Message from the President March 2016

What Started Us in Carnival Glass?

At most gatherings of carnival glass collectors, the discussion on what got each of us collecting will usually pop up. It’s fun to hear the many stories and the evolution that collectors enjoy as they move forward throughout the hobby and to see where people you may have known for decades got the collecting bug. For most people, it was “that one person” that got them started, be it a relative who had carnival (such as Grandma or Mom), a friend headed to an auction or so many other possibilities. For me, that person was Fred Stone.

When I met Fred just over 25 years ago, it changed my entire world. I had just turned 21, had moved to Topeka after college and didn’t really know anyone, I wasn’t particularly close to my family after a rough childhood and I wasn’t exactly sure what my future held (or even in which direction I wanted it to go). When I met Fred, he had a smile on his face (a pretty common expression for Fred) and he lit up the entire room. He always had a strong shy streak, but once we started a conversation, that all went away immediately. We ended up chatting all night.

Fred owned a computer and had embraced technology as much as any 47 year-old could. While we sat there in his home in Oakland (a section of Topeka, Kansas) chatting, he put on a Martin Denny album for ambiance. He told me about Ann McMorris, and how she and he forged a partnership that was part business and 100% love. Both had been through hard times, but they could endure those hard times together, and their friendship and love spanned more than 50 years. He told me about the times he had fallen in love and how they had ended badly. He told me about his dreams and how he wanted to move to Hawaii, the most beautiful place in the world. He talked about his time in the Pentagon, and he introduced me to carnival glass by handing me a piece (something in the $500 range) and then telling me the value. I immediately thought he was insane. LOL.

Not long after, we started going to auctions (with me still thinking people who spent that much on glass were not the most stable people in the world) and eventually to conventions. I finally met Ann (who remains one of the most amazing people I have experienced in my life), and the three of us started attending carnival things together. At the same time, I had jumped into politics and was working to bring the Internet to some of my candidates for office. I showed Fred websites we were designing, and talked about sending email newsletters to constituents and he said “We should do this for carnival glass.” And Woodsland was born…

Fred had been in the army, but was then a florist with his own flower shop (he did weddings with Ann), and he ran the aquatics facilities (swimming pools) for the city of Topeka. He had a degree in physical education and a masters degree in mathematics. He created a training program for lifeguards that became known nationwide and he would travel to conferences to share his program with other groups around the country.

Only a year or so after we met, Fred’s younger brother, Jerry, died suddenly at his home in Thailand. Fred was devastated. Most of the men in his family (except for his father, who died many years later) died before reaching the age of 45, and he was always afraid he would be the next to go. Many private conversations with him would begin with him saying “I’m probably not going to live much longer.” And then we would laugh because he was being half serious. I always told him that he would live forever (like Ann!) and to not worry about him shirking his duties by leaving the earth at too young an age. Overall, that would keep him positive and moving forward.

Three years ago, though, it got to be a lot tougher for him. He couldn’t move as fast, his arthritis and diabetes started to take a toll and he lived in physical pain daily. Eventually, he started to spiral down and spent most of the past year in the hospital. In mid-January, I visited him in the hospital and we had our final conversation, just over 25 years after the first one.

He said he had no regrets. When he nudged me to build a new life three years ago so that I wouldn’t be alone when he died, it broke his heart (as well as mine), but he said he knew that it was the right thing for me. We shared our love for each other. He apologized that he wouldn’t be there for me anymore, in person anyway, but that he would always be there for me in spirit. He said he wished more than anything that I would be happy, but not to settle for anything less than happiness in this life, an attitude he carried through much of his own, including in his selection of carnival glass to buy and be in our collection.

And then late the next week, he called me and told me goodbye…

Fred always found a way to make you smile, to make you feel good about yourself and life in general, and he only encouraged the best from you. He was funny, he was happy, he had his moments of darkness, but he always overcame them. He was helpful to collectors at conventions and auctions, offering encouragement and advice when it came to buying or selling carnival glass. Fred was the greatest person I’ve had the absolute pleasure of sharing time with on earth, and our quarter of a century together wasn’t nearly enough. I have never loved a person more, and doubt I ever will. God willing, we will one day have the rest of eternity to continue our conversations…

One thing Fred missed the past few years was the ICGA convention. This year, we are celebrating our 50th anniversary, which begins with the convention. We have many special things planned, including an innovative new silent auction (which we are calling the Super Mega Paddle Auction Raffle) that will be a lot of fun for our attendees. Like with the normal silent auction, we ask you bring donations for it that would make for great auction items (that will cause a stir at this one!) We also have a wonderful display room, great seminars and another great Seeck auction for you. This issue of The Pump has more information and registration for the event, so please check it out and make plans to attend today.

No matter whomever got you hooked on carnival glass, you are involved with collecting. In the next three months, I challenge you to become the inspiration behind someone else starting their collection, and bring them to ICGA’s convention. We can all collectively get them hooked…