Left Coast Lines Presents: The 2017 Rohde Ranch BBQ & Tailgater

Left Coast Lines Presents: The 2017 Rohde Ranch BBQ & Tailgater

By Michael Doyle

All photographs by Michael Doyle unless otherwise noted. Top photo by Dan Gauron

Hello fellow hobbyists and welcome collectors of all ages and interests. Here is the latest chapter in the insulator collecting hobby phenomenon called The Rohde Ranch BBQ and Tailgater. This year’s event, hosted by Bill and Kat, was held on Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 at the Rohde Ranch, just east of the San Joaquin River near Fresno, California.

Early Saturday morning, Kelli and I left Visalia and headed north and turned left when we saw the familiar CD257 Mickey Mouse sign. After a short drive between the fields and down the insulator lined approach to the ranch, we tucked our car in next to one of the deliciously fragrant citrus trees that was in full bloom. It was a perfect spring morning and many show-goers had arrived the day before to pitch tents, set up tables and help with the arrangements. The shade in the back yard provided a comfortable setting for mid-April and, as always, the gathered hobbyists seemed to be excited and full of energy. Kelli is just getting to know the collectors in our area and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of friends who recognized her from social media and helped her to feel right at home. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. That’s what the Rohde Show is all about; friends, family and fun!

Here is how Dwayne Anthony described this year’s event on the www.Insulators.info collector group called ICON:

It’s hard to believe now that 21 years ago, Don, Camille and Bill, held the first Rohde Ranch Tailgater and Barbecue for a small group of club members. Where has all the time gone…and where did that ‘small’ group go?

With numerous acres of crop farming in the immediate area of the ranch, activity is usually limited to other residents and workers passing by on occasion. This past Saturday the crowd swelled to 175 attendees, with cars and trucks stretched out down the entrance drive far enough that some considered it a hike to the center of activity. There was actually so much going on that the local police department helicopter came out for a visit, circling a couple of times before realizing we were just some harmless collecting fanatics. As they used to say back in my younger years, “When the cops come, you know it’s a good party!” Even though Bill grimaces a little when I say it, I have come to refer to this event as the Annual Rohde Ranch Tailgater/Barbecue NATIONAL.

As Michael ‘Rain’ Spadafora, Matt Grayson, Paul Greaves and many other ‘serious’ porcelain hobbyists already know, this show is especially thrilling for mud collectors because Rohde Ranch hosts the most incredible North American porcelain insulator collection known to exist in the world. Bill and many contributing hobbyists continue to expand and develop the awe inspiring assortment of insulators, electrical hardware, signage, and related material in “The Shop.” Of course, there is always more than enough beautiful glass available at this show as well. Collectors have been ‘blown away’ by the appearance of some heart-stopping power, telegraph and ‘doo-dad’ pieces that have changed hands or been exhibited here over the years. For instance, Tim Wood and Denny Hackthorne brought some amazing Cal Elec Works and C.E.W. pieces this year. Arnie Lowenstein had a table overflowing with spectacular EC&Ms and Ron Jenkins has presented his share of killer glass too. Gil ‘Blue-Mex’ Hedges-Blanquez, Dale Huber, Paul Greaves, James Doty, Colin Jung and others have also been known to walk in with some spine chilling goodies.

This year we welcomed Morris the cat and Chicago area native, power lineman, Jason Townsend to the show. Jason had just scored a local power sign collection and he rolled up in a sagging rental car overflowing with five-gallon buckets of dirty, junk insulators and black widow spiders. Colin Jung found a beautiful baby signal in ‘All That Junk’ and many other folks found favorite jewels to add to their shelves and displays. (No one was bitten.) It was my pleasure to welcome Renard Perucho back into the hobby after his years away enjoying gems and minerals. This was the first time I’d seen Roger and Beth Ziesak at the show and their table sparkled with lots of great glass. Rarely seen, long-time Nor-Cal collectors Dave Potts and Jack Foote were also there this year and it was good to see Katie and Glenn Hasbrouk after so long. It’s great to visit with old friends at the ranch! I even saw the Staffords again this year. Lou Hall had a table covered with amazing iron, Bob McLaughlin, our club president, brought an impressive assortment of all things McLaughlin. Which reminds me, there was a red McLaughlin commemorative at the show this year as well as at least one or two other color patterns. Very cool commemoratives, those.

