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Posted August 13, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Blast from the past: Memorabilia collector enters 'Mad Men' contest

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Paul E. Delmerico would fit right in with the AMC TV show "Mad Men," and that's exactly what he hopes will happen.

Delmerico, 56, collects items from the 1950s and '60s, and recently submitted a photo in mid-century attire to the "Mad Men" website as part of a contest to appear on a future show.

A native of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., in Westchester County, Delmerico has a lot in common with the show's main character, Don Draper, played by actor John Hamm. In the show, set in 1960s in New York, Draper is the creative director of the ad agency Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce and lives in Westchester County.

Delmerico moved to Winchester 21 years ago as a commercial product designer for Rubbermaid, and is now general manager and partner of SpecialMade Goods & Services Inc. in Winchester.

Although he would like to be on "Mad Men" -- voting ends Sept. 17 -- Delmerico is content to keep collecting "stuff" from the era that he displays in the home he shares with his wife, Miranda, 56, and their daughters, Elise, 20, and twins Lauren and Paula, 19.

"My background is in product design, so I have an appreciation for the aesthetics of products and furniture and architecture, all of that," Delmerico said during a recent interview. "So as I would see things that caught my eye, we would integrate them into our home as time went on. It's a collection of very esoteric things like televisions and toys and radios and some furniture pieces and things like that. So it's an eclectic collection."

An avid follower of "Mad Men," Delmerico was also featured in a recent article in The Washington Post.

"The show is now on its fourth season and I've been watching it since the first season," he said. "I could very much identify, and this really very much explains the attraction to the products as well. It's really three words. There's nostalgia. There's art and there's optimism."

"I grew up in that time frame," he said. "I think we all can relate to our early years and so the things in that show [in] particular remind me of my time in New York back then, and I can recognize the look and the settings and all of that. So there's an interest in that."

The art is present in the products, Delmerico said.

"These products that I'm talking about, they're pieces of art," he said. "They're sculptured. When you look at that [1958 Philco black and white] television, unlike today, all televisions look the same. They're beautiful and they work great and they're flat screens. But these at the time were very unique products. The companies that made them [and] designed them were trying to differentiate themselves. The materials, they're furniture-grade materials. There's brass. There's chrome. There's interesting engineering for the time."

The decades following World War II helped produce a sense of optimism in the country, Delmerico said.

"I think generally the feel and the mood of the country and business was very optimistic," he said. "We were heading towards the moon. We had manufacturing here in the United States. Everything we consumed pretty much we made. We were in control, and I think people generally were looking to a bright, really optimistic future, and I think these kinds of products and these things we talk about are evocative of that. That they were forward-thinking or very modern in that mid-century modern way, kind of breaking away from the past and looking optimistically toward the future.

"So all of that is rolled into why I like this stuff and we like to be around it. We like it in our home 'cause it makes us smile when we see it or brings back a good memory or it's a piece of art."

Delmerico said he's not stuck in the mid-20th century, it's just that he has a keen appreciation for it.

"Let's just say I appreciate the past because it reminds me of how optimistic we can be about a brighter future," he said. "I'm a partner in a business. I have to be forward-thinking and be innovative and new. So I appreciate the past as art and all of that, but I'm not saying I necessarily want to go back to that time. I enjoy certainly all the new stuff and the technologies, but I don't want to forget the past, and I think these things could be in landfills somewhere and they shouldn't be. We should have them out. We should enjoy them and use them and share them."

Delmerico gets a kick out of people's reaction when they visit his home and view his collection.

"People are always amazed when they come in and they see that [1958 Philco TV] and some of the other things," he said. "They didn't know it existed or they didn't understand the history, and it's a good chance to talk about art and nostalgia and optimism, as I mentioned earlier, and kind of have that discussion.

"As you look around our house, it's not just '50s and '60s. We have pieces from both families. We try to live with things that came before so that we can remember the people and the positive feelings that come out of that. So it's really about a positive emotion that at least to our family is important and it makes us feel good that we can appreciate it and live with it and share it."

Mrs. Delmerico said she appreciates the "design aspect" of the nostalgic pieces.

Paula Delmerico agreed.

"I think it's pretty cool, and it's very unique," she said of her dad's collection. "None of my friends have like any of these items in their houses. But I'm pretty used to it. He's always had like old, unique things around the house. It's always fun to see what new stuff he comes up with. He's done a really good job with integrating it into our house so it's not like overpowering."

Sitting in one corner of the Delmericos' basement is a shiny green and chrome bicycle that looks as if it's in mint condition.

"I believe it's a 1953 Schwinn Panther," Delmerico said. "It's a sculpture. It's a work of art. It doesn't get ridden. It kind of fits in the room."

Beside the bicycle sits a Murray pedal car, which Delmerico believes was made in 1957. There's also another vintage Philco black-and-white TV and an Eames chair.

"Eames is the name of the designer," Delmerico said. "There was a couple, a man and a wife, and during World War II they developed using molded plywood a way to make splints for the medical teams out in the field. So after the war, they took that technology and they turned it into furniture. So that's molded plywood. Very, very hot actually starting in the '40s and into the '50s and '60s, and that's an awesome, functional piece of art using a technology that was very innovative."

Like most of the stuff he collects, the products were built to last, which adds to their character, Delmerico said.

"That [Schwinn] bike is like a 1958 Buick," he said. "It's heavy and it's solid and it's full of chrome and steel. The pedal car is a solid metal thing. There's no plastic on any of that. So I do think they are very solid, and they were meant to last and to be very durable, for sure. Like any good piece of art, it's meant to be looked at and enjoyed, and that's how I treat it."

To cast a vote for Delmerico to appear on "Mad Men," visit the website madmencastingcall.amctv.com.

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