The CORPS Pipe Show
Richmond, Virginia

October 1, 2 & 3, 2004

After enjoying my first pipe show in New York in March of 2004, I had set my sites on Richmond and was happy to be able to see my goal to fruition. The CORPS show in Richmond was celebrating its 20th Anniversary and was just my first stop on a long over due and desperately needed vacation. My wife Sherry, who was also a little interested to see what this pipe show thing was all about, has family in Virginia and so we decided to design our vacation around the sites and attractions in this part of the country. After Richmond we spent a day in Colonial Williamsburg, a few days in Floyd visiting family, bowhunting and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. On our way home we took in the Maryland Renaissance Faire and then stopped in Philly for a couple of hours to check out the Liberty Bell and have a cheese steak sandwich. I guess those commercials during the Red Sox games must really work. "It's like a baby New York!" (Don't they drive you crazy!). But first and foremost and of primary interest to y'all was the the CORPS Pipe Show.

After a very long day of driving, rest stops and too many ridiculous tolls we finally arrived at the Holiday Inn around 9:30 Friday evening. While walking toward the entrance to the building I noticed 2 guys out front smoking their pipes. "There not making you smoke outside, are they," I asked them? But they reassured me that smoking was allowed inside. However, unlike the New York show, where you could smoke practically anywhere, the smoking areas in this hotel were somewhat limited which surprised me quite a bit. I had expected smoking to be more like the 80's down South but it turned out to be more like the late 90's. It was nice though to be asked "smoking or non smoking?" when going out to eat.

It may have been because of the time I arrived but I didn't find the pre-show hotel room scene to be as big or as exciting as it was in New York. We checked out a couple of rooms before heading downstairs to find something to eat. We would have taken the elevator but for some reason the fire alarms were going off so the elevators were out of service. Some guy in the stairwell on the way down was complaining about people smoking pipes in the hotel... I had no idea what he was talking about? While trying to locate the hotel restaurant I spotted Paul Bonaquisti pass by the intersecting hallway ahead of us. I hollered at him but he didn't hear me, and I saw him disappear around a corner. To our left I noticed a few people gathered around a set of double doors and the distinct odor of tobacco caught my attention. Hmmm, this looks interesting, I thought to myself so we walked in. The CORPS Members Dinner was just breaking up and everyone was milling about and talking about.... what else... pipes. I spotted 2 guys from our club, Bob Kiess and Andy Camire who I was hoping to catch up with at some point. I was very happy to hear from them that the winner of the P&T Pipe Carving Contest was none other than Rolando Negoita (right), one of our compadres from the Hudson Valley Pipe Club and in my opinion, very deserving of this outstanding award. Rolando makes some really beautiful pipes and if his name isn't already a household word in the homes of most pipe collectors, it will be very soon.
Our own Tim Hynick also submitted a pipe to the contest but unfortunately was not in the list of finalists. Remember his name though, I think you'll be hearing more about him in the future.

As I looked around the room I saw a number of familiar faces from the NY Show, Bill Feurbach of Kaywoodie, RD Field and his wife Janice, John Eels and Sam Learned. But the room was full of many faces I was unfamiliar with or only know by reputation like Rick Newcombe and Chuck Stanion of P&T Magazine. It was a bit like Pipesmokers Hollywood. I was introduced to Steve Johnson a distributor for Comoy and now Don Carlos pipes. We had been communicating through email to arrange a date to do a show at one of our meetings. It was nice to be able to put a face to the email and we hope to have him visit soon. We chatted a little longer then finally got something to eat before calling it a night. I hadn't booked a room early enough to get one at the Holiday Inn so we ended up staying at the Best Western about a mile up the road. I have to say, it was one of the nicest hotel rooms I've ever stayed in for the price and I highly recommend it if you ever make it to the Richmond show.

