Bill Henry thought the woman on the other end of the telephone was trying to sell him something.
But she had other ideas.
A little while later, Henry and his business were helping to display the area's historical heritage on a cable television series.
On Saturday, "Hands On History", a weekly program on the History Channel, will feature William Henry and his business, William Henry Ornamental Iron Works in Willow Grove, as well as the Bryn Athyn Cathedral and E and J Metals in Ivyland.
The upcoming episode in the series, which deals with the history and evolution of various trades in America, will discuss the history of ironworks from "heat-and-beat" blacksmithing to state-of-the-art machine fabrication of steel products.
Abernethy learned of Henry's work by word of mouth and then received the name of Brent Reeb, owner of E and J Metals, from his friend, Henry.
"There are a lot of enthusiastic people (in the area)," said Abernethy. "William Henry and Brent were just fantastic."
During the March filming, the television crews spend one day at each of the three sites:
- Henry and his six employees assist Ron Hazelton, the show's host, in the construction of an outdoor gate with a technique that involves both hand manufacturing and machinery.
- The show also features ironwork and monel metalwork at the cathedral, dedicated in 1919. According to Frank Vagnone, executive director of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, the monel metal, an allow of copper and nickel, has a symbolic connection to the faith of the General Church of the New Jerusalem congregation, commonly known as the Swedenborgians.
"The more you touch it, the shinier it gets," said Vagnone. "We believe that the more you use (your faith), the more brilliant your spiritual life becomes."
Vagnone, who was interviewed for the production, had previous television experience, having discussed the cathedral on local TV stations. But for Reeb, Henry, and his employees, the filming process was not quite what they expected.
"It was a lot of fun and a big education," said Reeb, who was surprised that even small scenes would require several takes.
Henry and Carleen Kurtz, office manager at the shop that does both commercial and residential work, described themselves as "nervous wrecks" on the day of the filming, but they appreciated the efforts of the producers and crew to keep them at ease.
"They really tried to keep us relaxed and joked around," said Kurtz.
Reeb agreed. "They were really nice people, really down-to-earth." he said.
According to Abernethy, the Henry family tradition in the iron-working business truly piqued the producer's interest.
Henry's son, Bill, 21, who works in his father's business, is the fourth generation in the family to work in the field. His great-grandfather founded the first family iron-working business in Philadelphia during the Great Depression.
"It was an honor to have them," said the younger Henry, who was part of the production. "I can't wait to see it. It was like a movie set for a day."
Henry and Frank Vagnone, executive director of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, credited independent publicity efforts of the business and the cathedral respectively, with catching the eye of the program's producers.
Vagnone hopes the attention will help the church congregation in its faith mission.
"We want people to recognize that we're here and we're available," said Vagnone. "You must not be a member of the community to come."
None of those locally involved in the production has seen the upcoming episode. But Bill Henry is looking forward to his special copy of the filming process--the one with the outtakes and bloopers.
© 2016 William Henry Ornamental Iron Works