2011 Wound Down and So Did I
It seemed that as the year wound down I did as well and I am more than a little happy that a brand new year will start in less than a week. One might ask why the turning of a page on a calendar would make any difference. Good question and the answer is that most of the things that ate up my time are on a cycle concerning my “day job”. The other reasons varied from health to having more ambition than energy.
My duties at the Conservation Authority are concentrated around looking after the rental properties which range from farm land to rental dwellings and cottage lots surrounding two lakes. This sets the number of tenants at around the 1,000 mark. Looking after the problems of the tenants and issues connected with these tenancies takes up a great deal of time and I am the only one out “in the field” to carry out what must be done. The Director of our section, a young fellow and all around great guy, was blindsided just after he accepted his position. In typical government fashion they have decided to cut back on costs by not replacing those who leave and he inherited two extra divisions. Of course this downloaded more work on the little people (of which I am a member). The stress on him was too great and now he has accepted a position with another government body.
The new “victim” will be hired in the early months of 2012.
In preparation for retirement, in two to three years, I decided to start running my cabinet shop as I did years ago with profitable intentions. A rare thing happened. Usually my good intentions end up producing little. This time the workload kept me going steady until the week before Christmas. Needless to say I am going to cut back on the work I take in. I like the extra cash and my collection likes it even more. To be completely honest, with a full-time position and a sideline business, that took on a life of its own, I managed to add a good deal of material to the collection but most items were unpacked when they arrived, and after an inspection, were simply filed away in drawers.
Also, in preparation for retirement, I decided that I wanted a larger room for my collection that was something more than simply a warehouse so I started the renovation of three rooms. This involved renovating one for a study, one a storage room and the other a work room. The study is for my collection and a place to go and read what the family refers to as my boring manuscripts. I wanted all of the furniture to match so I built all new cabinets to store the collection. I’ll feature the new study on the main section of the forum early in 2012. The storage room, as well as serving as a pantry, holds my geological collection which is in several steel cabinets comprising of rows of drawers. The work room is to carry on with such activities as stained glass, finishing small cabinets and a photographic area with proper lighting. I am still putting the finishing touches on the storage and work rooms.
One of the events of 2011 that didn’t take as much time as energy was my victory in the second battle with cancer. I hold no unrealistic expectations of actually winning the war against my old foe as it has stalked the members of my family for generations. It certainly gives me more respect for a massive heart attack in a few years. I would consider that to be golden bullet compared with the loss of the war to the big “C”. One must always look to the bright side and hope for the best. He he.
So that was my 2011 in a “nut shell”. I doubt that 2012 will bring any more spare time but with cutting back in the shop it should leave me with time to spend on the GMIC, which is my home away from home. One should always remember that, like money, time is something that you will seldom find, if you need more you have to make it.
Thanks to all who have suffered through this and other blogs I’ve penned, I will do my best to bore you throughout next year. I apologize if now I’ve made you hesitant to turn that next page on the calendar. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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B. Wolfe's discussions on collecting.
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2011 Wound Down and So Did I
Ghost of Collecting Past – A Christmas Carol?
In case you were expecting a story based on a Dickensian Novel I fear that I must disappoint you straight away. This becomes self-evident within the first sentence, yet somehow I was not dissuaded.
The alarm clock/radio went off well before dawn as usual but today my ears were assaulted by a Christmas carol butchered by one of the new generation of so-called talented artists. Silent Night was never meant to be converted and offered up in Rap format. Silent Night, as someone should point out to this Neanderthal, is about the birth of the Messiah and has nothing to do with the crucifixion, by the way the song was presented this morning could only lead one to surmise this was the intent. There are few today capable of offering up the great Christmas songs of the past in the manner of Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and numerous others. The only group to successfully make it in the Christmas song market since the King was also the only group to best the British Invasion group known as the Beatles leaving them as a distant second best. This group (I know you have guessed it) was the Chipmunks. Like so many super stars their “candle burned out long before the legend ever did”, I’ll bet you never knew that Sir Elton John actually wrote the song about the passing of the Chipmunks. My research into this point may be a sketchy, my kingdom for a citation! As a short history, Theodore was the first to pass away due to heart failure brought on, it is speculated, by morbid obesity. Theodore was next and it is rumoured he took his own life after a long battle with mental illness and neurosis. Alvin lived to the ripe old age of four then went to join his fellow performers in whatever place is reserved for musicians. Lucky for the public that chipmunks are easy to train, much like the actors portraying James Bond over the years, (where, oh where have ye gone Sean, we need you so badly), and several new crops of rodents have been raised to star in movies and television specials over the past number of years. So now that the Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) is firmly planted in your subconscious I’ll get to the point of this submission.
