Stories of sorting through George’s stuff after he died.
My dad was a stamp collector who focused on plate blocks (the corner of a sheet, normally four stamps with the serial number on it) and first day covers (an envelope decorated with information about the stamp on the cover as well as being postmarked from the city designated by the USPS and cancelled on the first day of issue). Many old first day covers are available from stamp auction houses which buy collections and then auction them to other collectors. When mom and dad built their house on Garden Court, what would normally have been a bedroom was turned into dad’s stamp room with a nice desk for him to work.
One of my jobs after coming back to Quincy was to go to the post office and buy plate blocks of newly issued stamps. I would help dad put them in albums for him and for my brothers and me. I would occasionally look at his auction catalogs since they also had old baseball cards and other collectible items from people’s estates.
After mom died, dad spent less and less time in that room, and ultimately began getting rid of most of his stamp collection. Neither my brothers nor I had the interest that he did. After dad died, one of my tasks was to go through the ‘stamp room’ and see if there was anything that we would like to keep before turning things over to a local auctioneer. My brothers and Will also checked if there was anything they wanted. Thus begins the story of Tom Tresh.
Growing up as a young boy, I was a New York Yankee baseball fan. This was when only one game per week was on TV. Since CBS owned the Yankees at that time, it seemed like they were always on. They also had some of the marquee players of the early 1960’s, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and more. To this group of perennial World Series Champions was added young Tom Tresh. He took over at shortstop in 1962 for Tony Kubek who had been called to serve in the National Guard. When Kubek returned late in the year, Tresh was moved to left field next to his boyhood idol, Mickey Mantle. Tresh went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award as the Yankees won yet another World Series crown. Unfortunately he was injured in 1967 and his career was brief after that.
In a drawer in dad’s stamp desk was a clear plastic sleeve that held an autographed picture of Tom Tresh. I am a baseball card collector, and I realized there was not going to be a great deal of value in this item, even with the Bucky Dent (yes, another obscure Yankee who came up big once in a championship run) picture behind it. It went onto the auction pile.
As things progressed, my thoughts kept returning to Tom Tresh. My dad had an eye for really cool things. Will is working on a blog about some of the Lincoln memorabilia (postcards/newspapers/mourning badges) that dad got from these auction houses. What was he thinking when he bought the pictures of Tom Tresh or Bucky Dent?
Having been given some of the Lincoln stuff previously by dad, I knew that most of the items had a sales slip behind the item with the lot number and a final sales price. I went back to the sleeve and took the Tresh picture out. That is when I found out what dad was thinking about. There were three more autographed pictures in the sleeve.
The first was a black and white newspaper style picture of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, signed by both. (Red ink was the giveaway that it was legit.) The second item was a picture of the Bobby Thompson playoff homerun from 1951 referred to as “The Shot Heard Round the World” autographed by Thompson. The final item was a nice picture of Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio signed by DiMaggio.
I was excited and elated for several reasons. One, it completely restored my faith in dad’s ability to understand what was good baseball memorabilia. (I never did figure out what he paid for the Tresh autograph, unless it was some sort of throw in.) Two, it gave me some really cool items of Dad’s to share at the funeral home so others might enjoy them. They are currently on the wall near the back door by Parlor C.
As a side note, while most of his stamps and covers were gone, my son Will found a stack of unaddressed first day boxing and physical fitness covers from the 1940’s through the 1960’s that were autographed to ‘Vance’. We were startled to see some names we recognized, names like Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey and Jersey Joe Walcott. Will said one name looked like Muhammad Ali. We were struggling to figure out what and who they all were until Will’s wife, Kristin, turned one over and it had a label with the name Max Schmeling on it. From my interest in sports, I recognize him as being the German heavyweight who fought Joe Lewis right before WWII and was defeated, a demoralizing loss for the Nazis. These likewise were all framed and are hanging at the funeral home in the men’s room.
The decorations at the funeral home are eclectic, representing a bit of each of the former owners. In homage to our resident artist, Theresa Spear, we have a collection of various artist friends’ works as well as some of Theresa’s works. There are old photos of the Hansens and Grandma’s parent’s marriage certificate in German. Their confirmation picture and confirmation certificates are framed, since both Grandma and Grandpa Hansen were in the same grade school class at St James (St Jacobi back then). The sports themes are from both George and Jeff’s collections.
I am so fortunate in many ways. I had a father who collected things of interest which we are able to share with people who visit our funeral home. I had a mother who not only tolerated but encouraged his interests. And I have a place, the Hansen-Spear Funeral Home building, which is a great showcase for some beautiful and historical pieces. If you ever want to just stop and see some of these things, come on by. And look forward to Will’s blog, coming soon, discussing some of the Lincoln memorabilia that George collected.