Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

September 18, 2011

Want a treasure that’s hard to measure, take a Penney tour

— Sorry, Charlie, I just had to laugh. It was the AM&A’s box that made me do it. Your collection had hundreds of curious items worth saving, but an AM&A’s box! Come  on. I’ve had dozens in my basement that I’ve been trying to secret out to the garbage for 35 years, but my bride assured me that they would be worth something — some day.

Saturday was the day. The box was priced at $1, the cheapest thing at the Charles Rand Penney Collection, Exposition and Sale at the Kenan Center.

A year or so ago, I talked to Penney for hours but never met him. During the course of our conversations, I hinted for an invitation to his secret hiding place in the Bewley Building, but he never took the bait, or never bit. I hoped to meet the man who was so friendly on the telephone and who had stuff from all over the world.

What on earth did he have? Everything from Mr. Peanut to hotel hangers, I was told. There were one-of-a-kind things of beauty and everyday items. I had to see for myself.

This weekend, the Kenan Center has the classiest flea market/garage sale ever. Whatever you get, it’s sure to be a conversation piece. Even the AM&A’s box brought back memories of my mom’s Thursday shopping excursions in downtown  Buffalo. She would take me in through the Washington Street door and take me out on Main Street. This 6-year-old was lost, but mom knew her way around and through department stores.

We could look up at the Rand Building on Lafayette Square. The Rand was reportedly the model for the Empire State Building and is the “Rand” in Charles Rand Penney. There may have been the a good reason for Charlie to save the box.

Penney saved lots of things, some precious because of the memories and some precious because they are precious.

I looked twice at the gold plaques, souvenirs of St. Basil’s in Moscow. Built in 1555, the Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat was the tallest structure in Moscow.

The plaques made me regret I never went into the unique Byzantine building outside the Kremlin walls when I was in Moscow in 1972 for hockey games. I must have walked by it 20 times and didn’t learn until later that the old church was a museum. I went back to the table for another look and the price tag — $90.

Most of the items were out of my price range, but there was a match book for $2. Funny, I have a collection of matchbooks, saved in a cigar box. They were all free and had advertisements. Sometimes I’ll use a pack and it brings back memories. When was I there? What was I doing?

I wonder what made Charlie make that book part of his collection?

I have a money clip engraved “998” with a big, old silver dollar in the middle. Mom won it while shopping in Sattlers on 998 Broadway. I’m sure it’s worth more to me than any collector. I have a key chain from the first Toronto Blue Jays game at the SkyDome in 1989. I took dad and my son to Toronto. It’s a priceless memory.

At the Kenan Arena, I invested in a World’s Colombian Expo Mug ($6) and a pretty 1976 roll-up calendar ($6). I can drink Colombian coffee from the mug and 1976 was the year I was married. Those were my reasons.

I wonder what made them special to Charles Rand Penney.

Contact reporter Bill Wolcott

at 439-9222, ext. 6246.

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