Highlights: Austin, May 2019


AustinThe prospect of inclement weather for the weekend did not dampen the spirits of the Scalies that gathered for the 41st ISASC convention held May 2nd through 6th in Austin, Texas. From around the country and across the Atlantic we came together to once again meet up with others who share this unusual hobby of ours.

The ball got rolling Thursday evening with a barbeque dinner with all the extras at the County Line on the Hill. Located in an historic old "speakeasy" we had our own exclusive dining area aptly named the Vista Room with its walls of windows. Even with the overcast skies we were treated to a great view of the Texas Hill Country. It was a relaxed time with folks chowing down while catching up with old friends and getting reacquainted with those they hadn't seen in a while.

Friday morning it was off to see two collections. Half of the group visited Eric and Judy's collection while the other half was seeing Bob and Carol's. A quick switcheroo accomplished by a short bus ride between the two allowed everyone to spend plenty of time seeing both collections. Each house had scales and weights scattered throughout, so there was no shortage in type or variety to see and examine. Next stop was the Texas State History Museum where the afternoon was spent learning about the story of the six flags that have flown over Texas. Then it was time to head back to the hotel for the evening get-together and album sharing.

The Saturday morning program lineup started out strong with Steve B. giving a highly informative historical overview with numerous slides of some beautifully detailed gold balances. Next Ernie S. introduced the ISASC online museum which is currently under development. For a limited time the website is open to members, so that their feedback can be used by the Museum Planning Committee to improve the site.

Allan R. was up next with his presentation. For forty-five minutes he took us down a road we all could very much relate to. He showed us slides of scales people had given him over the years that he never would have bought on his own, but explained why they are now a cherished part of his collection. There were some pretty dreadful looking scales in the group, but many had sentimental value as they were given to him by well-meaning friends, relatives and colleagues. Everyone in the audience was laughing, because all of us have the same type of scales with similar stories at home. One exception to this group was a brass equal-arm balance given to him by his daughter for his birthday, so it holds a very special place in his heart.

Jeff L. gave his program on opium or Do'tchin scales. His interest in these types of scales has been sparked by coming into contact with them during his business travel in China. Last program of the morning was a local guy, a friend of Bob's, who worked at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin for many years in different positions mostly dealing with the financial aspects of running the university. He gave a short history of the city and UT concentrating on the economical, educational and research benefits of having this university in Austin and emphasizing how much the city and university are interconnected.

The afternoon was taken up with the Silent Auction and Let's Make a Deal. Once again there was a large selection of items as some members used the opportunity to downsize their collections giving others the opportunity to add to theirs.

It is usually the case at the Silent Auction that one or two scales receive the vast share of the bidding action. This time the same could be said, with one major difference. There was one that captured a great deal of attention, and thus bidding, only there were two of this same scale in the auction—the Cook's Automatic Postal Scale. One Cook's by itself is rare indeed, so to have two of the same rare scale in the auction was quite exceptional. There were folks bidding on both, in case they lost out on one of them. In the end both Cook's went home to new owners who were very happy campers.

Sunday morning Show and Tell offered an interesting variety. First up was Steve B. with his program on the six ways to weigh ducats which were gold or silver trade coins used widely in most European countries from the later Middle Ages until the 20th century. Next it was the other Steve B. who showed an early Albany balance he was able to date between 1837-1842 made by James Maxwell Sr. and sealed by Daniel S. Kittle. Mike F. gave a talk on shelf-edge letter scales including ones that weigh in both ounces and tolas made for the British Indian market as well as other Asian markets.

New member Gene M. expanded our knowledge giving a talk on how Rome weighed "money" to pay their soldiers before they started producing coins in 300 BC. Greg M. showed a Fairbanks steelyard he had recently acquired, but from the markings on it couldn't determine its purpose. After some discussion from the audience, Jan B. identified it as a paper scale. After Show and Tell the morning continued with the business meeting followed by lunch.

Sunday evening offered a fascinating encounter only to be found in Austin. The original plans were to view the city's skyline from our cruise boat while having dinner and then watch the Mexican free-tailed bats coming out from under the Congress Street Bridge where they live to start their nightly forage for dinner. Due to the copious amount of rain in the area over the weekend, flood operations went into effect at the dams causing the river authority to close the lake to boating.

Not to be deterred, we had dinner on board while docked. We were joined by Dianne from Austin Bat Refuge who gave us a whole bunch of interesting information about bats in general and more specifically the Austin ones. She even brought a couple of live bats with her to show including a Mexican free-tailed. Most of us were surprised how small it was. We were astounded when she told us that this particular Austin colony had somewhere in the neighborhood of 750,000 bats residing in it.

As the magic moment approached, we walked a short ways on the hike-and-bike trail to get in an excellent position from which to watch the bats come out. Crowds gathered on both sides of the lake, up on the bridge itself looking down and from balconies and terraces on the buildings lining the riverbank all waiting for the bats to show. At first as twilight darkened a few started flying out. Over the next 10-15 minutes more and more filled the sky above us. It was a thrilling event to experience and no one left the scene unimpressed.

On Monday morning a smaller contingent set off heading west out of Austin. Our destination was the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and LBJ National Historical Park co-located outside of Johnson City. Our trip there took us deep into the scenic Texas Hill Country where the roadsides were lined with huge swatches of colorful wildflowers vividly showing off late spring at its best.

The day was spent touring the ranch and learning more about Johnson's early years and how this land shaped him. LBJ was born here, spent his childhood here, governed the country from here and died here. He and his wife Lady Bird donated part of the ranch to the public not long before he died. His is a remarkable story and seeing the ranch helped you understand who he was as a person and later the 36th President of the United States.

Back at the hotel the last evening those still remaining gathered around a very long put-together table in the bar area. We lingered over our drinks snacking or having a light dinner while saying our goodbyes and making promises to see each other next year.

The 2020 ISASC Convention hosted by Greg and Bev M. and Utz and Shirley S. will be held May 14th – 18th in Detroit, Michigan. They have already begun planning the weekend and have collections lined up to be visited. The convention hotel is the Marriott at the Detroit Metro Airport. President Bob H. and all the board members extend a personal invitation to join them. Regular attendees and first timers are always welcomed. So, mark your calendar, and plan to see everyone in the Motor City next May. Be there or be square!