YORKVILLE — Gerald Karwowski’s massive historical collection is about to get a national spotlight.
Karwowski is set to appear later this month on an episode of History Channel’s popular “American Pickers.” Crews visited Karwowski’s Oak Clearing Farm, 704 S. Colony Ave., in August, spending about nine hours filming segments, interviewing Karwowski and negotiating the purchase of items.
The show is set to air at 8 p.m. Jan. 30, subject to network changes, Karwowski said.
For the 68-year-old Yorkville resident, appearing on the show represents a high point since he started collecting bottles in the late 1960s. Over the years, that hobby ballooned into collecting myriad historical artifacts from the Racine area — enough to fill a barn and other structures on his 90-acre property.
“This validates me as a true collector,” he said with a smile. “It validates you that, you know, you’re not just a hoarder. You’re a collector.”
Karwowski got on “American Pickers” thanks in large part to his daughter, who responded to a request for suggestions on where in the area the show could visit, then lobbied persistently for Oak Clearing Farm, he said.
“American Pickers” crews and hosts, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, saw much of what Oak Clearing has to offer, from the numerous horseshoes hanging on a wall, the antique woodworking equipment that fills a room, old barber shop items and countless clothing irons on the barn’s top floor.
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“They said, ‘Does anybody buy irons?’ “ Karwowski laughed. “I do!”
At first, Karwowski was reluctant to part with any of it. Collecting items has never been about the money — though he’s certainly been offered plenty over the years — but more for the fun of it and to preserve history.
Eventually, though, he loosened up and sold off some things. One of the hosts was interested in transportation-related items, like a bicycle, while another liked some of Karwowski’s toys, he said. More of those details will be revealed when the show airs.
The only thing staged was Karwowski greeting them at the door, he said. The rest was improvised on what was a miserably humid day.
“I was impressed by the fact that they came to a little guy like me,” he said. “They have these programs where these guys have million-dollar collections. A little guy has a chance.”
Karwowski, a former Case worker, moved out to the farm in 1988. The show is the latest milestone since those original bottle collections led to a new hobby and sparked an interest in local history.
“The bottles was what tripped the trigger,” he said, “on my lifetime adventure.”