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  • 10 May 2010 3:38 PM | Mike "Doc" Garr (Administrator)
    If you have not yet seen them, Neal Roan has posted his photographs of Chicago pipe show celebreties on his blog, A Passion for Pipes. Below is an example of Neal’s work, a picture of UPCA secretary-treasurer Dave Bull.
    Bull by Roan
  • 17 Mar 2010 3:51 PM | Mike "Doc" Garr (Administrator)

    English and Dutch manufactured smoking pipes dating  back to the 1600s were among the artifacts uncovered during the archeological  dig before the construction of the South Ferry Terminal began.

    Nineteen of these pipes will be featured in an  upcoming exhibition at the New York Transit Museum’s Gallery Annex in Grand  Central Terminal in mid-town Manhattan. The new exhibition entitled, “Where  New York Began: Archeology at the South Ferry Terminal” runs March 18, 2010 –  July 5, 2010. The “New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store”  in Grand Central Terminal (mid-town Manhattan) is open 8 AM to 8 PM Monday –  Friday and Saturday & Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM.  Admission is  free.  (The New York Transit Museum’s flagship is located in a  decommissioned subway station at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn  Street in Brooklyn Heights. The Museum has two locations, the flagship in  Brooklyn (60,000 sq. ft.) and the Annex (2,000 sq ft.)

    For more details on the pipes click here.

    Photo credit: New York Transit  Museum

  • 15 Feb 2010 4:02 PM | Mike "Doc" Garr (Administrator)
    Listen to the newest podcast as Olie talks to Jeff Gracik of J Alan Pipes. Check out the podcast and  other interesting information on the newest OomPaul Society newsletter here.
  • 13 Feb 2010 4:03 PM | Mike "Doc" Garr (Administrator)

    My father is a pipe smoker. There is nothing unusual about this, as I bet that many of you reading this grew up in a family with a father who smoked a pipe, or an uncle, or a grandfather… you get the point. As this introduced me to the wonderful pastime of pipe smoking and later pipe making, it was not this by itself that really peaked my interest.
    I have always enjoyed going to interesting shops. Whether I’m interested in the items they sell or not, I have been always drawn to the unique shop that sells everything from antiques to collectables to even hobby materials. What sometimes is more interesting that the shop itself is its proprietor. A familiar, comfortable environment does not a chain store usually make. Just such a shop existed in my hometown during my formative years; Bradley’s Pipe and Tobacco.

    Going to Bradley’s with dad, in the late seventies/early eighties, was a real treat. His shop was always, well, sort of a mess. It was one of those places where the shopkeep knows exactly were everything is, but the customer’s may not have a clue. Yes, he had many containers full of his custom blends of tobacco (he truly mixed his own) and a shelf full of tins and pouches featuring the names of some of the finest blends of the day. He also had a glass case full of fine briars and meerschaums. But if you really wanted the good, interesting stuff, you had to ask. Forget trying to find it in the mounds of displays and various other loose items laying everywhere. His was a true pipe shop, so his few cigars were kept in a nice sized walk in humidor towards the back of the shop, and his selection of other tobacco goods were very sparse. Bradley smoked what he liked and liked what he sold. This was evident in his passion for the store and his merchandise, even to a young chap as I was then. The smell of the shop was terrific, a real typhoon to the senses; Latakia, Virginias, vanilla, cigars… constant nasal sensations when you walked in the door. And this carried home with us, because dad’s favorite blends were Bradley’s Blend and Vanilla Nut. Smoked of course in fine briars, such as Sasieni’s, purchased at Bradley’s. If dad taught me one thing, it was to be loyal to the person that takes care of you. Bradley and dad were friends, sort of. Bradley being a very introverted person didn’t exactly exude warmth sometimes, but nor was he rude. Just quiet and to himself. Dad, always having been involved in antiques, routinely traded Bradley rare old tobacco related tins and signs for store merchandise. Bradley decorated the store with these and other tobacco related antiques, so this place was truly a lot like home to me.

    The years went by and I didn’t get by Bradley’s as often; after all, what teenager in his right mind would be caught hanging out with his dad, and in a pipe shop of all places? I had heard that Bradley’s health became bad (not due to pipe smoking by the way) and was having trouble keeping the place open. He tried selling magazines and other assorted gifts just to try and make ends meet (this was the heyday of the era of mall tobacco stores with tons of other worthless crap not even a near associated with pipes and men’s accessories). Finally, the store closed and that was it, and Dad resorted to Captain Black from the grocery store.

