|Birth: ||Jan. 24, 1926|
|Death: ||Jan. 29, 2014|
A lovely woman with artistic flair and an encouraging spirit, Jane taught my mother and me the art of silversmithing. A granddaughter of P. A. Freeman, the founder of one of Allentown's oldest and most respected jewelers, she was a born instructor for the craft. She was also a longtime member of one of the bridge clubs to which my mom belonged, the afternoon club. I can't tell much about the club other than to say that when it was my mom's turn to hostess, I would come home from school and find the living room with two card tables set up, four ladies per table, and there'd be food spread out on the dining room table. The gals would all chat with me and it was always nice to see them. That's about all I know about the bridge club.
That, and that I can recall seeing Jane once after I'd not seen her a long time, after college and after I'd lived on my own a few years. She looked up from her cards with her lovely blue-eyes and wide smile and said "You still have your sparkle." That meant a lot to me and has stayed with me. I didn't think of myself as someone with sparkle so it took me by surprise, but it meant a lot too to know she remembered me fondly. Silversmithing requires patience and methodical work, qualities not my strong suit, and I was glad my weaknesses were not what she remembered.
So I can't tell you about her bridge playing. The part of Jane that I knew was the part that I saw for years during my adolescence every Saturday morning when she'd give a group of us young people silversmithing lessons. She gave lessons to her peers too, and my mom went on Wednesdays. I think our teen-class time with Jane ran from 9 in the morning to noon.
We'd meet in her basement which had been largely given over to silver work. Along the longest wall were stations we could work at with lights on the shelf above us. Jane had a desk on an opposing wall in the corner. One wall was mostly a staircase to her upstairs, the remaining two having two soldering stations, a stove, and a buffing machine. Jane's easygoing and sunny personality helped take the edge off the difficulty of us teens rising early on weekends. It helped that there were hot water, teabags, Coffeemate and styrofoam cups handy. I remember Kim, and the Bigatel sisters Bridget and Alison, and Paige, Jessica, and Tommy Schantz. Thom had a wonderful quirky humor, and made Saturdays extra fun. We all miss Tommy more than ever, as we lost him the night of senior prom to a car accident. Central Catholic High School now confers the Thomas J. Schantz Memorial Award to the student who has achieved academic excellence and who best exemplifies Christian ideals as judged by his/her peers, so Tommy is remembered still by his alma mater. Anyway...
Because your time with Jane was limited to a few hours once a week, you'd do most of your design work on your own time, coming prepared with a pattern ready to roll. She had sheets of silver in various thicknesses, and you'd buy the amount needed for your project. Using your pattern, you'd carefully saw out your shapes, let's say a pattern of initials to be mounted on a circular disk to make a decorative pin to wear. You'd have to saw out your circle from one piece, your initials from another. Cutting tiny corners, like the right angles in a letter like "F", especially small ones, could be teeth-grittingly difficult. Sometimes sawing could be the most time consuming part of the process because of the care you had to take to cut your shapes cleanly, and to avoid breaking the thin sawblades mounted in a u-shaped frame you drew carefully up and down. The blades popped easily, and you usually purchased them in packs, knowing you'd go through them. You'd be in some focused zone, on a roll, sawing nicely along and then hear the dreaded "doink!", and have to stop to load up another blade.
Once you had your pieces cut out, and had stamped your backing piece "handmade sterling" you'd file the edges to make all the sides snag free. Then it was time to solder your parts together. You'd go to a soldering station and sit down with a slab of asbestos before you. You'd use a small, thin wet paintbrush to pick up tiny square pieces of solder which were graded by their melting point, "easy" being that which melted at a lower point than "hard" or "medium". On top of the asbestos, you'd lay out your bottom piece, the solder and your top piece, and the portions you wanted to keep cool were painted with a wet powdery substance called yellow ochre. Then you donned a clear mask, turned on the tank and got your flame going to melt the solder. I can hear Jane's voice today "No light" meaning when done, your pieces had to lay flat so no light was visible between the parts you had soldered. Another mantra: "The hottest part of the flame is in front of the blue cone." That was what you had to aim at your solder to get the job done. Solder flows toward the heat, so you'd aim the way you wanted it to be drawn. Once you saw your top piece settle gently down onto the bottom piece, and then soldered the pin mechanism to the back, you turned off your flame, flipped up your mask, picked up some old tongs, plucked up your piece, and dropped it into some waiting water to cool it. Fssst! It was a great sound, and one that made you feel the finality of being done with soldering.
When you heat silver, the heat brings out the non-silver content, largely nickel, so there would be ugly scale on your piece after soldering. The tedious next steps, were to use sandpaper to remove the scale, starting with gritty and working down to fine, at which point you'd switch to steel wool. That was a task best done on your own time, as you could do that at home, or as I sometimes did, before school.
So now you have initials soldered to a backing piece and the pin clasp attached, and you've removed the scale. To make those initials stand out and give depth to the piece, you'd apply oxidation by dipping it into this stinky, sulfurous boiling substance on the stove. It was always a bummer to do this. You'd just given your piece a nice satin sheen with the steel wool, and now had to deliberately blacken the whole thing, but that's the price you pay for making a nice piece, with contrast to show the depth of the parts, and making the details stand out.
