Pioneers wielded goose wing axes to shape logs used in the construction of their cabins. Image courtesy Old Barn Auctions and Live Auctioneers archive.

Sundays are ‘Tool Time’ at Peoria’s Sommer Park

Pioneers wielded goose wing axes to shape logs used in the construction of their cabins. Image courtesy Old Barn Auctions and LiveAuctioneers archive.

Pioneers wielded goose wing axes to shape logs used in the construction of their cabins. Image courtesy Old Barn Auctions and LiveAuctioneers archive.

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) – More than 3,000 antique tools sit in storage at Peoria’s Sommer Park, waiting for their turn to share a bit of history.

Everything from the leather awl to the carver’s scorp is represented in the collection – a donation from Bernadette Fugate, a widow in Fairbury whose late husband collected each piece.

“I’ve worked with antique tools a lot, and this is one of the most comprehensive collections I’ve ever seen,” said Keith Aeschleman, a park volunteer. “There’s something in there from just about every trade. It is amazing, the collection that man had.”

The collection is so large, in fact, that the park’s staff can’t even display it all at the same time, instead opting to bring out selected pieces for each showing.

The tools, some of which are more than 150 years old, are on display Sunday afternoons as part of Sommer Park’s Pioneer Days, a monthly, living historical reproduction of life in rural Peoria during the mid-19th century.

Park intern Tommy Wallenfeldt helped clean and catalog the massive collection of tools, selecting the pieces that make the cut for the displays. He says the collection is especially popular with older visitors.

“It really resonates with their past experiences,” Wallenfeldt said. “They say, ‘Oh, my dad used to use one of those!’ You’ve got people smiling, having a good time on a Sunday . . . even with a tool exhibit.”

One recent park visitor was more interested in the nearby blacksmith demonstration, which he said reminded him of growing up poor in India.

“I can relate to that. I’ve seen all of that when I was a young man,” said 86-year-old Peoria resident Roy Storey, who said he was raised in an orphanage in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains.

“There was no electricity. Everything was made by fire,” Storey said. “In fact, I even tried it myself. … It didn’t turn out very well.”

Storey wasn’t the only one interested in the blacksmith, however.

Nine-year-old Cassie Newell of Morton said she enjoys learning about history since reading the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, popularized by the television show Little House on the Prairie.

“It’s really fascinating, I think,” Cassie said. “I really like the blacksmith.”

Her parents, Dean and Meg Newell, brought Cassie and her brother Dylan, 12, to Pioneer Days to learn and spend some family time together.

“It doesn’t hurt that there’s such beautiful weather,” Dean Newell said, looking upward to the deep blue sky.

“It would be pretty rough if it was as hot as it usually is this time of year.”

Dylan got a firsthand reminder of how July usually feels, however.

Helping blacksmith Tony Klein by pumping the bellows that blow air into the bright orange coke fire, Dylan worked up a sweat right next to the hot stone hearth where the wrought iron is heated until it glows.

“It was hard work,” Dylan declared afterward, saying he wasn’t quite up to the job of blacksmithing.

“Not right now,” he said.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-CS-08-04-09 0420EDT

Circa-1870 Victorian lacquer and mother-of-pearl chair with cane seat. From the Estate of Walter and Bluma Muller of Birmingham, Michigan. To be offered with a $300-$500 estimate in DuMouchelles' Aug. 15 auction, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. Image courtesy DuMouchelles and LiveAuctioneers.com.

Stray wolf led to woman’s new career as chair caner and weaver

Circa-1870 Victorian lacquer and mother-of-pearl chair with cane seat. From the Estate of Walter and Bluma Muller of Birmingham, Michigan. To be offered with a $300-$500 estimate in DuMouchelles' Aug. 15 auction, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. Image courtesy DuMouchelles and LiveAuctioneers.com.

Circa-1870 Victorian lacquer and mother-of-pearl chair with cane seat. From the Estate of Walter and Bluma Muller of Birmingham, Michigan. To be offered with a $300-$500 estimate in DuMouchelles’ Aug. 15 auction, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. Image courtesy DuMouchelles and LiveAuctioneers.com.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) – The reason Dale Carleo is a chair caner and weaver is because of a wolf.

