On August 2, 2018, Elizabeth Updike Cobblah and her husband, Tete, got to see the restored John Updike Childhood Home for the first time (“The place looks great!”) and also brought another batch of unique, one-of-a-kind donations for display in the house-museum that’s taking shape.
Elizabeth donated her father’s “scratchy wool jacket from childhod,” along with an antique wind-up pendulum clock that came out of the Plowville farmhouse and most likely the Shillington house as well, given the age. She and Tete also brought the footboard and side rails of the moon and star bed, which came out of the Plowville house and again, probably the Shillington house, and Linda and her young son painted the headboard together. Elizabeth also loaned the house museum a precious family heirloom: an 1850 woolen coverlet, woven for Linda Hoyer Updike’s grandmother, Mary Fry, by John Kachel of Robeson Township, Berks County, an example of local folk art.
Elizabeth and Tete also brought objects donated by the siblings. Miranda Updike donated a blueberry ceramic well-used coffee pot from the Plowville farmhouse, which also was probably used in the Shillington house. Michael Updike donated a matching blueberry ceramic cup from the Plowville house, along with objects that came from John Updike’s office: a wooden darning egg, a boy/girl rubber stamp, a ceramic decorative rabbit, and a blue swivel office task chair.
Michael also donated a set of cobalt salt and pepper shakers that came from the Plowville house, and possibly the Shillington house as well, along with a reading lamp stand of Wesley Updike’s that may also have been used by John Hoyer from Plowville (and possibly Shillington), a U.S. flag that had been draped on Wesley Russel Updike’s casket (RIP 1972), two John Updike “business cards” from high school, a Trust Me promotional stand-up, and Linda Updike’s fountain pen–one she used “for everything from lists to checks to letters.”
At the house to receive them were John Updike Society board member Peter Bailey and his wife, Fran, and Dave Silcox, who has been helping the society to acquire items for the house-museum and in whose dining room Jim Plath, Jim Schiff, and Jack De Bellis met to plan the society’s launch at the May 2009 American Literature Association conference in Boston, Mass.
Only a few large objects are currently on display in the house. Other items will be added as exhibits are created.