After breakfast the next morning we headed back to the Show to spend the money that was burning a hole in my pocket. I bought my ticket to get in and they didn't make my wife pay, which I thought was a very nice gesture, especially when they also gave her a ticket for the raffles as well (my wife was pretty happy too). Once inside, one of my first orders of business was to find Sam Learned and pick up one of his pipes with the deer horn ferrule. I had looked long and hard at Sam's pipes while at the NY Show in March and have been kicking myself in the butt for not buying one. Then, seeing a couple of my club mates smoking their Learned's made it even worse. All his pipes are so beautifully made that I had to ask him why there was a difference in price between two practically identical pipes (to my untrained eye anyway). Obviously the answer was in the grain, but they both looked so stunning that the difference in grain didn't seem to make much of a difference to me (I'm not a hard core collector as you can probably tell). I took the more economical of the two and have been very happy with my purchase. While waiting for my wife to return, I talked hunting with Sam who had done a bit of bow hunting in his younger days before he developed a problem with his shoulder. He had a great story about a deer he shot at from 40 yards and missed. The arrow came within inches of the deer but the deer never moved. He took another shot and this time hit his mark. I could tell by the way he told the story that he missed those days but was happy to be able to relive it again with me. I was happy to share that story with him as well and it got me a little pumped for the deer hunting that was coming up for me (Unfortunately I was not as lucky as Sam).

We stopped by the Kaywoodie table to check out their 2004 Pipe of the Year which is a Canadian this year. I'm fond of Canadians but these things are monsters... beautiful pipes, but monsters nonetheless. Bonaquisti's table was sporting a handsome logo statue thingy that I hadn't seen before which was made from a briar root. Very nicely done but just think of all the pipes he could have made out of that. Mel Feldman, the King of the Estate Pipe and another one of our friends from New York, also had a table full of estates including some nice Dunhills and Barlings. And speaking of New York...... too bad about them Yankees huh. It's a damn shame. (Shaking my head and covering my grin.) Maybe next year guys.

Our own Andy Camire (seen with Sherry) and Bob Kiess also had tables at the show which we used as pit stops throughout the day. We congratulated Rolando on his pipe carving contest win and checked out the award he received. I said hello to Bill Taylor from Ashton Pipes and chatted a bit with Steve Monjure of Monjure International. We hope he can make it to one of our meetings next year (provided we have an adequate place to meet that is). I got a chance to meet Michael Parks from Canada who has made custom pipes for Dock Perry and Ernie Quintiliani both of which were in his portfolio album. You can check out is website at www.parkspipes.com. Another of my favorite tables was the BAC Art table which is filled from stem to stern with all types of figural pipes carved by one of the masters of the figural pipe, Bartlomiej Antoniewski. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the man selling these pipes (sorry) but we had a great time exchanging Polish jokes with him.

Another thing I wanted to do while at the show was to pick up a copy of Rick Newcombe's book, In Search of Pipe Dreams. I first heard of Rick Newcombe while reading an essay I found on the North American Society of Pipe Collector's website titled "Airflow: The Key to Smoking Pleasure" which was written by Ken Campbell. Ken's article supported the somewhat controversial theory that was introduced by Rick Newcombe in an article titled "Easy Draw" which appeared in the 1997 Spring edition of P&T magazine. Newcombe's theory is that you will have a better, more enjoyable pipe smoking experience if you open the smoke hole in your pipes, from the bit to the bowl, to at least 5/32 of an inch. This theory interested me and I wanted to learn a little more about it. Then, in the 2004 Spring issue of P&T I read another article about Rick Newcombe and his new book In Search of Pipe Dreams. I was very eager to read his book but decided to hold off until Richmond so I could pick up a signed copy and was lucky enough to get the last one he had. I was happy to have the opportunity to meet Mr. Newcombe and to have him sign my book.
As I mentioned earlier, Richmond was just our first stop on a 10 day road trip of more than 2000 miles. Although I love a good road trip, I can't say I was extremely eager to do all that driving. But my wife Sherry helped eased the pain by reading the entire book to me throughout our journey. What a woman! Every pipe smoker should have one of these (...now if only I could get her to clean my pipes.). All kidding aside, she actually enjoyed the book and learned a lot about pipes, while gaining a better understanding for the passion I have for them. For those of you who haven't already read In Search of Pipe Dreams, it is a collection of Rick Newcombe's essays past and present, many of which were written for Pipe Friendly Magazine which is no longer in publication. Rick gives his views on pipes and pipe collecting, often emphasizing on his "enlarged smoke hole theory" and his fondness for high grade Danish pipes, particularly pipes made by Jess Chonowitsch, Lars Iverson and Bo Nordh. Not everyone will agree with Newcombe's views or have the kind of money to purchase these high grade pipes but the book was very interesting, easy to read, and tells of Newcombe's visits to these Danish pipe makers and their work shops. I don't know about you but just about any book written about pipes is a good read and your collection won't be complete without this one.
One thing I found interesting was Newcombe's story about wearing his shirt with the embroidered Sherlock Holmes emblem on it when traveling by plane. He says it helps explain to the airport security people that he is a pipe smoker and sometimes prevents them from searching his pipe bags. He gave credit to the Boston Pipe Club for the shirt but it would have been nice if he had got the name of our club correct. We know what he was talking about though. He even picked up one of our new shirts at the show this year.

