Gordon J. Pivonka has retired three times. But this time he says he means it.
"I just have a lot to do at home," he said, showing off his knife collection, which is his latest love and most likely the most impressive and costliest in the country. One of his knives, called the "Delaware Maiden," is worth $40,000.
While much of his time is taken up attending knife shows and looking for other knives in hamlets and hunting lodges throughout the country, his collection of 2,000 or so straight-edge razors keeps him busy, as does his hobby of carving duck decoys.
"I once had 200 duck decoys in the house, and I was told by my wife, Gloria (Jan) Pivonka, to do something about them," said Pivonka, 64, of La Habra.
Now he only has a few on hand, although he continues to carve them along with other creations, such as a rocking chair that looks like a duck.
His fascination with ducks also got him started on another collection, now stored in his bedroom closet: 400 collector plates with ducks on them.
"It's easy to become a collector. All you need is money," said Pivonka, who went broke twice in business ventures, one of them a string of five airplane flying schools with 124 airplanes.
After forming a successful construction company, Pivonka went back to collecting knives. "They're beautiful instruments that I learned to appreciate years ago when my dad was a blacksmith," he said.
Pivonka still has and uses the kitchen knife his blacksmith father made five years ago from steel cable, pounding out the blade with a hammer. "I guess that's what really started me."
But while Pivonka has long admired knives, "it's only been since 1970 that knife collecting has become a big industry," he said.
Before 1970, he said, there were only 16 firms making knives for collectors who belong to such groups as the Knifemaker's Guild or the American Bladesmith's Society. "Now there's more than 400."
That means an increase in the number of collectors and the number of knife shows held throughout the country such as the three-day California Custom Knife Show at the Sheraton-Anaheim Hotel ending today.
"Right now I'm into collecting one-of-a-kind knives or the No. 1 knife of a limited edition," said Pivonka, who lately has found himself in competition lately with such collectors as film notables Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bo Derek. "It's catching on with the film industry," he said.
To keep a step ahead, Pivonka has started a collection of miniature knives, some made of gold.
Alice Thompson, 76, of Brea, not only knows how to use her hands to make crafts but she also knows how to use her head. The Brea Senior Center opened a gift shop to show the items created by senior citizens and held a contest to give it a name.
Thompson won a $25 prize for the clever name of "Loving Hands."
Arthritis and a bone disease make it difficult for Macel M. Ruth, 70, of Garden Grove, to get around, but she's feeling a little better these days knowing the results of her effort to collect American Flags.
She has been gathering the 5 1/2x9 1/2-foot flags the government gives to widows of servicemen to replace the hundreds of flags that were blown away from the Riverside National Cemetery during a blustery Veterans Day last year.
The cemetery flies 750 American Flags on its Avenue of Flags on certain holidays during the year.
Cemetery Director Thomas E. Costanzo said about 200 flags already have been sent or delivered to the cemetery due to Ruth's efforts. "I've seen programs like this at other cemeteries but never to the extent of this," he said, noting that the cemetery gives a certificate to donors listing the name and branch of service of the deceased veteran.
Ruth said she thought that "I would probably get 10 or 11 flags, so I'm really surprised and thrilled." She said most widows usually store the flags in closets or garages and rarely fly them because of their size.
"I'll continue to collect the flags as long as I'm able," Ruth said. People who want to donate flags, Ruth said, can call her at (714) 891-4195 or the cemetery at (714) 653-8417.
Acknowledgments--Matthew C. Ausmus, 16, of Santa Ana, who organized a work force to help clean fire damage caused by an arsonist at Pueblo De Ninos Day Care Center in Santa Ana and earlier took a complete inventory for Church of the Foothills in Tustin, will receive his Boy Scout Eagle rank during a court of honor Oct. 26 at the church.