Monday, November 7, 2016

The Smell of Fine Leather

Back in the day when men landed jobs for life at major manufacturing plants, my father was someone who was ready to move if the grass seemed greener elsewhere.  The summer after my kindergarten year, he moved us from Michigan to Rochester, NY where he took a job in the tool room at Hickok Manufacturing.

Hickok was founded in 1909 by S. Rae Hickok.  It was bought in 1971 by the Tandy Corporation (the same one who owned the now defunct Radio Shack).  My Dad worked there from 1963-1965.  What I knew was that Hickok made belts and other leather accessories for men and awarded the Hickok Belt to the sportsman of the year.

My Dad moved on from there to work at other small shops and factories, eventually spending the last fifteen years of his life in Florida until he died in 1995.

A few weeks ago I was browsing eBay and found an auction for a brown Indian goat skin wallet made by Hickok Manufacturing.  It was in its original box and so far no one had bid on it.  I placed a bid and two days later got word that I had won it!  Now I carry it in my right back pocket.

The word “Hickok” is embossed inside in small gold letters.  I don’t know the date of its creation but it smells wonderfully fresh and two pieces of aged paper sat inside the box.  Given the date of the company’s acquisition by Tandy, my guess is that the piece was manufactured less than 5 years after my Dad left there.

Dad’s been gone for 21 years and we weren’t especially close, but I find myself thinking about him more and more.  I find myself feeling proud of what he did.  I watch Tom Hanks' production of the HBO series The Pacific with appreciation for what he went through as a Marine on Okinawa.  I watch the Cubs with the World Series this year and thought of how his father – my grandfather – loved baseball (The Detroit Tigers).  I read science fiction and remember all the book shelves filled with 35 cent paperbacks he would read at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a cigarette.

My new wallet is simple.  Only two credit cards fill the slots.  It’s a bifold and carrying too much cash will stress the hinge (Ha!).  There’s no room for pictures in my new wallet – except for one of Nadine I tuck behind my driver’s license.  My best pictures are in my head and they are moving in form and emotional impact.  My new wallet is the best quality fashion accessory I have ever owned.  Best of all, it takes me back to a time when Dad would come home from work and I’d meet him at the car and race him to the door.

Thanks for the wallet, Dad!

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