By Horace Harker
I met Tim at our usual meeting place near the mass pike and soon we were on our way West towards Agawam and Dock Perry's place. The weather and the roads were clear and we arrived at our destination in an easy ninety minutes.
We pulled into Dock's driveway to see what the directions had described as a big brown Swiss Chalet, and that's exactly what it was. Just like the ones you see up in the ski communities of Maine and New Hampshire. With a huge wrap around porch that afforded a great view of the Connecticut River across the street, I could picture myself sitting out there on a warm summer night with my pipe and a pint of ale, enjoying the fresh river breeze.
Dock occupies the entire lower level of this estate and as we passed through the door we were instantly awestruck. There's was definitely a theme here but it was hard to put a name to it. Was this a hunting cabin or a pipe shop, an English den or an antique store. Whatever you want to call it, it was blended perfectly and an absolute pleasure to see.
Dock gave us the grand tour which started with his sitting room and the place I imagine he spends most of his time (God knows I would). The sitting room is adjoined with the bedroom and each room has a large sliding class window with vertical blinds. The sunlight coming through is filtered by both the blinds and the Chalet's wrap around porch, giving the rooms a feeling of the dimly lit days of candlesticks and gas lights. There is a great stone fireplace in the sitting room, it's mantle and hearth adorned with collectible treasures and the walls are covered with items like old fashioned signs, snow shoes and hunting trophies. In the bedroom we found a genuine zebra skin rug on one side of the room and on the other side a 1940 Columbia bicycle that dock bought for $100 and restored himself. According to Dock it's worth close to $1000 today.
Everywhere you looked, floor to ceiling, something of interest was on display and entirely too much to describe here. It was easy to see that a huge amount of time, thought and energy had been invested in making this place as cool as it was. But even though I mentioned that a lot of money went into putting hist place together it isn't half as much as it could have been. Dock is a big fan of flea markets, tag sales and antique shops and he has good eye for the bargains and things of value. And being the owner of Dock's Classics, a used car dealership in Holyoke, MA, it's a little difficult to pull the wool over this guys eyes. He'll never pay more than anything's worth and most of the time pays a lot less. Much of what you see hanging on the walls like a deer head or a stuffed trout, a hat, a decoy duck or an old photo, was purchased from a flea market or tag sale at far less then what it's worth. He's even been known to score a few collectible pipes at flea markets as well so it helps to know what your looking for when you go. He always tells me, "If you're looking for pipes at a flea market and you don't see any, always be sure to ask. They might just have a whole rack full of them put away somewhere."
Our tour continued down the L shaped hallway lined with bookases and other pieces of accent furniture displaying an impressive collection of pipes from many different makers. Some of Dock's favorites are ( ). Most of his pipes were sitting comfortably in a variety of interesting pipe racks that he found...where else...at a flea market or antique shop. On the walls hung many different types of hats including quite a few deerstalkers, and it was difficult to find a picture that didn't portrait someone smoking a pipe. There were antique tobacco signs here and there and at the end of the hall a rack holding over 100 tins of tobacco. Dock's current stockpile of unopened tins of tobacco is at about 230.
Did I forget to mention that Dock is a pretty big Sherlock Holmes fan as well, I figured the deerstalkers might give it away? He has quite a bit of Sherlokian collectibles tucked here and there throughout his place, like the hightly sought after Esco statue in the corner near the fireplace, a Sherlock Holmes action figure in the hall and a Sherlock tobacco jar to name a few. The only thing he's missing is a persian slipper nailed to the fireplace with some shag in the toe. Included in his collection are many Sherlock Holmes books, audio tapes and videos. He now owns all of the Jeremy Brett Collection available on DVD and the complete BBC radio collection with Clive Merrision as Sherlock Holmes (my personal favorite).
After passing what seemed to be a spare room but still decked out all the same, we reached the end of the hallway. But the show didn't stop there. Dock's bathroom was also decorated floor to ceiling just like the rest of his place. Behind the bathroom door we found more neckties than I've seen anywhere outside of a department store. I guess Dock collects ties as well (over 400). Does it ever end? Like the Smithsonian, you could never see everything, and by now the rest of the guys were starting to arrive. After all the touring was done we sat in the sitting room, filled our pipes and planned the rest of the day. We decided to visit a local indoor flea market before heading out to Northampton for lunch and to check out the Aroura Borealis, Northampton's tobacco shop. If time allowed we'd stop in a book shop or two.
We arrived at the flea market about 10 minutes away and with homing pigeon like instincts, Dock zeroed in on a box of old pipes before we even entered the building. It's almost as if he knew they were there. Once inside he started to began to remind me of a retriever, poised, alert, and waiting to flush out a prize winning deal. Unfortunately there were no great finds on this trip and after wandering the isles for about an hour, we realized we had lost Gutz in the maze. We spread looking out but came up empty. There were so many nooks and crannys to hide in, he could have been anywhere. I ended up borrowing a bullhorn from one of the vendors and began calling from the end of each isle "Steve Gutz report to the front entrance, we want to leave now!", but to no avail. After about 15 minutes we found him outside smoking his pipe. No surprise there.
Back in our cars we headed for Nothampton about 30 minutes away. Ted and Sid followed us to the top of the parking garage but Steve and Eric found a spot on a different level. The 5 of us walked into the old warehouse turned shopping center and waited for Steve and Eric. We waited... and waited... and even yelled their names out at the different garage levels. Where was the bullhorn when we needed it? Needless to say we found them and at last we could eat. We ended up at a real earthy crunchy deli down the street where the food was pretty good but the service, from some of the workers there, left something to be desired. Kids have no respect these days.
With our appetites satisfied we headed up the street to the Arora Borealis which was located inside a gift shop which rendered it smoke free (bastards!). The place was small but they had a fair amount of pipes in the cases and on the wall. Nobody bought any but we did pick up a few accessories, I found a couple of back issues of P&T for a buck each, Steve bought a Montecristo accessory set for what appeared to be an outstanding price and Sid bought a hookah (imagine that). Apparently the store itself is supposed to be a humidor with humidifiers going in a couple of different locations, but none of the cigars were in closed cases and with the door constantly being opened and closed the cigars appeared to be either dried out or drying out. I'm glad I wasn't in the mood for one, I think I would have been pretty disappointed.
It was starting to get late and some of us were thinking about heading home. We made one more stop at an old book store down a side street before heading back to our cars. We arrived at the streetside door to the shopping center where the garage was and waited there for everyone to catch up. We waited... and waited... and but still no Ted or Sid. After few minutes we went outside but they were nowhere in site. Now we lost these guys!. This is starting to feel like an episode of the Three Stooges. We decided to head back to our car and hoped they found their way back. As we exited the garage we found Sid standing there looking a bit lost but he informed us that Ted was getting the car and soon we were all headed in the direction of home.
Obviously the highlight of the day was Dock's place and I would have been content to stay there all day and smoke. But any time is a great time when you're hanging out with the good comrades from the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club, and that's exactly what we had. Thanks for having us Dock, we'll have to come back this summer to enjoy that porch and river breezes.