By Wayne Laepple
MOUNT PLEASANT MILLS — It all started in his quest for a light to place over a pool table.
Some 14 years ago, John Bastian bought a light fixture for his newly-acquired pool table featuring an advertisement for beer.
Since then, his collection has grown to more than 1,200 items, all featuring beer.
“It just got out of hand,” he said, as he looks over the collection that has spilled out of his house and now occupies one side of his two-car garage. He has several tables covered with clocks, lights and mirrors, and several rows of table lights hanging from the rafters. The walls of the garage are lined with lighted signs, mirrors and neon signs.
While many of the lights, mirrors and trays advertise familiar brands, he’s got some real antiques, including signs for Schmidt’s, Blatz and Schlitz beers, all now gone the way of the horse and buggy.
A retiree of Chef Boyardee in Milton, Bastian said when he started collecting, it was common to get such items very cheaply at auctions and yard sales. Some of his prizes were even given to him by tavern owners.
“I usually didn’t have to go very far to find things, and sometimes I could get them for very little because they didn’t work,” he explained. “I can usually get them working again.”
He’s traveled as far as Blossburg, Shippensburg and Shamokin, but some of his best favorite finds have shown up much closer to home. He got quite a few items from the estate sale of the owner of Bob’s Washington Tavern in Northumberland a few years ago, and he has a Budweiser clock from the Northumberland Moose.
Even the stools at the bar came from the bar of the Selinsgrove VFW when it moved to a new location.
Bastian has found other collectors, and he even trades with them to add to his collection or dispose of duplicate items. At one time, he said, he had a nice collection of beer coasters, but he gave them to another collector who specialized in them since he has no place to display them.
What about that light that started the whole thing? It still hangs over the pool table in his basement recreation room.
Hometown: Mount Pleasant Mills
Family: Wife, three grown children, several cats, a dog
Favorite item: Rusty Wallace light-up race car and a Coors Light NFL helmets display