NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We all collect something. We collect friends and knowledge and experiences.
One man in Bensonhurst has gained fame for his collection of memorabilia. He’s the focus of this week’s Snapshot New York with CBS2’s Steve Overmyer.
“People go hunting. People go fishing. People go bike riding. They all like different things. This is my thing. This is what I enjoy doing,” Steve Campanella said.
The home of a collector is a parade of pop culture.
“Once you get bitten by the collecting bug … It’s hunting for it. It’s looking for it,” Campanella said. “It’s that rush to try and find it. And once you get it it’s the satisfaction of having it to bring back that memory.”
For the past 20 years, Campanella has been collecting. It started when he and his wife first moved in.
“Somebody gave me as a housewarming gift a 1950s cookie jar,” Campanella said.
From the ’50s style, his collection continued to blossom.
“When I say blossom, you’ll see a lot of flowers in my garage. I guess you could say that’s my garden,” Campanella said.
CBS2’s Overmyer looked behind one door and found a 1959 pink Cadillac. No, really.
“It’s the theme of the 1950s. If you look, everything is pink. We’ve got Elvis underneath here. ‘Blast from the past’ — ‘1959 Rock and Roll forever,'” Campanella said.
Inside his seven-car garage is everything from the creepy to the playful. He has an animatronic Elvis and an actual 1950s ice cream bar. You could take a ride in the Batmobile or see a better collection of subway grab handles than at the MTA museum. What Steve has assembled is an exhaustive selection of memorabilia that screams ‘Murica.
Tourists from all over the world come to Campanella’s house for a visual history lesson.
“I don’t know if they could take their eyes off of their telephones long enough to look up and see what’s here,” Campanella said.
The more you walk through his collection, the more you realize he’s not doing this to turn a profit. In fact, he doesn’t sell anything.
When asked how much he has spent on his memorabilia in his lifetime, Campanella quipped, “Because my wife might be listening to this, I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me.”
His collection is more personal, adding it’s almost a trip inside his brain.
“Memory after memory after memory after memory,” Campanella said.
“I used to work for the A&P and they used to have this kind of machine at each of their registers. When you bought a bag of their coffee, they’d grind it for you right at the register. And the aroma, I still smell it,” he added. “For 25 cents you would pack their groceries and at the end of a Saturday you had like five bucks. Back then, five bucks was a lot of money. But you really appreciated that $5 because you worked your butt off.”
In this room is a mixture of music and movies and the culture of American history. But at its heart, this collection represents patriotism.
“I’ve been patriotic. I feel … I’m extremely proud of this country and serving,” Campanella said before showing Overmyer his old military uniform. “The pride I have for this country is overwhelming and I can’t help but get emotional when I talk about it.”
The room sort of feels like America, huh?
“It is to me,” Campanella said. “It is to me.”