I started collecting in 1970 when I found a beat-up BF/NY flared skirt pony in a creek. One more here & there and I had a small collection. Then I had a stroke of luck when my father mentioned his son's weird collection to a coworker, whose daughter also collected insulators. He came over one day and we drove with them to Logansport, IN to visit a retired lineman with dozens of barrels in his barn full of glass & mud. I got a bunch of beehives for $1 each, but the Hawley backward "S" was $2, and a U-188 was $2.50. They turned me on to Crown Jewels and Millholland. I joined the NIA as a kid with my grass cutting $$ just to get a list of fellow collectors.
Back then, we exchanged long lists of insulators by snailmail. Postage was relatively very high, and you had to scan the list quickly and send your check (we sent cash too) as fast as you could to beat other collectors after the same bargain glass as you. I found some of my old lists and showed them at the Springfield National. They are now in the NIA archives as there are not too many seen anymore. But that's the way it was then.
Late in the '70's, insulators kinda lost the sparkle they had early in the decade. Bargains were everywhere, but I was in college, and had to let some of my goodies go cheap just for gas money to get home once in a while.
One great memory was going to Florida on vacation, and visiting some church friends who moved there. We called up Dr. Fred Griffin only to find out he was either moving, or leaving on vacation, or something. He felt bad not being able to visit with us, he gave us directions to an orange grove he owned so we could pick some oranges to take home! He was a very friendly man. I have already written about the Alaska linemen we met who gave me what they were taking down.
Yes, it was difficult to connect back then. Shows were mostly bottle shows where the insulators were tag-alongs. I remember going to the Columbia City show, and one at the Indy fairgrounds, but most of the glass was out of my reach as a kid. After all, spending the astronomical sum of $40 for a mint cobalt -19 was dream fodder, not available in MY reality!
I have grown up (and out) in this hobby. It has taught me well, good and bad. I remember an older couple coming to my house and getting swindled out of several nice pieces for common junk. Yes, it even happened in the good old days! We live and hopefully learn from our mistakes and others' horror stories. I appreciate my ICON "family" and marvel at how far we have come. Who wudda thunk it?
Gene Hawkins, NIA #421
Even Older than the "Grumpy Old Man" ;-)
Written by Gene Hawkins,
Last updated Saturday, September 6, 2003
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