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by H.G. "Bea" Hyve
Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", April 1987, page 12
This tins "Bea Lines" is interviewing one of the hardest-working
ladies in our hobby, Marilyn Albers of Houston, TX. I think it is also fitting
that I write about her next, because she is the other half of the highly
successful team that gave us the Seldom Seen Display last summer at Saratoga
Springs, NY. This was the most colorful, diverse, valuable, and simply gorgeous
display of insulators ever assembled in one place. It was a tremendous amount
of work, and Marilyn, we all thank you for helping to bring us that display.
Where do I start, with someone like Marilyn who has given and continues to
give so much to the hobby of insulator collecting? I guess the best place to
begin is at the beginning. She first discovered the world of insulators in the
summer of 1973. She was on a family vacation, driving from Houston to Nuevo
Laredo on the Mexican border, and stopped for lunch in the small Texas town of
Pearsall. Across from the cafe was an antique shop, with its windows filled with
colorful glass, something Marilyn has always loved. After begging for just a few
minutes longer so that she could look around inside she discovered that the
"colorful glass" was really quite a collection of telephone
insulators. They were duplicates of those in the store owner's private
collection and were definitely for sale.
With her birthday one week away, her gift from her husband was quickly
determined. She chose three insulators; one in SCA, amber, and carnival glass.
The store owner had shown her his collection (which was at that time
awe-inspiring), and told her about Crown Jewels and Milholland's book. Marilyn
"From that point on I took off running, and am even more interested in
collecting and researching insulators now than I was fourteen years ago."
South corner of insulator room showing general U. S.
and foreign glass,
window display, and desk
where "Foreign Insulators" is written.
Marilyn has a large general collection representing a wide range of CD's,
but most of her energy is spent trying to round up as many foreign glass and
porcelain insulators as she can. The go-withs attract her too; telephone signs
from other countries, advertising ashtrays from France, and the many different
styles of metal pins used worldwide. She states, "I have a total of 2,287 insulators
in my collection, including both glass and porcelain, and I'm running
out of room! I was collecting only American glass during the early years of my
involvement in the hobby. It kills me when I think back and realize how many
super foreign porcelains I left behind in my travels to Europe as a chaperone
for high school children. I would say 'no thank you' to those, but took a few
French end Belgian glass pieces just for the fun of it."
By the time Jack Tod called for someone to be a "clearing house"
for foreign insulators, Marilyn already had a large collection of them. It sounded like fun and like something
she could handle, so she said "yes". She didn't realize then that out
of that would come a complete new style chart for foreign glass insulators, all
with reassigned CD numbers, plus a book on worldwide porcelain insulators, showing all known foreign porcelain pintypes, these too being incorporated into the
Universal (U) Style Chart.
Marilyn has been the major cause of the phenomenal interest in foreign
insulators, through her monthly column in Crown Jewels called "Foreign
Insulators". Since July of 1979, she has devoted countless hours,
researching and writing about foreign insulators, a branch of our hobby about
which more knowledge was needed, and has been very much appreciated. She says
that writing those many articles has been very enjoyable, and she's made a lot
of friends through this contact. Her articles have certainly generated an
increased interest in foreign insulators hobby-wide.
Window display. A riot of color, on purpose,
mixing all varieties of glass
We'll get back to insulators in just a moment, but now let's get better
acquainted with Marilyn and get a few statistics. She was born in Chicago, IL,
on June 15, 1927. (Can that be true?) She met her husband Bill in 1945 in
Boulder, CO, where she enrolled at the U. of CO as a freshman. She says he was
a tall good-looking fellow (still is) in the V-12 unit of the Navy, stationed at
CO U., and was a junior when they had that first blind date. He also played center (first team) for the Colorado
Buffaloes, which she thought
was very macho! Four years later, after she graduated, they ware married, on
August 6, 1949. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and she has a B. S.
in Home Economics.
North corner of insulator room showing a few of the
foreign porcelain with
overflow of French glass on floor.
Bill was born in La Grange, TX, on July 7, 1926. (I don't believe that,
either!) After they were married, they lived in several places. Bill was a party
chief on a seismic crew (oil exploration) and they moved a lot; Houma, LA;
High Prairie, Peace River, Castor, Wetaskiwin (all in Alberta, Canada); Estavan,
Esterhazy, Montmartre, and Saskatoon (all in Saskatchewan); Billings, MT;
Jackson, MS; and finally Houston, since 1968.
Bill and Marilyn Albers
The Albers' have six children. She kept pretty busy, raising them and
"working" at home. But for a while in Houston, she taught sewing
classes and demonstrated sewing machines for Bernina, through a fabric shop
that sold these Swiss-made machines. (She has her own Bernina, by the way).
