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Gunsser provides a one-man show and tell program at historical society

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Jack Gunsser holds a marker light. They were strung in a series to mark dams so people would not go over them in the dark. His comes from the power plant in the Hauto Valley.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Jack Gunsser holds a marker light. They were strung in a series to mark dams so people would not go over them in the dark. His comes from the power plant in the Hauto Valley.
Published January 20. 2010 05:00PM

A hobby begun at age 7 by John "Jack" Gunsser of Jim Thorpe continues in retirement. At the Jan. 12 meeting of the Palmerton Area Historical Society he brought some of his collection of old oddities - oddities that were once in everyday use, to "show and tell." A few things were recognized but most had to be explained.

Years ago he was asked to speak at the Columbia County Historical Society and his talks acquired a name, "For heaven's sake, what's this?"

Gunsser was active in forming a Carbon County Historical Society that met in Lansford but it never got going because each town wanted a different thing.

He said he was born in 1939 BC - before computers, credit cards or calculators.

The first item he showed was a candleholder made of an elephant tusk. Since selling ivory was illegal, it had been painted to disguise it but Gunsser cleaned it. He turned it in different angles but no one recognized it. He bought it at a flea market for $5.

He was dressed in the manner of a European gentleman from the 1870s and wore his watch fob so it covered the buttons on his vest because buttons were pagan. No respectable man wore brown, a tradition that continues to this day.

As he held up a multipurpose lid picker-upper he asked, "How would you learn what this is? Get hold of old catalogs. This cost 19 cents and was a standard piece of kitchen equipment."

After displaying a vaporizer that was used with camphor oil, he was asked if he had a quarantine sign. He has one from the Monroe County board of health, but said what he wants is one of the ice signs that were placed in windows to indicate how much ice a person needed.

An olive wood "egg" from Israel was a case for needles and thread that would be carried for emergency repairs.

A sand holder was used to blot ink. After the ink was dry the remainder was returned to the holder, which was made of wood and shaped like a small dish on a stand.

An Aphrodite design decorated the back of a three-inch metal purse mirror.

Gunsser said he got much of his collection at good prices because people did not know what things were such as the clothesline separator for which he paid a dime. He also had the clothesline which was pulled from a container reminiscent of a manual pencil sharpener. The clothesline would be stretched across the kitchen.

After showing a tube with a wick that was the heater for a curling iron, he said, "I'm writing biographies of my grandparents. My grandmother curled my hair in back so I'd be like my grandfather."

He has not categorized his collection but said he can tell where he bought each item and how much he paid for it.

When Gunsser visited a nursing home, part of the audience was people with Alzheimers disease. When he showed an apple peeler, one of the patients said "That's my mother's apple peeler." She had not spoken in a long time.

A clacker like a Halloween nosiemaker that children spin around, though bigger, was carried by policemen to call for help. Gunsser spun it and people agreed it could be heard a long distance.

Gunsser worked for auctioneers and when he was asked what something was and he wanted to buy it himself, he just told the auctioneer to go ahead and sell it rather than telling him what it was.

In other business, George Ashman gave the acquisition report and said he found three pairs of zinc company goggles on his porch and does not know who left them. For the record he'd like to know.

He said the Chamber of Commerce is planning the 100th anniversary of Palmerton's incorporation.

Secretary Betsy Burnhauser said the Christmas dinner had 40 attendees and the program of carols was popular.

A poster contest for grades nine-12 will be held for the historical society's 20th anniversary. There will be a founder's day tea in March and a public dinner in April.

The new exhibit at the Heritage Center includes the history of the society, the Little White Church, Kibler School, the heritage center and the archives.

There was a request for the name of the Horsehead Inn housekeeper in 1946. People recalled she was a lady and people were expected to conduct themselves accordingly.

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