Monday, March 4, 2013

Leadhead's Tread: 2013 Baltimore Pen Show

This was the second year Janet and I made the trip to the Baltimore Pen Show. It was quite the whirlwind trip, driving out on Friday and back on Sunday, with a whole lot ‘o fun in between.

We were off early on Friday morning, since a few stops along the way are usually on the agenda. Of course, as with all of our road trips heading east, our first stop was that great Denny’s diner-style restaurant east of Zanesville:

Here's Janet, very pleased with her pancakes!   

Next, we had planned to stop by the Black Rose Antique Mall in Washington, Pennsylvania, but when Janet called to confirm their hours last week she learned that they were closing on February 28 – for good. So instead, we decided to detour ten miles north of Washington to Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, where we rummaged through three antique malls, all within couple miles of each other.

Janet spent eight dollars on a glass bell. As for me – skunked. It wasn’t even that I was being picky because we were on the way to a pen show. There just wasn’t much pen and pencil wise to speak of, unless I wanted to pay fifty bucks for what was left of a Gold Bond pencil (missing the nose cone and accompanied by the matching pen poorly fitted with a red plastic cap with a clip marked "Accurate" for an additional $125).

I did see these nice Eversharp lead displays, but at seventy five bucks apiece, they are still there if anyone wants them:

Back on the road, we found ourselves up to our eyeballs in springtime weather between Morgantown, West Virginia and Cumberland, Maryland:

We stopped for dinner in Hagerstown, since we were going to hit Baltimore during rush hour. By the time we made it to the hotel, it was 7:00 or so in the evening – show trading for the day was over, but that didn’t mean there was nothing to do. Joe Nemecek and I were up into the wee hours repairing some of his pencils, trading a few things and taking some pictures of things he brought along to show. We capped off with a late night cigar and a visit with the scotch-drinkers who were still hanging hanging around.

Saturday was a blur. The day started with a great breakfast buffet that Bert Oser puts on for show participants in one of the hotel’s spectacular rooms:

Since I knew I was only going to be in full attendance at the show on Saturday, I didn’t think it was fair to reserve a table for a whole weekend if Bert had people who wanted the tables for all three days. So I brought stuff with me and asked Bert when I arrived if there were any spaces left, and he had one in the back corner of the first room. Here’s a shot early Saturday morning from my vantage point:

The show was a lot of fun for me, even though I didn’t get to spend much time walking around. Arthur Cox arrived at the show mid-morning with another load of Eagle Pencil Company artifacts and paraphenalia, and we spent some time up in my hotel room doing a photo shoot of the things he brought that were not for sale (as for things that were for sale, you’ll get to read about them soon enough!). Then another fellow – "Andy" was his name -- was sent my way with a collection of pencils for me to look at, and we spent the better part of an hour going through what he had looking at Victorian pencils and a variety of other things he had in tow. I did end up buying a few things from Andy, but mostly we just enjoyed a good chat.

The show day ended all to quickly, and Janet and I went had a great dinner just up the street with Gary and Ann Garner, Rick Krantz and family and Joe Nemecek:

Then, we hustled back for the Baltimore Show’s first auction, run by a few familiar characters:

From left, there’s Lisa Anderson (moving her hands very quickly), Rick Krantz (behind the showcase), Joe Nemecek (getting his game face on) and Alan Hirsch (previewing). Oh yeah, that’s the top of ringmaster Gary Garner’s head sticking out behind Alan.

Once the auction got underway, things sold pretty well:

Several of the lots were unsold carryovers from the Philadelphia auction, but this time nearly everything sold. I do have one comment on the auction: if you aren’t going to preview the items, sit on the aisle so you can see things as they are walked past!  Frequent stops during the auction so people can have private showings really slows things down.

A reading from the second book of Leadhead, Chapter One, verse seventeen. Amen. End of sermon.

After the auction, a little drink, a little socializing, another cigar, and off to bed.

Sunday morning we were treated to another great breakfast, then I had a little more time to take a few pictures and walk around a bit. Here’s the main room:

And the second room:

Janet and I were gone before noon, stopping along the way at the Hancock Antique Mall (where we spent a lot of money, but none of it on pencils or pens) and pulling into our driveway around a quarter after nine. Here’s the weekend’s haul:

and here’s the Eagle Pencil stuff I got from Arthur Cox:

Overall, it was a great show. Great stuff, friendly people, great host (Bert Oser) and a chance to reconnect. As was the case last year, my only concern with the show was with the Tremont Grand Hotel, which doesn’t have the facilities to allow the show to grow any bigger if Bert wants to allow it to do so.

But this year, I had another concern about the Tremont Grand: at least in my experience, the hotel was noticably less nice than it was last year. The bar and restaurant were closed for "renovations," there were broken lights, bathtubs that wouldn’t drain, and a housekeeping staff that was much more in tune with their cell phones than with doing their jobs. I’m told that the hotel was recently sold to Embassy Suites, and according to the articles I found, the transition will occur in May – maybe that explains why none of the staff really seemed to care about anything.

Outside, there were homeless people sleeping just around the corner from the front door and, unless all the young women in Baltimore dress like hookers these days, there must have been a strippers’ convention in the hotel somewhere, too.

But hey – I’d make a weekend trip to see my friends and play with pencils even if I had to stay in a Super 8 and have the show in a high school gymnasium!

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