a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rare housecleaning adventure turns up odd ashtray collection

By Scott Beveridge

Regulars who pop into this blog probably don’t need to be reminded it has a collection of stories about weird places and things.

Take, for example, the one about a strange fascination people have with Stephen Foster’s slave’s big toe on a statue outside the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. And there are story here, too, about a strange-looking lamb with three hind legs that supposedly was born on a farm near Taos, N.M., and a Pittsburgh bar that sees a need to stock four toilet paper dispensers in the commode stall in its men’s room.

This post would not be complete without mentioning a story that touches on an artist who makes keychains featuring severed Barbie doll limbs, and sells them in recycled cigarette vending machines.

However, I stopped short of writing here about the freaky woman who was wearing a big hair black wig, parts of which were styled into a beard and mustache for her appearance at a Pittsburgh craft show.

But folks who don’t know me have no clue, until now, that I also collect odd things, including ashtrays, the smaller the better.  I have nearly 30 of them, even though a cigarette hasn’t touched my lips since 1980, when I kicked a three-pack-a-day habit.

I started to purchase them at flea markets in the 1980s when I was dirt poor and they could be had for as little as a buck apiece. It struck me then that ashtrays were once fashionable and many had been produced by any number of fine glass factories that once operated in and around Pittsburgh. I suspected at the time that ashtrays might someday grow in value as collectibles in a society that was beginning to frown on smoking.

I had forgotten about these ashtrays until Sunday, while spring cleaning and they turned up stored in a bag in a corner of the spare bedroom in my house.

They really are cool. One was molded in green Depression glass at an Anchor Hocking Co. factory. There is another shaped like a crab to advertise Frenchy’s Fine Seafood Restaurants in Florida. Someone even gave me a space age one coated in Chartreuse, nonflammable rubber, as if it's a good idea to smoke let alone park a burning butt in that thing.

My favorite in the collection, shown above, likely was made in the 1940s to promote Stoney’s beer brewed by the now-closed Jones Brewing Co. in Smithton Pa., a business founded by the family of actress Shirley Jones.

I will confess this is not my only collection of odd things, but plan to save the story of my having an inability to throw away business cards for a future blog post.

1 comment:

Kokoda Trail said...

Thank you so much Scott Beveridge!!!
Nice odd ashtray collections........