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Urban Archeologist: Thankful for the Finds

Another sale reveals hidden treasure, some mysteries, and something about us.

I sometimes feel the need to explain that this hobby, which provides such cultural and historical and social enrichment, is not be confused with those who prey on the misfortune of others. Life, for all of us, is constantly in motion, even when we are no longer able to keep up with it. It seems sad that the objects that we hold dear today may belong to another tomorrow, but to try and retain everything we’ve ever owned is nearly impossible and, truthfully, unnecessary.

Slowing to a stop in front of weary home on a fall afternoon, I paused and wondered – Will this be one to remember or one to forget?  The “cover” of this remote sale on the Danbury/Redding border could have easily been judged too quickly. The path leading from the driveway to the door of this raised ranch was peppered with folding tables and boxes, random obsolete garden tools and empty bird feeders hungry for seed. There seemed to be no greeter, no one to ease the transition of this home to a temporary storefront.

Maybe I am not the accomplished sale-er, picker, digger, I would like to be. After a few minutes I signed-off on this sale, set with the impression that it was not going to be what I’d hoped. Even my daughter had shied away, asking to remain in the car, and I turned to leave. If it weren’t for another visitor and her daughter, who boldly breezed by the outside display and walked inside, we would have missed out on something special.

Once inside, it only took a few minutes before I learned the story. The seller was a friend of the owners. The husband was a German émigré in the 50’s who worked as an engineer and then liquor store proprietor. The find of the day came when the seller was inspecting a kitchen table that converts to a drafting table. While inspecting the frame under the top she came across a Tiffany box squirreled away, and inside was an ornate pocket watch and a miniature spoon from Grant’s Tomb.  Though it was not for sale, I was permitted to photograph it.

I managed to find a collection of small tools and a box of odds and ends from the days when the drafting table was used frequently. Inside were pencils and pens from Connecticut businesses - most long gone (see image) and several mysteries. The small copper horn is loud and annoying. The leather bound brass pencil sharpener won’t accept a regular pencil and its case is so shrunken with time I can’t examine it for a makers mark without damaging it.     

We spend so much of our lives collecting material things and then stuffing and squirreling them away to keep from being stolen or lost. Why do we have to hide these things? Would the absence of our possessions diminish us? I hope not. I am just thankful for the opportunity to uncover each item and the story behind it.

Take a look at the blog for the third mystery, which although looks obvious, I can’t tell if it is for hunting or carpentry…can you?

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story. You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog: www.videomartyr.blogspot.com

law November 25, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Thanks for the visit to another time. I have a watch just like it from my Grandfather. He was 57 when he died, in 1953. I love the watch and mine still works. I wear it on a chain around my neck when I go out at night. The rest of the time, it rests in my jewerly box. I have fond memories of him, and when others admire the watch and remark, " it still works" I assure them it does. Always a topic of conversation. Thanks again for the memories.

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