Collector's passion for pens circles the globe


May 18, 2000|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CARROLL WANTZ loves to collect pens. He's almost religious about it. "Even have one that was blessed by the pope," said Wantz, whose collection lines the walls of his basement in Taneytown. "That one is a really big story."

Wantz knew a woman from his church who had a friend who was going to Italy for a visit. The woman knew Wantz collected pens."He must have been a really good Catholic," Wantz said of the woman's friend. "He got the pen blessed by the pope while he was in Italy."

The pen shows a picture of the Shroud and St. Giovanni's Cathedral with the words Santa SindoneOstensioneTorinoand DuomoSan Giovanni Torinowritten on it."It means Holy Shroud Exhibition and St. Giovanni's Cathedral," Wantz said. Torino, known elsewhere as Turin, is a city in northern Italy.

Wantz said he started collecting pencils and pens after he and his two brothers opened a plumbing business, Wantz Brothers Inc., in the 1940s."They were almost like business cards," Wantz said as he showed a pen with his business address and phone number on it."You can tell how old this one was by the fact that it had Phone 130 on it. That was when we only had three-digit phone numbers. Heck, we sold the business 32 years ago," he said.

By 1945, ballpoint pens were coming in and Wantz began collecting those. And though he sold the business, he never quit collecting pens."I joined the American Pencil Collector's Society about 12 years ago," he said. "The membership is now up to 1,873, but we only have five members in Maryland."

He said the society publishes a newsletter every quarter and members exchange pens and pencils.

Today he has thousands of pens and pencils lining his basement walls."I don't know how many I have," Wantz said with a hearty laugh. "If you want to count them you can. But there are no two alike up there."

Each pen has a story. Many refer to a business now long gone, like the one that has "Skating and Bowling at the Rainbow-Big Pipe Creek Park.""I have one with a dollar bill in the top of it from the Detour Bank in Detour, Maryland," Wantz said. "I have garland pens, which always have a picture on the end. Here's a pen with Taneytown Bank and Trust written on it on the side and a picture of the bank on the end. Here's another garland pen from the Maryland State Police with the patch at the end."

Wantz said he also gets quite a few pens from friends who travel, including his granddaughter, Gail Lawyer, who travels as a journalist."I have pens from all over the place," Wantz said. "I have them from Indonesia, from Peru, from Hawaii. I even have one from President Gerald Ford. Got that from some people who worked for him. If I didn't have so many friends, I wouldn't have so many pens."

The pens and pencils are mounted on wood panels on the wall. Wantz makes each panel out of plywood and molding. He said his wife, Mabel, is agreeable about his collection."As long as I keep it in the basement," he said.

But truth is, Wantz has run out of room on his basement walls."I'm starting on the ceiling now," Wantz said, as he pointed upward.

Antique car show

The Johnsville Ruritan Club is sponsoring its Antique Cars, Tractors and Engine Show this weekend at the Johnsville Ruritan Park in Johnsville. The show will be from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday."Last year we had more than 100 exhibitors," said Shirley Houck, who is organizing the event. "We started it back in 1977. That was our first show and it has been growing ever since."

The show will also have crafts and flea market vendors. Food will include fried chicken platters, sandwiches and homemade pies and cakes."We will also have a cake and pie auction on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.," Houck said. "And both days will feature music. We will have the Glade Valley Travelers on Saturday and the Gospel Travelers on Sunday."

Houck said vendor space is available. Information: 410-775-2811.

Flea market

Brookfield Manor will hold its second Flea Market and Craft Show from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Brookfield Manor on 5800 Middleburg Road outside Uniontown. Information: 410-775-7752.

Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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