Alvin Becraft 1908-1972
At this point it is obvious my grandfather "Alvin Becraft" the soul owner of The Becraft Glass Factory that stood in Sebastian, Fort Smith, Arkansas was born in Supulpa, Oklahoma in 1908. Alvin was a true artist and held a love for glass. Proving time and time again his passion for glass was his focus and dream. Driven by determination and will. Instilled with strict work ethics by his father and grandfather coupled with a labor ready economy. All supporting him which in turn gave him just enough confidence in his skills to be a force to be reckoned with. This is the story of Alvin Becraft the glass blower.
It was the early 1900's . The streets were flooded with busy minded entrepreneurs. As people were jumping off of a horse and buggy ..right into a shiny new Ford Model T... Across the States an aluminum ball was dropping in "New York City", in "The Time Square", for the first time ringing in the New Year of 1908. Alvin was 12 when he picked up a job at Bartletts and Collins Glass Company in County Creek, Oklahoma. Dropping his newspaper job and school to work full time. In fact, this shop was on Alvins way to school. Alvin would peer through the windows, witnessing magic being crafted. At this time Child Labor was a vivid reality, utilized by owners to insure the production lines would run seamlessly. I believe, together this was a perfect storm for a young boys passion for this craft to grow. In fact, I believe that Alvin was dropped right in the middle of a place of abundant opportunities from rich land sitting right under his feet. One of the abundant sources was " The Air Buckle Mountains" This was an old magma mountain, just a hop and skip and jump away. This magma field had all the natural resources to build a crystal city , that was what the community called it.. Producing supplies of silic sand and mineral quartz just two of an important ingredient in glass recipes to make the clearest of glass. By 1922 gas and oil wells were also on the list of a rich land all being discovered on farm lands making the prosperity grow even more. A perfect storm it was. As it took hold and supplied the people with what they wanted which was Glass! " for this pocket of glass factories this perfect storm needed to expand . I believe it put a sparkle in my grandfathers eye. I also believe Alvin worked for little money with only privledge as his incentive. In 1924, when "The Child Labor Law" was put into place and a stop to working children under the age of 16 with the hard laboring part of the job. This same year of 1924 his family moved to Arkansas for better job opportunities. In 1929, Alvin met his wife Levenia Leona Holland in Arkansas. Alvn married her Sept.7, one month before The Great Depression and The Wall Street Crash. Still it seems Alvin never skipped a beat. Alvin continues to prove he held a natural set of skills from the results of a labor enforced era and his ability to bring his imagination through his pieces of glass. Soon these labor enforced men would realize they were highly sought after for their dedication and stamina to work as tireless consistent workers. Alvin continued to let his father take the reins he was seen working along side his father Ira and his two brothers Edward and Paul only this time he is seen at The Simpson / Witherspoon Plant until the mid 1930's. Alvin was also employed at "The Radiant Glass Co." where he stays with Radiant for much of the 1930's and early 1940's. The Radiant Glass Company became quite popular and known for showcasing their plant employees blowing glass , quite an interesting lew , as people would gather around the windows and watch endlessly. Alvins father, Ira eventually moves to West Virginia around 1934 with his wife Nellie and his son Vernon which Vernon was shown working in the tin industry. The 1944 Census shows Ira was working next to his son Vernon in the steel industry at "Weirton Steel Division" in West Virginia. Ira retires at Weirton Steel Division in 1961 as a Shearer. At this point Alvin seems to be the only one in his family that remained in the glass industry and made a career out of working with glass his entire life. This is the last time I see his family together. As Alvin is still shown working at Radiant Glass Co, while merging with Arkansas Glass Company and Hardings Glass Company. Alvin continued to gain experience as his dream grew stronger. Once he had the right opportunity to shine he did just that. Proving that he was a natural in his own right showing that he was able to communicate through his glass Alvin was making a name for himself quickly. Alvin soon found himself standing next to an older glass blower Orville Hamon who obviously sees that Alvin was an inspiring asset to the team hiring him around mid 1940's adding him to his production line. Alvin and George Werchsky another young methodical blowers now were side by side in The Marigold shop gaining experience by a true well to do business man Orville. He was running a 3 man production line. Respectfully sharing his knowledge with an influence that took them to a place of an inspiration soon pulling tricks out of their back pockets laying them on the table to share . Alvin soon seems to once again pick up and move only this time to his house on Short Fifthstreet in Sebastian Fort Smith Arkansas to build a one room galvanized building adding a furnace . Alvin now with his own factory calling it "The Becraft Glass Factory." I can't help believe that my grandfathers journey offered him opportunities one being that he was able to pick up some professional seasoned blowers along the way. Who would soon help him build his own 5 man production line that was perfect for producing enough glass to please his customers. The respected experience production line men working in my grandfathers shop were, Ebb Kilgore, Emmitt Craig, George Werchsky, Ed Kotowski, George Beck (the chicken man) known for blowing the chicken paper weights. Working endlessly through the days into the nights these men were in their element and living their retirement years right where they wanted to be. My grandfather once again innovating by expanding his business adding a gift shop and a conveyer belt to his shop for a more professional approach. As tour buses soon would be pulling up to the curb side gathering the flawed glass my grandfather faithfully set out for free for the end of the day this is where the end of the day glass came from factory workers would drive by and pick up in hopes they would want to visit and that they did. The customers would stay and watch the magic of this beautiful decorative glass being crafted right before their eyes. My grandmother Levenia took over the books . A job that consist of packing and mailing out of state orders all with satisfying results. Ready to retire near 1972 my grandfather had an unfortunate ending with cancer passing having to leave his lot behind unexpectedly. Ralph Smith his brother in law who gathered my grandfathers lot of tools and moved it to Wheeler Street. Opening his own shop naming it Smiths Old Timers. A few years into production Ralph too got ill with cancer selling the lot to a big named glass company. With the fire that is now inside me. I am truly honored to finish with respect by shining my light upon all of these good men, their families and their legacies to insure that the will never be forgotten. May God Bless all of them for working into the nights that today we now all appreciate for the beauty of the stories. memories and collections of this precious glass they left behind. I sincerely want to thank my readers and my grandfathers followers for the interest in my story of my grandfathers legacy. You are the ones that helped me shine a light on the journey that my grandfather took. As well as experienced a flame of your own that also shined bright inside of you by taking part in my grandfathers story, Thank you !
I am proud to have had this opportunity to bring a light to this craft and to have shined a light on the great men who have made it possible for all of us to enjoy a piece of our heritage, without them their would be no story. They were men of a different era and a different set of ethics. Together with the work ethics than and technology now they have become quite popular and successful.
I want to dedicate this Memoir to my Mother Dolores Becraft Vernon My Aunt Nancy Becraft Williams and My Aunt Marylyn Becraft all Alvins daughters as well as all of the good men who worked beside my grandfather my grandmother Lavenia Becraft and most of all my grandfather Alvin Becraft.
A special thanks to :
Marilyn Becraft (daughter)
Cheryl Ammy Jackson
This information may be used for the future generations.
Author, and researcher ..Leona L Beaumonte
A video made by myself my father Wesley Vernon and Cheryl Hubbs ( you tube)
you are truly appreciated thank you.
Gracias por leer!
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