The First 20 Years of NCC: Reminiscing with a Past President

by Willard Kolb
Issue No. 240 - April 1993

[Willard was the fourth President of National Cambridge Collectors, Inc., from June 1980 through July 1988]

I had fun, learned a lot and met hundreds of wonderful people. What do you mean, Sue, when you say that's not definitive enough and it will get lost in the Crystal Ball? Okay, here goes, you asked for it.

The first thing I remember was falling asleep at the Directors meeting in June 1980, only to wake up and be the last one to say "not me" when the question was asked - who wants to be President? I was informed that since I was the last one to say no, I had been elected. The next thing I remember was the announcement at the Annual meeeting that Willard Kolb had been elected President by the Board, and all I could hear was "who's he?". Would you believe it took me eight years before I learned not to fall asleep at a Directors meeting when officers were being elected, and be the last one to say "not me"?

Being the fourth President of NCC was an easy and enjoyable experience for me. Charles Upton, the first President had seen to it that the Constitution, Bylaws, purpose and goals of the organization were well defined. Bob Coyle, the second President, continued building the membership base and instituted the first Auction. Bill Smith, the third President, was then able to focus on making the organization fiscally sound. I stepped in after the property had been purchased for the Museum an felt that my responsibility was to get down to business and get the Museum opened. It took two years of hard work and sacrifices by many, along with financial help from the membership, before we could dedicate the Museum on June 25, 1982. I think it was a proud time for everyone in the organization. It had also been a memorable two years. Along with the hard work came much fun and friendship. I would like to name and thank every one of the members who spent countless hours working at the Museum, but this would be impossible in the space we have. I will, however, say "THANK YOU" again, for your dedication.

I know that when Phyllis Smith reads this she will have some memories of me as President. One of the duties of the President is to write an article for the Crystal Ball each month. During the time I was President, I had to write nearly 100 articles. For some unknown reason, I never seemed to know when the deadline was for those articles, although it was the same every month. Ninety percent of the time, Phyllis would have to call me and remind me that the deadline was approaching, like yesterday. One time I even dictated my article to her over the phone so that it would not be more than three days late.

Perhaps one of the periods I think about most, and one I have mixed feelings about, is the period of time in late 1983 and early 1984 when it was announced that the Imperial Glass Corporation would be liquidated. Beside the fact that we would have the opportunity to recover molds and other memorabilia that had originally been the property of the Cambridge Glass Company, there remained the sad realization that another important era in the glass making industry had ended. When the Imperial factory was completed in 1904, it was touted as the largest glass factory in the world under one roof. I will tell you that it was, and still is, huge. It is being renovated and will house retail shops along with the Bellaire Glass and Artifacts Museum, where a considerable amount of Cambridge glass will be on display.

I'll never forget the cold in the basement of the Imperial Factory, when many of us were corting through the Cambridge molds that were stored there. It was so cold that we had to go outside after each half hour to get warm. I still go there often, in fact about once a week. I often hear people who come in to browse through the "New Hay Shed", a consignment Imperial Glass Shop, say how cold it is and I tell them "you should have been here in January of 1984".

I will always remember the kind consideration Everett Schlarz, head of the liquidation for Consolidated International, Helen Clark, his secretary, and the late Gilbert Glasgow gave our organization when they knew we did not have the funds to make a clean sweep. The membership gave their all, but we just didn't have enough members to raise the amount of money it would have taken to buy all the molds and other memorabilia. The other problem was that the liquidation had been going on for a week before we were even notified. In a meeting with Mr. Schlarz, I remember the asking price for all the Cambridge assets was $400,000, but that price would be negotiable. Our concern was that there had been no inventory taken by Imperial when the assets were moved to Bellaire, and there had not been an inventory taken before the liquidation. The Cambridge molds were in many different areas of the factory and it was, therefore, almost impossible to know exactly what was there. This dilemma was aggravated by the fact that we had no guarantee that we could recover the molds that had already left the factory. This was probably the most depressing time for me while I was President.

It would be difficult for me to pick out the most memorable thing that happened to me while I was President. They are all memorable to me.

In June 1983, the Board of Directors approved a 750 square foot addition to our Museum building. The expansion was completed rather quickly and under budget, but our move to this new space was delayed due to the unexpected work occasioned by the acquisition of molds from the Imperial factory.

The color book was introduced at the 1984 Convention. This book was very well received and continues to add funds to our museum fund. The committee that wrote this book consisting of Frank Wollenhaupt, Joy McFadden, Bill Smith and Dave Rankin, did a superb job which has stood the test of time.

At this same Convention, we kicked off a fund raising drive to help us acquire the Cambridge assets from Imperial and, later, to house them. In June 1985, the Board approved construction of the storage building. This building was completed and ready for use by October 1985. Once again, our members came through with dollars and much hard work.

If I accomplished anything for the NCC while I ws President, I am thankful that the membership gave me the opportunity to do so. The knowledge that I gained about Cambridge glass, by being a member of this organization, helped me in my collection. I think I will always owe NCC.

And then it happened. In July 1988, just before the Directors Meeting when we would elect officers, I took Mark Nye to breakfast and put a Mickey in his orange juice. He fell asleep during the meeting only to wake up and be the last one to say "not me" when it was asked who wanted to be President.