After a career with Hood’s ice cream and the city of Lewiston, Louis Nadeau took a vacation to Atlantic City when he retired in 1983. While walking through the casinos he was intrigued by the fancy matchbooks. He started picking them up in every casino he entered.
“By the end of it, I was going into every casino and restaurant on the boardwalk for matches as my wife gambled,” he said.
Today he has 19,886 that are categorized, cataloged and displayed on the walls and custom made displays that snake through his basement. Over 4,000 more are alphabetalized in boxes waiting to be added. His home is just down from Tim Hortons coffee shop on Sabattus Street in Lewiston where he can be found many mornings with a group of friends socializing.
Friends, relatives and fellow workers often leave bags of matches on his doorstep, or bring some back from trips. The matches all have their place on his basement walls. They represent 3,180 hotels and motels, 424 casinos, 998 Florida restaurants and 447 weddings and dozens of other sub catagories.
There are big ones, little ones, shaped ones, fancy ones. Local candidates running for office and 7 in a series with Dale Ernhardt for the years he won the championship. He has a few with “pinnup girls” on them and has a laugh when telling how his 14 year old grandson came up from the basement one day. “He said, grandma, there are girly ones down there.”
Even though it’s really damp in the cellar and does not worry about a fire, he still takes the matches out of most. He doesn’t trade or sell them; only a few have significant value. “Like this one of Princess Dianna and Charles from their wedding, I got it in a banana box that a guy was selling at a flea market in Florida. He wanted $125 for the box. I talked him down to $10 bucks. That one’s probably worth $125 by itself.”
He was never in it to make money, it was just a hobby. Now that it is getting harder for him to get up and down the steep stairs, he is pondering how to close the book on his collection.