    Now flash forward to the early 2000’s. I was about 30 years old and had recently discovered the incredible world of pipes and tobaccos. Up until this point in my life, I had no interest in smoking anything, so I surprised even myself when I slowly grew an interest in pipes. As with all Botherhood of the Briar, one thing lead to another and before I knew it I was a full blown collector and casual pipe smoker, as I remain today.  On one of my many trips back home to visit the folks, with wife and son in tow, we wandered in a junk store. A true JUNK store. This place was not like the usual kind of place I am attracted to, but I have learned over the years of collecting a lot of different kinds of things, that sometimes you find the best stuff in the most unlikely of places. This theory again proved true, as I found out heading down an isle of junk. There was this booth, full of all kinds of tobacciana; pouches, estate pipes, pipe boxes, magazines… a true oasis in a wasteland of worthless discard. And the best part? There was ol’ Bradley with a big smile on his face. He didn’t recognize me from many years before, but he couldn’t mistake dad, as he still pretty much looked the same.

    For about 2 years, it was again a treat to visit Bradley’s booth, even though his current accommodations were not “classy” as his previous. And of course by this point the Smoking Nazi’s were in full swing and even in this dump you could not smoke. After all, the second hand smoke might damage some of the merchandise…. I digress. Not only did I pick up some great items, such as an unsmoked Savenlli Autograph from the early eighties, but I got to be a kid again, going to visit Bradley’s with dad.

    As history has a tendency to repeat itself, Bradley eventually disappeared again. His health was very poor at this point, and he could even not afford the meager booth rent at the junk store, even though he still had a few loyal customers who routinely made purchases to keep him going.  I learned just recently that Bradley passed during the Holidays of 2009. Dad called to deliver the news, and as we discussed it he made a comment, “Bradley died and nobody knew it, it wasn’t even in the paper…. It’s like he didn’t exist”. I thought about it later, several times actually and have come to this conclusion. Bradley did exist and made a mark on society, as we all do when we do things for others and they take the gift and make it grow. I took my times at Bradley’s and let it slowly grow into a hobby and business that I am extremely proud of. Even though dad smoked a pipe, I probably would have never set foot into a pipe shop as an adult without the memories of Bradley’s. This has given me a pipe collecting hobby and pipe making business that I truly love, and that is a great gift indeed.

    Colin Rigsby is a pipe maker and collector from Arlington, Texas. His work can be found at shurewoodbriarpipes.com.  He grew up in Abilene, Texas, where the story above is set.

  • 20 Jan 2010 4:09 PM | Mike "Doc" Garr (Administrator)

    Will the new Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. spark a new interest in smoking pipes? Read Christian Chensvold’s NY Times blog about it. Also included is a list of tobacco shops in the Big Apple. Click  here to go to the article.

  • 03 Dec 2009 1:00 PM | Cam Schutte (Administrator)

    We lost a world class pipe smoker when Walter Cronkite passed away last summer at a ripe old age and I had been meaning to say something about him for some time.  I was glad at the time to see that the media were brave enough and honest enough, even in the current anti-smoking climate,  to include some pictures of him with a pipe in his mouth in their many tributes to him and his long career in broadcasting. Of course, they really had to because the pipe was very often there and an important part of his image and character.

    I had the pleasure of smoking a bowl with Mr. Cronkite once. It must have been back in the early 1970’s. I was in P.J. Clarkes’s on Third Avenue one evening when he came in and stood next to me. He put his hat on the bar and ordered a scotch. Then he took out a well worn tobacco pouch and a well used pipe, filled it,  lit up and puffed contentedly. I was too much in awe of the great man to remember what we talked about (of course others would chime in quite often), but recall that he was as pleasant and down to earth as could be.

    I didn’t dare ask him about his pipe, but thought it looked like a Wilke.  I recently called Gennaro Filosa, who worked in the Wilke shop for 18 years,  to confirm that Walter Cronkite had been a customer. “He sure was,” Gennaro said enthusiastically. “He came in often and bought both  pipes and tobacco from us. He always smoked Mixture 72.”  Gennaro then recalled a skit on Saturday Night Live in which Gilda Radner claimed that she had spent the night with Walter Cronkite – and had his tobacco to prove it. Gennaro added with obvious pride: “And then she held up a can of Mixture 72 for all the world to see.”

    During the past few years Mr. Cronkite and I would occasionally cross paths in our common dentist’s office, but I didn’t have a chance to talk with him. “You just missed my other pipe smoking patient, Walter Cronkite!” Dr. K would say proudly.  Dr. K  obviously was very fond of Mr. Cronkite and perhaps because of that he has never given me a hard time about my own pipe smoking. In fact, he has told me that he used to smoke a pipe when he was younger and really enjoyed it. “From time to time I think about taking it up again.”

