Lititz time warp George Bew spotted at antique show

By on August 29, 2012

By: CORY VAN BROOKHOVEN Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

When I was asked to cover this year’s Lititz Springs Park Antique Show, I jumped at the chance. As many of you know, I love writing and learning about Lititz and Warwick Township history. I also collect local antiques, and look forward to this show every year. It’s certainly one of my favorites by far, and the fact that I can enjoy it while being in the gorgeous Lititz Springs Park only adds to the fun.

Getting up extra early, I had coffee in hand, and made my way to the park. By 7 a.m., most of the dealers were set up and ready to go. Knowing that the Moonlighters would be playing live later that morning in the Oehme gazebo was a sure way for me to stick around even longer.

One of the first stands I stopped at was Jerry Striker’s of Lititz. He always has old cigar labels and Native American artifacts for sale, and this year was no different. After chatting with him for a few moments, I meandered around to the other side of the parking lot to a familiar stand. Bill and Rebecca Buckwalter always have an outstanding assortment of Lititz items for sale, and I was very anxious to see what they had in store this year. While I was thumbing through some of the ephemera they had for sale, Bill and I struck up a conversation.

“We did some shows in the past, and then we didn’t do some, and now we’re back,” he said while helping a customer with a framed piece of local art. “The younger generation isn’t as interested. The new buzz word is vintage and not antique.”

“It’s a sign of the times,” Bill continued, “and it’s an election year; however, the park is a perfect place to hold this event every year.”

The Buckwalter’s had a great treasure trove of Lititz items including old 4th of July programs, many colorful postcards, antique bill heads and invoices, and various other town mementos from decades gone by. In front of their stand this year was a beautiful hand-sewn Cub Scout or Boy Scout flag, with blue letters and the words “Lititz 3” with a Native American silhouette. It was framed, and really caught my eye. Perhaps at one time this piece waved proudly near the beloved Boy Scout cabin, or was displayed at pack meetings 60 years ago? I never saw one like it before, so its origin was anybody’s guess. I had to have this item, along with a few photo cabinet cards taken by George Bew of Lititz.

Bew owned and operated a portrait gallery at what is now a vacant lot on the north side of the Parkview Hotel. From 1890 to about 1896, his business was known as the Broad Gallery where he photographed many persons dressed in their Sunday best. Often times, he could be seen carrying his heavy equipment in a wicker basket into the park. Once inside the park, he would ask visitors that came from near and far if they would like their photo taken as a keepsake. Once they agreed, a common place to have the photo taken was in front of the round house. Bew would then take out a thin sheet of tin and transfer the image onto it. These photos, called tin-types, were a low quality yet inexpensive way to preserve the memories of visits to the park.

When business was slow, Bew would take photos for free of whoever happened to be in the park as a way to spread word of his business. He also maintained at one time a very small house near the round house. This is most likely where his customers picked up their special keepsakes which were tucked into a little pink folder when they were ready to go home. In addition, he was known for taking various photos of the beautiful Lititz Springs. They say every picture tells a story, and the fact that the Buckwalters were selling some of Bew’s studio portrait cards made me especially excited to purchase them. After gathering my purchases, I continued on.

Along the way, I ran into familiar faces that I knew from local flea markets and auctions. They too were here for a bargain, and were not disappointed. While looking over items at a stand, I struck up a conversation with Brian Wolf of Oak street in Lititz.

“I started collecting about 35 years ago,” he said. “My collection includes cowboy items and pin back buttons. The prices seem to be down, unless it’s a rare piece.”

Making my way through the show, I stopped off at Dave Sharp’s stand. He, like the Buckwalters, always has an impressive amount of Lancaster County collectibles, and this year would be no different.

“You don’t get the specialized collectors that you used to,” stated Sharp, who started to sell items at the antique show with his mother and father about 35 years ago. “We always did well with Lititz and Lancaster County items. Today, customers are looking for items in the $10, $20 or $30 price range as opposed to that $500 item,” he pointed out.

Among the vintage glass bottles and calendars, another local item caught my eye the moment I approached his stand. It was an old cigar box from the Kafroth and Hellinger factory which once stood in Rothsville. I have one of these in my collection, but I always like to view others that I see for sale at shows. The box is adorned with the factory number of 218 on the inside lid of the box and on all sides. Pictured on the inside of the box are Carpenter Kafroth on the left, and William Hellinger on the right. The words Rothsville, PA are proudly displayed underneath their images. The cigar industry always fascinated me, and I remember reading that Rothsville had more cigar companies in operation at one time than any other hamlet in the county.

The 218 factory was once located behind the White Swan Hotel on Newport Road. Kafroth operated a barber shop in the rear of the White Swan before getting into the cigar manufacturing industry. He teamed up with his partner when Hellinger left Hallacher’s cigar making operation in Rothsville after a dispute in pay could not be worked out. Later, John Weidler joined them as a third partner, however, Weidler’s name was never displayed on a box.

The factory did a tremendous business, employing about 20 persons. In 1927, O’ Brian (Obie) Miller purchased the White Swan and wanted more parking spaces for his customers. The cigar factory then relocated to 43 Church Street in Rothsville. By this time, Weidler had left the three-way partnership to start his own cigar making business. Once relocating to Church Street, the factory had to change their number to 219. Manufacturing both 218 and 219 cigars, this business eventually ceased in 1936 when the boom of the cigar manufacturing era was coming to a close.

The wonderful sounds of the Moonlighters hit my ears as I made my way back home with new treasures in hand. The crowd seemed to really increase as the dampness of the morning turned to a warm summer day. “I’ll be back again next year,” I say to myself, as I see additional people make their way on foot to the park.

The annual Lititz Springs Park Antique Show, just like many of the items for sale there, is certainly a treasure to behold. Quite often, we get so busy in our everyday lives that we forget where we come from, and who conducted thriving businesses in our community over 100 years ago. Thankfully, we have lasting artifacts from the likes of photographer George Bew and Kafroth and Hellinger to remind us of our hard working ancestral roots within our community. Out of the hundreds of items that were for sale, these were just two examples that contain a fascinating back-story.

Countless items that went to new homes throughout the day will no doubt be shared, rediscovered, and then (at the right time) passed down to the next generation. Each will have its own story as to how it wound up for sale in Lititz Springs Park. Who knows, someone might find an antique diamond ring in another part of the country 100 years from now with a small faded hand-written tag attached that says: “Purchased by my great-grandfather at the Lititz Springs Park Antique Show in 2012 for his then fiancee. Now my great-grandmother.”

Anything is possible.

Whether it was an old toy or hard cover book that reminded someone of their youth, a perfectly refinished antique oak table just waiting to be shown off on Thanksgiving day, or a priceless piece of antique costume jewelry just like Grandma used to have, there’s truly something magical about peering into the mirror of the past by attending the Lititz Antique Show. More ANITQUE SHOW, page A14