While pondering Christmas past I thought about something that comes up from time to time on the forum and often when fellow collectors congregate. Was it better to collect in the past than it is today?
Not having all of the data at my fingertips I decided to take an example from two different categories, one, a collectable and the other, a week’s grocery bill. In 1962 you could purchase a Japanese NCO sword (WWII) for $34.00. A week’s groceries during the same time period, for a family of four, would set you back around $18.00. Considering the shipping cost of the sword we’ll say the sword cost the equivalent of two weeks groceries. Today it would run you about $120.00 for a week’s groceries and the sword would take a slice out of your bank account to the tune of $450.00 to $500.00. If the same today held true as it did in 1962 the sword should be priced at $240.00. In my opinion a WWII Japanese NCO sword is only worth $240.00, however, you can bet your great aunt’s moustache that if and when I sell my Japanese sword collection it will be at or near market value and who could blame me.
Collecting needs to be financed out of one’s disposable cash and not, of course, from the household account. This being the case and if you figure in all that we “just have to have” in today’s world and all that our children just “can’t live without” then true disposable cash becomes as rare as a duck that can walk backwards (no they really can’t).
Before I started writing I had already made up my mind that this little exercise would produce results that would encourage today’s young collectors. Instead it has resulted in me wondering why I continue to collect.
True it is a supply and demand equation as the demand for collectables is growing and the supply is finite. Please, let’s not bring the Chinese counterfeiting of the Japanese NCO sword into this as I am speaking now of any and all real collectables. It is also easier for the older collectors who have their homes paid for and their families grown up and (booted) out on their own. We now have that disposable income but who wants to spend a great deal more than an item is worth just to possess it? Oh, wait, I think I’ve just stumbled onto the definition of “collector.”
Parenting tip: When your kids leave home fill their room with anything, a new office, television/entertainment room, a study, anything...just fill it! I even considered concrete for a while, but I decided on a new study instead, but that’s for another blog offering. Now I really must find that bottle of brandy and drink until I can no longer hear,...Alvin wants a hula hoop... ALVIN!!!! Get out of my head!
Because I Say So.
We hear a lot about provenance here on the forum and more so on television in conjunction with antiques shows. Provenance, being the history of an object proving its authenticity, its pedigree so-to speak. So often we see photos alongside medals that we are told belonged to the subject in the photo but is “because I say so” really provenance? It would, of course, be impolite to suggest that a fellow member who was claiming, in this case the photo and medals belonged together, was taking a good deal of liberty in assuming that we should simply take his or her word as gospel.
Of course when a photo and a group of medals have been in that person’s family and handed down from generation to generation it would seem to imply authenticity. However, I have in my collection a couple of very clear photographs of military men to which I have added the corresponding group. If these were to be passed down for a couple of generations the authenticity of the photos and the medals would not change. That is to say, the passage of time is not necessarily an indication of provenance just because they had always remained within one family. Most certainly if the soldier in the photo were wearing those very medals and especially if there were some corresponding damage to the medals reflected in the photo we would assuredly be “sold”.
Speaking of being “sold”, the whole issue of provenance becomes rather critical if one were about to slap down a good deal of gold doubloons on the barrel head in order to procure a highly desirable group of medals. This makes “because I say so” provenance worth about half of what a share of Nortel presently brings. So, keep this in mind as I finally get around to the real story of this episode of News from the Home Office.
