The world of using and collecting Coleman camping equipment began for me in the early 1960’s as a boy in Johnstown, PA. When I was in the Cub Scouts, our den would go on camping trips with the scout master and we would use the red lantern, gas camp stove for cooking, and Coleman canvas tents. My parents and brother, Bill, camped many times in PA State Parks and at the seashore during my childhood years. We had a Coleman Tent, a 220E lantern, and a #523 military stove we used for cooking. My father, a WWII veteran, bought the #523 at an Army/Navy surplus store, and we used Amoco white gas to fuel it. On one camping trip the stove would not light. My father, who was not the fix-it-up type, became frustrated with it and disposed of the stove. He replaced it with a Coleman propane stove, but it was just not the same. I have wonderful memories of Coleman camping equipment that I used as a boy with my family and scouts in the 1960’s.
In the 1970’s, we continued camping at more PA State Parks. We visited Prince Gallitzin, Shawnee, Poe Paddy, Penn Roosevelt, Rickets Glenn, and Ole Bull State Parks. We also camped at New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland Seashore Campsites. The first lantern that I purchased for myself was a #275 lantern, which I have to this day. I graduated from Altoona High School in 1972, and spent busy student years at Penn State University, and then at the University of Pittsburgh Dental School. I finished dental school in 1979, and moved back to the mountains of Altoona, PA to start my dental practice. All the while, I camped as much as possible with my family and friends, and continued to use my Coleman equipment and have fun.
During the busy years of being a dentist, building my practice, and paying off my loans, I always found time to camp with my Coleman equipment. I married my wonderful wife, Pam, in 1986, but she is not much of a camper. We did go on several camping trips, which our two children enjoyed. I started finding Coleman lanterns and stoves at flea markets, and auctions. My brother got the bug too, when I shared my finds with him. We went camping a lot, and we really use our old Coleman equipment during our trips. I still camp six to eight times a year with my brother Bill. We USE our Coleman stuff, and the people near our campsite are amazed. “What is that, and where did you get it”? “That is really neat/cool”? “What does that run on”? “Is that tent made from canvas”?
I started to display my lanterns in my dental office, and my patients, particularly the men, were very interested. I would show them my workshop in the basement of my office, and how I fixed and restored old Coleman and other gasoline equipment. Then my patients started bringing me lanterns and stoves from flea markets, garage sales, and auctions. “Here is a present for you, Doc.” My plumber and another friend who demolishes old buildings are my best sources of Coleman equipment. They find it in basements and attics all the time. When my friends go on trips and vacations, they often will bring me more finds for my collection.
During the winter, I take a break from camping, and look forward to working on my lanterns and stoves. I always have a project ready to work on in my basement workshop. When a patient cancels, or a winter storm comes to Altoona, I retire to my warm basement and the work begins again. I guess I have lot of lanterns and stoves down there, but don’t ask me to count them. I don’t want to know. Most of my lanterns are stored in an old fruit cellar in the basement. Maybe someday when I retire as a dentist, I will move them upstairs, and open a museum. Then I could see actually what I have accumulated over the years.
I know that we Americans miss the days when we were a manufacturing country. We made great products (and still do to a lesser extent), that were designed by mechanical engineering geniuses with slide rules, by trial and error. They were made by craftsmen that took pride in their work and products that were so well made, that they would last indefinitely if properly cared for. They were overbuilt. I am always amazed that a 60 or 70 year old lantern can be brought back to life in a short time with just a little help and knowledge. Just take a close look at a 220B/228B lantern sometime, and you will see what I am talking about. I do think lanterns are like the old steam locomotives. They seem alive, with the coal or Coleman fuel that brings them to life. Collecting Coleman and other old gasoline appliances is a pleasure and a passion. The people who collect and repair them are the real treasure to be found. We are all saving our past heritage for future Americans to ponder and appreciate. Keep supporting the Coleman Company, and buy some new stuff. It is still all good.
Best Regards from Altoona, PA
Bruce and Pam Sheehe