Collecting, cleaning, displaying, researching, and appreciating TRIVETS and related go-withs!
This trivet honoring the American Bell Association (ABA) was designed and cast by ABA member Ralph Walker of Massachusetts. It was the result of a fundraising project to finance the Walker family’s trip to the 1967 ABA Convention in Chicago, Illinois. Here are the specifics:
● Cast iron; black paint with accents of green and gold enamel.
● Signed “R Walker” on the handle reverse.
● Measures 9 1/4″ x 5 1/2″ with three short feet.
● Only 154 trivets were produced in 1966 and sold for $3.50 each.
Ralph’s wife Rita Walker described the process of creating the ABA trivet in this July 2002 letter, shared in both of my trivet books.
I have just returned from church, so I’m in a humble frame of mind. However, when I read your e-mail, I burst out with pride. As a matter of fact my heart is still pounding from it! Do I know anything about that “ABA” trivet?? You can just bet I do!
It was a Walker family project in 1966, (some 36 years ago). We had three children, ages 19, 17, and 9 at the time. We were all planning to attend the 1967 Chicago ABA Convention, and were about to purchase a travel trailer to accommodate us on the trip there. The trailer was going to cost us quite a bit, and the trip from the East Coast would be expensive for the five of us also. In addition, we knew we’d be attending the 1969 ABA Convention coming up in Pasadena, California, so we worked things out on paper and found that we could save money by eating and sleeping in our own accommodations.
Having the entrepreneurial spirit, we thought about creating something that we could sell at Convention. I always wanted a bell-shaped trivet, but I could never find one. (I hadn’t even seen one). Soooo, what to do? I spoke with Ralph, my husband, and he said he’d be willing to design one, whittle it in wood to make a pattern that could then be made into a mold for casting in the foundry of the company where he worked (the company’s name was United Shoe Machinery Corporation, the largest maker of shoe machinery in the world, and it was located in Beverly, Massachusetts where we lived).
By the way, I just recently presented that original mounted wood pattern to “The Belfry” Bell Museum* on Nantucket Island here in Massachusetts. It’s a one-of-a-kind, of course. They were thrilled to have it. I also gave them the ABA’s Town Crier’s costume that I had made for Ralph and which he wore for 17 years. (The ABA “Town Crier” is an individual in costume, selected to ring in the meetings and dignitaries at Conventions, using the old hand bell as in Colonial days). They located a full-size mannequin, named him Ralph, and dressed him up in the costume from head to toe. He stands at the door of the museum to greet all who enter, with bell in hand, I might add.
The ABA trivet next to the original mounted wood pattern.
Well, back to the casting of the trivets. There were 154 of them made, and we sold them at that time for $3.50 each. We didn’t make a lot of money, but it did help us to realize our dream. You will remember that I spoke of it as a “family project”, and that it truly was. Following the casting, there was much burring (grinding the roughly cast edges) to be done on each piece. It was a time-consuming job because of the open scroll pattern. We all pitched in at doing this. Then Ralph dipped them in black wrought iron paint. Following this the majority of them were hand decorated with enamels. Finally, Ralph etched his signature on the back of each one. Well, needless to say, they are all in the hands of collectors now.
Well, I think I’ve covered all the bases, but if I’ve forgotten something please feel free to get back to me. I’m VERY nostalgic when it comes to things our family did together. Ralph died in 1998 while mowing our lawn. I found him there on the ground when I went to call him in for lunch. The memory of this wonderful man, along with the love I had for him for over 55 years, continue to remain in my heart. I’m so happy his craftsmanship is still admired and appreciated.
Bellfully, Rita Walker
Ralph Walker in his “Town Crier” costume.
Ralph Walker died in 1998 and his wife Rita followed in 2015. A few years before she died Rita gifted me a second ABA trivet in the same design but without a handle. It was a signed prototype of which only a few were cast. I’m honored to have both versions of the ABA trivet in my collection.
One last mention … in July of 2005 Rita Walker traveled from Massachusetts to Florida to visit her daughter. My husband Ed and I took the opportunity to drive over to the east coast of Florida and meet her! She was a lovely woman, so interesting to talk to, who maintained an avid interest in bells well into her retirement.
Left to right ~ Rita Walker and Lynn Rosack.