There and Back Again – to Bulgaria


Blog by Dal Stanton

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sward have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on the meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known
Bilbo Baggins

These words, ascribed to Bilbo, penned by J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit, captured Bilbo’s thoughts as he came over the rise and his eyes again canvassed his beloved, Shire – home again. I borrow the sentiments he so well expressed after my wife and I returned to Bulgaria, our home, after about six months traveling in the US.  We visited sponsors of our work in Bulgaria, and renewed ties with family and friends – AND not to go unmentioned, we also celebrated the addition of two beautiful granddaughters during this 6-month sprint!  Now, I’m anxious to return to the Pipe Steward work table and to dive back into a hobby I love – collecting, restoring and recommissioning pipes to worthy stewards.  And adding frosting to this cake – these pipes are sold to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited in Bulgaria and Europe.

Sometime ago, Steve asked me to post a bit of our US adventures and I’m finally getting to it!  From September to February we traveled practically every weekend visiting sponsors and holidays to visit family in Denver, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis and Port St. Lucie, FL, from home base in Palmetto, GA.  We flew mostly but did some road trips along the way.  Of course, pipe hunts were plotted using Google maps to locate and explore flea markets, second hand stores, and antique shops – choosing to travel off the grid and interstates when we could.  I love the hunt!  I found some nice pipes through these safaris as well as from eBay auctions.  Another source was from people who donated pipes from family pass downs and from personal collections to help support the Daughters of Bulgaria.  All totaled, if I counted accurately(!), 105 pipes were added to my ‘Help Me!’ baskets in queue to be restored and recommissioned to benefit the Daughters!  A couple of those pipes will be added to my own personal collection, but not many!

