When you walk into Freemanâ€™s Tax Service on South Grove Street, you might wonder whether you have the right address.
You first think youâ€™ve walked into a toy store or antique shop by mistake, because lining the walls are toy cars, antique lighters, collectible figurines, old photos and miscellaneous trinkets. but the people hard at work inside confirm that this building is indeed Freemanâ€™s Tax Service.
So why all the memorabilia? Credit owner Allen Freeman, who, for years, has collected all of these items and displayed them in his office; most are probably unknown to anyone born today.
On one wall hangs a collection of old, paper fans.
â€œThe fans were what we used to call â€˜air conditioningâ€™ in the churches,â€ said Freeman.
Even todayâ€™s residents might not recognize some of the items. Among a collection of bank bags, one reads â€œLincolnton National Bank.â€
â€œLNB was bought by First Citizens,â€ he said. â€œIt was one of the first bank mergers.â€
A collection of new and old bank bags from different area banks. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
Sitting on a table in Freemanâ€™s office are two bottles from Lithia Bottling Works, which was once downtown and bottled fruit juice.
An old photograph shows employees gathered outside of Rhyne Mills. All the people are in their work clothes except one, who is in a suit. That person just happened to be Freemanâ€™s grandfather.
â€œI always wondered why my Grandpa Freeman was in that photograph,â€ Freeman said. It turns out that Freemanâ€™s grandfather had retired after 56 years and was being honored.
One display case holds an array of money that isnâ€™t standard U.S. currency.
â€œThe owner of Rhyne Mills didnâ€™t like his money being taken out,â€ Freeman said, â€œso he printed his own currency that could only be used in his stores.â€
On another wall is a banner for Lincolntonâ€™s old baseball team, the Lincolnton Cardinals.
An old sign advertising the Lincolnton Cardinals, a minor league baseball team. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
One book Freeman acquired is a handwritten journal from a WWI soldier. Inside are accounts about battles and even diagrams the soldier had sketched.
Some of the most numerous items are the pencils and pens local banks and businesses used to give out for free.
â€œThey gave a lot of stuff away back in the 40s, 50s and 60s,â€ he said. â€œThey appreciated their customers.â€
Even those items are just a small amount of Freemanâ€™s collection he has been acquiring since the 70s, when he moved back to Lincolnton from Raleigh.
It started when he saw some old bottles in the woods outside his home. He picked them up and started collecting.
One day a man offered him some old Avon bottles.
â€œI got the Avon bottles and one thing led to another and it just exploded,â€ Freeman recounted.
He didnâ€™t decide to keep the memorabilia in his office until later. Back when Coors beer only sold in the West, Freeman was given the opportunity to buy some of the beer.
He was keeping it in his home, when one day someone offered to buy the beer from him. He went home to get it, but it wasnâ€™t there.
â€œI asked my father if he had seen it,â€ Freeman said. â€œMy father said â€˜Ainâ€™t nobody going to keep beer in my house!â€™ He had burned the beer! From then on I decided I should keep anything I collected at the office.â€
That decision has yet to fail Freeman. Between clients, he works on his collection and tries to repair some of the broken pieces. During tax season, the office is also where he spends most of his time, working 15 – 16 hours a day from January to April.
He gets items different ways. While people will give him some pieces, he buys others from antique shops and expositions.
â€œI remember a lot of things from when I was growing up. Iâ€™ll have customers say to me â€˜I remember that from my childhood. I havenâ€™t seen it in years,â€ Freeman said.
Many of these collectibles are becoming quite valuable now, but anyone looking to try collecting should watch out for Freeman.
Along the ceiling of one room are a number of yardsticks from local stores.
Freeman remembers someone telling him â€œThose yardsticks are harder to come by since youâ€™ve got them all.â€
by Caleb Hawkins