It’s not uncommon for collectors to feign modesty.
But when Walt Carriveau says he doesn’t expect anyone to be impressed with his neatly arranged living-room display, it rings true. “I’ve never thought of myself as a serious bell collector,” he said.,
The other day, he counted. And he’s got 197. “There are people with thousands,” he said.
It is unlikely, however, that any of them love bells more than the friendly 85-year-old South Hill resident. “The tone of a good bell is music, real music.”
His collection includes a hand bell used by a schoolteacher in the Palouse from 1901 to 1946. He gave it a flick of the wrist and the ringing note hung in the air and seemed to stay there. “Now that’s a bell.”
Another favorite is a front-desk bell from a Chicago hotel. It’s more than 100 years old. Then there are sheep bells, camel bells, porcelain bells, glass bells and a ship’s bell.
“Any time I see a bell I like, I pick it up and ring it,” he said. “If it’s got a dull sound, I put it back.”
Unless, of course, he really likes the way it looks.
Dozens of his inexpensive treasures are tiny, delicate things. “I’ve always liked that tinkle.”
He gently picks them up with fingers broken and forever bent from long-ago football injuries. “I try to dust them once a week,” he said. “I take my time.”
Carriveau came to Spokane from Seattle in 1946. He was a manager for Sears. And he and his wife, Velma - whom he sometimes calls “Momma” - have lived in the same house for 50 years. “We like it,” he said with a sly smile. “We think we’re going to stay.”
He can’t pinpoint when this bells thing started. Probably in the late ‘40s. But it wasn’t long before his children and then grandchildren knew exactly what to give him on birthdays and at Christmas.
After he retired (the folks who worked for him gave him a bell), the Carriveaus became travelers. So he picked up bells from Australia to Denmark. “Each has memories attached.”
His all-time favorite is a walnut replica of the Liberty Bell. It was made by his brother. “Look at the detail,” said Carriveau.
He has to use a hearing aid. But visitors can tell it does the job.
Carriveau picked up a small metal bell and gave it a gentle shake, producing a dainty chiming.
He smiled. “I’ve always liked that,” he said. “Always.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos
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