Thursday, July 31, 2008

Some REALLY Old Stuff at Ida Red's

Mike and Debbie Ausec, owners of Ida Red's Antiques in Aurora, OR have acquired a collection that goes beyond antiques or even antiquities, and into prehistoric: a collection of fossils from a prehistoric petrified forest in Florissant, Colorado, part of the estate of one of a close friend, Jack Baker, who died in 1995.

Jack Baker loved old stuff. Here he is with his Chrysler Airflow, purchased in 1936

Jack had turned his Pike Forest Fossil Beds into one of those roadside attractions so beloved of travelers in the mid-20th century. The most famous tourist to drop by was Walt Disney, who was so taken with the fossils, he bought a petrified tree trunk to display at Disneyland.

Disney's visit brought Jack his 15 minutes of fame, but also alerted the U.S. government, which appropriated the forest and turned it into the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in 1969. Jack was able to preserve his own personal collection of small fossils, and after his death Ida Red's purchased the lot. The bits and pieces of shale bear the fossilized remains of everything from a bug's eyelash to an entire fish skeleton, ferns and leaves in all their detail. Some items in the collection have been shellacked, following the custom of collectors in Jack's day, but others are just as he found them.

Fossils of a leaf and an entire fish, from Jack Baker's collection

Debbie Ausec mentioned the Florissant Fossil Beds collection yesterday when I spoke with her on the phone, and I thought for a silly moment she said "flourescent." As in, they glow in the dark? But no, that's just how the name is pronounced.

Because Mike's a mineral collector and old tool enthusiast, Ida Red's is a treasure trove of "guy stuff," with a large selection of old tools, minerals and curiosities such as the fossils.

Of historic and geological interest is Jack Baker's dismantled fireplace which was created from hand-polished, colorful pieces of fossilized wood Jack had collected on various trips through the West. Jack was so proud of the fireplace, once the showpiece of his gift shop, he had a picture postcard made of it, though the photo doesn't do it justice. Here are just a few of the pieces, now all boxed up and awaiting reassembly.

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