Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Four…

scrapbook

MAY 2017

House Bronze Foundry 1972-2010

“Jerry House was a good friend who shared my interest in history. So of course we collected history together, which was not a big deal because neither of us had earned income to spare back in the late 60’s.”
– Forrest Fenn

In December of 1968 a singular event in a war zone 8,500 miles away nearly altered the time space continuum of the art scene in the southwest United States. That was when Forrest Fenn, future Santa Fe gallery owner and arts benefactor almost didn’t make it out of Southeast Asia alive. Had Forrest perished over the dense jungle canopy of Laos that month it is a given that Fenn Galleries would never have hatched onto the Santa Fe scene a few years later. It is equally unlikely that House Bronze, an acclaimed art foundry run by Jerry and Gail House, could possibly have emerged on the stubbornly dry, staked plain of Lubbock, TX in 1972.

In January of 2010 Gail House was closing the doors on an art business she and her late husband Jerry operated since 1972. House Bronze Foundry occupied an unremarkable building in an unremarkable section of Lubbock, TX. But what went on in this “plain Jane” building for the previous 38 years is indeed quite remarkable and has added significantly to the collections of art bronze statuary and monuments worldwide.

Creating mostly large public statuary, House Bronze turned out bigger than life monuments of icons of our times including president George H. W. Bush, the astronaut Willie McCool and even a nine foot Rev. Billy Graham. They didn’t just cast important folks though. They also made elephants and lions and bears and giant whatcha-ma-callits that adorn public gardens, university lawns, town squares, corporate entryways and great halls all over America.

Texas Tech University in Lubbock

But it wasn’t Jerry and Gail’s dream to own an art foundry back in 1968. They both worked at Texas Tech University. In fact, large art bronzes probably weren’t even anything they thought much more about than you or I do today.

Jerry collected guns and was interested in obtaining a smoothbore muzzle loaded firearm. Those things were expensive and the company told Jerry that if he could generate $5,000 in sales he would get a discount. So he was contacting everyone he knew that might be interested in buying a modern black powder gun. Black powder guns are a kind of unusual firearm. His list wasn’t building rapidly.

Someone told Jerry that there was a pilot over at Reese Airbase, a Major by the name of Forrest Fenn and if Jerry could wait two months Forrest Fenn would be back from Vietnam and surely he would be interested in buying one. Jerry added Forrest’s name to his list of hopefuls.

Nearly two months went by when Jerry heard the news that Forrest and his F-100 had been shot down and he might not be heading home. Jerry added a question mark after Forrest’s name on his still incomplete list.

In 2010 Gail House was reminiscing about her late husband Jerry and his friendship with Forrest. She remembered when Forrest arrived back home from Vietnam. ”The morning of the 26th, our phone rang and it was Forrest Fenn. A helicopter had picked him up not long after he was shot down, and because he was due home, he took the next Red Cross plane back.”

For his part, Forrest wanted to make sure Jerry didn’t scratch him off the buyer’s list. He wanted that muzzle loader.

“When Jerry got the call from Forrest, we were stunned,” Gail recalls. “Jerry went over that day, and they formed a real friendship.”

At the time, Forrest had started a part-time business in his garage where he was casting small bronzes for artists. Jerry was intrigued. More-so when Forrest told Jerry he could make a handsome $10 an hour doing this kind of work. That was the egg that Jerry later developed into his own foundry, House Bronze.

Forrest recalls that he was thrilled with his new black powder gun. “Jerry and I knew how to load it: measure the powder and pour it down the barrel. Then tamp some wadding in. The round bullet was next, just roll it down the barrel. More wadding was added to keep the bullet from rolling out if you tilted the gun down.”

They really wanted to shoot the thing because neither had done that before as Forrest remembers, “The problem was that we didn’t have any bullets. After looking around for a minute I found some old chewing gum that one of my young daughters had placed on the kitchen counter. It was dried and hard. I remember having to force it down the barrel with the ram-rod that came with the gun. Are you ready for this? Jerry took the first shot and that glob of chewing gum went clear through a 1” board in my back yard fence. We couldn’t believe it and Peggy couldn’t stop laughing.”

So now it was Forrest’s turn to shoot and he put a small rock down the barrel and shot at the fence. “When the powder ignited our close proximity went black with smoke that chased my wife into the house. You are not going to believe this, but that little pebble came out of the barrel in pieces, and each one was impaled in my fence. There must have been 6 or 7 pieces. Jerry and I talked about that for a long time and considered telling the Army about our newly discovered secret weapon.”