Thirteen years ago, the animal followed a neighbor home. Then the stray lay down in Carleo’s yard and would not leave.

“That whole day he spent trying to win us over,” she said. The wolf sat in front of the lawn mower, stole her daughter’s sunglasses and stared through the backyard fence at the family that evening. “He was magnificent and skinny.”

Carleo had two dogs already – a golden retriever and a sheltie – but decided that the wolf was not going to the pound.

Later that night, she left the garage door open and set out food and water. In the morning, all her neighbors’ newspapers were in her yard. So was the wolf.

After researching online, she suspected he was a hybrid, a runaway from a rural breeder. His feet were blistered.

She named him Fletcher and forgave him when he chewed through two couches.
Carleo, formerly an X-ray technologist who had thought about resuming work, realized that she had to reinvent herself. Her three children were older, her mother had recently died and she wanted a job.

But Fletcher, it was obvious, didn’t like being alone.

After she wrote about her mother to a childhood friend she had not seen in 30 years, the woman wrote back and said, “I’m a chair caner in Annapolis.” Instantly, Carleo knew this was the work she was looking for.

Carleo went for a visit and, after a weekend of caning, came home and launched her business with a book, her father’s tools and chairs from garage sales. Caning and weaving could be done anywhere. She liked the natural materials. She liked rescuing old furniture. She liked working with old tools.

“She had a basket of these,” Carleo said, holding up a splint basket of wooden pegs used in caning. As she picked up and tossed the pegs into the basket, they rattled back in with soft clacking sounds.

“I just loved working with pegs,” she said, laughing. “I guess I didn’t get enough peg time as a child.”

Today, her business, Wolf Chair Caning & Weaving, draws from local furniture refinishers and restorers such as Craftsmanship by Weathersby in Virginia Beach and Smith Furniture Service and The Strip Joint in Norfolk, as well as clients who seek her out.

The chairs that arrive at Carleo’s often have been refinished, but she prefers the wear and patina on old caning.

“I get some 70-year-old seats in here, and the colors are extraordinary,” she said, calling herself a purist. “It’s a sin to take them out.”

But she does – although she can’t bring herself to throw away someone else’s handiwork. To honor the years of service that old rush or cane has given, she saves and then burns it in her patio chimenea or, in winter, in her fireplace.

“I give it a Viking funeral,” she said, laughing.

She cleans the chairs and rubs in beeswax, especially into places exposed to the light for the first time in years.

“I usually oil the old guys,” she said, patting an oak chair from a barn sale in Rhode Island. “The wood is so dry, and the channel and holes weakened the wood over time. This one hadn’t been fed in years and years.”

She tries to duplicate the material that was originally on the chair, matching the width of the cane or adjusting it to improve a seat’s strength and durability.

While weaving with damp cane, she often thinks of the craftsman who originally worked on a chair.

“You can tell if the person who drilled the holes was a caner,” she said, “if they line up.”
When the geometry is off, the seat was probably a homemade project. Years ago, a lot of caning was done by the blind, a feat Carleo admires.

It is a peaceful task.

As she works, she sometimes listens to a book on tape, sometimes to the ticking of her clock, the soft clunk of wood on wood, the whisk of cane being pulled through holes. Pegs or wedges drop from her hands back into her work basket; a rawhide hammer covered with bite marks thumps in stubborn pieces.

Fletcher, she recalled, loved to chew on the hammer and stole it whenever he could.

“We had him 10 and a half years,” she said. “He was known all over the state in all the soccer clubs where my son played.”

Most people, she said as she worked on a chair with a style of woven seat called “German caning,” want their new cane stained. But here again, she likes to leave the natural color, knowing that over years of use it will pick up a patina unique to the home it’s in.

It takes about four or five hours to do a caned seat. Rush is a little faster. For cane, she charges $2.25 per hole. An average chair seat has 72 to 82.

To extend the life of a caned chair, Carleo advises her customers not to sit on their knees or feet, to keep chair seats out of bright light and, when the seats sag, to wet them with a mixture of glycerin and water, put them in the sun and see if they’ll tighten as they dry.