Your next step was to remove the black oxidation from all the parts you didn't want it on by again using fine steel wool. And then it's time to mask up again, this time for the buffing wheel. There were various wheels in width and circumference and depending on how detailed and close you had to work, you might pick a smaller or thinner one. The machine had two sides where you and a classmate could buff, each controlled by a foot treadle. You'd put your chosen wheel on the spindle and turn it on. The buffing wheel made your piece begin to truly shine. Gently, carefully, you'd hold your piece to the wheel, being cautious not to work any section too long because even though the wheels were made of soft cloth, buffing in one spot too long not only generated too much heat for you to hold your piece, but it also wore the silver down. Worse, if you buffed too long you'd take the oxidation off, and if you removed too much, you'd have to dunk the piece in the stinky black stuff again, and start all over. (We girls also often gave our nails a quick buff job.) So you'd hold your piece and buff, stop and check, and buff and check. Buffing the silver, to me, was the most exciting part, because you were in the final phase. Before your eyes your piece would cease to be a plan and become a gleaming sight of beauty. You could see your old idea become reality in your hands. The above sounds very simple, but overall, it could take weeks to finish one good piece.
Where Jane came into all this was manifold, presiding with a light and encouraging hand. She'd give you direction and let you go, telling you when to check back, but was always there for questions along the way. You'd show her your design and she'd suggest refinements, or steer you on what thickness silver to use, or whether a given idea would work best as a pin or pendant. Once you had it cut out and edges filed she'd make sure it was truly ready for soldering, knowing young people are often anxious to move on to next steps prematurely. In the interest of safety, she hovered only while you worked with the torch; most of the time you were on your own. Her interest as you worked, and her encouragement when details were trying, and congratulations and compliments when you were finished created a warm class camraderie. We students took great interest in each other's designs and efforts. You'd be chatting with someone next to you while you worked and hear the "doink!" of a broken sawblade, and empathize, while later asking to see and compliment the finished work.
One of the periods of work I can best remember with Jane was when I had designed a three-dimensional menorah for a good friend who was Jewish. Hanukkah was coming up, and I wanted to make my friend a modern miniature menorah, only four inches tall, that would hold tiny birthday cake candles. Instead of the traditional arrangement of candles in a row, I laid out the menorah like a tree so each arm held two candles, each level at a right angle to the one above. If I do say so myself, it was a nice design, very striking; a new way of seeing a familiar item. My design meant though that there were many joints to be soldered, as well as soldering on the tiny spikes on each end where the candles would go. What a devilishly difficult piece that was. Every time I soldered one joint, another would heat, soften and let go, despite the liberal use of yellow ochre to keep the areas cool. There is no telling how many times I sat down to solder one joint and lost others previously done. Jane really felt my pain, and was empathetic, despite my earlier refusal to change my design. She never said "I told you so" and she kept trying different things with me to hold the piece together while soldering. I think I was never so glad to be done with a piece as I was with that menorah, and I would never have been able to finish if not for her patience and belief it could be done with enough effort and gumption.
That was her gift; she understood the information and fuel each of her students needed to reach their goal from design to end, and she gave it at the right times. I don't know how many of her students are out in the world, but we all took away the lessons of planning and patience, and moreso, the belief our ideas could be made reality. That's a gift you can use in any area of life.
Jane Freeman (Schlosser) Martindell, 88, a life-long Allentonian, died peacefully surrounded by family in Roseville, CA, on January 29, 2014. Born and raised in Allentown, she was daughter of Paul Stephen Schlosser and Alma Freeman Schlosser, both of Allentown, and the granddaughter of PA Freeman, founder of Freeman Jewelers, and Ellen (Shuler) Freeman. A 1943 graduate of Allen High School, Jane went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree from Penn State in 1947, then went to work as a personnel analyst for the Allentown Works of the Western Electric Company. There, she met the love of her life, the late Carroll Chesley Martindell, and they married at their home in Emmaus in April, 1952. Together they took on the world, having two daughters, Pamela Ann and Jane Ellen (Jill), moving to Kansas and New Jersey for work assignments, and ending up back in Allentown in 1964. Jane's boundless energy and determination made her successful at just about everything to which she turned her hands. As a child, she loved to swim, and won many races, later becoming a member of the Cedar Beach Patrol and the waterfront director at Girl Scout Camp Mosey Wood. The Girl Scouts awarded her a Thanks Badge for her volunteer work on their salary and benefit system. Her artistic flair led her to become a master silversmith. She taught silversmithing classes, sold her jewelry at craft shows, and served as a judge for juried craft shows for the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. She was a founding and life-long member of the Ladies Auxiliary of Lehigh Valley Hospital. Over the years, Jane served as gift shop attendant, jewelry buyer, gift buyer, gift shop manager, May Daze chairman, and auxiliary president. Jane also had a life-long passion for bridge. Toward the end her life, Jane loved to say that she played bridge every day of the week but not every day in the month! In late 2013 as her health began to fail, she moved to California to be near her daughters. At Christmas, she learned she had lung cancer, and succumbed to respiratory failure a month later, when a bout of pneumonia proved too much for her ailing lungs. Survivors: Jane is survived by her two daughters, Pam and Jill, their husbands, Jeff and Bob; her much-loved grandson; and her extended family of avid bridge players, hospital volunteers, silversmiths, and childhood friends.
Services: Jane's memorial service will be held Monday, March 3, 2014, at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, 3231 Tilghman Street, Allentown, PA 18104. Interment at Grandview Cemetery, 2735 Walbert Avenue, Allentown, PA 18104, will follow the service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in memory of Jane to Second Harvest Food Bank, 2045 Harvest Way, Allentown, PA, 18104.
Carroll C Martindell (1923 - 1998)
Created by: sr/ks
Record added: Feb 23, 2014
Find A Grave Memorial# 125517362