Clovis man owns extensive phone collection

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Gary Blair of Clovis moved his extensive phone collection into a railroad caboose he restored a year and a half ago.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Gary Blair of Clovis stopped counting the phones in his collection after he got to a couple hundred.

He has miniatures, novelties, not-so-novel phones, antiques and phones that don’t fit in a category.

There are Mickey Mouse phones, old Western electric phones, rotary phones and a plethora of phone memorabilia.

Three years ago, he bought an old railroad caboose to house his phone collection.

The car he found is a 1941 caboose, called a piece of trash at the time by his friends. Blair restored it to the point that a person could live in it, complete with a bathroom and shower, and slowly moved his collection out of his house.

“We had phones in every room of the house until he got that caboose,” said his wife, Teresa Blair.

Blair’s phone collection started when he worked at a phone company 28 years ago. His family soon began giving him phones as presents for Christmas and his birthday.

“I have six brothers and sisters so they help some,” the 60-year-old said. “My friends see a phone and wonder ‘Does he have that one?’”

Blair’s son-in-law, who is in the Air Force, has brought him phones from Italy, Germany, Spain and Iraq.

“I don’t know where they all come from, really,” he said.

As far as housing the collection in a caboose, Blair said he just had the idea one day.

“It’s something no one else had,” he said. “I had the time and the opportunity.”

Blair said he often gets visitors asking why he has a shiny, bright red caboose in his yard, especially from railroad workers. The caboose in his yard can be seen from the railroad.

“Railroad guys come and ask about it after seeing it and ask if I worked for the railroad,” he laughed.

Mike Kroeger, who has been a friend of Blair’s for more than 20 years, said he’s watched the collection grow.

“You aren’t going to find another collection like that anywhere,” Kroeger said. “Clovis doesn’t have anything like that in a museum.”

Blair said the caboose is full of memories.

“We use a regular phone still. My kids don’t. They use their cell phones,” he said. “This is definitely a piece of history.”