I collect things. I own too many books, CDs, DVDs, postcards, bookmarks, promotional cards and various pieces of printed matter. But many of these Lincoln Highway Association members are collectors too, and I love them for that. And at these conferences, they set up a “book room” where people can display, sell and swap all sorts of Lincoln Highway memorabilia. Oh, there are vintage postcards and maps, old signs and guidebooks, and there are modern T-shirts, coffee cups, books and DVDs put together by people who are attending this event.
Russel Rein from Ypsilanti, Michigan, is one of the biggest — if not THE biggest — collectors of Lincoln Highway stuff, and he was in charge of this year’s book room on the 6th floor at the South Bend Downtown Holiday Inn. He had some postcards and books and magazines to show and sell, and many are really reasonably priced, some on sale big time! And I got some stuff from him: a “Greetings from Ambridge Pennsylvania” postcard (the Lincoln Highway went through Ambridge from 1913 till 1930), and John Baeder’s book on American signs as folk art called Sign Language, among assorted other things.
One evening, while people were looking over the stuff on his table, Russell told a tale about bidding what-he-thought-was-a-preemptive $170 on eBay (his highest opening bid ever) for one postcard — a photo postcard — of waitresses outside a barbecue restaurant, and then his surprise when he lost the item to a higher bidder! This tells me Russell is in a bigger collectors league than I am. I’m just a piker.
The book room had odd hours, essentially anytime there wasn’t some other activity planned, and it was always interesting to go and see who and what was there at any time. But if you stayed at the conference till the final dinner on Friday night, at each place setting on every table, there was a small polypropylene archival envelope with a white card inside and a small, vintage, printed label.
The mint condition wrapper was colored gold, red, white and blue and was printed once upon a time for a LINCOLN HIGHWAY cigar made in Frankfort Indiana at the National Cigar Company. Oh, a little gem in a clear plastic sleeve! It’s a real beauty. I heard Russell say that he got a big supply of the labels, and he thought he’d give one to everyone, and he even tried to find a cigar company that would put them around cigars, but that didn’t happen. People are way too brand-conscious these days.
I think it’s a perfect souvenir. Indiana. The highway. A collectible item. A far away whiff of a cheap cigar. One more thing for me to hang onto and cherish.