It’s an early spring day and my husband and I are out for a Sunday drive. Trying to stay on back roads only. We venture through Vinton county and into Hocking, and then on to, oh never mind you get the drift. We are in southeast Ohio. We pass a sign that says, Pencil Sharpener Museum. “I wonder what that’s all about” I say. My husband pauses and replies, “There was a phone number on the sign”. We make a quick turn around for that number.
A couple of weeks later, I pick up the phone and dial 1-740-753-4634. “Is this the Pencil Sharpener Museum?” “It is”, replied the lady on the other end. “Just one minute I’ll let you speak to my husband Paul”. I introduce myself, and ask Paul if I can come to see his museum. “Sure, just let me know when”, he said with enthusiasm, like a child wanting to ride a bike for the first time. Arrangements were made and a time was set. I was off to see my first Pencil Sharpener Museum.
I drove south on State Route 33,(my husband says it’s east, but we all know men and women usually understand directions differently), I went into Nelsonville, OH, the home of The Rocky Boot Outlet Store, and The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, and turned left at the 278 junction. Carbon Hill, that’s the location of the famous sharpener museum. “Here we are”, I tell myself. My curiosity is piqued, so many questions to ask.
I knock on the door, a gentleman in his retirement years answers. “Are you Paul, Paul Johnson”? “Yes, step on in here”.
I make my introduction and we head out to the museum. Stepping inside, “My what a large collection you have“,(spoken like little red riding hood). Instantly his eyes lit up and the words started to roll.
“The whole thing started with two metal cars, my wife bought for me as a gift in 1989”. “Little did she know I would take off running with the idea.” “I now have over 3000 different sharpeners, with NO duplicates in here.” “Duplicates are used for my mobile collection.” Paul retired in 1988 thus a hobby was needed, the pencil sharpeners came at the perfect time.
Paul continued with his story saying how he is still collecting, showing me some of his favorite ones like the smallest one in his collection,(which is, he thinks the oldest also), a sharpener about ¾ inch long that has its own snapping leather case. He also pointed out the wooden old crank phone sharpener, one of his favorites. The collection used to be displayed in the house, but it out grew the space and Da-Da the museum was built.
“Paul where do you find all these”?
“Oh everywhere, Wal Mart, K Mart, just stores most of them.” A smile crept on his face and a chuckle filled the air as he remembered telling his wife, Charlotte, one school shopping season, “I might have to knock down a few kids to get a sharpener from the school supply section today”. He has several sharpeners
that people have given to him. Heck, if I find one he doesn’t have I’ll probably give him one too.
I gazed with awe at all the variety of shapes and sizes. Paul was proud to share with me that he has a metal sharpener in the shape of the Twin Towers. (Now that’s a collector’s item for sure). My favorites, the monster that burps after he eats the shavings off your pencil, and the souvenir skateboard sharpener Paul gave me.
People from different areas come to see Paul’s collection. His says the winters are slow, but so far this spring(early June) he’s already had about twenty visitors. Why does Paul continue to collect, I wondered the same thing.
His answer, “It’s interesting, I like the attention it gets, and it keeps my mind SHARP”.
Paul shared his knowledge about some of the sharpeners, where they came from, how he got them, and if they were a gift or a purchase. He told of different regions of which he had gotten a few, places like Venezuela, England, Spain, and even Bulgaria. I was swirling in all the information he was so eager to share.
With an invitation to retreat to the screened in porch with a swing and some chairs, I followed him to the coolness of the shade and gentle breeze that drifted through. Feeling welcome, as though I were visiting my gramps on a Sunday afternoon, we sat on the porch engaged in conversation for the longest time. Charlotte took a seat on the swing and chimed in on the visit. Telling me how she’s just glad that Paul has the museum to help occupy him, and that he has always been a social person, so the visitors are good for him.
During our visit, I learned that Paul will be 82 this summer. This led me to wonder what will happen to the collection when…Paul said, “My kids ask what about your collection when you…, and I just tell them, I’m taking it with me”. Sadness filled my heart, but only for a moment, until the laughter began.
This has to be the most relaxing and social museum I’ve ever visited. Not only was the collection interesting, but so was Paul and his wife Charlotte. I finished my visit by asking if I could take some photos of them and the museum. Captured, a memory for a lifetime. The smiling faces of the proud owners of the Pencil Sharpener Museum.
If you’d like to meet Paul and Charlotte, and visit this unique museum, they ask that you please call ahead to make arrangements. They also want everyone to know that admission is FREE and donations are NOT accepted. They are just happy to share and enjoy the company. I hope that you take time and get to know these beautiful people, I did and I came away inspired.
· The Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum is open to the public Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center is located at 13178 State Route 664 South, Logan, Ohio, 43138. Phone 1-800-HOCKING for more information.
· Hocking Valley Scenic Railway - www.hvsr.com - 1800 967-7834.
· Rocky Boots Outlet - www.rockyboots.com - 740 753-3130.
By Beverly Johnston
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