Port Arthur —
Adeline “A.J.” Williams’ Port Arthur home may look like an upscale gift shop, or even a museum, but it’s anything but that.
It’s a place to display a passion that has grown through the years, and one that she shares with friends and family.
Her personal collection of fine figurines, antique furniture and other items that struck her fancy through the years is the result of a keen eye for style and a love for treasure hunting.
She’s collected for 40-something years — almost as long as the 50 years she’s lived in the modest frame home. There, she and her late husband, Gonzy Williams, raised nine children, and decorated their home wall-to-wall with the things she loves.
“I love to find good deals, but it’s really all about the hunt,” she said. “My husband supported me, and the kids all loved it. They went with me, and they still do.”
Today, her favorite pieces lean toward fine porcelain by Italian master sculptor Guiseppe Armani. Her favorite — “White Wings,” is the only item she’s collected through the year’s — other than her Christmas decorations — that she cannot bear to part with.
Williams’ love of antiques and beautiful figurines started long ago, on a much more modest scale when her neighbor gave her a bedroom suite that had been painted porch gray.
“It was beautiful, a four-poster bed, chest and vanity with a stool,” she recalled.
From there, she started collecting at first keys, then, almost by accident, buttons.
With nine children, somebody’s button was always popping off and in need of a replacement.
“I got to where I’d cut all the buttons off of the kids clothes when they outgrew them. Then it became a habit, and pretty soon I had a collection so big — a 5-gallon bucket — that the church wanted to buy them from me to use for the children.”
She began to buy and sell antiques, and educate herself on what was worth something, and what was not.
Her love of Christmas shines brightly throughout the house during the holiday season when Yuletide decorations takes centerstage.
She started with one tree, and now has eight, and estimates her collection of Santa’s to be around 100. Add to that Christmas-themed candelabra, table settings, ornaments, sleds, etc. — just anything she found through the years to turn her home into a Christmas wonderland.
It takes about six weeks to put all the decorations out, and another six to put them up. She keeps the holiday table, which seats 10, decorated from October until sometimes February.
“It’s a lot of work, that’s for sure,” William’s said.
So much so, that she contacted Kyle Hollier, a photographer who she had used through the years to come and create a picture album of her Christmas decorations — just in case a time comes when she’s not able to put all of her decorations out.
Initially, Hollier told her he did not take Christmas photos, but was persuaded.
“I said ‘Why not? You took my kids pictures, so why not this.’ When he got here, he did not want to leave,” she said.
While her children can still be counted on to go to estate sales with her, Williams likes to enlist the company of her niece, Sue Dauphine, a couple of times a month.
“Oh, she’s good at getting bargains. We get up early and look all day, sometimes we leave a sale, then come back and buy whatever they have left over,” Dauphine said. “I have fun, but she knows that stuff by brand. I just know what I like.”
Though at 64, Dauphine is a good 17 years younger, she says she can’t keep up with her aunt.
“Oh, she can wear you out quick. She knows here antiques, and she’s real energetic. She would do this everyday if she could.”
On Aug. 3 Williams is gearing up for another garage sale — one designed to clear out some of her collection, while offering good deals to those who come.
“I am to the point now where I have too much, Williams said. “I try to tell myself I’m not going to buy so much. I think I probably spend more than I sell, but it’s my passion, it my joy.”