Paul and Kathy Greaves had a wonderful assortment of insulators and original pottery wares on their table. The Bayes, Elaine, Maria and Bill, were there with amethyst glass ware and many cute and colorful miniatures. Justin Martin and Ron Yuhas hauled an incredible array of big, cool, power stuff down from Montana. Curt Randles brought a nice assortment of insulators, bottles and related items. Steve Marsh was down from Placerville and the Merzoian brothers, Mark and Bob, along with Bob’s son, Michael, were up from Porterville. Judy and George Klingler came down off the mountain to see their friends and find some goodies. The Klinglers will host their second annual South Lake Tahoe event in early July. Sounds like a “You Gotta Be There!” to me. However, if you can’t make it, the Lou and Mike Show may be on the scene to provide some coverage of that one for you.

A number of dedicated hobbyists and a small army of family members and friends arrived on Friday to assist with the extensive setup process that helps make this a unique and memorable event. Many folks, both in and out of the hobby, worked very hard all weekend to make this annual show possible. Bill and Kat want to holler out a great big **Thank You** to Gary Spoelstra, Lou and DeeDee Hall, Dwayne Anthony, Dennis Rogers, Joanne and Tim Wood, Judy Klingler, Patty and Joe Huizar, Matt Grayson, Bob McLaughlin, Lori Jenkins, Will Rohde, and the rest of the set-up and tear-down crew. Bill says a very special thank you to Kat for her tireless work around the ranch and the dusting that she does for the whole collection in the shop! I personally witnessed the show host (yes, that’s Bill) fishing a friend’s cell phone out of the ladies loo with a long-handled orange picker. Talk about a dedicated host!

Beverly and Gary Yarborough came over from Brown’s Valley and shared some great stories. Dave and Pinky Hall stopped up from Long Beach. Chris and Shannon Hernandez stopped up from … TEXAS! Steve and Terri Bava, Jules and Charlyne Barad, Lulu and Bill Harrison, Alice and Larry Shumaker, May and Colin Jung, Lori and Ron Jenkins, Daryl Stahler, Bill Heitkotter, James Doty, Dan Gauron, Craig McLaurin, David Baron, Scott Prall, Dave Brown, Denley Bryson, Pete Fortier, Gordon Harrington, Glenn Adkins, and many, many other collectors were seen visiting, catching up and looking for good deals. Bill was happy to see that his long time hobby friend, Meri Issel, was finally able to make it to the BBQ. The whole Oregon Clan showed up and some pitched tents on the lawn. Joanne Wood had a sparkling assortment of amethyst glass items on her table and I was pleased to have the opportunity to chat with Bill Ostrander, Nathan Lamkey, Mid Norris, Ernie, Jim, Tim, Scott, and the rest.

This year the famous deep pit BBQ banquet featured ultra-tender, sirloin tip steak (YUM!!) extraordinary ranch beans, fresh toasted garlic bread, macaroni salad, tossed green salad, fresh nuts, chips and dips (served in porcelain and glass insulators!) deserts, ice-cream sandwiches, milk (white and chocolate), water, soda, OJ, and much more. By the time the chow bell rang, nearly 150 people were queued and nobody goes hungry at the Rohde Ranch. During the meal, the crew literally walk from table to table offering hot seconds and making sure that everyone has exactly what they need to make their lunch extra special. Our hats are off to Kat and Bill and their many helpers for another fantastic show!

Here is how Dwayne Anthony summed it all up:

Not that we didn’t expect it, Bill and Kat once again pulled off another fantastic tailgater and BBQ. The amount of energy they put into this, from the planning stages months in advance, to the final cleanup, well it’s just incredible! Of course, there is a tremendous financial expense associated with an event of this magnitude, but Bill only asks for compensation by asking that you have a good time and enjoy your visit. My question to Bill is, “How the heck can anyone not have a great time at this amazing annual event?”

There is so much more to this gathering than collecting insulators, especially the reuniting with friends of old and friends of new. I want to personally send a huge thank you to Bill and Kat for all you do, for making more great memories, I had an absolute blast once again!

All you thread-heads, Listen Up: Getcher glass and mud traders into a good, sturdy box. Getcher swap lists and price guides updated. Flip open yer Crown Jewels and Drip Points to Coming Events and click on http://www.insulators.info/shows/ for details on the next swap meet or tailgater in your area. Dig that dusty wad of cash out-o-the Fred Locke pinhole and get all yer friends together for an insulator road trip because…..


