Gillsburg collector has a story behind every knife

Lanier holds a display box of Case knives.

Last in a series

While most guys probably have an informal collection of knives, Dr. Lauren Lanier is serious about it. He started collecting nearly 50 years ago and is still at it.

Lanier, 84, of Gillsburg, is retired South Pike School District superintendent of education. He was born in Atlanta and moved to Magnolia in 1972 — about the time he started collecting knives.

“I’ve always carried a knife,” says Lanier. “I was carrying just some cheap stuff and I ran across an Al Mar knife. I like the slimness. I guess I really started in earnest back in ’72.”

One recent morning Lanier spread his knives out on a dining table for a visitor to see, along with a couple of hatchets and an 1897 Winchester Model 1890 octagon-barrel slide-action .22 rifle he inherited from his dad.

“Back as a kid I squirrel hunted. I guess the first animal I ever killed was a rabbit and I killed it with that rifle there,” Lanier says.

He hunted on his grandfather’s land at Daleville, Ala. — land that Lanier now owns.

In later years he ran across a special edition pocket knife commemorating the Winchester 1890.

A few years ago, Lanier’s son Mark started making sheath knives, and Lanier has several of them, plus a heavy-duty hatchet with a sturdy wooden handle.

Lanier has dabbled in blade-making himself, having produced a hatchet made from a 1-inch saw blade and a knife with a wooden block handle.

Most of the specimens in his collection are pocket knives.

“I’ve got some from local artists — Mike Sanders of Ponchatoula,” he says, holding one up.

There’s a knife with a double-edged blade Hilton Myers made in his shop at South Pike.

Lanier has specimens made by A.G. Russell of Arkansas, one with a blade as fine as a scalpel.

There’s a Spyderco folding knife, like the kind Lanier’s pastor, Dr. Victor Walsh, collects.

“I’ve got a bunch of Case, a bunch of Schrade, Smith & Wesson, Kershaw,” Lanier says.

Other brands in his collection include Columbia River, Puma, Beretta, SOG, Morakniv, Swiss Army, John Primble, Boker, Opinel, Browning, Gerber, Frost, Tree Brand and Buck. And that’s not all.

“I try to keep the box that they come in. They say that makes it more valuable when you get ready to swap or sell,” Lanier says.

He even has a switchblade. “I saw that and just had to have it,” Lanier says.

A Kershaw all-metal pocket knife glows with lustrous shades of blue and violet. A big red butterfly knife is ready to be flipped around. There are pocket knives he found in the trash and buffed up, even if they had broken blades.

The first brand he got serious about collecting was Case, “because it’s American-made and has so much history behind it,” Lanier says.

His enthusiasm has transitioned from one brand to another across the years.

He currently carries a Beretta pocket knife.

“I like the thinness of it. Fits in the pocket good,” Lanier says.

There’s a big Schrade knife with a 10-inch blade. Several Swiss Army knives, including the thickest the company makes — with the most implements — and the simplest, plus some in-between.

One Swiss Army knife still has a trace of blood on a blade.

“I was trying to cut a hole in one of those lick tubs. It folded up on me,” says Lanier, who almost lost the end of his index finger. “After that I put it down and went to the lock-backs.”

There’s a John Primble, one of the oldest brand of American pocket knives. And some Boker knives.

“When Jerry Van was going out of business at Magnolia Paint & Glass, he had a Boker display case,” Lanier says.

An Opinel pocket knife, from France, has a round wooden handle. When you pull the blade out, you rotate the handle to lock it open.

Lanier holds up a fine fillet knife he got from the late Maurice Foreman,

A Browning knife came from the old Golden Hushpuppy restaurant in Summit.

A set of commemorative pocket knives have handles with colorful illustrations from old westerns: Lash Larue, Gene Autry, Red Ryder.

“These were maybe 99 cents apiece, novelty knife,” Lanier says.

Lanier likes reading Westerns on his computer tablet, authors like Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, C.J. Petit, Max Brand, J.V. James. Donald L. Robertson, B.N. Rundell. He enjoys reading about cowboys, from the time of the open range to the stagecoach to the railroad.

“One thing I’ve noticed is they always drink coffee,” Lanier says.

And with that, his wife Opal puts on a pot for a visitor.

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