Part of a series of articles about our Members, helping you to know more about the things that we do when we're not doing Rotary activities! Here, a Member talks about their previous hobby of "phillumeny".
Ever heard of phillumeny? Well, despite it being my former hobby, nor had I! I only found out that my match box collecting hobby had a name - or was even a proper hobby - when I started writing this article.
According to the British Matchbox Label and Bookmatch Society, "Phillumeny includes the collecting of: matchbox labels, skillets, matchboxes, bookmatches, bookmatch covers, match holders, matchbox holders, bookmatch holders, all related packaging and materials and everything connected to the match manufacturing industry."
I just collected boxes (i.e. with loose matches) and match books (a folded card with a row of matches - if you haven't seen one in real life, you'll have seen one in an old film or TV show where a phone number is secretly exchanged or a crook or philanderer is caught because of a match box/book).
I suppose I started collecting match books and boxes by accident. My older brother lived in Central London in the '80s and would regularly go out for the evening with his friends. Those were the days when smoking was still permitted indoors, so restaurants, hotels, clubs and bars would leave branded match books or boxes in ashtrays for customers to use, pick up and share. I guess it was a good way for the businesses to advertise. My brother (a non-smoker) would always pick up a couple - one to serve as a memento of the evening for him, and the other for me, the collector in the family.
That was how the hobby started - but now, browsing the above website all these years later, I see I wasn't a true collector at all. My efforts only extended as far as adding another match box or book whenever I went to a restaurant or travelled to a hotel. Friends that knew about my hobby would send me a match box. When I was at University, I mounted all my match boxes, artfully arranged, onto a big card mount so that I could hang them on the wall and let my friends admire them. But one day I noticed that the display sat directly under the fire regulations panel on the door. The irony hit me and I decided to put the display away, putting the match boxes into an old tin that I hadn't really looked into for years. Until today!
I assumed that with restaurants no longer allowing smoking the match box/book tradition had died out, just like my urge to collect them waned. So, the collection had just sat there, not being looked at (except on the two occasions when I actually needed a match. It has to be said, on both occasions the matches turned out to be failures!)
Reviewing my collection of match boxes and books today, I see they're a snapshot of an era, the late 70s to early 90s. Social scientists or modern historians might be able to read more into them than I can. To me, my additions to the collection are a reminder of good times, dear friends, overseas travel and favourite restaurants - many of the latter no longer exist. I see names of favourite old eateries such as The Swiss Centre and Maroush 1; venues for special occasions & events such as the Dorchester; things old friends had sent me during their travels; and memories of my own trips to France, the USA and many other countries. I now wonder if my collection really is just a collection of match boxes and books - or is it actually a collection of memories?
Still, if you're the collecting type, perhaps this article will encourage you to find out more about the world of phillumeny and "ignite" a new hobby!
If you use Pinterest, have a look at some phillumeny related images etc here.
Picture: An assortment of match boxes and books. Picture credit: Rotary Club of Canterbury.