With a deep respect for the past, Charlton Bajon has trouble throwing things away. So he collects them.
His pharmacy, Bajon’s Pharmacy just off La. 1 in White Castle, doubles as a warehouse for some of his many collections, but the one he’s most proud of is his license plate collection.
He believes he’s got the only complete set of Louisiana license plates in existence– one of each variation the state has made since it began issuing them in 1915.
One set he has, Bajon believes would be a welcome addition to a Louisiana museum, but more on that later.
While it sounds simple enough, Bajon said there were numerous years the state had multiple designs, so getting them all has proved to be a 50-year mission.
Bajon’s collection also includes a license plate from all 50 states, “from Alabama to Wyoming,” he said.
The personable pharmacist – who also unofficially serves as the historian of his hometown, White Castle – began the unusual hobby as a child of 12.
“In 1970, on the front page of the Morning Advocate (now simply The Advocate), there was a photo of a man with his collection,” Bajon said. “I thought to myself, ‘Boy, that’d be something neat for me to do, start collecting license plates.’”
That one photo set him off on a nearly 50-year journey to find one of each.
“The first thing we did (he and his brother Wayne) is we went into garages to find some license plates,” Bajon said. His aunt and uncle owned a filling station in town at the time, so he hit them up for some newer plates.
Then a number of the boys Bajon’s age began a license plate collecting club, all of whom were just license plate scavengers like he and his brother, and the 12 or 15 of them met every Saturday.
“We gave out a prize to whoever had the most, another for whoever had the oldest,” Bajon said.
The more he learned about Louisiana’s license plates and the number of variations that were made, the more unlikely it seemed he would ever have them all.
“I never thought that I could get a full collection of plates,” Bajon said. “So what I did was to concentrate more on getting one from each state in the country.”
“The way I did that, in part, was when my customers would tell me they were going on a vacation, I would ask them to bring me back a license plate from this state or that state,” he said, then proudly walked into a back room where he showed off the display.
When computers, then the internet, then eBay came along, Bajon discovered a number of things about collecting license plates, including “Plates,” a magazine published by a national organization called the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association.
Of course, the now 60-year-old Bajon joined the club and subscribed to the magazine, which in time published an article on the meticulous collector.
It would hardly be the last – over the years, the Plaquemine Post South, The Advocate and numerous other publications have found his story interesting enough to print.
(Editor’s note: This is the first of a multi-part series on Bajon and his license plate collection. Since the friendly, gregarious pharmacist collects a multitude of items, the Post South will return to White Castle from time to time over the next few months to learn – in detail – about his other collections.)