Sherry and I ate a delicious lunch at the Olive Garden down the street then headed back for another lap or two around the show. There were quite a few tobacco vendors present including McLelland, Orlik, G.L Pease and Hermit tobaccos, all with their blends available for sampling (and purchase of course). While visiting Dr. Bob's Pipes (Bob Kiess' table), he suggested I try some of the Orlik Strong Kentucky Flake, a burley mixture. I wasn't too sure that Bob and I shared the same taste in tobacco, but I decided to give it a try and I'm glad I did. It was delicious and cool and I had no trouble keeping it lit when slightly rubbed out. I purchased a tin to take home and am very happy to add it to my list of favorites. Thanks for the tip Bob. Bob Kiess learned to make pipes from JM Boswell and does excellent work. His rustication is outstanding and he is now doing a lot of his own metal work. Every one of my Dr. Bob's pipes has smoked great from the very first smoke (no kidding). If you'd like to see some of Bob's work, a number of his pipes are currently being sold on the Hermit Tobacco website (half way down the page). If you have any questions for Bob you can contact me and I'll get you in touch with him.

The next stop on our road trip was Colonial Williamsburg, a little over an hour away and we wanted to get to our hotel and settled in before it got too late. Before we left though, I heard an announcement for the winner of the Brigham pipe from the silent auction. I hadn't seen any Brigham pipes so I asked where they were being sold and was pointed in the direction of the Knoxville Cigar table in the corner. Brigham Pipes are made in Canada and I have been interested in purchasing one since I first saw them on the Pipeworld.com website. Although these pipes use a specially made wooden tube filter system, I've heard a number of good things about them. I don't usually smoke filter pipes but I like to try something new and different every now and then and now seemed to be as good a time as any. When I got to the Knoxville's table I found they had exactly the one I was interested in, a 700 series York with a three quarter bend, an interesting bowl shape and an accentuated flame grain. It didn't take me long to make my decision and made it my last purchase of the day. We took one last look around and decided that it was time to hit the road (the fact that my pipe money was depleted made the decision a little easier).

I really enjoyed myself at the CORPS show and hope to return again soon. It was nice having my wife along with me so she could see what drives my interest in pipes and to see the connection pipe folks have with one another. I encourage anyone with an interest in smoking or collecting pipes to try to make it to a CORPS show at least once, you won't be disappointed.

As compared to the New York show, Richmond had a lot more room to move around and a greater variety of things for sale. I wish I had been able to attend the CORPS Dinner but you must be a member to attend which at the present time I am not. Maybe next time. But I felt a familiarity with the New York show that was not present in Richmond. Maybe because it was my first (you know how you always remember your first), or maybe it was because New York is closer to home and more of us were able to go as a group. I also thought the Friday night pre-show room previews in New York were better. But the main difference New York had over Richmond was the freedom of being able to smoke just about anywhere in the hotel. It added a touch of nostalgia to the experience. I started smoking a pipe in 1980 but only smoked off and on for many years and usually at home during the winter months. I've only become a daily smoker in the past three years and realized now how much I missed out on. Smoking my pipe freely and openly at the New York pipe show gave some of that back to me, and in this day and age you have to savor every experience like that you can.

Although the CORPS Show was the main pipe stop of our trip I did pick up a standard clay tavern pipe in Williamsburg before finally finding a decent pipe shop in Blacksburg, VA called Blacksburg Pipe and Tobacco. Joe the owner, who is originally from Rhode Island was very friendly and seemed interested to hear about our club and that I had been to the pipe show. The shop had a small but decent selection of pipes including some Peterson's and Radice pipes. They also had a clay churchwarden which was more the shape I had been looking for in Williamsburg, so I picked one of those up along with a cigar store Indian bobble head. We had a great trip and I'm wishing I was still there. If you'd like to see more of the pictures I took at the show, follow the link below.

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