1989 >> June >> Bea Lines  

Bea Lines
by H.G. "Bea" Hyve

Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", June 1989, page 12

Let's go to Canada this time, eh? This will be "Bea Lines'" first foreign interview. However, to readers in Canada, it won't be foreign; just to the rest of us. We are talking this time with George Kammerer (whose last name rhymes with "hammerer".)

George and his wife Ghislaine (pronounced "Jis-lane'") live in Dunham, Quebec, where he earns his living as a sign painter. He is the collector in the family, and says that collecting insulators has been a lifelong affair for him. When he was a small boy, he loved seeing the green or aqua colored glass insulators in use on the lines, never dreaming that one day he'd become a collector. That was some thirty-five or forty years ago. "Ghislaine", says George, "must be interested in insulators. Why else would she bother to dust then off from time to tine? Seriously, she approves of the hobby, and she is proud to show then off to others who visit us.

"My interest in collecting insulators was kindled back about 1954 when we were on our farm out in the 'boonies'. My older brother and I found my first two 'jewels' in the woodshed. I distinctly remember one being a CD 145 beehive and the other a CD 104 New England Tel & Tel, arc-embossed, which I'm sure was in olive green! From then on I was a 'goner' on collecting insulators. Also, I think I'm one of the first collectors ever to walk the lines at that time. There was an abandoned railway track that passed nearby. There I rescued another CD 145 aqua plus a white porcelain CPR incuse-embossed beehive from two different poles."

George does not specialize. He's interested in anything that's different. He's got foreign, threadless, non-glass, non-porcelain, wire holders, spools, and strains; quite an assortment. As might be expected, Canadian glass and porcelain occupy a fairly large part of George's collection. He likes the Diamond Glass Company insulators and thinks that he will always hold on to them, even if he decided to sell his collection. He's got a few metal signs, plus an authentic telegram dating back to 1886 from the Great North Western Telegraph Company of Canada. He used it in a display recently in Canada.

Ghislaine and George Kammerer with 
some of his threadless insulators

Left to right, front to back: Row 1: CD 731 Tillotson, deep cobalt blue; CD 735 U.P.R.R., teal blue; CD 719, nice light blue; CD 742 NN, aqua; CD 740 NN, aqua. Row 2: CD 700 "egg". Row 3: CD 734 McMicking; "horned" Elliott; CD 721, pale green; CD 722 (723?) Wade, weathered but nice; CD 722 (723?), aqua; Elliott "stovepipe"; CD 742.5 Battleford Baby, blackglass. Row 4: CD 729.1 NN, aqua; CD 735 U.P.R.R., aqua; CD 701 NN, emerald green; CD 731 NN, aqua; CD 728 NN, aqua, with top part of pin inside (removable).

We'll get back to George's collections in a minute, but first let's find out a bit about him. He was born in Montreal June 27, 1943. But from his tenth year onward, he's been a country boy. He "tied the knot" with Ghislaine on June 19, 1982. They had started going together in 1981, but they had known each other casually for a few years before that, being in the same congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Cowansville, six miles from Dunham.

Getting back to George's collections, he continues, "I've had two different collections. The first one was when I was young, and which I've already briefly described. After having abandoned my first collection back in 1960, I got started again in 1978. And this time, I began to get my hands on just about anything, including items that I'd never dreamed existed! Of course, now I had to buy almost everything I own. Also, it's now evolved into a recognized hobby; no longer a haphazard gathering together of whatever comes along." Presently, George has five hundred ninety-eight insulators in his house. He says that compared to others in the hobby, that's a rather modest amount, but he has a great deal of variety in his collection.

For about four or five years, George was very interested in antique cars, having owned two of them himself. One was a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria hardtop and the other was a 1951 Mercury "woodie" wagon. He displayed those a few times at an eastern antique car meet before finally selling them. In these days of "tight money", he says he doesn't feel that he can afford such luxuries.

George continues, "On my garage walls I display an extensive collection of auto license plates from all over the United States and Canada, plus a few from overseas for good measure; about four hundred fifty in all. I call it my metal 'wallpaper'! These get quite a lot of comments from people walking into the garage for the first time. However, I don't consider myself an active collector anymore. In the late 1970's I was picking up both insulators and plates regularly at flea markets or elsewhere.

"Of course, I'm proud of my collection of threadless insulators, all eighteen of them! Being a 'low-bucks collector, I don't have the money to invest in high-priced goodies. Remember also that I'm a CANADIAN collector; if I buy expensive items across the border, I pay in U. S. funds, not Canadian. The exchange therefore can be quite steep. This becomes expensive when the monetary exchange is added to the purchase price. From time to time I've found the odd bargain at insulator shows. To me, threadless insulators are HISTORY, pure and simple. I've always liked history, old objects of interest; and threadless insulators fit in there perfectly.

Part of George's glass and porcelain collection

More glass and porcelain insulators

"There are two glass and two porcelain threadless pieces in reasonably good shape that I've gotten at 'budget' prices because of being repaired but still in good displayable condition. For instance, when we went to the Bakersfield show in October, 1983, I spotted a CD 731 Tillotson in dark cobalt blue on Grant Salzman's table. It had been broken and repaired, and there is still a small chunk gone out of the base. Fortunately it's more on the inside than out. Only when I got hone did I wonder if that insulator had been sold or not. I didn't buy it at the show because I had a limited amount of U. S. currency on me to get us back to the Los Angeles airport to catch the plane back to Vancouver, B. C. Some time later, I phoned Grant to ask him about the Tillotson. Yes indeed, it was still available and I could have it for a very modest sum. He packed it carefully, and later on it came into my hands. I was a happy guy and I imagine that Grant was just as content; that's the way insulator people are."

In conclusion George states, "It would be thrilling to go out and discover something really unique, either buried in the ground, or sitting on a shelf in a junk shop gathering dust. To most people in this hobby, this means threadless glass, but there are some desirable porcelains that I'd like to get my hands on, such as a U-990 'teapot'. I believe that the fun is in hoping to make that great 'find' someday. Otherwise, it tends to make you lose interest, when you feel that you have everything under the sun."

I corresponded with George for a long time before I finally got to meet him. We've talked at both the St. Charles and Saratoga Springs nationals, and he is a very friendly individual, and delightful to meet. George is the first of many other "foreign" collectors I hope to interview in the future.


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