Their six children are all college graduates; Margaret, 36, Masters in Applied
Linguistics; Carol, 35, math degree (CPA); Barbara, 33, Registered Nurse;
Mark, 30, Petroleum Engineer; Tom, 28, Electrical Engineer; and Mary, 22, Registered
Dietician. They also have nine grandchildren.
Although this interview is really on Marilyn, we just have to say a few extra
words about Bill too, because he has done a lot for our hobby as well. He served
as NIA Treasurer from 1982 to 1984, doing a splendid job of it. Marilyn says,
"Bill gives me free rein with my insulator collecting, 'tho I'm sure he
wishes sometimes I would talk about something else, and had more free time to
spend on other interests. He goes with me to shows, hauls boxes for me,
babysits my table while I shop or 'talk shop'...he couldn't be more patient and
supportive. His one collection is a fine one; most of the commemoratives issued
in stamps as far back as the early 60's... even a few from the 40's. He hastens to add he has gaps here and there,
Largest Folembray from France: CD 370.9 Folembray No. 416,
tall, 35 lbs., to smallest Folembray in her collection:
CD 559 Folembray No.
261, 3-1/8" tall, 8 oz. Both are yellow green.
Bill is now a vice-president For the same company he went to work For 38
years ago right out of college; Seiscom Delta United, Inc., a seismograph contracting company. It has undergone a
few changes since it began as Delta
Exploration Co., 39 years ago. Retirement is not in Bill's vocabulary.
Marilyn and Bill have both been very active in Scouts through the years. Bill
was an Eagle Scout as a boy and their two boys followed suit. Bill was an assistant Scout Master
for seven years in Houston, and made sure there was a good
strong troop so they could have that advantage. With four girls, Marilyn managed
to stay a Girl Scout leader for fifteen years. She even tried her hand as drill
team mom, and says that was hard work!
I mentioned at the start that Marilyn has contributed so much to our hobby,
and here's what I was talking about! She's held two NIA offices; Show Standards
Chairman (1980-1982), and (first lady) President (1984-1986). She received the
Outstanding Service Award in 1981. Along with her monthly column, she has co-authored
four books; two editions of Glass Insulators From
Outside North America with N. R. Woodward, a 1981 publication as well as a 1986
First Revision, and two editions of Worldwide Porcelain Insulators with Jack
H. Tod, the first appearing in 1982 and the recent 1986 Supplement. She has
worked closely with these other major contributors to our hobby, adding
immeasurably to our knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of foreign insulators
Close-up of Marilyn's five favorites. Left to right:
A. CD 494 Isorex 1030,
dark green, one of about five known. Made in France for use in Australia.
B. CD 560 S. A. F. N. De V., cobalt blue, from Uruguay. Telephone.
CD 435 no-name, looks straw but is ice green. A glass cordeaux insulator
recovered from the London, Midland and Scottish Ry. (L. M. S.). Made in very
limited numbers but never adopted, as the condensation oF the damp climate in
England made them unsatisfactory. Only two known to still exist.
D. CD 162 H.
G. Co./Patent May 2, 1893/Petticoat. Deep deep purple, SDP, pristine mint!
E. CD 688 Folembray 288, yellow green, France.
Marilyn with her five favorite insulators.
Marilyn says, "'The favorite insulators in my collection are the French ones,
especially those that are so different from our American styles; the fuses or
insulators, the T-bars, the single side arms, etc. These are fascinating to me!
I've heard that there does exist
a style similar to the CD 688 shown in the photo, only instead of two arms, it
has only one! That's my main 'want' right now. For a while I hoped to find a
mint green castle, but my chances of being in the right place at the right time
are slim; everybody's after that one."
One of the highlights of Marilyn's collecting experience was when she and
Bill flew to Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, to visit Keith and Jane Neal.
She was able to make shadow drawings of most of Keith's rare (many one of a
kind) British telegraph insulators, which were included in the 1986 Supplement
of Worldwide Porcelain Insulators. You may remember that Keith wrote Searching
for Railway Telegraph Insulators, a 1982 publication that greatly benefited the hobby. She says that "those are some
fine people and Bill and I
consider them very close friends."
Marilyn's other activities include running. She's never attempted a (26 mile)
marathon, but she's done several 10K (6.2 mile) runs. When she's home, she tries
to run three to four miles daily, and says, "It lets ma eat!" She loves to sew and cook, but hates to
clean house. "I'll do it tomorrow!" She's active in both the Gulf Coast
Bottle & Jar Club and the Houston-based Lone Star Insulator Club. Future
plans include hosting either a regional or a national insulator show in
Houston some day; the first of those dreams will come true with the Pearland, TX
show this June.
Well, this interview has gone all too fast. I would just like to say that Marilyn
is a truly understanding and good friend, and it's always a real pleasure to
have her and Bill in attendance at any show. She's done so much for our hobby,
and continues to enlighten the insulator world as to the beauty and
diversity of foreign insulators. I hope we hear a lot more in the future from
this versatile and hard-working lady.