Harve Disner: 'Have you ever seen a building burn? It's the color. It's the action.'
a friend telling him about a fire in
Faster than a slide down the sta-
tion house pole, Disner adjusted his
scanner to the right frequency . . . pin-
pointed the exact location of the fire
. . . and was on his way.
"I don't like the way you drive
when you're going to a fire," he says
his wife tells him.
Disner acknowledges that in mat-
ters of fires and fire fighting he may
be a little different from the
uninflamed majority. He puts it this
way: "Some people say, 'If there's a
building burning, I'm going to drive
in the other direction.' Well, if there's
a building burning, I'm going to get
there as fast as I can to see it."
In years past, Disner also brought
his camera along on runs. In his of-
fice is a framed front-page picture
from a Free Press dated February
1975. The photograph, taken by
Disner, is of Charley's Crab in West
Bloomfield, engulfed in flames.
Beyond the Free Press photo and
the fire-fighting paraphernalia,
Disner has a major part of his collec-
tion housed in a custom built, lighted
wall unit. Assembled on its shelves
are a multitude of vividly colored
porcelain fire fighter figurines — all
There's a fireman with an axe. A
fireman wearing an oxygen mask. A
fireman hooking a hose to a hydrant
and another on a roof, rescuing a
child. There's even a musical
leprechaun fireman that plays
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes!"
After 20 years of collecting from
tobacco and gift shops to liquor stores
and art fairs across the country,
Disner says, "I'm running out of park-
ing space." He has plans for an addi-
tional wall unit.
The initial attraction still
beckons, like an old flame. Some
might ask, why?
"Let me ask you a question,"
Disner responds. "Have you ever seen
a building burn? It's the color. It's the
action. It's watching what the firemen
do — how they put out the fire, the dif-
ferent ways of firefighting, the per-
sonalities of the firemen. I have a lot
of friends who are fire fighters!'
It was just a casual, unplanned
Guss now has more than 400
types of shells in his West Bloomfield
home, the result of about 30 years of
collecting. "I try to get one good ex-
ample of whatever I can get;' he says.
"It really got out of hand. It started
with just a few. Then every time I
came back from a trip, I ended up
bringing back some more."
'Some are so small
they're even difficult to
But Guss's collection is not just a
haphazard case of "he buys seashells
by the sea shore." In an extensive
ledger, Guss has classified, identified
and photographed all of his
In each instance the recorded data
includes the shell's rarity; the region
it was found; the author, the person
who originally discovered this par-
ticular type of shell; the year of
discovery; and the common name and
ometimes a collection begins un- Latin name of the shell.
expectedly and in an unlikely •
Guss provides an example. One of
place. Driving by a roadside his shells is commonly known as
stand in Livonia, hardly a coastal Venus Comb Murex. Its scientific
town, Sandy Guss saw an old man name is Murex Pecten. Its author's
selling seashells. Out of curiosity, name was Lightfoot. It was discovered
"Everything is in that book;' says
The old man, it turned out, had
recently returned from Florida and Guss, referring to his ledger.
was trying to pick up a little extra in- "Everything you want to know about
come. After a quick look, Guss drove any shell is in that book, as Johnny
away having bought two large shells. Carson would say."
Guss's affinity for his shells goes
beyond the acts of learning and
categorizing. An artist by profession,
he does technical illustration for
General Motors. When he speaks of
his favorite avocation, it's apparent
his collection reflects his aesthetic
"I really appreciate the sheer
beauty of these shells," he says. "You
cannot beat nature!'
Guss explains that the visual
apeal of the shells varies according to
the specimen. "In some families of
shells, the color and design are just
amazing, unbelievable. In others, it's
the structure or the intricacy of the
shape of the shell that can be very
They come in a wide range of
sizes. "Some are so small they're even
difficult to pick up with your fingers;'
he says. "Others are as large as three
Whatever their color, shape or
size, most shells originally come from
the great barrier reefs around the
world, Guss points out. He acquired
his own oceanic works of art during
trips to Jamaica, the Florida Keys
and, especially, Sanibel Island on the
gulf side of Florida.
Contemplating his collection, a
conchologist — one who studies shells
— can become pretty philosophical.
"The more • I get into this," Guss
muses, "the more I really believe
there is some order in this whole
galaxy of ours!'
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS