Recently an old North Jersey collecting comrade of mine, Mark Marinello, invited me to join a Facebook page featuring a group of collectors who frequently meet up at the twice monthly Garfield, New Jersey shows run by Gary Sipos at the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club. There were several aspects which truly struck me as wonderful even though it has now been a quarter century since I moved from that area to Dallas to begin work at Beckett.
The first was I still knew many of the people in the little group. Mark had worked for me on Monday and Friday nights when I briefly owned a store. I think we had more of a good time just chatting as there were not always a ton of customers those evenings.
Then there was “Coach” John Ponchak. Coach is a local legend in North Jersey and the line used for his photo on the page is that he “is needed to bring a touch of class to the proceedings”. Coach, who actually is a former high school baseball coach, even had a player make the majors. Mike Laga’s time in the bigs was brief but memorable thanks to the time he hit a foul ball completely out of Busch Stadium. As far as I know, he is one of only a couple of major leaguers to hit a foul ball out of a stadium. Way back in 1969 on a gloomy day, Frank Howard hit a long blast out of Yankee Stadium although some people who were there say the ball was actually fair when it rose above the stands.
There are also photos of Charlie Senor, the self- described “biggest Alvin Dark fan”. Charlie and I were in an APBA league in the late 1980s when it seemed every hard-core baseball fan played that popular board game. Seeing a photo of Charlie reminded me of all the chats we had about his Dark collection back in the day.
There are also action photos of Ted Straka setting up at the show. It’s good to see a big dealer such as Teddy remembering his roots at the simpler shows.
There is even a photo of Pat Gonella in the bunch. Pat took over from Tom Reid as one of the promoters of the long-running show which began at the Montclair State College many years ago. Those shows at Montclair State were some of the best I ever attended and if only knew now what I knew then, I would have a ton of great cards. That was also the location of my debut as a show dealer in 1979.
Sports collecting clubs were very common back in the 1970s and part of the 80s. Before the internet, it’s how local collectors found each other and socialized. Meetings and trade sessions were held. The clubs often had monthly or semi-monthly shows along with a big “national” type event once or twice a year. Communications were by newsletters sent out in the mail. The focus was on set building, sharing knowledge, trading and fun rather than money. The Garfield group is sort of like that.
The most important part of it all is the obvious camaraderie between many of the collectors. The show is a place to hang out, forget about any of the world’s problems and spend the morning in the company of like-minded hobbyists. For me, it’s great to see my old friends still actively collecting. The show has been a big part of their lives and the Facebook page is an extension of that—a place to connect in between the once a month in person get togethers.
The cost to get into that long-running show, by the way, is still only $1. You know, when I started my shows, I wanted $1 admission so collectors would feel they had a little bit of skin in the game. But, I’m also sure there is a part of me which remembered the number of tables at that very successful Garfield show collectors get to see for a buck and figured that was more than enough for my little show here in Texas.
So, to my friends, who have now been going to Garfield for more than 20 years, let’s make arrangements to all meet in another 20 years. I’m sure it’ll seem like I never left.