Melissa resident Bob Wales started collecting items more than 60 years ago; now, at 71 years old, he’s amassed quite a collection.
This year he decided to share some of that collection with the State Fair of Texas.
“There are a number of family items stuck here and there,” Bob’s wife, Winkle Wales, said. “I told Bob, I said, ‘They have a category for old glasses,’ and I knew these were well over 100 years old, and I said, ‘Why don’t we put these in there?’”
At first, Bob Wales wasn’t too keen on the idea of entering his great grandmother’s eyeglasses into the contest. Doing so risked damaging or breaking the pieces. After some convincing by his wife, however, the couple decided to make a shadow box with several items and enter it into the Hobby Collection Antiques category.
Along with the glasses, the Wales entered a Texas Land Grant signed by Sam Houston in 1861, the first federal issued post card, a commemorative post card, a historical advertisement from around 1907 and a fly clipper.
The Waleses were able to come away from the Texas State Fair with a second place ribbon for their entry.
Each item has its own story, and its place in history; Bob explained how the items all have ties to his family in one way or another.
“My grandfather, John W. Wales, ran for sheriff of Montague County and that was an advertisement,” Bob said pointing to the black and white square transparency inside the shadow box.
The man in the small photo is wearing a white button-up shirt, with a black vest, black bow tie, and black hat. It’s classic 1900s attire, which is appropriate since he was running for sheriff in 1907.
In its day the transparency would be shown on a projector in a movie theater in Bowie, Texas, Bob said. His great grandfather lost that election, but won a second time around when he ran again in the 1920s.
The shadow box is a trove of memories for the couple. The Waleses were married 48 years ago and they share a mutual love of history. While Bob Wales enjoys learning about Texas History, Winkle Wales enjoys studying the Civil War.
In the 1960s, she taught history in Mississippi before quitting her job to marry Bob Wales and move to Plano. The two met on a blind date, and ever since then constantly bounce jokes off each other.
Bob and Winkle have moved around over the years, from Texas to Colorado back to Texas and through every move they’ve kept a hold of some small items.
Arguably, the most impressive of these items is the Texas Land Grant Bob Wales was given when he was about 12 years old.
“I worked, did odd jobs for a lady that lived across the street from us in Decatur, Texas,” Wales said. “I told her that I collected stamps and stuff like that, and she would give me old things every once in a while. One day, I was over there and she just pulled this out and she said ‘I want you to keep it.’ And I have had it for the last 60 something years.”
The woman, Sudie Collins, was a widow who didn’t have any children to leave the document to, he said. Even at 12 years old, Wales knew the historical significance of the item.
To have Sam Houston’s signature on a document was a big deal even in 1954, he said.
The grant was signed on February 14, 1861, by Texas Governor Sam Houston, and the land was given to John Mulholland.
According to the Texas General Land Office, the State of Texas issued land grants to those who served in the military, as additional compensation.
“The government of Texas, for most of the 19th century, had very little cash with which to pay soldiers, so our most abundant resource — land — was used to supplement the meager military pay,” the Texas Land Office Website says. “Bounty grants for military service were issued by the Republic of Texas to soldiers who served in the Texas Revolution and to those who enlisted in the army before Oct. 1, 1837.”
James Fannin, a prominent figure in the Texas Revolution, served in the military and died, and land was then given to his family as compensation for his service.
According to online records by the Texas Land Office, Bob Wales’s land grant was given to Mulholland under the Fannin Bounty.
“It’s one mile east of Decatur, Texas, which puts it inside the city limits of Decatur,” Wales said.
The land grant has always fascinated Wales for two reasons. The first, he said, was because six weeks after Houston signed this land grant he resigned as governor.
The second is because Wales believes the signature is authentic, which might sound odd, but Wales said it was not unusual for politicians to have others sign official documents for them.
Wales said he’s never gotten the document appraised, or any of the items in his shadow box, and doesn’t plan to.
There’s no need to know how much something is worth he said, if you don’t plan on selling it.
The shadow box and its items picked up a second place ribbon at the State Fair, an accomplishment Bob and Winkle Wales said they won’t soon forget. The ribbon, like the other items they collect, provides just another way to remember.