    It is both sad and pleasurable to look back at a time (not that long ago!) when a famous man like Walter Cronkite (or President Ford) could enjoy his pipe in public – in the office, in a restaurant or bar, on the air, in the street, on a boat, anywhere – without being condemned and ostracized by the politically correct. Indeed, pipe smoking was an integral part of Walter Cronkite’s persona and  I would venture to say that the calm presence he projected with a pipe in his mouth helped make him the most trusted man in America.

    As he used to say, “and that was the way it was…..”

  • 05 Oct 2009 4:27 PM | Mike "Doc" Garr (Administrator)
    If you have not visited the OomPaul Society home page (http://oompaulpodcast.squarespace.com), you might want to give it try. The podcasts of famous people of the pipe world made by Olie Sylvester is well worth the time. Also, if you have an OomPaul or similarly shaped pipe, you can join the distinguished society!
  • 29 Sep 2009 4:28 PM | Mike "Doc" Garr (Administrator)

    In Memoriam:

    William Ashton Taylor – known to all as Bill – died this past week. I knew him for the past 8 years, not as long as many others in the community, but I was privileged to work closely with him on a regular basis, particularly over the last two years.

    I had many conversations with Bill on pipemaking often while we enjoyed a libation together. Bill was a dandy and always immaculately turned out and this was our other mutual interest, good tailoring.  From him I learnt much about pipe making and tobacco blending. Not many people knew he was one of the last persons in England to take the British pipe tobacco blenders course; when such existed.

    Every meeting with Bill was a delight & he was a natural and charming raconteur. Even our numerous trans-Atlantic telephone conversations were such a pleasure that they ran on for far longer than needed.  I found that he was unfailing courteous to all, * “the true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good”.

    In the last 6 months of Bill life, as he was in out of hospital, I made it a point to speak with him twice weekly. Sometimes he was his old self, filled with plans and ideas for pipes, but as time progressed, he more often was too tired to carry on a conversation. Our talks ceased when his cell mysteriously disappeared in mid August.  Jim Craig who saw him almost daily kept me informed. He then faded fast.

    Bills’ legacy to the pipe-making world is enormous. When he founded Ashton pipes in 1983, British pipemaking had been on a long decline. Bill’s new line of Ashton pipes, rapidly, restored the greatness of British pipe making and forced all other British pipemakers to improve. No longer could British papermakers coast on their past reputations. Ashton was the benchmark for British pipes and their smokability set the bar for all pipemakers.

    Bill Taylor was determined that his pipes would be the finest smoking pipes in world. He reintroduced oil curing, a costly and time-consuming process that insures no break in, the pipe smokes well from the 1st bowl. A process that Dunhill had abandoned in the 1950’s as too costly. And his pipes certainly were among the best smokers ever. Without him I suspect that Dunhill would have continued on its downward spiral, Les Wood might not have started Ferndown, and later Ian Walker, who Bill helped enormously, would have had a far more arduous transition from pipe repair to pipemaker.

    Bill was a giant among pipemakers. He took the classical British shapes and finishes to were they had rarely been. Working within the confines of the classic British tradition, in the way that classical painters worked within the golden rule, he found great freedom for his artistry. He reintroduced the Quaint, and came up some with totally original shapes, he reintroduced the hitherto rare Magnum size to be more available and in more shapes than ever before, and the same for the ELX, a slightly smaller size. He came up with the unique Pebble Shell that combined sandblast & rustication and was awarded the 1st new patent for a pipe process in over thirty years. His creativity in pipemaking knew no bounds.

    What cannot be overstated, Ashton’s were responsible for introducing a new generation of pipe smokers to the greatness of British pipe making at reasonable prices. His pipes smoked better than Dunhill’s and cost less.

    Bill loved pipe making and it was his life. He insured that his legacy would not die with him. Over the last two years, his colleague and friend of 30 years, James Craig, worked with him learning the oil curing process and other of Bill’s techniques. Jim will carry on making pipes in the traditional Ashton way.

    There are many pipe makers who are liked & there are many who are respected in the pipe smoking community. Bill Taylor was one of the very few who was loved. William John Ashton Taylor, “Bill”, will be sorely missed and we will not see his like again.

    Maxim

    * Dr. Johnson circa 1750’s.

    Submitted by Maxim Engel
    http://www.pipes2smoke.com

  • 25 Sep 2009 4:33 PM | Mike "Doc" Garr (Administrator)

    West Coast Pipe Show – Las Vegas – October 31-November 1, http://www.westcoastpipeshow.com/

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