My wife and I were returning from a trip to Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada and a visit to the Billy Bishop Museum which is situated there in his home town. We had taken one of the many secondary roads south which winds through scenic farm lands and stunning vistas. We came upon a sign advertising a flea market ahead. The market was in what at first looked to be a farmer’s field and comprised of fifty of sixty vendors. When we pull into the grassed parking area we could see that this was in fact a rural municipality’s sports field with a picnic pavilion and refreshment stand which was open. In case you are not familiar with what a picnic pavilion is, think of a barn with no sides, just a roof and a concrete pad as a floor. The refreshment stand is self explanatory and I am sure we have all seen them and even purchased their questionable food that makes one both wonder where the health inspector was when they opened for business and if we do eat the food will be discover whether the old saying “that which does not kill us makes us stronger” with be proven true later in the day. After inhaling a couple of hot dogs, speaking of tempting the fates of intestinal disorder, and a half warm Pepsi we toured the vendors’ tables. There is not usually much to be had at these sorts of fairs, sometimes a few small badges or military buttons. Most of the dealers had no interest in such matters and probably wondered if the buttons marked “US” had a corresponding button worn by the enemy stamped “THEM”. Sorry, bad joke, consider it punishment for having read this far. One of the dealers was an elderly lady with an array of the usual two dozen salt and pepper shakers, most of which had suffered the loss of their soul mates and were now facing the world alone, as well as old glass ware that had seen better days and were probably salvaged from someone’s trash. However among the coffee cups sporting semi-humorous pictures and captions and chipped tea cups I spotted a framed document. The glass was grungy from years of neglect but the document was in good shape. It was for the 1937 Coronation of George VI and had been presented to The Reverend Canon W.M.H. Quartermaine and would have been awarded along with the Coronation Medal. What a great little find, and the only one of the day. The lady didn’t want a lot for it as she had no interest in it and informed me that she had purchased it along with several other framed pictures and dishware at an estate sale she had attended earlier that summer.
She then said that she had something else that she wanted me to have to go with the document. Upon producing a battered sugar bowl with lid I was sure this gray haired old sweetheart was about to con me into purchasing the very sugar bowl used to store disembodied spirits by Prime Minister Mackenzie King (look it up). She removed the lid and tipped the bowl and out slid the medal itself. It was still in very good condition along with the ribbon and a pin which was used to affix it to the good Reverend’s jacket. Apparently the medal had been packed in the sugar bowl in some news paper and she had discovered it when she had remover the paper. There was no sales pitch she simply wanted me to have the medal and to show me where it had been stored.
Now in my collection reside the document and the very medal worn by The Reverend Canon W.M.H. Quartermaine. As to the provenance, of course it is genuine. Upon what do I base this opinion concerning the provenance? Well...it’s...”because I say so”.
I was born in a place in the Northern part of Ontario that no longer exists as a name place, Fort William. No, it was not razed to the ground during the French and Indian Wars, I'm not THAT old. Fort William was amalgamated with its sister city, Port Athur, to become the City of Thunder Bay.You will find this city on the map at the north western tip of Lake Superior. I grew up in a small town in south western Ontario and presently live in an even small in Central Ontario. I would not mind one more move in my life possibly closer to Ottawa as the terrain is more like that of my birth place, which I am told looks much like the Scottish Highlands, please do not imagine me in a kilt. However, I fear the next move I shall make will only put me six feet closer to sea level.
The small town I grew up in underwent an urban renewal movement a number of years ago spurred on, I believe, by the threat of a large shopping mall being proposed just beyond the outskirts (you're still thinking kilts aren't you) of the county line. We've seen downtown cores of both cities and towns become ghost towns in the past because of the allure of these mammoth shopping Mecca's so the threat was not unfounded.
The first building to fall under the blade of the bulldozer was the town's library. This demolition had been contested because, as the conservationists argued, this was a Carnegie Museum. The protest was withdrawn when it was pointed out that Carnegie was not an architectural style but had been a fund set up by the Carnegie Foundation for the construction of libraries throughout the United States and Canada. In fact the architecture of the whole town is what is known as Ontario Vernacular, a polite way to say, "hodge podge". The new library turned out to be a very nice modern facility that was well designed to serve the community now and well into the future.