Over the years, she’s learned a variety of caning and weaving patterns and styles: Danish is a lot of fun, she said, calling the twisted rope seats and nailing technique a whole different ball game.

She keeps a small photo album of chairs she’s caned, patterns she’s woven and materials she’s used in the craft: pegged German cane, flat reed herringbone, popcorn weave, Mexican cattail, twisted cattail, sea grass.

She works in her living room beside a tapestry of a wolf, a reminder of the one who started it all.

More than a dozen chairs of different sizes and vintages wait in the room over her garage. Some are caned, some are woven, all are well worn.

“Every chair is like a person,” she said. “It’s like an entity. Some of them give me a very powerful feeling. There’s such character in them sometimes that they almost make me cry. Some of them must have such good stories. If only they could talk.”
___

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, 
http://www.pilotonline.com

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-ES-07-28-09 0843EDT


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Italian faux-bois polychromed gondola chair with caned seat, early 20th century, to be sold Aug. 8 by New Orleans Auction Galleries. Estimate $800-$1,200. Image courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.com.

Italian faux-bois polychromed gondola chair with caned seat, early 20th century, to be sold Aug. 8 by New Orleans Auction Galleries. Estimate $800-$1,200. Image courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries and LiveAuctioneers.com.


Six English Regency chairs with caned seats and original painted stenciling, 19th century, to be auctioned by Rago's on Aug. 8. Estimate $600-$800. Image courtesy Rago Arts & Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.com.

Six English Regency chairs with caned seats and original painted stenciling, 19th century, to be auctioned by Rago’s on Aug. 8. Estimate $600-$800. Image courtesy Rago Arts & Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers.com.


Six oak spool-turned side chairs with cane seats, circa 1900, to be auctioned by Jackson's International on Aug. 15. Estimate $150-$250. Image courtesy Jackson's International and LiveAuctioneers.com.

Six oak spool-turned side chairs with cane seats, circa 1900, to be auctioned by Jackson’s International on Aug. 15. Estimate $150-$250. Image courtesy Jackson’s International and LiveAuctioneers.com.

The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

Straight Up: Helicopter Toys

The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

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An autogiro appears at first glance to be similar to a helicopter, but it uses a free spinning rotor to develop lift and is not capable of making vertical takeoffs or powered landings. It is pushed through the air with an engine-powered propeller. Both machines can land safely without power, using autorotation to control descent.

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In the summer of 1958, while Hula Hoop wowed the world, WHAM-O gave the word “Frisbee” top billing on their multi-named flying disc—the WHAM-O Frisbee Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh from his book WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

In the summer of 1958, while Hula Hoop wowed the world, WHAM-O gave the word “Frisbee” top billing on their multi-named flying disc—the WHAM-O Frisbee Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh from his book WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

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Their success is notable; their toys—such as Frisbee, Hula Hoop and Super Ball—are iconic. Few toy companies have as long or rich a history, but one thing remains certain—“There’s a lot of nostalgia over their toys,” said Tim Walsh, author of WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

That nostalgia—including his own childhood fondness for WHAM-O toys—prompted Walsh, a game inventor and toy historian, to track down the dynamic duo and dig into company archives for his new book. “I really enjoy giving inventors their due,” Walsh added.

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Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.” Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players. Chuck Miller image.

Electric Football: Tabletop Touchdowns

Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.”  Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players.  Chuck Miller image.

Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.” Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players. Chuck Miller image.

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“Electric football has seen a renaissance of attention today,” said Ira Silverman, whose Silverman Media&Marketing Group promotes the game for Miggle Toys, the company who currently manufactures electric football boards and games. “I think that the people who played the game as kids in the 1960s and 1970s, and those playing today, like the ability to actually control each and every one of your 11 players who are on the field, and I think they like the idea of playing against and hopefully beating another human being, rather than defeating an electronic team on a video game.”

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Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

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Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

Joe Ahearn first became aware of Ideal Toys’ Captain Action in 1967 when he was 5 years old while visiting an older cousin. Ed Catto simply credits Santa Claus for his introduction to the character the same year. Little did either of them know that some 40 years later that they would find themselves in charge of Captain Action’s destiny.

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