By Christi Baron
Forks Forum Editor
Bob Stark, owner of the Forks True Value, suffers from a condition one might call Junkus Collectus, but one man’s junk is another man’s pastime. Stark would contend his compilation of artifacts is not junk but history and a lot of it local — one look up above the hardware, lawn furniture and cans of paint reveals a fantastic collection of tools, old local signs, advertisements and occasionally some just plain weird stuff — and recently it has gotten weirder!
It all started innocently enough when Stark was 4 years old, he was given an old silver-plated coffeepot and from that very moment his collecting began, the year was 1954.
As the years went by Stark says his collecting ran him and his wife Pat out of three houses. Finally Pat had had enough and she said get it out of our house now, and in 2000 Stark moved his collection from his home to his new store, at the stoplight in Forks. Now when customers comment on how great his collection is Stark says his wife takes the credit.
When asked what his favorite item in his collection is Stark has to pick two, the bear trap from someone in Clallam Bay and the “Bigfoot Feet.” When asked where the feet came from he becomes evasive. He just can’t quite say but maybe from the Hoh area and just maybe they might be responsible for some Bigfoot footprint sightings of local lore, but he really can’t say for sure.
One great thing about collecting stuff is that if other people have stuff they don’t know what to do with, they bring it to Stark. For instance, old store signs, like the Tyee Beauty Parlor sign, found in the Loop Tavern before it was torn down. Who got their hair done at the Tyee Beauty Parlor? No one seems to know.
Then there is the two hole-er outhouse seat, which came from Wes Chilson, the little girl crossing guard sign, the 1930s surfboard, and if you are missing your still, as in moonshine, and you had it hidden in a cave near the Dickey River, Stark has it, he actually has two stills, not in working order of course.
Stark says every item has a story — when asked about the 7-Up advertising sign he recalls the day it was acquired, he said: “I got that the day the Antler’s burned down.”
Old store signs have become the latest obsession of this collector. Stark was almost giddy when talking about the fact he had a lead on the old Woodland Hotel sign, the structure built in the 1920s suffered a fire in 1976, and anticipation of adding this item to his collection was really exciting. He is also very good at recreating old signs and just recently created an Art’s Place sign for the Timber Museum.
Stark also has a shrunken head, which is not real but freaks out the tourists, and added he always is looking for old local memorabilia especially related to logging and community history.
Stark was once featured on the front page of the Peninsula Daily News for his “Stop the Rain” campaign and donation jar.
In the weeks after, he had to get a bigger jar and added an additional one, all the while customers commenting how ridiculous it was as they were stuffing cash in the jars.
A jar with a sign that said “stop donation jars” followed the stop the rain campaign jar and I think it is still on the counter.
After several weeks of sunshine, Stark ended that fundraiser and donated the money raised to the Friends of Forks Animals group. He also had an idea for a donation jar that said: “Stop women’s suffrage.” When I asked if he is against women having the right to vote, he said “No, it has no point, I just want to see if people will put money in the jar.”
Now the getting weirder part: A few years ago he acquired two dried out creatures in a case. Their names are Wilbur and Lucille and the note on the case says they are from the Pacific Northwest. They appear to be part fish and part …? I think they are from Texas. And more recently Stark has become the proud owner of a set of bones, human bones. You will just have to go check them out.
So, Ye Old Curiosity Shop watch out, thing are getting weird at Forks True Value.
So where is the silver-plated coffee pot that started this whole thing? It is on display in the Starks’ kitchen. But, I don’t think Wilbur and Lucille are welcome for coffee.