Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sharing a Legacy

The Gardener's stepfather was a master mold maker in the Owens-Illinois Glass Factory in Huntington, West Virginia for over 30 years. Whitey, (his nickname) was responsible for crafting the molds for glassware - his talent was known all across the country. Whenever a mold was needed to be made or refined, Whitey was the person who was asked to create this mold. He created molds for Coca Cola, Avon, and numerous other industries in the 60's and 70's - the heyday of glass manufacturing in this area. If you find or own a piece of glass with the Owens -Illinois logo stamped on the bottom - chances are that Whitey created the mold for that piece of glass.

(If you follow this blog further down until you reach the posting about our anniversary - there is a picture of Whitey, standing just beside my husband in the wedding party. If there ever was a kinder, sweeter man on the face of this earth - Whitey was it.)

There were no exact tools for this trade and Whitey crafted his own - often molding traditional tools into the necessary form that was needed for his craft. Whitey engraved his name on his tools. His tools were kept locked in his toolbox - he shared them with no one. His secrets for his trade were kept only to himself -and later shared with only one person - an apprentice (and later a treasured friend)named Jack O'Dell, that he took under his wing at the plant. Together they crafted the molds for glassware that is now collectible all over this country. Remember all those famous collectible Avon bottles? Whitey crafted the molds for those. Remember the old glass Coke bottles that were turned in for deposit? He crafted those also.

Whitey past away shortly after the Gardener and I were married. With the passing of his mother also, the Gardener was left with the task of settling the estate of his mother and step-father. As is so often the case - there are things that you treasure and want to keep. Whitey's toolbox became a part of my husband's possessions and for several years was simply stored in our garage - just waiting for the perfect time and place to be displayed.

That opportunity presented itself recently when I found an article in a local travel magazine about the West Virginia Museum of American Glass located in Weston, West Virginia. The Gardener phoned the Museum and asked if they would like to have Whitey's tools. The timing was perfect as they were just setting about creating a display of the various tools and molds that were used in the crafting of glass in the 60's and 70's - they were thrilled to accept this donation.
And so the tool box was brought out into the light of day and opened---

The Gardener found Whitey's tool box to be just as he had left it - the day he walked out of the factory. Thirty years of memories just waiting to be shared with others. Pictures of family and friends, priceless links to the past of this gentle and sweet man, immensely talented and so very proud of his craft. And so - we made the trip to Weston to donate this legacy so that it could be shared with others.

The American Glass Museum is dedicated to this region and to the nation's rich glass heritage. It is a place where thousands of glass items can be viewed and where the stories of people and the process of glass making is brought back to life.
Soon - the collection of glass making tools will be created and this toolbox, a true memento of both the times and the trade will be on display for all to see and enjoy. We feel that this is the perfect home for this priceless family treasure - Whitey would be so thrilled and so proud to know that his tools and legacy are being shared with others.

Some pictures of the glass museum and the beautiful glassware on display---

The Museum also houses the National Marble collection - a stunning display of glass marbles. I never knew that marbles could be so beautiful.

This collection of blue depression glass was amazing. As a collector of blue depression glass myself, this display made me green with envy!

My mother was an avid collector of depression era glassware. When she passed away, my sisters and I were left with the task of disposing of all her collections - a daunting task at best. We kept what we could, but you know, you can only keep so much. The rest we sold at auction - and I so regret that now. This Museum would have been the perfect place to house her collections - if I had only known--- The displays here are stunningly beautiful.

Additional information about the American Glass Museum can be obtained by clicking here.

A priceless collection of glass vases. Absolutely beautiful.

They have the largest collection of hens and chickens in the world. Oh my gosh - they were beautiful!

These hens and chickens are housed in the store room - waiting for a place to be displayed!

A stunning collection of glass canes.

I loved this collection of little blue glass geese. (Say that three times fast!)

The Musuem is located at 230 Main Ave in downtown Weston, West Virginia.
It is open to the public 5 days a week:Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday - Noon to 4 PM.
Admission is free.


Anonymous said...

This is just amazing! What a wonderful donation to the museum and a tribute to Dan's stepfather. I only met him once but was touched by his kindness and good nature. I know Dan feels good about the donation. The museum looks beautiful.

Louise said...

Vicki, thank you for sharing such a beautiful story and to tell me about the museum.
What a precious gift the museum received.

Caprice said...

This was a great story! I used to love taking the kids to the glass factory. I could stand there all day and watch. It was just amazing!