Rivertowns Enterprise – the hometown newspaper of Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley and Irvington, New York


MARCH 18, 2011

‘Things, Etc.,’ the sequel, a potluck of local passions

Some of the items on display at the Irvington History Center.


By Colleen Michele Jones

IRVINGTON — As any collector will tell you, an item still in its original box will fetch a far higher return than an unpackaged one. Erik Weiselberg knew this, but still he recently ripped open and removed dozens upon dozens of Star Wars action figures and other memorabilia from their packaging.

People thought he was crazy.

Weiselberg, a history teacher at Irvington High School who’s been collecting Star Wars merchandise since the original movie came out in 1977, said he was more than happy to show off the collection he’s amassed so that others can enjoy it, too.

Instead of trying to sell or auction off the items — which he didn’t really see himself taking the time to do — Weiselberg has loaned them to the Irvington Historical Society to display as part of “Things, Etc. 2011,” the second installment of the organization’s homage to the wide range of treasures that lurk behind the closed doors of local residents.

The opening reception for the exhibit, which runs through July, is tomorrow (March 19), from 1 to 4 p.m. at the historical society’s headquarters in the old McVickar House on Main Street.

“I think it’s great to share them like this,” said Weiselberg, who is also on the board of the Irvington Historical Society.

And apparently many other folks across Irvington feel the same way.

“We’ve certainly got a lot of collectors around here,” said Betsy Wilson, ex-officio president of the historical society who now serves as program chair.

And curiosity about what others hold dear seems to be a big draw.

“We want to see what our neighbors have,” said Wilson. “It brings a lot of people in that might otherwise not come.”

From the seemingly mundane (garden faucet knobs) to the exquisite (Beleek china from Northern Ireland), the whimsical (trolls) and the downright odd (salt and pepper shakers in the form of prisoners from Alcatraz), the community’s passions and pastimes once again take center stage in the historical society’s display cases.

Why do a second exhibit of collectibles?

“We got such a good response last year, and so many visitors, that we decided it was worth doing again,” said Claire Mastroianni, a docent with the historical society who is again stepping into the role of curator for the exhibit.

If it’s possible, Mastroianni said she thinks “Things, Etc.” Part II is even bigger and better than Part I.

“It’s certainly more diverse,” said Mastroianni.

There’s Irvington resident Mary Scandura’s huge assortment of costume jewelry, including a glittering Christmas tree-shaped centerpiece composed of brightly colored pins and earrings of all kinds sure to catch a visitor’s eye right away. Scandura’s nephew handcrafts conversation pieces like this one as a hobby, Mastroianni said.

For a taste of Americana, check out the collection of salt and pepper shakers, including those commemorating black servants.

“Those were very collectible, and of course now they’re politically incorrect,” said Wilson, who does the research behind the items so visitors can learn more about their origin and other interesting details.

There’s also the distinctive orange, yellow, and green ceramic serving pieces that carry the Majolica label; milk glass candlesticks; Toby jugs; old cooking utensils, candy and cookie molds, and aprons; teacups and spoons; commemorative Christmas ornaments; and a collection of old bottles and jars one village resident dug up by Hermit’s Grave within the Irvington Woods.

Fun collections to look at are the trolls of all sizes, each with its own crazy shock of neon-colored hair, and a bunch of fishing lures, including those used for ice fishing, carved into wooden decoys in the shape of a duck, bug, and even an alligator.

“The trolls came out in 1959, then died away and came back in the ‘70s,” said Wilson.

Sure to appeal to little boys (or the little boy in every man) is the array of Marvel Comics books, figures, and more included in the exhibit.

And kids of all ages will want to check out the multitude of antique toys in the children’s room in the basement of the McVickar House.

For collectors, removing items from shelves in their homes or dusting off old boxes from the attic can be a trip down memory lane in itself.

“People love to tell their stories,” said Wilson, “and some people have unpacked things they haven’t seen in years.”

The kinds of objects someone collects can say something about that person, their personality, or their interests.

Weiselberg’s fascination with all things Star Wars, for example, goes back to childhood, when the first movie in the trilogy came out in the late 1970s. The science fiction, environmental, and moral and political themes all spoke to Weiselberg, who was also wowed by the world George Lucas created.

Weiselberg got a lot of Star Wars action figures and toys as gifts when he was a boy, but “gave those all away at some point,” he said.

When the films were re-released in 1997, spurring a whole new wave of Star Wars popularity, he began buying up all the merchandise he could find related to the phenomenon. His collection now includes a wide range of memorabilia — figures, play sets, even a life-sized Darth Vader costumed figure and several lightsabers.

For Weiselberg, it was like being a kid around the holidays again as, one by one, he removed each collectible from its casing, “setting them up with other figures, and letting my memories flood back in and my imagination run wild.”

The Irvington History Center at the McVickar House, 131 Main St., is open to the public every Thursday and Saturday, 1-4 p.m.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


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