The camaraderie lasted well beyond their first muzzle loader experience. “Jerry was a lot of fun. One of his legs was 2” shorter than the other, so he wore a shoe with an elevated sole. He bragged about it keeping him from being drafted. One thing you never did with Jerry, and that was to call him on the phone between 12:00 and 12:15 because that was when Paul Harvey was on the radio. Jerry was a fanatic about that guy, and he got me started listening. Paul, Jerry, and I had something in common. We were good, conservative, patriotic, American citizens.”

After awhile, Forrest moved his foundry out of his garage, hired some help and started Fenn Bronze on the outskirts of Lubbock. “Jerry used to come see me in my foundry, which was just a few blocks from where he worked. After a while he started helping me work waxes and get them ready to pour in bronze. He liked it, and was soon on my payroll. It wasn’t long before he knew the business as well as anyone.”

After Forrest moved to Santa Fe, in 1972, Jerry opened his own casting studio with his wife Gail in Lubbock called House Bronze and did very well for 38 years.

Jerry and Forrest kept in touch. He was still working long hours at House Bronze and probably making considerably more than $10/hr when he died in 2009.

You can read more about Forrest’s “Bronze Years” on this blog in Forrest’s Scrapbooks:

http://dalneitzel.com/2014/12/29/scrapbook-one-hundred-twenty-two/
http://dalneitzel.com/2014/11/02/scrapbook-101/

 

106 thoughts on “Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Four…

      • Jake, one of my good friends, now deceased, was Dave Thomas, he cast the two large bronze Dinos in front of the Natural History Museum in Old Town, Albuquerque, NM a Triceratops and Stegosaurus, not sure just how much they weigh, but heavy loads for sure.

        Dave Thomas and his son Dave Thomas Jr were science and math calculators for Apollo program, Dave Jr is a professor at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, NM
        Dave Jr use to pick a mean guitar esp. Bluegrass and sing with a little help from his Terrific friends. The Very Large Array needs his help sometimes.
        Tom Terrific

        • Never been there in person to see such large bronze dino structures Tommy & it’s great for kids & adults alike.
          I believe the photo of the bronze characters (including the dog) near or on the swaying bench is at the Museum in Albuquerque. Was that the museum where the wise owl donated not too long ago?

          Your connections run deep & good friends are a plus as we know we cannot do things & be successful by ourselves.

          The last 2 SB’s seem to key on Bronze….

          • Jake or Tommy, are there any picture of the dog on the bridge or the owl available anywhere.

  1. Interesting stuff to say the least! I love everything about the foundry business! I spent a third of my working career in an iron foundry.
    Thanks Forrest for sharing this story. You are an amazing individual!
    Tom

  2. What an interesting story Forrest. One just never knows what will be the spark that ignites a friendship, or a business. Thanks for sharing Forrest. JDA

    • I meant, “What an interesting story ABOUT Forrest.” Sorry, I did not mean to imply that I thought Forrest had written this SB. JDA

  3. Sorry—meant to say there are 1.2 billion Indian people, and 1.3 billion Chinese people—that’s a lot of babies—and a lot of bronze baby shoes.

  4. Jerry’s head looks like it was cut and pasted. What do you think Jeremy?
    I’m still deciding who told the story…

  5. I enjoyed reading this scrapbook. Great friendships. The bronzes shown are beautiful. I had to giggle about the thought of the chewing gum being used. The small rock used reminds me of the Civil War era. I remember listening to Paul Harvey on the radio and the great stories he had to tell.

    • Thinking about the gum. I’m sure Mrs. Fenn would be thinking right about now, “Do you honestly think I would have a wad of gum on my kitchen counter, only to have it turn hard?!?” 🙂

  6. This story casts a long shadow on whether or not history is an important element in the Chase:

    “Paul, Jerry, and I had something in common. We were good, conservative, patriotic, American citizens.”

    No matter how we cast it, history and patriotism is all over everything Forrest lived, loved and cared for.

    Tom T

    When I spent my 4 years in the Amphib Navy, I met a lot of men I wanted to be like, I guess they are everywhere, at least a few in Santa Fe who live in a Brown, Adobe HOUSE.

  7. very entertaining write-up Dal – two thumbs up!

    wow ..was there really an Astronaut called Willie McCool?
    ..was he related to Arthur Fonzarelli by any chance?

