The glasses, without the story, are worth about a buck. Purchased in bulk from Oriental Trading Company, they're the cheap plastic kind you wear for a costume party if you want to look like Buddy Holly or Clark Kent.
Or Art Downey.
If you don't know who Art Downey is, where have you been for the past 55 years? Apparently not in Edina. For more than half a century, Mr. Downey has coached the Hornets swimming and diving teams. As you can see in one of his earliest yearbook photos above, Art Downey wore that same style of spectacles when he first came to Edina. He's still wearing the same kind of frames today.
"Art has been an icon, and his glasses have been an icon. He has not changed glasses from when he started coaching," said Rick Ringeisen, the head coach for the Lakeville South Swimming and Diving team, in an interview with KARE 11 news (see video below).
Indeed, Ringeisen passed out 150 pairs of black, horn-rimmed style glasses to people at the meet -- all to honor Art Downey. "Art has literally won every honor that you can win as a coach, and many of them multiple times. He's in eight different hall of fames. So we thought what's the highest form of flattery but imitation," Ringeisen said.
The human interest feature received great media coverage, from television, the Minnesota State High School League (see page 21 of Spring 2011 publication) and local online newspaper Edina Patch. In the past, we might have saved newspaper clippings and filed them in our biography archives under "Downey, Art." As more media becomes digital, we now have to think about how to preserve the new media.
Edina Patch graciously honored our request to get copies of the photos they ran on their web site.
We also hunted down the glasses.
Or, I should say, John Soma, Assistant Principal and Activities Director at Edina High School, did on our behalf. The party-favor style glasses will join our collection of objects that tell the story of Edina -- right there with police officer George Weber's gun, badge and whistle, a crazy quilt sewn by pioneer women in the Grimes family, a scale used at Gregg's Pharmacy, and thousands of other items.
The glasses aren't worth much now, I know. Moreover, when I imagine an "Antiques Roadshow" type appraisal in 100 years, I don't think the value will rise much over time.
Without the story, the glasses are still black plastic frames with no lenses sold in bulk. However, with the story, they're priceless. That's why we are happy to have them in our collection.
(Note: Like other collectors, I have a hard time calling a collection complete. As I was doing research for the Art Downey file, I saw a bobble head of the coach on the team's Facebook page. I would love to add one to our collection.... anyone?)
Please contact me if you would like to donate an object with a great Edina story.
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