Point In Time
Point In Time
by: Steven R. Libbey
Bob Markiewicz was a great part of our community and a well of information capped with so much of the resource seemingly untapped. A crazy thing happened in writing this. After two weeks of putting ideas together it was finally done in a way I thought appropriate. I sent Dan an email saying I just need to revise it in the morning and will get it to you for the newsletter. Draga, my wife, got on the computer for a couple of minutes as I played with the kids before bedtime when suddenly the computer that has been on for months, maybe a year, crashed. All but the minimal framework of the piece on Bob was lost. It makes me wonder, did an editor in the sky reach down and press reset because he wanted something added or omitted or written differently or, is it just a coincidence? I've never been a big believer in coincidence. Here is try two Bob... I hope you like it.
The show was just peachy this year. Great attendance and a lot of people we don't normally see. For me the show has always been a step forward. The show is an annual point in time re-indexing of what it means to be a Wisconsin collector. The show is a new start and a fresh look at what we do. Every year the show is a battery recharge. Coming together as a community makes the bottle collecting facet of life feel all good. The show always felt like the warmest day of the coldest time of year.
This year the show was marred by absence of a larger than life presence. As the first club event since Bob's passing it didn't feel the way the show always has. Every year builds on the last. The club show, in essence, is Bottle New Years when the thought of bottles doth banish grief. At midnight the morning of the show all bad passes and we start the day/year with a feverish energy ready to celebrate by remembering the bottle year past, the coming together as a community and hope for the new year. This year was different. Reading to this point Bob would be compelled to point out, Dave did a great job with the show this year. Maybe that is what I missed first try... Dave you did a great job.
The show was marked by an immeasurable step back. A cornerstone didn't show up and won't be showing up evermore. This year wasn't building a new tier on what it is to collect. This year Bottle New Years was looking over the shoulder at the wretched and gaping breach blown into the foundation of what it is to be a collector in Wisconsin.
Roger Peters says, "What have we lost," reminiscing of the old flavors of real fruit fermented soft beverages. Was it simply a purity of natural process or a taste or a flavor? Now it is a process abandoned for more efficient methods. We seemingly lose something when any change hits us. For the fermented soft beverages the parts that were most desirable went through a metamorphosis becoming carbonated beverages. Not the same. Perhaps not as good yet a carry forward satisfying taste and progressing a method to suit growing demand.
Bob was a cool cat. Hard to imagine the robust guy I knew as a lanky kid as Bob is described as a young hunter collector. The directions life could have taken when that lanky kid was out treasure hunting... How many times have you heard, ‘if you can take your passion and make it your career you will be successful.' Bob lived the dream. Bob got up every day and did what most of us try to squeeze into the open spaces of hectic schedules. It just would be nice if he would have kept on keeping on for another thirty years. Bob was sublime in protecting our state culture and history preferring to keep it local. Many collectors have something great because of Bob's efficacy of keeping the best items from Wisconsin in Wisconsin. We have lost a friend, a story teller, a historian and an informational resource of unparalleled expertise in the broadest spectrum on antiquities of Wisconsin advertising and utilitarian life.
We lost a friend who was as gracious as any in the collecting community. Bob found us all something spectacular. If you don't have a piece from Bob in your primary collection then you have admired many in other collections from Bob. Maybe it is a piece of furniture. As a kid with no money Bob gave me a great deal on an antique armoire Draga and I needed for storage space in our West Allis duplex. It is about eighteen inches from my left foot right now. At the time I remember being surprised Bob had a couple of nice ones stored at a friend's house. Rather than having great objects put up in storage lockers Bob often let friends enjoy them. I can remember multiple times when after I exclaimed where did you get THAT? A collector telling me an impressive $10,000+ advertising piece was on loan from Bob. He knew they loved it and knew maybe they couldn't afford to pull the trigger on a purchase. Rather than tuck items away or shop them around he openly shared treasures with the people who appreciated them more than anyone else. How many times have you spent more than ten minutes with Bob and not seen him smile or heard his chuckley laugh?
The historian might be the greatest loss we have suffered. How much information did Bob exclusively possess? How many different pieces of the broad spectrum of information he had captured over decades are now lost? Taking a historic object out of context makes it utilitarian art. Utilitarian art is wonderful. The history, even the individual history of a bottle or a piece of furniture or a terracotta tile or a storefront sign means as much to our culture going forward as the object itself. The ability to assess an object detached from its provenance took Bob's brain instantly assembling a million reference points. "Hmm, let me see," followed by so much information as to be almost more than you can capture listening attentively. Who will we hand the things out of context or of undetermined age, origin or value for that two minute assessment? An assessment that often resolved with an entertaining story closing with a chuckley laugh.
The story teller we lost was the most unassuming decent guy. Anyone who spent more than a few minutes with Bob heard a story or two. It is said Native Americans carried their history forward countless generations with stories. Bob wasn't Native American but he did have a big box of arrowheads picked from the farm fields at his home... I heard a half dozen great stories at one picnic about them. There was always a glimpse of how it all comes together in Bob's stories. The history of our club, the funny things people did back in the day all relating to how collecting works. Listening to Bob's humorous tales of collecting-past imparted a broader understanding of what the collecting community is about. Relaying information through story telling with such a high level of eloquence is a trait many of the highest leaders in business and government share. I will miss hearing those incredible stories with that wonderful chuckley laugh.
A wife lost a husband, kids lost a dad way before they should have. What can assuage even a moment of that pain? I wish I knew. What our community has lost is immeasurable and irreplaceable. We have gained a lot too. Maybe somewhere in his soul he knew. Bob shared information and had an impact most of us will not have should we live three times as long. That chuckley laugh will survive in my and I suspect a lot of minds forever. Bob set a standard and spent 40 years preserving and protecting our culture and history and the objects that recall them. Bob succeeded in preserving and passing forward hoards of information. Bob protected thousands upon thousands of historically important artifacts from fading out of existence. Bob put countless artifacts in hands most likely to preserve their historic significance while promoting them forward to future generations. A life seemingly cut short yet a huge success at living the dream in any count of days. Bob achieved a sort of immortality and greatness in being part of the history of the history of. We are all lucky to have been part of Bob Markiewicz's epic point in time.