When I think of past events and people, it always goes to the good things. So when I heard about an estate sale of Billy Morrow Jackson, it instantly brought a smile to my face as I thought of the good times I had with Billy.
I first met him in 1955, when I was a staff artist with Our Wonderful World Encyclopedia. Billy was a University of Illinois instructor and did freelance work for us. We occupied the top floor of a building at 25 E. Springfield, C (now the I.DE.A. Store).
About once every five or six weeks, eight or nine of us, mostly guys and one wife, would do figure drawing, usually with a nude model in our studio art department. Billy would provide the model. Each of us would chip in $10-$15, and the model would work from 7 to 11 p.m. or midnight — which was good money in 1955-56.
Billy brought a new and young (early 20s) woman one evening who said it would be her first time doing a nude event. So Billy, in a way only he could, tried to convince her that it was no big deal. It was just like skinny-dipping. He then said, as a last resort, all of us would strip and do our drawings while we were nude. And so it was to be.
Billy stripped first, followed by the husband and wife in the group, and all of us guys followed. At about 11:30 that night, the janitor, probably about 70, came in to empty the wastebaskets — and he could not believe his eyes. He just stood there speechless. After a while, he just turned and walked away, shaking his head.
We went on many trips looking for old stuff. We loved the weekends at the Kane County Flea Market in St. Charles.
Billy collected a lot of things. He bought the inexpensive aluminum cookware when no one else did for 25 or 50 cents. He also bought mechanical cast-iron banks, old doorstops and lots of tin and cast-iron toys and anything that was odd or different. And, yes, lots of works of art.
I really miss him. He had a sense of humor that could not be controlled when he was on a roll. He once spent a weekend with a friend putting roll after roll of half-inch clear tape around and around a neighbor's car. He had bought a very large box of tape at an auction for very little money, and this guy had pulled some joke on Billy, so it was payback time.
This upcoming estate sale will be from noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 14 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15-16 at 706 W. White St. Pieces will be half price the entire final day. Diana Williams is in charge of this sale. Her longtime partner, Barbara Clark, has retired. In the interest of full disclosure, her new partner is my wife, Betty (or Harper as she is known to many) Swisher.
Bob Swisher has been a collector since he was a child. Questions or comments can be sent to Swisher by writing to The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-677 or emailing email@example.com.