A TRIBUTE TO WILLIAM (BILL) A. CROWL
Stretch Glass Society founding member and honorary life member, Bill Crowl, passed away on August 3, 2017, at the Eagle Point Nursing Home in Parkersburg, WV. Bill was born on March 25, 1935. He is survived by a brother and a niece. During his 82 years he lived in the Washington, DC area, the Fort Lauderdale, FL area and most recently in Parkersburg, WV. He was also a founding member of the American Carnival Glass Association as well as the Nation’s Capitol Carnival Glass Club. Bill is best known for his extensive traveling, crisscrossing the United States multiple times each year in search of rare and unusual carnival glass, stretch glass, world’s fair memorabilia, souvenir china, advertising items and much, much more. He was a dedicated collector of numerous types of glassware and assembled a collection of American iridescent stretch glass worthy of a museum.
Bill was a regular at the Brimfield (MA) antique markets both as a buyer and a seller and was often sited at other major and not so major antique shows, flea markets and auctions throughout the US. He said he had driven a million miles and was working on his second million – all in search of the best, the most unusual, the rarest carnival, stretch, Fenton, Northwood or some other glass only Bill would recognize. He had a memory like a computer, so there is little doubt that he actually knew how many miles he had driven and a million miles doesn’t sound like an exaggeration. Many collectors have him to thank for some of the choice examples in their collections which travelled many miles in brown sacks in banana boxes in Bill’s van before they got to their next owner. Bill donated his body to scientific research, so there was no funeral or memorial.
Bill could always be counted on to draw a crowd as he unpacked his banana boxes of stretch glass for sale at our annual conventions and at the “mini-conventions” many of us held at our homes to provide opportunities for local collectors to gather ‘round and purchase "rare and unusual" stretch glass (after we had a friendly talk with our bankers, of course). While Bill was eccentric, to say the least – he lived on vitamins, raw milk and drank bottled water long before the rest of us ever dreamed of buying water – he was extremely knowledgeable when it came to iridescent glass. He might not have appeared as authoritative as some, but he knew iridescent glass as well as anyone and he knew when he found a rarity and often knew just who was looking for it!
Several members of The Stretch Glass Society (Cal Hackeman, Russell and Kitty Umbraco, Tom Burns and Dave Shetlar) visited Bill before and during the 2017 Stretch Glass Society Convention and had the opportunity to reminisce with Bill about stretch glass, his vitamin regimen and his travels. Collectors of iridescent stretch glass from across the US joined in paying tribute to him on the pages of Hooked on Carnival’s Fred Stone's Carnival and Tuesday Stretch Mailing List and various Facebook pages, sharing stories of how he had contributed to their collections and enriched their lives with his keen knowledge of glass and his ever present sense of humor. Visit www.hookedoncarnival.com to see the many tributes to a man who was often described as a “one of a kind.”
Tom Burns, noted auctioneer, commented, “I knew that man for 45 years!!! I saw him last week while in Marietta for the Stretch Glass Society Convention (he wanted me to take him out of the nursing home and NOT bring him back). As we were talking, I asked him 'Billy... who am I?' .... he looked right at me and said 'You're Tom Burns from Bath N.Y....you're an auctioneer and I've known you for years and years!' I had quite a smile on my face at that time...good ole Billy...I surely will miss that guy....”
Stretch Glass Society President, Cal Hackeman, recalled his first encounter with Bill like this, "I was at my first Stretch Glass Society Convention – Batavia, NY in 1990. I had purchased a small collection of stretch glass the previous year and decided to start collecting it. I went to the convention to learn about stretch glass and meet some others who collected it. When I arrived everyone was in a seminar in another room of the hotel and in the hotel ballroom I saw more stretch glass – more glass, period – than I had ever seen in one room at one time. In the middle of it all was Bill Crowl’s sale tables loaded with stretch glass from punch bowls to nut cups. I didn’t know where to start or what to buy, but I soon figured it out and came home with a lot more stretch glass, including a Florentine Green Punch bowl, which I still have today. That was the beginning of a 25+ year friendship with Bill that resulted in learning a great deal about stretch glass, purchasing many examples of stretch and other glass, and coming to admire and respect Bill for the many contributions he made to collecting and researching iridescent glass.
"Bill has had a house in Parkersburg, WV for a number of years even though most of the time he was on the road buying and selling glass. The house was used more for storage than for living. Annually he would host members of The Stretch Glass Society at the house where we would gather around to see what treasures would come out of the brown sacks and banana boxes. Most were for sale and we would usually all leave with some new glass for our collections."
Brian Foster, host of Fred Stone’s Carnival and Tuesday Stretch Mailing List had this to say about Bill, “it’s time to say goodnight to a long-time friend that so many of us have memories with, of and about. Bill Crowl, alas, has gone to the great pizza eating contest in the sky, and he will most definitely be missed. For those of you who watched the wwwcga convention broadcasts, you may remember the time he sang gospel songs for our attendees and on the broadcast. There was also the time I interviewed him for a broadcast when he explained his complicated vitamin regimen. Or the time he was doing calisthenics outside Wroda's auction center at 3:00 in the morning after playing poker with Jim, Stacy Wills, Carl Chapman, others and me.”
Pat Call, a long-time glass collector and dealer had this to say, “We were so saddened to learn that Bill Crowl is no longer with us. I have such fond memories of Bill whom we met in 1967 in Arlington, Va. He was a coin dealer in Washington, DC as well as a Carnival Glass collector at that time.
"Our very first purchase from Bill was three items on a table at the foot of the stairs in his home. He never let on that he had more glass in another room in the basement. Over the years, as we came to know him, we bought a lot of beautiful carnival glass from Bill, and sold some items that we found to him. It was a mutually beneficial association, and we learned a lot from Bill.
"I could tell many stories, but one that sticks out and makes me smile comes from a trip to Richmond, Va., where Bill was set up at a large show. Jim and I went in different directions to hunt for 'treasures.' He stopped by Bill’s table and saw something of interest and Bill quoted him a price. Jim thought it was too high. A bit later, I came to Bill’s table and inquired about the same item (not knowing of Jim’s previous request ) and Bill quoted a much lower price to me. Later, Jim said, 'Bill, when I asked about that you said $$$$. How come you quoted her $$ after you told me $$$$?' Bill said, 'I like her. I don’t like you.'
"One day he came here, to our home in NH, as he often did when traveling this way. I had a 'shop' in the basement and had Carnival Glass and many other things. This was right after we’d lost another friend and stretch glass collector and I was feeling pretty low. Bill started singing to me... 'When You Wish Upon a Star' ... I’ll never forget that!
He truly was 'one of a kind.' ”
The tributes go on and on and on. Bill Crowl touched many people and was a friend to all of them.
We will all miss Bill, his stories, the rare and usual glass he found for us and his vast amount of knowledge about iridescent glass. RIP, our friend, you may be gone but you will not be forgotten.