simultaneously, ideally in close proximity to one another, and pursues a degree in business at the University of Iowa, which at the time doubled as a brothel. It is there that Sam learns how to make the perfect salsa – he waters it down.
1941-1945: War breaks out! Again! Sam Cactus 3 enlists in the 1st Infantry Division to fight the land of his ancestors, leaving the restaurant temporarily closed. It is on the Western front where he sees some of the most gruesome sights. All the while, he sends letters home to his sweetheart, Joanna Cremers, promising to marry her the second he gets home.
1945-1949: Sam Cactus returns home and marries Joanna Cremers. The two have eight children together before Joanna’s death in 1947. Despite tremendous grief and the burden of raising eight children alone, Sam re-opens the family restaurant under a new name: Cactus. In 1948, Sam Cactus begins an unsuccessful run for governor. His campaign is ruined when he is called upon by the House of Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted as a communist. From this point forward, the Cactus name will never be the same.
1950-1962: Sam Cactus, now penniless, is forced to sell his children to survive. One child ends up having a career in Hollywood, but that’s a story for another time. Desperately looking for work, Sam is forced to take a job for the Sportscolümn family, making sure the floors of their club are only 25% sticky. Sam Cactus fails at this and many other jobs and winds up in a flophouse where he spends the remainder of his life until his incredibly timely death in 1962.
1998: A long lost relative, Nathaniel Cremers, discovers his relation to Sam Cactus and makes it his life’s mission to restore the family’s name. He begins plans on two restaurants that will be run simultaneously, an homage to the late Samuel Cactus 2’s business model.
2011-present: Cactus 1 & 2 become the talk of the town. Every great Iowan has set foot in a Cactus, from Jarren “Spuds” Lucas to the honorable James T. Geerdes. Things are going so well that Cremers opens up a risky 3rd Cactus. This risk pays off as Cactus 3 is awarded the coveted “Best Cactus” trophy from the board of restaurants. Construction begins fall of 2020 on a Cactus theme park which is to be opened in late 2023. Now, when anyone thinks of the name “Cactus” they think “family.”