Mark Clingan has an understanding wife and a big garage. A man needs both to have a collection of 75 vintage sleds.
Mark Clingan has an understanding wife and a big garage.
A man needs both to have a collection of 75 vintage sleds.
He has one by the front door; three in the foyer; three more in the family room; and the rest in the garage, which resembles a loosely arranged museum of 20th-century sledding.
The garage encompasses a mass of Comets, Sky Planes, Silver Streaks, Lightning Guiders and Golden Falcons (with flight a leading sled metaphor at one time) dating from the 1920s to the 1960s.
Clingan, 52, doesn’t just collect sleds.
He also rides them, often showing up at sledding hills near his home in Fairfield County with three or four vintage sleds in tow.
“I tell everybody I love collecting antiques I can play with,” he said.
Antique doesn’t imply fragile.
On a recent morning at Alley Park in Lancaster, he subjected his 1928 Flexible Flyer Racer to more than a few diving starts and bumpy runs.
It held up well.
Sleds represent a recent obsession for Clingan, senior pastor at Gloryland Church of the Nazarene near Carroll. (He refers to himself as the “crazy sled guy who preaches on Sunday.”)
Last year at an antiques mall, he saw an old sled that awoke memories of the joyful winter hours he spent sliding down a quarter-mile hill near his childhood home in western Pennsylvania.
Soon, he was buying sleds.
His wife, a teacher, was happy he had finally found something to interest him when he accompanied her to antiques malls.
His favorite is the Airline Cruiser, a Flexible Flyer from the 1930s that is longer than 5 feet.
He also has a Norwegian bobsled with a steering wheel and hand brake, a Flexible Flyer with wheels (so a child could go sledding in the summertime) and several 1950s sleds with chrome trim reminiscent of cars from the era.
He has bought them at prices ranging from a few dollars to a couple of hundred.
And he thinks the day is coming when they’ll be worth more.
According to Joan Palicia, a New Jersey author whose book Flexible Flyer and Other Great Sleds for Collectors is considered the bible of sled collecting, Clingan might have a long wait: Sleds of the 20th century were made in mass quantities, she said, and aren’t rare.
They are rare enough, though, to attract attention on sledding hills, where youngsters with plastic saucers find his wooden sleds exotic.
“And the first thing I get is ‘Can I try one?’ I usually bring three or four because, if I don’t , I won’t get to sled-ride.”
It’s a happy coincidence that a snowy winter came along just as his obsession was kicking into high gear.
“I kind of feel bad,” he said. “Everybody else is tired of the snow and looking forward to spring, and I want to sled-ride some more.”
Joe Blundo is a Dispatch columnist.