If you’re not Paris Hilton and actually have to work for a living, then Bob Rosner is required reading.
[singlepic id=334 w=300 h=220 float=left]A New Jersey native now based in Seattle, Bob writes “Workplace911” (formerly “Working Wounded”), the internationally syndicated weekly column about workplace issues. He’s also a best-selling author of “Working Wounded: Advice That Adds Insight to Injury” (Warner Books), coauthor of “Gray Matters: The Workplace Survival Guide” (Wiley) and “The Boss’s Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Getting Through (and Getting the Most Out of) Every Day” (McGraw-Hill), a motivational speaker and employee retention expert, a surveyor of workplace attitudes and experiences, a radio talk show personality and a contributor to CNBC.
How’s THAT for a résumé?
But that’s not all: Bob can add, under “Additional Information”: “Collector of funeral home bowling shirts” – further proof that Bob really does care about the working stiff, so to speak.
How do I know Bob? Because I formatted “Workplace 911” for its weekly space in a certain Tacoma daily newspaper, so I not only got paid to read Bob’s column, I continue to benefit from it as I write these AmeriCollector entries. The fact is, Bob’s down-to-earth writing style – combined with his upbeat, positive approach to dealing with workplace issues and challenges – is a model for any blogger. The same goes for the varied content of each of his columns, which usually consists of a reader’s question, Bob’s advice in the form of four key points, some enlightening, often humorous survey findings and an inspirational or at least fun quote from someone notable who, very often, has been in your shoes.
For these reasons, I consider Bob a mentor.
So imagine our surprise, delight and gratitude when I asked Bob if he collects anything; and, if so, if he’d be amenable to being featured on AmeriCollector.com; and what does he collect, anyway? – and he replied: “Yes”; “Yes”; and “Funeral home bowling shirts”! (Talk about breaking new ground in the collecting field!)
Now, funeraI home bowling shirts may sound bizarre to some and downright macabre to others: Who knew such things even existed? To me, at least, bowling shirts may be as little as 50 percent cotton and 50 percent polyester but they’re 100 percent Americana, and FUNERAL HOME bowling shirts in particular have all the offbeat early-1960s black humor of “The Munsters” and “The Addams Family,” Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s “Rat Fink” and Forrest J. Ackerman’s fanzine Famous Monsters of Filmland – pure boomer nostalgia.
Anyway, here’s my interview with Bob … (And incidentally, if you ARE Paris Hilton, e-mail us quick, we need a sponsor.)
Bob Rosner: Why not?
AC: Do you bowl?
Bob: Rarely. I was the captain of the bowling team in high school: not because I was any good; it just so happened that I had enough spare change to pay for a bunch of people’s shoe rentals. If you ever want to be an officer for a bowling league, I’ve learned, bring change!
AC: How many shirts do you have?
Bob: I have 21 shirts. I’ve been told by the Bowling Hall of Fame that this is the largest collection of its kind anywhere in the world. At least, that’s what they said when they tried to get me to donate it to their museum and called me every few days for two weeks.
AC: When did you get started?
Bob: I was looking through a bin of shirts at a vintage clothing store in Boston. I came across Carlson’s Funeral Home, 1174 Payne Avenue. It made me laugh.
One day I was at a party and a very beautiful woman and I got into a conversation. The chemistry was remarkable. There was actually beautiful music in the background as our eyes connected. It was pure Disney, although I don’t remember any songbirds flying around my head. It was magical and clear to both of us that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together. Then I asked her if I could get her a drink. She said yes. When I turned she said, “Ugh. Funeral Home. That’s disgusting.” I replied, “How can you say that? I worked at Carlson’s for three years.” (For the record, if you look at the word “replied,” it also contains the word “lied,” which you could consider an apt description of my response to her.) She asked what I did at the funeral home. I told her, “I was activities director.” She didn’t laugh. So I continued, “We had a balcony, we’d hook strings to the bodies and hold dances.” She slapped me across the face, still the only time I’ve ever been slapped by a woman. At that point, I knew I was onto something.
AC: What do you enjoy about collecting the shirts?
Bob: I love having bowling parties, watching people change shirts every few minutes. And, trust me, you haven’t felt love until you’ve gone into a bowling alley wearing a shirt from a funeral home. They automatically treat you like family … well, to be accurate, like a cousin twice removed, but family, nonetheless.
If you ever do get invited to a party, wear a long-sleeve shirt under any shirt from your collection: To preserve their cultural and historical impact and integrity, the shirts should never be washed.
AC: How do you build your collection?
Bob: A friend made me a business card. It was gray and said, “Bob ‘First Strike’ Rosner” on it. It also had “RIP” across the top (which of course stands for “Recreation in Polyester”), I would hand cut each one into the shape of a tombstone. The card became very popular at vintage clothing stores. In fact, the last five shirts were given to me.
AC: What’s the highlight of your collection?
Bob: embroidered version of the famous hand bowling out of a casket shirt (it’s in the middle of the photo). This is the only shirt that consistently frightens people.
AC: What are the characteristics of a great shirt?
Bob: A bowling shirt with the word “Funeral” on it. This is not rocket science.
Many thanks to Bob Rosner. (Visit Bob’s Web site at www.workplace911.com.)