I’m an unabashed, American History enthusiast, and an obsessed collector of Civil War artifacts. To feed my insatiable appetite for history and Civil War relics, I regularly click thru the seemingly endless items offered for sale on online relic shops, visit the few that still operate brick-and-mortar stores, and attend Civil War artifact shows across the country.
I thoroughly enjoy the “hunt” for the next object to add to my collection, researching and learning about different items; and ultimately, showcasing the newly acquired artifact in a display case worthy of its awesomeness. Sometimes I get so caught up in these activities that I forget about one of, if not the most, enjoyable aspects of the hobby―friendships.
I was recently reminded of this over the course of a Civil War show weekend. Although a smaller show, the Marietta (Georgia) Civil War Show and Sale is one of my favorites. For one, it’s only a 30 minute drive from my home. Such favorable logistics affords me the opportunity to merely disappear for a few hours versus abandoning my wife and children for an entire weekend so that I can attend an out-of-town show. Don’t judge me. Regardless of what you collect, you’ve done (and will continue to do) the same thing!
Secondly, the show is attended by some of my favorite people in the hobby, many of which I’ve become great friends with over the course of time. With the show so close to home, I regularly invite friends over to the house for some great food, fun, and storytelling.
This past show was no different. On this occasion, we invited our good friends Larry & Nita over for dinner. The evening was especially meaningful for me.
Around the age of 7, my Mother (some may call her an enabler) took me to Larry Hicklen’s Civil War shop that sits adjacent to the Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Like many others in this hobby, Larry’s knowledge and passion for this era of history had an immediate and lasting impact on me. To this day, I can still recall how he led me around his shop, patiently telling me everything he knew about the items I showed interest in—even the ones he knew that I had zero chance of buying!
Of all the items in my collection today, I can still point to the first dozen artifacts that I purchased (with the help of Mom) from him as a kid. Over the years, I’ve continued to visit Larry’s shop; adding artifacts to my collection and soaking up all the knowledge he freely shares.
While I’ve acquired many artifacts from Larry online, at shows, and even hunted for a few with him in the field, there’s just something special about the memories and personal bonds that have been forged within the walls of his shop.
That’s what made our evening together so special. You see, Larry has made the decision to close his shop at the end of this year―after 40 years of continuous operation!
We spent the evening reminiscing and sharing stories. We even squeezed in a game of “Stump the Larry” and “Real or Fake?” It was especially neat to see my oldest daughter interact with Larry, who at age 7, is the same age as I was when I first stepped foot into Larry’s shop of historical wonders.
I also learned that Larry is a bona fide baby magnet! My 10-month old latched onto his shoulder, mesmerized with the straps of his suspenders and the brim of his sweat-stained baseball cap. I enjoyed watching Nita and my wife have a great time, despite the fact that Larry and I abandoned them for more interesting conversations around Civil War artifacts!
Larry has, and continues to be, a great influence on me and many others in this hobby. I will forever cherish the memories made visiting his shop over the course of 30 years. And I’m certain that I’m not the only one who feels this way!
I write this article as a reminder to all collectors, of all stripes, that it’s often the relationships formed and friendships gained that are more meaningful than the things we collect.
Note: Although Larry plans to close the doors to his shop at the end of 2017, he will continue to be an active influence in the Civil War artifact collecting community. He’ll continue to operate his online store and will take part in Civil War artifact shows across the country.