    ( ..cool 🙂 )

  8. And now for the rest of the story…….
    My grandfather always listened to Mr. Harvey.
    The bronze statues are beautiful. 😉

  9. Wow! Look at those glowing stars at Texas Tech University! I would love to sit right in the middle of them when the sun goes down. What a sight that must be!

  10. Thanks, Dal and Forrest, for this interesting story. I believe I’ve seen the bronze that resides in Santa Fe…I can’t recall exactly where it is but I believe it’s down Canyon Road just below the home of Brown. 🙂

      • Dal I was hoping you or somebody in this community could help me out. This is my first time posting. I have the book The Thrill of the chase I also have too far to walk and in one of the books there was a phrase that Forrest Fenn said::

        “We just drove the car out intoi the forest about a half mile, and unloaded everything”

        I cannot seem to find this phrase in either of the books again? Can anybody tell me what book and what page it is on? I have went through the books several time and cannot seem to find it again. I was hoping somebody here in this community could help me. Thank you so much and what a great Community this is.

        Phil

  11. Jerry House, Paul Harvey = Harvey House.

    Harvey House = Railroad Stop

    Railroad Stoo = WWWH

    Oh, and there is a bronze there.

    Your welcome.

    Just kidding but I hope this helps.
    🙂

  12. Red cross on a one inch board. Must remember to turn the boards over to check …lol
    Just stretching the tangent.

  13. Among other “things”, I see the home of a big brown bear with cubs and a warning to carry a firearm. Don’t forget bullets. Do learn how to shoot it. Clean it or the gun might jam. Warning noted. My opinion.

  14. Hmmm Chewing gum in the barrel and a hole in the fence. Back about then, I was asked to chew gum so it could be used to plug holes in the walls before painting. So, while you were creating holes, I was plugging them. I like bronze statues – like the wallstreet bull best, though…Many people say they want to be friends, but few really become friends. I had one and she passed away. I am married to another – and life is great. I have a special one with whom I can share my ideas and theories – and it is fun to have someone at that level of communication. I am blessed these days! It is good I live in the present….

  15. Has anyone else found it odd that the poem is supposed to read like a map yet the only letter in the alphabet not in the poem is X?

  16. Would this be the same muzzle loading firearm shown in “Too Far To Walk,” book, “Mountain Man” chapter on pages 239 and 240 as mentioned in this scrapbook?

  17. a hello to every one Hope all is well be careful out there a good reason why a good home of brown a empty or shallow creek heavy loads and a water high where oh where oh why thanks for the read. i cant find the question mark on my key board i loved that chicken coup there were many riches there. both new and old. i would flunk if i were a riddle on a line. but its all a good time. living life is good. even if its hard at times be good to yourselfs

    • No. But in my search I have found a plaque-a “bronzed”plaque with a reference to ELLe with connection to WWWH and HOB!

  18. Thanks forrest, love your stories. Your a gem.
    Think my imagination could use a break though, so I’m gonna take one. 🙂

    • hold ya horses jus a cotton-pickin’ minute there Jdiggins!

      i mean.. haven’t ya heard that great Eagles song “can check-out but never leave” mantra??

      ( ..& PLEASE don’t leave me alone with all these lunatics!! 😛 )
      🙂

        • thanks Sheryl Lynn 🙂 – that reminds me of a phrase that my Mum told me quite often..
          “you’re as useless as a screen-door on a submarine”

          ..which i always took as a compliment give thatOH, WAIT A MINUTE?! 🙁

      • My curious little friend, just needed some sun and a breather. I’m not going nowhere, I live at the hotel. 🙂
        Besides, I helped add synonyms to the word crazy… 😉

          • I’m trying!!!
            🙂
            If I can talk bill into it, my youngest daughter (20), my baby, also known as Lil hunter on the poetry page, promised to join me! 🙂

          • Believe it or not, the second comment made my day LOL

            I probably still owe Bill an apology for all the times I called him Peter or Richard! 😛

          • Tell Bill whatever his favorite alcohol is, I’ll bring a bottle or 12 pack just for him. That should be motivation!

        • that’s great news Jdiggins!

          and yes, i love synomyns too ..infact ‘syminoms’ are actually my favourite thing in the whole world,
          coincidentally 🙂

          [note to self: google definition of ‘synromyns’]

  19. I’m sure that Jerry, wherever he is, is thinking of you affectionately f, and maybe even thanking you for the hint that lead him to such a rewarding business.

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