He was a member of a unique group of artisans. To our family he was Dad, Grandpa, Uncle Art or just plain Art.  He was my father-in-law and I called him Pop.

You see, Pop was a junker and he took a lot of flak for that.  You know the saying, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”  Well Pop was a treasure hunter.  He was always able to look beyond the intrinsic value of an object and imagine the possibilities.  And we were all beneficiaries of that imagination.  If you knew Art Pencek, or someone like him, look around, you probably have one of their creations.

Pop never struggled with nomenclature for his artifacts… to him they were all just whatchamacallits. Whatchamacallits came all sizes, shapes and colors.  It’s origin may or may not have been a junk pile. But in our family, to be an official whatchamacallit, it had to be hand made, repainted, or refurbished by Pop.

You’re still not clear on what a whatchamacallit is?  You know that little thing you stand on when you can’t reach the very top shelf?  Toddlers sometimes stand on it to reach the wash basin in the bathroom?  That’s a whatchamacallit and we’ve got one.

You know that flat thing you put on the kitchen counter to carve your meat on? That’s a whatchamacallit and we’ve got two.  One for the Sunday roast and a giant one for the holiday turkey.

Then there’s those cast aluminum L shaped whatchamacallits you put at each end of a stack of books to hold them up.  Ours depicts two foundry workers pouring a mold. I have a pair of those right here on my computer desk and if you know the story, they are truly collector’s items.

Did you need a very special whatchamacallit?  Say a special thingy to open the waste valve on the wing of a Boeing 707?  Stop by Pop’s basement workshop, he’d manufacture a custom one for you, from materials at hand.  You need one?  I know a grandson of his who’s got one… but he probably won’t let you have it. And the shop is closed now. You see, this year is the 10th Anniversary of Pop’s death.

So take a moment.  Look around your home, shop, garage.  See any whatchamacallits?  Then you knew Arthur Herman Pencek or a kindred spirit of his.

I looked around.  We have a whatchamacallit in almost every room in the house. There are several more in the garage.  We were lucky.  We knew him well.  We love you Pop.


2 Comments on “Whatchamacallits”

  1. Craig Arthur Padar says:

    I’m proud to have been the beneficiary of several whatchamacalits, as well as having some artisan blood in my veins. My brothers will sometimes come by to ask if I have some obscure tool to perform some specific task. Some times I do (some tool undoubtedly salvaged from Grampa’s basement) but other times I’ll ask “what do you need it to do?” Then we’ll set out looking for something that’ll work or manufacturing what we need.

    At a jobsite I saw a Dayton upright air compressor that was set to be scrapped and it ended up back at my place. It was “re-tooled” a bit and was proudly dedicated “The Arthur Herman Pencek Memorial Smoker” We have since smoked a few dozen trout, over 60 lbs of homemade sausage, and over 200 pieces of fresh-caught salmon.

    It can be inconvenient to have a basement and garage full of “great raw materials” but it doesn’t stop me from bringing more back from jobsites (I only select the good stuff these days). But I wear it like a badge of honor when I can solve a problem or create a custom solution.

    P.S.We almost had another Arthur in the family 5 years ago (name picked out), but we got a Marjorie instead.

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