Sunday, March 8, 2009

Treasures Are Where You Find Them

After my father retired from his job at the SD Warren paper mill he started a small vegetable garden where he found pleasure and contentment, this plus splitting wood for his small wood stove seemed to be sufficient for fulfilling his days. Then the unexpected happened, he had a small heart attack. This put a stop to his gardening, the doctor said too much bending and pulling weeds was not good for him. He suddenly found himself in a state of both fear and depression. Now his days consisted of just sitting around, sipping on his warm beer. My father never wanted his beer in the refrigerator. I think he was one of a few, when it came to that. After several months passed his fear and boredom seemed to become less and less. He started hanging out at the town dump with all the other bored retirees. It become their haven of rest, drinking beer, playing cards , going over the news of the day and recalling all of their of old memories. Then one day, came the dream of a life time, he came home and proudly showed my mother a set of keys, he had become custodian of the dump. He was as proud as if he had been given the keys to the White house. Things were good! He had a good friend, named Ham. Ham had a truck so they decided to salvage the copper from the dump. My father was unable to pick the rubbish looking for copper, but Ham seemed to have an eye for it. He would take the copper to the salvage yard and split the loot with my dad. They were making more money at salvaging, than they did on their jobs before their retirement. Well it seems that while Ham looked for copper my dad would walk around the dump checking to see if the people that were bringing their rubbish were putting it in its proper place. Now and then he would sort of look over what he thought might be an interesting bundle of trash hoping to hit pay dirt, more often then not he came up empty, there were times however when his luck ran in a different direction. My mother by this time was getting upset with all the junk he was putting in the basement. You know the stuff that you just can not let go of, knowing it will get caught up in the crusher. When my parents were no longer able to remain in there home because of their age. I had to hire a trash collector to haul all the trash back to the dump, I am sure the crusher got it all in the end. Now my dad loved his job and he did indeed remain faithfully to his position. Then one day a friendly gentleman stopped by and started chit chatting with him about this and that. You know all the things that strangers talk about when they first meet. My father who like me was a talker was impressed with this guy’s friendliness. During their conversation, in what seemed not to be an intrusive way asked “If you don’t mind my asking what do you get paid for a job like this?” My father so the story goes, said and I quote “Not a hell of a lot, I just took the job for something to do and to get out of the house, all my buddies come down and we have a beer and play cards its like a get together for us old guys”, a short while later the friendly man left. That night when my dad got home from work he told my mother about the guy that had stopped around to visit. Soon after a letter arrived in the mail telling him he had to appear in the office of The Department of Labor, there was no explanation as to why. My father was terrified he didn’t understand what it was all about. We kept the appointment; it turned out to be that the friendly man with whom my father had the great conversation was a government official checking on people that were getting under paid the minimum wage. So after three years of employment they gave my father a pink slip and a sizable check, back pay for all the hours he had worked, and took his job away, it seems that the town felt they could not afford to pay the price. Well this check could have been considered a reward but my father tried to explain that he did not want the check he wanted his job back, but no go. The friendly man said sorry the laws the law. There were days however before his job came to an end he did find among the rubble many treasures and I will mention only those that I still have and treasure to this day.

#I) a complete set of sterling silver flat wear in a dark brown leather case, it has a wonderful pattern and I still use it today, in fact its our best and used only on special occasions.

# 2) A beautiful piece of glass wear that I had appraised, I was told it was known as A Thousand Eyes, I have it displayed along with our other glass pieces. clip_image002

# 3) I am not sure what it really is, I have taken it to two different antique dealers and neither could tell if it was sterling silver or not and nor could they tell me for sure what it’s function was meant to be. Both thought it may be a Russian wedding cup but both had reservations and would not give an appraisal. One did suggest that it may have been made by Paul Revere; he was a silver smith in his day. I will put a picture of these treasures in so that you may view them. This piece has an appearance of having been hammered and deeply engraved with scenes of houses and churches with steeples and ocean scenes with boats, all old in appearance definitely not of our day and time. clip_image003

#4) this most of all is what I and many others have called a fantastic find a collection of over 500 Civil War covers. Anyone not familiar with the word covers, they are envelops that came out during the Civil War and they depict pictures showing the battles, generals and etc. all related to the war. Along with this box of goodies was also a very tattered , mildew and torn Civil War uniform, my mother kept all the buttons and I have them, however I have sold many on Ebay. clip_image004

Perhaps because of my fathers dump picking days there was something in his genes that led to the fascination I have with the art of dump picking. At least I was able to until these arthritic knees started keeping me from that pleasure, I do however cast a wondering and longing eye when I go to deposit my rubbish. My days of picking resulted in several treasures worth mentioning. There was the … Oriental rug that nearly broke my back trying to load it into the car, but with determination I succeeded and the reward was the sum of seven hundred and twenty five dollars from a prominent antique dealer. Then there was the… peddle car, a nineteen fifty six Volkswagen Convertible it has a few nick and bruises but like my father just could not leave it behind so its in my basement waiting for the right offer to come along, or maybe become an Ebay item. Then there was the day that we really hit pay dirt, you understand that our picking took place before the days of recycling when many people thought of dump picking as a pass time, at least they did on the island. By now we had become professionals in this game of chance, we carried a pointed stick and found that careful inspection of the bags offered up prizes worth of our time and effort. That day someone had deposited a bag of goodies, sterling sliver bracelets, necklaces and even antique coins in mighty good condition. But the real kicker was, further down in the dump when Betty found a … quarter and the date on it was the year she was born, no I’m not telling you what year. Then low and behold she came across a … sterling silver bracelet and attached to it was a dime with the same date as the quarter and when she turned it over the reverse side had been sanded off and the name Betty had been engraved on it. We both were a little shaken up and Betty said do you think this is some kind of omen. She took it to the jewelers and was told it was a very fine custom piece and hand made.

Damn these arthritic knees and now a bad back, I do miss my picking days. But the pain and discomfort helps me to forgive the upgrading of the land fill.


  1. Margaret....what a great story and beautiful pictures! You must have told me about how he left that job but I did not remember it! How sad...he just wanted to stay working...God Bless Uncle Edmund. I also did not know he got some of those items there! I knew about the cover letters but that's it. Great...great story...these are the kind of stories I love from you. The one regarding Betty's bracelet find is really eerie!! How weird is that?? It was meant to be. Keep on writing my you and Alice both wrote amazing stories...I love it!

  2. Dear Friends, Margaret and Betty ...
    What a story! I absorbed every word like they were warming sunlight on a chilly day! Ahh, as my beloved aunt used to say: "One's person's trash is another's treasure." I know that I would have liked your father- nothing flashy or false about that man! In his own way, he was a 'frenchie' who loved dump-picking and gabbing w/the old man who gathered there, most he knew personally. Sometimes, he found 'goodies', items not to be resisted. And so the cellar got filled to capacity and than it was a backroom that became a junk parlor ...
    "14 hands around, matey", this is all good stuff and useful... You never know when it will come in handy"

    Wonderful story, dear lady ... Brought tears to my eyes. God bless the dump guardians and treasure-finders who are archeologists and historians in their own right!

    Thank you, Margaret for such a a sweet and delicious story!
    Take care ... GeeGee

  3. Great story and a good honor to your dad.It once more shows that even when your down in the dumps some good can come of it.

  4. Your story was wonderful and I came from a family that did the same thing. What fun when Grandad came home with some wonderful thing he had found. The part of your story about the bracelet was wonderful. I am a believer that everything has meaning. It would be a bit of a shock to have that happen. It makes you think and wonder. Thank you for sharing that great story!