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 Texas : Features : People :

LOCAL PERSONALITIES
People with brains,  panache, or character. Sometimes all three.


EASY TO BE HARD
Adventures in Brick Collecting Meet

Milton "Pete" Schiller
Brick Detective
The Hercule Poirot of the Clay Rectangle


by Norman Conquest

Brick detective Pete
Milton "Pete" Schiller
of Sealy

TE photo

You may not have heard of Milton Schiller, despite his literary name. He was with Dorothy, Toto and their friends, but he kept stopping to look for imprinted bricks on the Yellow Brick Road and never made it to Oz. He's got plenty of bricks from Kansas, though, and Oklahoma too. In fact he's got bricks marked I.T. (Indian Territory) before Oklahoma statehood. For Milton "Pete" Schiller collects bricks and is a "Master Collector," with over 500 different imprinted bricks from around the world.

Let us tell you right now, this hobby is not for sissies. You don't stick them in an album or put them in a safety deposit box, you display them in sidewalks and walk around on them; you can heat them on your stove and place them under your covers at the foot of your bed, you can weigh down papers with them, and cartoonists have employed them for years as a device for getting revenge. Pete has thoughtfully left some for the rest us, but we think it's only so he'll have someone to trade with.

We were given the Grand Tour of Pete's collection recently, and want to share some of the highlights with you. Bricks are, of course, the proverbial "building block" of architecture, but here in Texas, they also figure into the State's economic and geographic histories as well. While people argue about "How the West was Won", however it was won, it was the brick that brought civilization and permanence.

Thurber brick
Thurber Brick
Photo Courtesy TXDoT

If you are even the slightest bit observant you've noticed that some bricks are imprinted with names. Not names like Bubba and Jimmy, but strong, brick-sounding names like Cordell, Saxton and Thurber. Place names abound with Texas brick. There's Austin, Atlanta, Abilene, Bosque, Calvert, D'Hanis, Elgin, Ferris, Groesbeck, Gonzales, Kaufman, Marlin, Palmer, Rockdale, Seguin, Troup, and dozens of others, Some of the towns are gone now, with only the bricks left to tell the tale.

Like archeologists tracing Mayan trade routes from excavated artifacts, "brickers" can trace immigration patterns by where certain specimens are found. The rare and much sought L & L (Lockhart and Luling) Brick has been found as far away as Sanderson, according to Pete. Pete's research has turned up information on L & L's owner selling his brick machine to the company that put D'Hanis on the map. What Luling, D'Hanis and Sanderson all have in common is the railroad. Some Wharton buildings have "ballast brick" in their construction. Galveston-bound ships would dump these European bricks on the beach upon arrival, where they could be had for free.

Brick collectors gather at swaps held in different regions of the country. Although bricks can be bought, the IBCA (International Brick Collectors Assn) likes to keep the inevitable commercialization of brick collecting at bay.

Mr. Schiller even has a brick with his name on it. A large paving brick from Canada inscribed MILTON was simply given to him at a brick swap when he mentioned it was his name.

One of our favorite bricks from his collection was a thin "sidewalk" brick from Kansas. A Doctor paid the brick company to press the words: "Do Not Spit on the Sidewalk" into the bricks. These were placed in the sidewalk at intervals in hopes of preventing the spread of TB germs.

Part of what makes Pete a "Master" Collector is that he also has acquired brick paraphernalia. He has molds (with or without the impressing device [frogs]), handling tools to prevent those nasty thumb-crushing accidents, and a variety of novelty bricks including one from The Great Wall of Texas. This was an idea from the 1940s when the seller of these bricks envisioned a wall stretching from the Panhandle to Louisiana, sealing off Texas from Yankee intruders.

Pete performed the Brick Collector's Sacred Rites, initiating us by weighing us down with a "starter set".

Pete has written for the Sealy News for over twenty years and has amassed quite a collection of brick stories, which we will ask him to share with our viewers. Direct your questions for Pete to:

Pete's Mailing Address:
Pete Schiller
1226 N. Meyers
Sealy, Texas 77474-1650

979-885-2251

brick work
Schulenburg Main Street

TE photo

October 2000
John Troesser

Click Here:
Sealy, Texas

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