Have hat, will travel

hatsbybrucestambaugh
Some of the hats in my utilitarian collection.

By Bruce Stambaugh

People collect all kinds of things when they travel. Post cards, plates, jewelry, T-shirts and mugs are popular items. Souvenir shops in any touristy locale confirm that.

Me? I collect hats, more out of necessity than sentimentality. Given my lack of hair, I call it BPS (Bald Protection Syndrome). At least I have a practical use for my hat hobby.

BPS is the only way I can explain my obsession with hats. Baseball caps, golf caps, air-cooled hats, even a cowboy hat, define my collection.

It dawned on me that my assortment of hats really represents a segment of my personal history. I look at a hat, and I can usually recall where I bought it or in some cases, like the cowboy hat, who gave it to me.

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Not a spot to spare on my hat rack.
The hats hang on an oak hall tree that a dear friend made for me. The hall tree stands in a corner beside my bed. The hats are the first things I see in the morning and the last at night, keeping the memories fresh in my mind.

The brown, broad-brimmed, pressed velvet Stetson cowboy hat occupies the pinnacle of the hat holder. That’s no coincidence. My daughter and her family gave it to me as a present several years ago when they lived in Texas. I wear it only on rare occasions.

I collect hats the way Imelda Marcos saved shoes. Each peg of the faithful hat rack is full of hats and memories. The hats come in different shapes and colors, but most are ball caps. All generate vivid recollections.

I have too many from a favorite vacation spot, Lakeside, Ohio. I don the bright yellow hat with a big blue block letter “L” on the front most often.

Perhaps some of my favorite hats are the ones I acquired while participating in some special activity. I have a handsome brown cap with the sun rising over the profile of a mountain, all stitched in white. I got that one at the state park where I once hiked and birded in Arizona.

Another hat I wear a lot is the one I received for attending a birding symposium. It should come as no surprise that the hat features a bird on the front.

Still another hat I obtained in Arizona and bought especially for birding is a lightweight, broad-brimmed, air-cooled canvas hat. I only wear it when it’s hot or when we go to the beach with the grandkids.

Two hats in my collection have extra-special meaning to me. I purchased both in Honduras. One is bright red with orange lettering that spells out the name of the poor Central American country.

meandmyhatsbybrucestambaugh
I’m happiest in hats.
The other Honduras hat is black with a red rooster on it, which is very apropos. As unstable as the Honduran government is, I think the roosters actually run the country. They are everywhere and don’t bother to wait for the sun to rise to announce their presence.

The pride and joy sports hat in my collection is bright red with a raised deep blue block “C” on the front. I wear it when I attend Cleveland Indians games to show my support for the often-hapless team. Wearing it may also reveal other blemishes in my character.

Some people collect stamps, others coins or antiques or teacups. I collect hats. Each one has a story and a special meaning.

Vacation season is here. More travel, more memories, and more hats ahead.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Carl Maxwell leads a life worth living


By Bruce Stambaugh

Given his many maladies and his age, Carl Maxwell, 77, of Berlin, Ohio, would have every right to simply give up on life. Instead, he has done just the opposite, and many people are the beneficiaries.

The list of all the good Maxwell has done in his life far exceeds his list of illnesses. Kidney dialysis three times a week, congestive heart failure, diabetes, quadruple bypass surgery on his heart, suffering four heart attacks, staph infections and skin cancer head the list.

Maxwell hasn’t let any of that stop him. If anything, they serve as incentives to live life to the fullest everyday. He does so personally and through several community organizations for which he volunteers.

“I love life,” Maxwell said. “I want to do everything I possibly can while I can.”

Carl Maxwell by Bruce Stambaugh
Carl Maxwell
Maxwell has and is doing a lot by any measure. His accomplishments would be impressive for someone in excellent health.

Maxwell was a charter member of the East Holmes Lions Club and is a charter member of the newly established Berlin Lions Club. He served as president of the East Holmes club, and was recently presented the prestigious Melvin Jones Fellow award by Lions Club International.

“I’m especially interested in the sight aspect of Lions Club,” Maxwell said. Lions Clubs collect used eyeglasses and distribute them to needy people around the world.

Maxwell has served as either president or vice president of the East Holmes Fire and EMS District board since its inception in 2000. He is the at large member of the five-member board.

Maxwell, along with his wife of 53 years, Lorene, volunteer at Save and Serve Thrift Shop in Millersburg twice a week.

“On Tuesdays,” Maxwell said, “I cut rages with Paul Roth.” He and Lorene also help out as cashiers on Thursday evenings.

Maxwell has also taught Sunday school at several levels at Berlin Mennonite Church for many years.

“I like people,” Maxwell simply said.

If he did slow down, no one would question his decision. Maxwell goes for kidney dialysis three times a week in Wooster.

“Counting my time on the road,” he said, “each visit takes eight hours.” Maxwell is not complaining about that.

“I didn’t really want to do dialysis,” Maxwell said. “But I got out voted 5-1 on that.” His loving wife and four sons all wanted him to do the treatments. Maxwell drew the line there.

“I had an opportunity for a kidney transplant,” Maxwell said, “but I turned it down.” He said he felt someone younger than him should have a chance at the available kidney. “I couldn’t live with myself if I had taken a kidney that some 20-year old needed,” Maxwell said frankly.

Carl and car by Bruce Stambaugh
Carl Maxwell showed off his salmon and grey 1958 Buick.

