It was in the town of Cummington, in the Berkshires, Massachusetts, on a very cold December deer hunting trip with my father, brother and friends. My Dad had me take a stand overlooking a few apple trees; the ground was loaded with deer tracks, so I sat against the tree for about three hours, or enough to make me feel like I would freeze to death. When I got up to go back to the car I was so numb, I couldn’t feel anything. When I got to the spot where my father was, I saw him talking to another hunter. So, I dragged my frozen carcass over to where they were, and heard my father asking the other hunter if he could hold his gun while he looked at it. I just stood there looking at this fine shotgun, because I had never seen anything like it in my entire life. The gun was a German double barreled twelve gauge shotgun, engraved in bold relief game scenes, with an oak leaf design. My father looked at the man and declared he would keep the shotgun and trade his Winchester Model 52 in exchange. The man started to cry, so my
Dad laughed and handed him back his gun. From that moment, I never have forgotten that beautiful gun.   Eleven years later, while working in the electronics business, I met a young man, Murray Carr.  He was the most intelligent man I had ever met in my short life. I was amazed that he read an entire set of encyclopedias one summer. We could open to any page and ask questions he could answer because he could retain a wealth of information. I talked to Murray about my
desire to engrave, but he didn’t know how I could get started.  I knew I could engrave, if given  the chance. Murray went home and told his parents about my desire to engrave, and his mother bought me a book titled Gun Engraving Review.  I sat for hours just looking at pictures of engraved guns, and knew I could do the same, but, how?   Around that time the company we worked for was looking for a manager, and I highly recommended Murray for the job, believing he was the best candidate. One Friday after work they  set up an interview with Murray and I headed home. That same night after supper, Murray called so excited that he had to come over to tell me how the interview went. However, on the way to my house, Murray ran a stop sign and was hit broadside in his little
VW. He died three days later and I was devastated. I felt so despondent, I didn’t know what to do. A few weeks later his father wrote me a letter, and in it he stated that he knew I had a dream of becoming an engraver, and that every time a man did something about his dreams, it helped the world be a better place. In the book Murray’s mother bought me, I saw the name, Alvin White, an engraver of fine guns. He had started his career as a hub and die cutter, cutting steel for L.G. Balfour Co., in Attleboro, Massachusetts.  So, I quit my job in electronics and headed for Attleboro. I was hired by Gene Rienhart, at Balfours, just on my drawings and hand writing of my name. He was the top hub and die cutter for the company, so I decided to take a significant cut in pay, to work for him.  They asked me if I could hand cut hub and dies, and I told them yes, even though I had never seen anything like them in my life. They reminded me of the beauty of the
German shotgun I had seen with my father during that hunting trip. My father had passed away several years after that hunting trip and I decided I had to do something of importance with my life, and this was it.  I remember the day I crossed that little bridge into L. G. Balfour Co., I said to myself, World,
here I come! I will not fail. This is for Murray and my Dad. The day I quit highschool my father told me I would work the rest of my life, and without an education my wages would be less. But I knew I could build or create anything man has done, as long as it had anything to do with art.  Learning the hub and die cutter trade, and becoming an engraver were dreams come true for me. I just loved the work and couldn’t wait to get started. At lunch time I would practice
engraving on steel plates, and at night I would continue at home on a small table in my bedroom, using a small light. I derived so much pleasure from actually pursuing and living my dream, that it made life worth living. I felt I finally found something I could excel in.  After a few years I went out on my own, as a freelance engraver. I worked for R.L. Wilson, an author of countless engraving books on Colts and Winchesters. I also did engravings for Colt Mfg., out of Hartford, Connecticut. Times were tough then. I had a wife and four children. But my wonderful wife, Mary, stood by me so I could pursue my dream. She and my children, Marilyn, Patricia, Suzanne and John Jr., gave me the strength and encouragement to go on.  In 1976, during our Country’s 200th birthday, my mother passed away. Before she passed she asked me, Are you number one? I said, Yes, I will be. She was always a great help to Mary and I during the fifteen years she lived with us. Things could have been harder, but we made things happen and helped each other through our mistakes. We’d get up each day vowing that day would be better than the last. We also knew people who had the same dreams, and we encouraged one another.  We worked hard and bought land in Maine and New Hampshire, where we built camps. We took the money from that venture and bought land in Vermont, and with the help of friends, built our home. In 1983, we moved lock, stock, and gun engraving business to Vermont. Our son John, who was the youngest, came with us, as the girls had places of their own.. John Jr. was a good student and excelled in art. He finished highschool, attended a few colleges, then decided to move to Colorado with friends to make snow and snowboard. After six months he decided to return home in Corinth, Vermont. He told me, Dad, I want to engrave with you.
Well, that made my dream reach a new level to have my son follow in my footsteps. So we began and he was a natural right off. I have always tried to treat him as my equal. I never asked him to get things for me that I could get myself. I feel I have never used him and he treated me the same, the respect being mutual. To this day I don’t remember having a cross word with him, or vice versa. We work together still and manage to keep open minds to each other’s ideas.








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