Kat McClanahan & Bill Rohde – Show Hostess and Host

Morris the Cat

Some Classic ‘Big Mud’

M-4325 Pittsburgh

Roger Ziesak table

Beth & Gary

Many folks make their own display cases. This is a very popular design seen on insulator and bottle dealer’s tables across the country.

Pinky and Dave Hall

Curt’s Knot Hole Thingy

Artsy shot of Roger

Ernie & Colin with that blue CD160 Cal’

Arnie being fitted for a new beehive while Dwayne arranges his Mickey Mice.

Nathan and Matthew chatting with porcelain expert, Rain Spadafora (seated).

Ron looks over Arnie’s spectacular assortment of EC&M telegraph insulators.

Bill Ostrander (far), Ron Jenkins and Dennis Rogers enjoying the show.

Three nice examples of Hemingray Colored Signals

A beautiful Hemingray Stacker

One of the many great sales tables at this year’s show

Helena Montana’s, Ron Yuhas, Co-host of the Big Sky show and NIA Western Region VP.  Nice Hemingray Coolie-Hat in the foreground.

Maria and Bill

Bob Merzoian (left) Co-host of the Porterville, CA and Tulare, CA shows alongside Dan Gauron, co-host of this year’s NIA Convention and Sale in Colorado Springs.

Alice and Larry Shumaker are always there to chat and lend a helping hand.

Cute, colorful miniatures that Maria and Bill offer at many western shows.

One of a kind, miniature Cal Elec Works 2006 Commemorative

(From left) Ron, co-host of the Antelope Valley, CA, Three Amigos Swap Meet, Scott and Steve

A cool Columbia Helmet and a nice, Green Brookfield ‘CREB’.

A gorgeous, pair of Knowles Prism power pieces

The oxygen gets a bit thin up here with the amber EC&Ms. Those blues are something to behold as well.

A grouping of just some of the ‘Good Stuff’ on Arnie’s table

Another look at the breath-taking assortment of EC&M Co. S.F. Western Telegraph glass on Arnie Lowenstein’s table

A good view across the yard Friday during set-up

An amazing U-408A, New Lexington, porcelain cable top in butterscotch.


Some incredible porcelain glazes and styles produced ca. 1910 by Victor


Kelli Marks is really enjoying the fantastic assortment of insulators in Bill Rohde’s shop, aka ‘Mud Mecca’.

Another view of the staggering array of amazing porcelain artifacts that make up the Rohde collection.

Another view of the staggering array of amazing porcelain artifacts that make up the Rohde collection.

Another view of the staggering array of amazing porcelain artifacts that make up the Rohde collection.

An artsy shot mixing power glass, blue glaze, heavy, iron line wire and a wonderful incuse marking.

Transpositions and (lower 2 shelves) Exchanges aka Kegs

A cool assortment of ‘Fire Plug’ style porcelain insulators.

Another view of the staggering array of amazing insulators that make up the Rohde collection.

A pebbly, butterscotch glaze is among the most appealing and valuable glaze types one can find

A Hemingray Blue ‘Fang’ style Mickey Mouse with huge, sharp drip points.

One of a kind altered McDougald Commemorative Mickey Mouse with its ‘ears’ boxed.

A case of the Blues!

This year’s ‘donations’ to the collection

Gil Hedges-Blanquez hosts the Emerald City show in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Dan Gauron.

Tim Wood (lower left), Bob McLaughlin, Golden State club president (yes, THAT McLaughlin!) and Judy Klingler, co-host of the South Lake Tahoe Swap Meet held the first weekend in July. Photo by Dan Gauron.

Michael ‘Rain’ Spadafora offered an incredibly rare assortment of some of the finest porcelain examples ever seen together. Photo by Dan Gauron.

Under the bough in the side yard where Jason Townsend (center, black shirt) unloaded a huge assortment of the coolest, dirtiest stuff a collector could ever hope to paw through. Photo by Dan Gauron.

The light blue/gray porcelain Mickey Mouse is a very, very ‘tough’ insulator. Very few examples known. Photo by Dan Gauron.

The bright green Withycombe patent ‘Pleated Skirt’ toll is a popular little piece. Photo by Dan Gauron.

Romanian Cobalt, Lowex Amber, Canadian Amethyst, and Big Pyrex Carnival glass.  What more could a collector hope to find at a show? Photo by Dan Gauron.

I have no words.

Your Author holding an amethyst miniature Cal electric full of citrus infused jet fuel. Bottoms UP! Photo by Dan Gauron.