Collections within our Collections
The Williamson Flash: Souvenirs of Roadside America
Josef L’Africain and Tommy Campnell
In the Summers of my youth, my parents would take my brothers and I on driving vacations.
And, with luggage in the “way back” of the 1975 Country Squire, my parents in the front seats,
and three boys in the back seat, we would begin our air condition-less journey from the hills of
Almaden, California to whereabouts seemingly only known to my father.
After enough threats of “if you boys don’t knock it off, I am going to turn this car around,” we
would all settle into driving-vacation mode, eventually arriving at a distant
would rest for the night, before the next morning’s drive to the next motel. Along the way
however, there were stops to be made;
, and my mother’s insistence on
“a nice-clean-gas-station,” for a restroom break.
Still, for me, there were more exciting destinations as we drove roadside America on these
Summer vacations: The World’s Largest Thermometer in Baker, California; The Bucket of
Blood Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada (not that I was allowed inside); Santa Claus, California;
the Tree of Mystery. These brief stops were highlights of the trip! And, when possible, with a
little youthful exuberant convincing, I was allowed to get a souvenir from one of these
destinations, something to serve as both a reminder of a fond memory, and a kind of trophy for
braving the misadventure of being forced to sit between my two older bothers for countless
The Williamson Flash Corkscrew certainly predates my
childhood adventures by a fair amount of years, as they appear in
Williamsons’ 1929 Catalog and also in the Williamson’s 1946
Catalog. For many of us that collect corkscrews there is
something about these kitschy little souvenirs that harken us
back to those Summer driving vacations filled with adventure, of
roadside America and memories of the miles of empty landscape
in between, of really sticky vinyl seats, of siblings with sharp
elbows, and of a world filled with wonder as seen by an 8-year-
old through the open window of a yellow station wagon.
Within my corkscrew collection, there are but a few Williamson Flash corkscrews; a dozen or so.
In Tommy Campnell’s corkscrew collection, there are 604 and counting. The pictures included
in this article are those that he has acquired over the past few years. And, following the images
is an alphabetical list of the variations within his collection.
In 2006, Don Bull with the help of others, built a comprehensive list of the known Flash
corkscrews found in various collectors’ collections. At that point, there were 384 variations on