Maxwell doesn’t spend all of his time volunteering. He also has some heart-felt hobbies in which he has invested much time and money. Maxwell, who once had 14 antique cars, now has three old cars and a 2002 Corvette, which he calls his “toy.” He occasionally drives it to his dialysis sessions.

At the peak of his car collecting days, Maxwell served for 16 years on the regional board of directors of the Antique Car Collectors of Canton. Maxwell also has the world’s largest collection of Sinclair Oil products and memorabilia, which was featured earlier this year in an international collection magazine. From old gas and oilcans to large advertising signs to refurbished gasoline pumps, Maxwell’s collection is clearly one-of-a-kind. He has gathered items from many states and even other countries.

That extensive collection stems from his life’s work.

Sinclair signs by Bruce Stambaugh
Carl Maxwell has two triple-check Sinclair Oil signs displayed at his barn. He said only a handful remain.

Maxwell worked 36 years for Holmes Oil, which originally distributed Sinclair products. He started as a truck driver, but after six years, he and Maynard Hummel became co-owners of the business. Maxwell sold his half interest in the business after 30 years.

“I have had an unbelievable life,” Maxwell readily shared. He credits two women for those experiences, his wife and his late mother, Edna Weaver Maxwell.

“I owe a lot to others, especially my wife,” he said. “She’s just been amazing.” He said Lorene has been an incredible help to him in his many times of need. Maxwell said he recognizes his physical limits and takes the time to rest so he can continue to keep his busy pace.

“I want to do everything I possibly can,” Maxwell said. “Life is still worth living, and it’s too short to be negative.”

Carl and pumps by Bruce Stambaugh
Carl Maxwell has collected Sinclair Oil signs, cans and even gas pumps.

This article appeared in the July 2, 2012 edition of the Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Memorial Day is for remembering

Dad and Mom by Bruce Stambaugh
Our parents, the late Richard H. and Marian Stambaugh, at their 65th wedding anniversary celebration.

By Bruce Stambaugh

This Memorial Day will hold special significance for my four siblings and me. It will be the first that we will decorate both our father’s and mother’s gravesite.

Mom died April 23 at age 90. Dad passed away Dec. 21, 2009. He was 89.

The simple act of placing flowers at their graves will make it memorable. No matter their age, losing your parents is never easy, especially when they were parents that you loved a lifetime. Not everyone has that precious opportunity.

My brothers, sisters and I were very fortunate. Both Mom and Dad lived long, full and fulfilling lives. Through both their graciousness and their imperfections, they gave us many marvelous memories.

At the pinnacle of his professional engineering career, Dad’s life took an unexpected turn when my younger brother brought home an arrowhead that he had found on the school playground. Dad grew inquisitive. His desire to learn, something he instilled in all five of his children, grew intense.

Arrowheads by Bruce Stambaugh
Just one of the many mounts of artifacts that Dad collected over the years. Most of these are rare triangular points. Dad labeled where and when each was found.

From that initial find, Dad went on to develop an extensive artifact collection. He read, went to lectures, lead an archeology club, surface hunted, and dug his way to being a well-renowned amateur specialist on Native American culture. Of course, he dragged along several of his children to many of these events, especially walking field after field looking for the flinty points and stone tools.

Along with hunting and fishing, Dad’s archeological adventures consumed much of his retirement years. He gave lectures and was always a hit with school children.

Presentation by Bruce Stambaugh
Our father, Dick Stambaugh, continued sharing about Native American culture as long as he was able and as long as he had an audience. Here he gave a talk at Walnut Hills Retirement Home in Walnut Creek, Ohio, where he and our mother lived until their deaths.

Mom would often accompany Dad on his excursions. She would hunt for artifacts. Mostly though Mom would take along her easel, paints and brushes, find a nice scenic spot and sketch out the basics for what would become a vibrant watercolor.

Now and then, it would be the other way around. Dad would accompany Mom to an artists’ workshop, even to other states. While the instructor led his troupe in an all day art class, Dad would wander the countryside looking for likely spots to hunt arrowheads.

One time near Burnsville, N.C., Dad stopped at a farmhouse and asked permission to walk the farmer’s fields. Being the affable guy that he was, Dad quickly made friends. Before he could even set foot in the cornfield, the farmer brought out a box of artifacts he had collected over the years. Dad identified and classified each of the items for the grateful farmer.

In return, Dad was permitted to keep whatever he found. That evening, as the artists gathered to share what they had painted, the leader asked Dad to show what he had found. Though neither was certified, Mom and Dad were model teachers simply by how they lived their unpretentious, generous lives.

Laughing by Bruce Stambaugh
Our mother, Marian Stambaugh, shared a laugh with one of her nieces at the retirement home.

Typical for their generation, Mom and Dad were careful about showing affection to one another, especially when us kids were around. I never quite understood that. Yet, despite their differences and occasional arguments, I knew deep down that Mom and Dad loved one another.

Accordingly, their black granite headstone is engraved with symbols that most appropriately represented their lives. A pheasant and an arrowhead show Dad’s commitment to conservation and archeology. An artist’s paint palette symbolizes Mom’s talent for sharing the beauty she saw.

Gravestone by Bruce StambaughMom and Dad were wonderful parents. It’s only appropriate to honor them on Memorial Day to show our continued affection and appreciation for the charitable, instructive lives they lived as a couple and as individuals.

Memorial Day is for remembering.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012