The first major acquisition was a Lot of 66 from eBay – the largest lot I’ve ever tackled!  One tries to examine the pictures provided by the seller to assess the possibilities – looking for treasures lurking here and there among all the shapes and nomenclature, and I believe I did well.  Some of the highlights of the Lot of 66 include a Gourd Calabash sculpted with a Meer bowl, Comoy’s Made in London England P510 – D billiard, Peterson’s System Standard K&P Republic 312, GBD Flame 1344 Made in France poker, Kaywoodie Super Grain 08 Dublin, Comoy’s Sunrise Volcano – H 16, Savinelli 4015 Dublin, Sculpted Imported Briar calabash, M.G.M. Rock Italy Briar 19 12 – 25 freehand, GBD International London Made London England 549 rustified rim bent bulldog, Butz Choquin Regate St. Claude France 1693 bulldog, Imperial Churchwarden Algerian Briar France, Butz Choquin Regate St.Claude France 1275 Slightly bent billiard, Kiko 343 Made in Tanganyika Meer lined, Peterson System Standard Republic 392, Abbott London Made 715 pocket pipe, Jarl Chieftan 15119 Made in Denmark billiard, Jarl 1545 Made in Denmark Dublin, Savinelli Capri Root Briar Italy 8004 rustified Canadian, Ben Wade Hand Model LONDON MADE, Savinelli Punto Oro 510ks Italy bulldog rustification, Peterson’s “Kildare” Made in the Republic of Ireland 83.  There were a few clay pipes in the Lot which I was interested in seeing.  Unfortunately, the seller didn’t do a very good job packing and these were broken!  Here’s a bird’s eye view of the Lot of 66 I saw on eBay and now in Bulgaria (the pictures aren’t great but gives an idea what I had to work with): Another special acquisition was from Dan in Butler, PA.  He and his wife knew about our work with the Daughters of Bulgaria and my restorations serve to advance it.  During our visit to Butler to speak at their church, they welcomed us into their home and Dan donated this lot of 4 pipes which belonged to his father who had passed away. He told me a bit about his father, his recollections of his dad’s pipe smoking and I’ll look forward to restoring these pipes to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria.  I will also try to tell the story of this former steward. Not all treasures were pipes.  On a road trip taking us through Somerset, KY, we landed upon a flea market in full swing that gave a unique picture of middle America not often seen on the interstate!  After poking through 100s of tables, I came upon a Kleen Reem Pipe Tool in its original box – with mini-pipe cleaners to boot.  I didn’t have one, so I negotiated a win/win price with the crusty, bearded, table keeper and now it is added to my arsenal here in Bulgaria.  One more reaming tool acquisition was to find an older, vintage Swiss Made Pipnet Reaming tool off eBay.  Patience paid off and one came up on the auction block.  This solid heavy-duty rubber version will replace an acrylic Pipnet version – which was susceptible to breaking. Another highlight during the time in the US was reconnecting with friends.  Dave Shain, was one such friend.  Dave and I worked in Ukraine together when we were both a bit younger.  Over the years, we went in different ways but we found each other again on The Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society group on Facebook.  We discovered that both of us had been found by pipes!  Dave’s endeavors go far, far beyond mine as he has been recognized for his work by the Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club and has a cool, ‘Master of Pipes’ award hanging on his shop wall and a magazine cover and article to boot!  Dave and I shared a bowl together and reminisced about the past, present and future, around a hot wood stove in his ‘Man Shed’. He gave me a tour of his workshop – a far, far cry from my desktop operation on the 10th floor of a formerly Communist apartment block!  He also donated some promising pipes for my work with the Daughters of Bulgaria.  I left with an aging tin of October 2015, Escudo Navy De Luxe which came to Bulgaria with me.  Thanks, Dave!  It was a pleasure reconnecting with an old friend. Through all of our travels and with more eBay acquisitions after the Lot of 66, more standout pipes caught my attention (from top to bottom below):  Knute of Denmark freestyle (this may make my collection!), Savinelli Autograph 5 bamboo shank rusticated (a great acquisition – needs work but great potential), Stanwell Hand Made 56 Canadian, Pipstar Standard 06 026 Dublin sitter, Comoy’s MADE IN LONDON ENGLAND 4097 H bent bulldog, La Strada Staccato 187 Italy sculpted billiard, Italian Import Italy custom shape, Comoy’s Moorgate 102 Italy bent billiard, and a Savinelli Dry System 3621 (shown) and a Savinelli Dry System 362 (not shown below). Another group of standouts are: Brigham 103 Can. Pat. 372982 rusticated billiard, Lorenzo Savona #750 Made in Italy rusticated chimney, Sasieni The Kensington 236B Canadian Made In England, Longchamp France leather wrapped billiard, Royal Danish 995R 995 R squat tomato, Lorenzo Matera Pipe Studio 807 Italy special shape (the hourglass shape was interesting), a cool Native American Hand Carved Indian Head CHIEF Italy that I couldn’t pass up!, Whitehall Gulf Stream Imported Briar rustified Dublin, a very sweet Comoy’s Pebble Grain Made in London England 605 bent poker, and a Kiko 543 Made in Tanganyika leather wrapped saddle stem billiard.I’ve seen some autograph pipes, but I didn’t know that vanity pipes existed, especially one marked with my namesake, ‘Stanton’.  He’s not too flashy, but obviously a workhorse billiard with some nice grain peeking out.  When I saw him on the eBay auction block, I did a double-take and decided then that he was coming home to Bulgaria.  Curiosity piqued, I did a quick look up in Wilczak & Colwell’s, ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ and came up with a very clear designation: “UNKNOWN”.  He’ll clean up nicely.The last bit of sharing to conclude this, ‘There and Back Again’ blog is not about pipes but tobacco.  For Christmas, in Detroit’s suburb of Dearborn, my daughter-in-law gifted me some popular selections from Boston’s Perretti Tobacconist, the second oldest tobacconist in the US where they still create blends as you wait – free testing too (so I’ve read)! She was in Boston on a business trip and thankfully (!) did some Christmas shopping for the men in her life!  Not pictured below is one of L.J. Peretti’s more popular, signature blends which I like a bunch, Park Street. This shop is on my bucket list of places to visit one day when I make it back to Boston.  The blends are very nice and pleasurable, and I’ve enjoyed sitting on my 10th floor Man Cave balcony here in Sofia, sipping on a bowl and thinking about family and how blessed I am for it.  Thanks Maureen!Now, which pipe is first on the work table?  Hopefully, soon, I’ll let you know!  Check out The Pipe Steward when you have a chance!  Thanks for joining me and my musings. It’s good to be back home!  (Below, enjoying Park Street with my good friend – Savinelli Goliath)

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