A column by Matthew Burdette, executive editor of The Inter-Mountain
ELKINS, W.Va. — A couple months ago, I got a phone call from an old friend back home – Dr. James Measell.
Measell – whom I had worked with on several stories and projects back in the day – said he had found something he thought I might like to have.
A longtime art glass historian, he worked alongside my late father, Paul, at Fenton Art Glass in Williamstown for many years.
While assisting the Fenton family with cleaning out the plant before its final and unfortunate shutdown, he came across a piece of glassmaking history in the bottom of one of the lockers in the back of the plant.
Once he saw it, he immediately knew what it was and, because of a small etching, he knew exactly who it belonged to.
Measell had found an old and probably forgotten glass finishers paddle inscribed with my father’s nickname, “Bub.”
Although it has been more than 20 years since my dad last stepped inside the factory, he remembered his old friend and decided to track me down.
I left the Williamstown area in 2009 to take a job as the news editor at The Journal in Martinsburg. This was after spending 17 years at The News & Sentinel in Parkersburg, where Measell and I met through Frank and Bill Fenton.
Then, in 2012, I moved here to Elkins to work at The Inter-Mountain.
Thankfully, Measell was able to track me down here at the newspaper and, once we finally finished playing phone tag, he promised to send off this piece of history and now-family treasure to me as quickly as he could.
Sure enough, just a few days later, a large box showed up on my front stoop.
Excited, I tore open the package and examined the foot-and-a-half paddle that I’m certain my dad used to create thousands of pieces of glass throughout his 47-year career at Fenton’s.
Even though my dad passed away in 1998, I still remember the many life lessons he passed along and all the fun times – including many fishing trips – we shared.
To have a piece of history, something my father used on a daily basis for so many years, truly brought a tear to my eye.
Thinking back, I still feel immense pride in not only all the sacrifices my dad made for the family, but for craft in which he engaged. I still have hundreds of pieces of hand-crafted glass my father made himself, and thousands and thousands of other pieces line people’s shelves all over the world.
I am so thankful to Measell for thinking of me when he ran across this item. It has rekindled some wonderful memories, but also some sad ones as this historic glass factory shutters its doors for the final time.
Executive Editor Matthew Burdette can be reach at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or [email protected].