I went back to Coalmont, Pennsylvania (population 105) early in March; my so help me last trip up the long hill that is town, from the Dudley Methodist Cemetery. I communed with the row of Lytle graves, the parents, the siblings and spouses—but not my grandfather. Blanchard C. (Uncle Pete) and his wife Elizabeth, have the massive pink monument. Uncle Pete brought my grandfather home from Pueblo, Colorado in 1930, to be buried. It came to me with a smile: George Marion is there, somewhere. No headstone, and too bad for him all the records were lost when the postmistress retired.
I drug Linda with me this time. She needed a break from custom rugs, and was glad to get on board. I booked a double in an old timey motel in Bedford. My B&B from last year cancelled my reservation in anticipation of one of those blizzards. My forecast was for the storm to go north to New England and south to Maryland, and it did exactly that.
Blue sky in Bedford
We ate lunch at the Bedford Diner, and set out to look at the town. Downtown was short work, and Linda, turning around the walking map she took at the motel, found a notice for the National Museum of the American Coverlet.
Go big or go home, we said, and worked our way two blocks over to Juliana Street.
The museum’s directors, Melinda and Laszlo Zonger, were off assaying a new coverlet find; we found the doors locked with a charming note announcing their return would be an hour or so earlier. They did return before we gave over sitting on the steps; the rest of our afternoon was immediately engaged.
The opening scene was charming light comedy. Mr. Zonger, whose name I did not know, returned eight dollars from my twenty, as we were senior citizens, like him. He would let us in free if I could tell him his name, the most common in Hungary. I failed. His name is Laszlo. Linda’s name had been spoken, Melinda said she is a Linda, also, and we had a famous beginning.
As I looked around the little office, waiting for Mr. Zonger to start his tour, Linda mentioned she grew up in Scipio, New York. It was said, when her parents bought the big 1800’rds farm house, it once housed a coverlet weaver. She once had an opportunity to buy a coverlet attributed to Scipio, but let it slip away. However, she heard recently a Scipio coverlet is again available and probably going to the historical collection of a local church.
Such a discussion of the limited number of Scipio coverlets known followed! Melinda went off to the storage area to bring out the Scipio coverlets while Laszlo took us on the tour. Melinda is a weaver. I do not know Laszlo’s credentials. He was extremely knowledgeable about home weaving and textile production from colonial times to the end of the Jacquard loom period in the mid nineteenth century. Like a textbook, he was.
Now, Linda and I both have knocked around the weaving world for some time. I used up to eight harness looms, made and sold overshot coverlets. Linda weaves art rugs to stand on. We know a lotta stuff. As Laszlo worked us through to the decline of the Jacquard as home industry in the mid-nineteenth century I ventured that as the Jaquard weaving heads moved west and the operating punch cards were worn and torn, the designs produced became more and more fantastical. “Where?” Laszlo demanded. “Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota,” I replied. “There are no known Jacquard coverlets from Wisconsin and Minnesota!” I shut up and listened to the tour.
In a room that featured Jacquard floor coverings Linda ventured that floor rugs originated as bed coverings in Europe. Laszlo immediately set her straight! Bed coverings are bed coverings, floor coverings are rugs. Linda, too retreated. We did need to get outside and enjoy our tour experience in the privacy of the car.
But then we reached the storage room and Melinda’s collection of Scipio coverlets. It was worth the wait, and the Lindas exchanged information about the search for the missing Scipio coverlet. I liked seeing old coverlets in the overshot patterns I used.
This Scipio Jaquard weaver was a woman, one of perhaps two known women Jacquard weavers. Charlotte Bryan inherited the business from her father.
We spent another pleasant hour examining the museum’s collection. It was past closing time; we started off to the diner for supper. Two blocks and we went back to retrieve Linda’s coffee cup. We met the Zonger’s at the door, on their way to our motel to drop it off.