Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another South Hadley Falls anecdote

From: Bill Cary
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009
To: John Zebryk
Subject: Another South Hadley Falls anecdote

Hi John,

Our School-Carew reflections brought back the time Victor Bacis and I made a major trade in true Yankee fashion:

To put it in context, view it as an episode in the Depression when little things meant a lot and lives were home-centered. Stamp collecting had taken hold among some of us, and fathers, like Jackie McCabe's, were brought closer to their sons around the kitchen table by keeping albums up-to-date. There were dreams of riches. Stamps would keep increasing in value forever. Hence, they were sound investments. Those were the days of baseball on the radio. Connie Mack's Athletics and Joe McCarthy's Yankees were riding high. The Red Sox were grateful for third place.

Vic Bacis and I must have been around twelve at the time. One summer morning he came over to the house and sat on the porch with me as we scanned my baseball card collection.

Baseball cards were a lower form of collecting. Cards came with bubble gum. If your luck was running sour, you got duplicates. However, duplicates did represent trading material.

I doubt whether Vic knew I had started a stamp collection. But when he saw I had duplicate baseball cards he let it drop out that he had discovered a ragbag full of stamps in their attic on School Street. Would I be interested in a trade? Cards for stamps. My heart pounded as I struggled to keep my cool. Wow! A bag of stamps (unseen) for perhaps twenty extra baseball cards? "It's a deal!" I almost shouted. Vic went home for the bag and we swapped. But I saved looking at my possible bonanza until after Vic left.

It turned out that at least ninety-percent of Vic's stamps were all the same, the red 2-cent basic postage showing George Washington in profile. Together they were almost worthless. I was heartbroken.

However, after I culled out the red Washingtons I did have enough little gems from back in the late eighteen hundreds to convince me that I had got the best of the trade. I mounted them all carefully and calculated their value from the Scott's catalog. No. Not a bad swap at all.

It turned out that my mounting stamps with small glued hinges became a multi-thousand dollar business for the P.P. Kellogg Div. of the U.S. Envelope Co. in Springfield where my father was manager. Cellophane had been created, and dad had to discover ways of converting it into various forms of containers. When he saw how stamp hinges ruined my stamps dad "invented" a cellophane-tube type of mount into which single stamps or blocks of four could be placed for harmless mounting. These "Crystal Mounts" as dad called them sold by the thousands to collectors all over the world. You could say that they were invented on Carew Street after my trade with Vic Bacis.

Eventually I sold my stamps. Any thoughts of making money on them were sheer fantasy. What I actually got for them was almost a joke compared to their values listed in the catalogs.

But I'll bet you that Vic's twenty old baseball cards from the early Thirties must be worth thousands today.

You won, Vic, wherever you are!

- Bill Cary


Luanne Pontbriand said...


My name is Luanne and I am Victor's daughter. I am thrilled to have found this article. My dad passed in 2004. I thank you for this article and a chance to remember my dad!

Luanne Pontbriand said...


My name is Luanne and I am Victor's daughter. I found this article quite by accident today and I wish to thank you for writing it. My dad passed in 2004 but it's nice to know his memory lives on. He was truly a South Hadleyite