A lamp shade at the right price....my Steuben memories by Jenny Monroe|
Posting Number 3362 Date: 02/21/20 Return to Posting List
My Steuben Glass collecting efforts began in 1976 with Bob Rockwell. In June that year, I started the props mistress position at the Corning Summer Theatre. The first entry in the props manual was always go see Bob Rockwell first. So I took my props list to his third floor Rockwell Department Store office on Market Street. This lovely gentleman took my clipboard and began to check off what he would have delivered to the theatre delivered, mind you, this never happens! And so our friendship took off from there.
As I worked my way through the nine shows in the nine week schedule, there were many times I found myself going to Rockwells and admiring the antique toys atop merchandise racks on the second floor, and all the glass in cases in the furniture department on the third floor. There I met Harry Hanley and Bobby Rockwell. But it wasnt until I needed a large animal head to mount over the fireplace for Mousetrap (starring David McCallum!) that Bob suggested I come up to the house and pick one out. There I met diminutive and gracious Hertha Rockwell in their Third Street Arts & Crafts home, filled to the brim with their collections of paintings, Navajo rugs, historic firearms and glass. I chose the stuffed moose head rather than the buffalo, mule deer or elk that I could have had.
After the season closed in August I returned to New York. But since my boyfriend (now my husband Steve) had stayed behind in Corning and I missed him, I returned after a few months and went to Bob to ask for a job in the store. He was so disappointed to tell me that he had just sold the store to Ike Gates, but since the museum was opening in a few weeks, why dont I go down to the Baron Steuben and ask director Paul Rivard for a position there? I did and started working weekends the first week it was open to the public. That began a 23-year career at the museum and most importantly my opportunity to work with Bob and to learn about all his collections.
What an opportunity I was given! And how that man changed the course of my life. Those of you who knew Bob will remember how he cared for his friends. Giving silver dollars to their children, remembering them annually with the hundreds of hand-written Christmas cards he and Hertha would send, and inviting them to join him at Rotary Club if it was Thursday. He used to tell me, &you build a collection through friends. Amy and Frank Blake were antique dealers in Corning that got Bob started in buying Carder glass and they became fast friends.
Bob was the penultimate people person and loved to tell stories. Heres one about how when he ran the department store he would operate the elevator during the regular operators lunch hour. Its the best way for me to meet my customers! he would say. I wonder how many pre-schoolers, shopping with their mothers at Rockwells thought this nice man giving out silver dollars was just the elevator operator!
Once you met Bob and/or bought a piece of glass from him, he considered you a friend. And what a memory for names and details he had! So many of his friends came to Corning regularly to visit: Lynn and Charles Quick from Michigan; Mary Elizabeth and Frank Reifschlager from Houston, Dick Bright from Seattle and Paul Gardner from Washington D.C., to name just a few. When Bob was contacted to purchase a rare piece of glass that he could not afford, he would call his friends and let them acquire it. The museum was often rewarded years later when those objects were bequeathed back to Corning from Bobs friends.
Part Two to be continued Monday of Next Week
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