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ROCK SOLID: A LOVE OF BRICKS STICKS SIMI VALLEY MAN BUILDS COLLECTION OF 1,300 -- SO FAR.

Byline: ERIC LEACH Staff Writer

SIMI VALLEY -- Some people collect dolls, some collect sea shells and some collect barbed wire.

Then there's the International Brick Collectors Association, and people like Ron Rose.

The group's 1,000 members hoard tons of bricks, especially those with symbols or scenes etched on them. Rose, who owns Rose Family Funeral Home in Simi Valley, has amassed about 1,300 in the three years he's been collecting.

``I only collect bricks with some sort of markings. People ask what I'm doing and then they try to help me,'' Rose said, explaining how his friends give him bricks or suggestions about where he might find more.

Some association members have Web sites showing off their bricks, marked with images of everything from buffaloes to spiders, Roy Rogers to Abraham Lincoln.

Rose has pictures of nearly 900 posted on his site, www.rosebrickyard.com, including one with a Nativity scene and one embossed with an image of the Last Supper.

Frank Clement, a retired construction worker from New York and a past president of the association, said his prized bricks include one with an Indian arrowhead he found on the fireplace in a historic Ohio building.

``I like the beauty of it and I like the history of it,'' said Clement, who estimated he drives about 15,000 miles a year looking for bricks along river banks, in old brickyards, at building demolition sites and anywhere else that comes to mind.

``Some people wonder what the heck we are doing,'' he said, ``and some people think we are a little bit off.''

When he built his ovens at Sutter's Fort in the 1840s, California pioneer John Sutter took a couple bricks as mementos and put them in his window, apparently making him the state's first brick collector.

The Kansas Museum of History displays a brick reading ``Don't Spit on Sidewalk,'' from an early 20th century public education campaign to help fight tuberculosis.

Jim Graves, the Brick Collectors Association historical secretary from Wichita, has a couple of the ``don't-spit'' bricks in his own collection and said they can still be found on some Kansas sidewalks.

Graves has about 4,000 bricks and has put together a listing of 32,000 brick plants that operated in the United States over the last 150 years.

``Most bricks you find when someone tears something down,'' he said. ``It might be a brick no one has seen for 70 years, then they tear down a building and there are thousands of them.''

On his brick-collecting excursions back in the 1970s, he would take a pickup truck with a trailer to an old town in Ohio and look for the oldest person he could find, asking for advice about locating brickyards abandoned in the 1930s.

But finding bricks is ultimately a matter of being in the right place at the right time, he said, pointing to a friend who found a brick from Lawrence, Kansas, in the Grand Canyon.

Clement has about 4,500 individual bricks in his collection and has them in his patio, walkways and on display from floor to ceiling in his garage.

Association members don't do what they do to get rich, either.

While a 12-inch piece of barbed wire can sell for $1,000, Clement said the most expensive brick he has seen for sale on eBay asked for a little over $200, and the Brick Collectors Association bylaws prohibit sale of bricks among its members.

Instead, members meet in various parts of the country at three swap-meet-like gatherings during the year and trade bricks.

``When we go to these meetings all we do is trade,'' Clement said. ``We will not put a money value on it. We want to keep the farmer, the doctor, the dentist and the construction worker on an even basis.''

``We don't want the price to go up, because then it would be a money game,'' Rose said.

It's a hobby that promotes friendships, and the meetings three times a year are like big family reunions.

``You don't get to make a million dollars collecting bricks,'' he said. ``If you want a certain brick, most of the time another club member will give it to you. That's the fun of it.''

eric.leach(at)dailynews.com

(805) 583-7602

CAPTION(S):

4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Ron Rose, a member of a national society of brick collectors, relaxes with some of his marked bricks at his home in Simi Valley.

(2) Ron Rose of Simi Valley is a member of a national society of brick collectors who collect rare marked bricks. Some of his marked bricks he uses for trading for other bricks.

(3) Ron Rose owns this rare brick with the word WELEETKA engraved on it.

(4) Another one of Ron Rose's bricks is stamped with an Indian mark.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 23, 2006
Words:811
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