|Cindy and Derek: Melmac Time|
Enter me, the Melmac Diva. I remember seeing an ad for thousands of dollars of vintage melmac for sale. Thousands of dollars of melmac? What the heck? I started thinking about how much melmac that could be. Truckloads, a warehouse full, what? I just had to find out. First we emailed, then we talked, then we talked some more, and soon he was my melmac-telephone-friend.
Certainly something worth seeing...I eventually had the in-person pleasure of meeting Derek Schutz. I went to see the Melmac as it was in my home state. I can only say my jaw dropped.
I can't describe to you how much of it there was. An entire storage container filled with three foot by four foot boxes of it. Some was sorted, most was not, neatly stacked in these boxes, I would assume some boxes weighing 50-60 lbs easily.
Thousands of pieces. No,correction, probably more like tens of thousands of pieces, but who can count that high? I was like a kid in a candy store as Derek showed me this and that, things I'd never seen and some neat finds. Some had the original prices or he'd show me what fun it was when he got the whole set for $3 at the flea market. Other samples however, he paid top dollar for in antique malls. I know he must have spent thousands, no correction, bazillions of dollars finding all this.
The squeaky wheels of my mind were turning, how could I get all this melmac past my husband? What if I were to sneak a few boxes home at a time ? Maybe store some in Maine, some at my parents, my uncle's my friends.....nope, not enough room.
I thought even paying the asking amount was a huge deal. It could easily make you back tenfold more than that and then some over time, but who has the time, and who has the place to store it? This would have been perfect for the stay at home mom with an empty warehouse to sell on Etsy ALL DAY LONG for TEN YEARS STRAIGHT. That's how much of it was there.
How could I pull this off? You have to understand, my husband is a successful man and I never ask for anything, so surely he would buy me whatever I wanted, but this--? This monstrosity of melmac just wasn't gonna happen. I already had tens of thousands of pieces of my own ! I was trying to downsize and only collect Russel Wright melmac, instead of all the other makers. Derek's collection was about 4-6 boxes out of 130 Russel Wright. So you could see I'd be stuck with 124-126 boxes I didn't need.
I did however spend a good amount of money buying some rarer Russel Wright melmac pieces I couldn't ever find, and I was just happy to have found them and gladly paid the price to Derek that he asked. I liked him from the moment I met him, you can tell good people when they come into your life because there are few and far between.
I came home and told my husband the reason why I couldn't find melmac anymore in flea markets or thrift shops near me, because Derek bought it all up. I smiled because I was glad someone as nice, kind, and friendly as Derek and his wonderful and bubbly wife Renee had assembled a very nice collection. I thought they were so cute as a couple and great people to know. I wanted to get together with them but such is life, time never allows, and I remembered that melmac.
I think I talked about it at least once a week.
I should interject, that Derek wasn't a hoarder or a packrat, but he was on a serious mission. His mission was to do visit most every thrift store, antique show, and estate sales up and down the East Coast for several years buying EVERY and ANY example of melmac he saw, so that he could write a comprehensive book about it.
He said, there should be an encyclopedia, an A to Z of melmac, with pictures, colors and prices. I had to agree. Melmac was gaining more and more exposure, thanks to Martha Stewart's Living article in 2000 featuring some vintage melmac designs. No sooner did that happen did the Made-In-China new versions of vintage hit the markets. How about the always-sold-out Garbage Bowls of Rachael Ray, so people would go and look for the vintage Texasware.....Melmac was coming back.
Somehow Derek used his wit and charm to infiltrate archives at Kenro, Boontonware (then still in NJ), Texas Ware, Lenox (who bought Branchell) and even some correspondence communicated with people who worked with Russel Wright's American Cyanamid contacts. He had his notes in order, and was serious about the project. His wonderful wife Renee was also supportive of his project.
My husband heard me talk about that pile of melmac for a year. Finally he said, "If you really want it, you can get it." I knew however, I didn't have the space, time, or patience to go though with it, because I can barely keep up with life as I know it now. There would be no way trying to turn around and sell all these pieces for the rest of my life --just another thing on my already too long to-do list. No to mention, where would one put this?
As if on queue, I received a phone call. Derek wanted me to come down and pick up the melmac. I thought I misunderstood. No, I didn't, he wanted me to take it, take it all. Sell it, do whatever, he had to get rid of it. I really suggested him trying to find one of those auction-sellit-places or selling it online himself, but he was pretty adamant about giving it to me.
I really didn't know why.
Until I got down there. I remember the smile on my face seeing him, but then it turned to worry as I saw that he had lost some weight and looked a lot different. It was cancer, and he was in treatments, and he explained to me he would appreciate his melmac going home to someone who loves it as much as he did.
It was a bittersweet moment, and I was fighting back the tears. My helpers were loading a bazillion pieces of melmac into a long trailer, in the back of my pickup, and in the back seat. I couldn't be excited, as I was just so hurt and mad that yet another wonderful person that I knew would fall victim to cancer, as it has touched many members of my family and friend circle.
I guess you can imagine how touched I was by his actions, but saddened too, and even now how hard it is for me to this day, to open the boxes that he gave me. For these pieces were his passion, they were part of him and the story of his life.
He never asked for me to give him any money, but I felt it only right after selling it to give half the net profit to his wife Renee, who left Maryland for Montana, and has lost such a wonderful husband. Not to mention, in this day and age, spending much of their retirement and savings together to try alternative treatments and cover insurance bills to save the one man she loved so.
Little by little I go through it, trying to organize (but organization with a mass collection of this size if futile, unless they close off my neighborhood, and I can spread it up and down the street but that may take a month or more.)
So I settle for a bit here and there, like a new find, I unveil a tiny bit of Derek's Melmac into the world, piece by piece, knowing that someone out there will buy it, and love it as much as he did. I've donated a lot to Goodwill that were scratchy examples only obtained for the purpose of a book. I wonder though, if they buy that Boonton creamer, will they know how wonderful he was when they use that Boontonware creamer, or how lovely of a person he was when they are eating off those picnic plates? Maybe not until now.
Had I only met him sooner, I would think things would be different. I think I'd be shopping at thirft shops with Derek and talking about plastic.
I donated most of his files to Robin Ptacek, or California, whose goal is to write a book much like Derek had originally wanted. Robin's years of knowledge and attention to detail should prove a good read. I only hope some of Derek's notes will fill in the blanks.
To me, Derek was my plastics friend. To the rest of the world he was so much more-- here is an excerpt I found about him on a website...
Derek Schultz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schultz has a background in experimental psychology and survey research and over 15 years of experience as an independent consultant. His work has spanned a range of telecommunication interfaces and web applications, as well as user documentation projects. He was the proprietor of Media Design Associates.
To his friends that knew him prior to December 21, 2008, he was more than that, an avid researcher, and a workaholic. A good husband, and a book collector. A researcher, and a design guru. A dish collector, and an antique lover. Someone whom I only wished I'd met sooner. People even now, after he's gone, thanking Derek for his help and knowledge.
This prompted me to redo my Russel Wright Melmac site,and start this blog.
In the meantime, I'll continue to sell these pieces until they are gone, sending my checks to Renee here and there, and someday selling off the very last piece.....and knowing, that Derek's melmac is all over the world.
As for the lovely Renee, she's somewhere in Glendive, MT......