Joe Rafferty and Lee Howery owners of Lee’s Antiques in Nashville, Indiana. photo by Tony Coppi

Lee’s Antiques and Adventures

by Tony Coppi

Lee’s Antiques in Nashville features quality, authentic rare antiques, and a large inventory of jewelry, beautifully displayed in three spacious rooms next to Antique Alley and behind the Brown County Art Guild. The shop is celebrating its 49th year in Brown County.

Co-owners Lee Howery and Joe Rafferty were originally from Indianapolis where they owned an antique store at 16th and Pennsylvania Streets. Both were involved in other activities before they became shop owners locally.

Howery was a professional ice skater. He was a member of the Sonja Henie Ice Show and skated across the United States and South America with the famous Olympic skater and movie star. Later he was a major performer on the Holiday On Ice Show. He was also a gypsy (freelance) skater for many other shows, appearing in Las Vegas hotels and in other large hotels with ice rinks.

“I started out roller skating at the Riverside Park Rink in Indianapolis. I skated there every day in the summertime and every night because my cousin owned the rink and I got in free. Then I switched to ice skating and went to Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan and took lessons,” Howery said.

“I first saw Sonja Henie in a movie, It Happened on Ice. I then saw her at the Coliseum in Indianapolis in her ice show. She stayed at the Morott Hotel and every night I would high tail it to the hotel to see her walk through the lobby. I finally got to talk to her. I first auditioned with another show and didn’t make it. The Henie show needed somebody and had a national audition. I was in New York and I took it,” Howery recalled.

One of his most memorable moments in his ice skating performances was when he was selected to skate at a bond rally during WWII in Washington D.C. One of the spectators at the rally was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After the rally Howery had his picture taken with FDR.

Another memory was the “party of a life time” when Lee was display director at the L. S. Ayres Department store in the Glendale Shopping center in Indianapolis. He received an invitation to a dinner honoring Prince Ranier and Princess Grace of Monaco at the exclusive Neiman-Marcus store in Dallas, Texas.

“I never saw so many diamonds and furs in my life,” he said. “ You wouldn’t believe the emeralds one woman wore. I dined with Greer Garson and one woman at the table wore a full-length chinchilla coat. The most elaborate coat I saw was of mink with pastel mink flowers set into it. It looked like a bright colored Spanish shawl.”

At the reception Howery came face to face with Princess Grace at the head of a stairway and couldn’t think of a thing to say except, “Hello.”

Howery was a graduate of Tech High School in Indianapolis. He attended Indiana University and majored in psychology of color and art. He later taught psychology of art on television station Channel Four.

Joe Rafferty once worked on a horse farm owned by a former mayor of Indianapolis as a bronco buster (one who breaks and tames horses).

His dad worked at Lymon Brothers Frame Shop on Monument Circle in Indianapolis. It was there Joe learned gold leafing on picture frames and curio cabinets. He became an expert in this profession and was chosen by Liberace to gold leaf his pianos with 22 carat gold. Liberace often visited the antique store in Indianapolis when he appeared at the Starlight Musical Theatre.

Besides collecting and looking for antiques, Joe is an expert mushroom hunter—morels being his favorite.

Lee began collecting antiques when he was ten years old. “I went to the Alamo Theatre and I saw a ring in a window next to the theatre. It was dirty and had gum on it. I bought it cheap. It was my first antique,” Howery said. He still wears the ring today.

While skating in different cities in the ice shows he would look for antiques during the day and skate at night. Now he and Joe take off one day a week from the shop and hunt for antiques.

Lee’s Antiques has been at its present location for six years. At one time the co-owners also owned the Nashville Candy Store in the Heritage Mall and a gift shop on Main Street.

Lee’s Antiques is open Tuesday through Saturday and the phone number is (812) 988-1488. Look for the fountain surrounded by red geraniums.