Highlights:  Chicago, May 2016

There was excitement in the air as members gathered together in Chicago May 12th through May 16th for the 38th ISASC convention. This was no ordinary annual meeting as we came to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Society. Many things have changed in these 40 years, but the friendships, camaraderie and common bonds that are the foundation of our solidarity have not changed.

The weekend got off to a spectacular start Thursday evening with a guided tour of the “Place de la Musique.” This is the private estate of Jasper Sanfilippo which showcases his magnificent vast collection of beautifully restored antique music machines, arcade, gambling and pinball machines, chandeliers, Tiffany lamps, art glass and more. There were even some scales strategically situated throughout the collection. It sounds like a cliché, but people were truly in utter amazement at the quality, quantity and total uniqueness of these collections as well as the grandeur of the interior design. Our tour guide kept our attention at the maximum as he told us about the history of the collection and played some of the more unusual music machines for our delight. As one member observed “no longer can we consider ourselves obsessive collectors!”

We were ushered into the Music Room which can only be described as a visual and aural treat unequaled anywhere in the world. Here we were rewarded with a concert from the pièce de résistance of the collection, the 8,000 pipe Wurlitzer theater organ. As wave upon wave of wonderful music engulfed us the collective tingling thrill of the moment embraced us all.

After touring the main house we were taken to another building on the estate which houses the steam engines, tower clocks and an original 1881 locomotive as well as a caboose and Pullman rail car. We sat down for a wonderful dinner and afterwards were allowed time to browse on our own. 

Then came the second highlight of the evening as we were invited to climb aboard for a ride on the Eden Palais one of the most complete European salon carousels in existence. It was exhilarating to go up and down round and round as most of us hadn’t been on a merry-go-round in many years and certainly never one of this caliber. As the evening came to an end everyone was in agreement that the entire experience was unparalleled with respect to sparking our imaginations and providing an overwhelming amount of sensory stimulation.

Friday morning was sunny as we loaded the buses for a day of looking at collections. First it was off to the home of Don and Donna Schoenly. Over the years they have accumulated many antiques from a variety of unusual and interesting categories. In addition to scales and weights, Don and Donna have a passion for historical lighting devices. The ice cream scoops collection generated a lot of interest, but for the women Donna’s collection of antique egg beaters took the cake. Most of us had no idea that there could be so many different designs of a simple egg beater. Every room of the house held more treasures, and we all enjoyed getting to see their mini museum. On our way out, Mary Anne Murphy told Don how she so admired their capacity to collect with “total abandonment.”  Several of us felt we had the capability to achieve this state, but forces a.k.a. spouses kept us from finding this nirvana.

After lunch we headed off to see part of the scale collection of Dick and Sammye Axelrood. Due to space limitations in his home he brought many of his scales to his residence’s community room for us to view. As an early member of ISASC Dick concentrated on collecting decorative postal scales and acquired many beautiful scales over the years. He spent some time telling us about his scales and his joy of collecting them. The day ended with the Collector’s Get-Together and Album Sharing. As part of the anniversary celebration there was a slide show of photos from previous conventions bringing back a lot of great memories of folks and events.

The line-up for the Saturday morning programs started with Utz Schmidt, one of our original members, giving a short history and overview of the founding and early days of ISASC. It was fun to see the old photos of great friends when they were starting out as young eager scale collectors many years ago. Our guest of honor, Diana Crawforth-Hitchins, one of the three founders of ISASC, presented a program about the man who first introduced the concept of the Roberval scale. The next speaker was Jacinta LeDonne from the American Egg Board. She gave a lively and informative talk on how modern technology has revolutionized egg production. The morning finished up with new member Erv Brauer giving us a history of U.S. patent models while showing us several from his own collection. He described his passionate interest in these items and told us how poor storage practices and two major fires destroyed many of the models making them a rare commodity today.

Saturday afternoon was reserved for the Silent Auction and Let’s Make a Deal. One of the largest in quantity in recent years there was a good balance between the “pretties” and the “clunkers,” which is one way of categorizing scales. People had plenty of time to weigh their decision on what they wanted to go for. Then the bidding began in earnest. By the end of the afternoon most of the display tables were empty leaving little to pack up. A couple of sellers donated a few items that didn’t sell to the ISASC Museum. It is always satisfying to see both older and newer members finding some treasures for their collection. The day concluded with the gala reception and banquet.

Sunday morning started with a lively Show and Tell.  Ernie Segundo updated us on his presentation last year on cigar weights with his follow-up research on cigar testing scales. He also showed a standard gold scale by American Scale Co. of Boston that he acquired from the Silent Auction in Omaha and discussed its unusual weights. Bill Berning captured the audience’s attention with a handmade “Texas-size” Mancur scale.  Mike Foster held the scale for all to see while Bill gave his talk. A comment from the floor was this was the first time Mike held something bigger than a rocker. Don Schoenly stated he likes rulers and things that measure as he showed a device to measure hands to determine glove size with instructions on the back made by William Ketchum. Everyone got a good laugh with his next measure made by Lufkin used for sizing men’s underwear. 

Kurt Beyreis brought a Russian nested weight set dated 1847 found by a group of local boys who use metal detectors to search old battlefields in Ukraine. Mike Foster showed a newly discovered folding balance with a sliding poise by Anthony Wilkinson. Steve Barnett shared his research on a German gold scale leading him to determine that it was used to weigh 10 and 20 gold marks. Steve Beare presented an analytical balance signed Chamberlain. He led us through his research which definitely convinced  him it was actually made by Charles Edward Hofmann. Judy Soslau finished up the morning show with a fun counterfeit paper bill detector she and Eric found while on a road trip through West Texas. It came with “instructions for use” and she demonstrated how it was supposed to work. The conclusion here was that its claims in advertising were a bit fraudulent when tested for actual use.

There was a bit of groaning at the 8 a.m. bus loading time by those who stayed up late the night before at the social gathering in the hotel bar, but the day proved well worth the early rising. Off we went to the quaint town of Sycamore. First stop was the home of Jan and Bill Berning to see Jan’s side of the collection. Not sure Jan has done a recent count of her scales, but “too many to count” came to mind as we wandered the rooms looking at all her scales. Returning to a room you had already explored just let you see more scales that you didn’t notice the first time through. Then it was back on the bus heading to Genoa where Bill’s collection of people/penny scales is kept. While there we had lunch at the restaurant located in their building which was at one time the opera house in town. On the way back to the hotel there was a smidgeon of sadness mixed with wonderful memories as we knew this fantastic weekend was coming to an end.

The 2017 convention will be held May 4th through 8th in Philadelphia/King of Prussia at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Valley Forge. Convention Chair Greg Hill and his committee have already started making plans for a superb weekend. The convention is always a rewarding way to connect with your fellow Scalies. 

If you have not attended in the past, we hope you will join us next May. Come for the scales, the fun, the friendships, the camaraderie and to visit the city recently named the first and only World Heritage City in the U.S.