The next building, and right across the street, that was slated for the wrecking ball was the town hall and its surrounding neighbourhoods in order to make way for a new downtown shopping mall with the municipal offices on the second floor. The old town hall was truly Ontario Vernacular in the strictest sense. A conglomeration of additions built on through the years, the quality of which depended upon the economy of the times. It sported the letters TH within a rectangle which were constructed of white bricks set into the red brick of the original building. TH, of course, stood for Town Hall; oh God, shoot me now, it all looked quite amateurish and...well..."vernacular".
In the front of the town hall sat the cenotaph, which is the focus of this report, and you thought I would NEVER get to the point. The cenotaph was not the spectacular structures seen in many cities. It was rather plain, a basic obelisk with the dates and names of the wars for which this monument represented as well as for those from the community who had served and those who had fallen in those wars. It lacked any such embellishments as seen in large cities. There were no statues of unimaginative inspiration such as those copying Michelangelo's Pietà (1498 - 1499) so common in these monuments, nor even polished marble. Just a plain pale gray obelisk.
The proposed plan was to remove the cenotaph and relocate it to a designated park well outside of the downtown core, there to be the focus of the Remembrance Day ceremonies and, no doubt, the hand of every vandal and half-witted would-be graffiti artist with a can of spray paint for miles around.
This is the gensis of the protest that started over the relocation of the cenotaph. It started with a petition bearing the names of a few WWI and WWII veterans then more people came forward, then more and more. Doctors, lawyers, grocers, labourers, men women and school children put their pens to paper in support. What had started as a modest effort engulfed the whole community and the outlying areas for miles around. The protest had begun. Unlike today, no one pitched their tents on municipal property, no cars were overturned or put to the torch. It was not necessary to call out the constabulary in their riot gear, which in those days amounted to a bull horn used to advise people to remain calm and orderly. The very thoughts of that, in those days, would have been...what can I say...unthinkable. No it was quiet and dignified and an attribute to the vetrans who fought so that we might petition government without feeling the need to resort to senseless violence.
The night of the council meeting held to discuss the fate of the cenotaph arrived and the council chambers had never seen such a turn out. Someone jokingly remarked that the last time there were so many people at a council meeting was the time they tried to pass a By-law to licence cats. However, the story of that horrendous protest is for another time. The gray haired old ladies (God bless them all) of the , now infamous, Cat Crusades were joined by citizens of all ages and from all walks of life. They filled the council chambers, the hallway and out onto the steps of the town hall and even into the street itself.
Two years later when the confusion that seems to rein supreme over large building projects and the dust of construction had settled, there in front of the new modern downtown mall stood a simple , unadorned, plain light gray obelisk. The same obelisk that had served to remind us of the scarifice our community's sons and daughters had made so that we might live in peace and have a say in how our government was run. I think those who gave their all would have been proud to have known that their sacrifice assured that the voice of the people can and will be heard without the neet to resort to violence.
So tomorrow, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, if you can't join me at a cenotaph please turn off your cell phones, minimize the computer screen and take two minutes to reflect in silence on what others have done and given up for you as will, I know, the people in that small town.
This morning I attempted to launch my blog "News From the Home Office" and somehow after a good deal of work I hit the entry function and it was lost. This ticked me off to no end and I must say I took it out on a couple of my good friends and some bidders on eBay. I still have my friends and two new items for my collection, too bad I was angry as they really cost me, but so be it, let the low bidders hang their heads in shame.
The title I have chosen works on a couple of levels, I hope. First the blog is sent from my office at home and the Home Office in the UK deals with diplomacy, espionage and police matters, all of which interests me.
I will attempt to keep the entries topical but be warned that, unlike the regular posts, this area may see a lot of opinon and conjecture.
So, lets see if I have this figured out or will I have to beat someone else up on an interenet auction this evening?