Clark's horde of gumball treasures (dating back to World War II) and hotel soaps (still in their original paper wrappers) are behind Plexiglas through September 9 as part of the shopping center's Still More Things People Collect exhibit, a crazy quilt of unlikely "collectibles" -- butter pats, calf weaners, Smurfs -- displayed in helter-skelter fashion.
"I think my minisoap collection might be the most worthless collection here," says Clark, looking down at the flat amenities taken from the La Quintas, Super 8s, Sheratons and Holiday Inns. "Someone said that the calf weaners might be more worthless, but I'm not sure."
Clark's hotel soaps are among the few items on display that were ever available for free. He started collecting them when he was a child. Clark's father, a truck driver, "stayed in hotels, but didn't like using the little soaps, so he asked for big bars and brought the other ones home to me. "I've got a couple of cigar boxes full of them," he says, confessing that "sometimes, when we're in a pinch or we're going off on a trip, we actually use them."
The plastic, metal and celluloid gumball-machine trinkets are actual relics from his childhood. In the days before sanitary restrictions, toys weren't in little plastic bubbles; they popped out of machines along with bubble gum. Clark's collection includes little metal cars, a hot dog on a chain and a tiny working penknife. He keeps them in cigar boxes too.
His wife's antique doorknobs, also in the exhibit, are a bigger deal. "We actually buy those," Clark says.