Little Red Cooler

Standard

Sometimes friends ask me to keep a look out for specific antique or vintage items as I’m scouring auctions or local estate sales. I keep a notebook of their china and crystal patterns in case they need a random piece to complete a set. Other times I just get lucky and snag something that I think they might want.

Last Friday, Pookie and I went to an estate sale at a very nice and meticulously maintained ranch-style house which had been preserved by its late owners as a sort of 1960s time capsule.

After scoring a perfect vintage silver plated tea service for myself from the dining room, we headed to the garage. Pookie was immediately drawn to the leather Samsonite briefcase in like-new condition which still had the original pens in the pocket from 50 years ago when it was new and expensive.

As Pookie ogled her briefcase, I spotted my great item of the day sitting under a table stacked with Christmas ornaments: a 1970s red Coleman metal cooler complete with bottle openers on the side handles. I could have sworn someone had told me about their desire for this exact cooler.

But who?

After we loaded the cooler in the car, I started texting the usual suspects. Cecelia denied knowledge of a cooler request but said that if it were plaid she would most definitely want it. Tristan was working on a house so I didn’t bother him. Pookie couldn’t remember either.

That’s about the time The Old Man called to check in from his office. I told him about my find and surmised, from his squeal of delight, that he was the requester. The person who wanted the cooler was my own husband.

It was the cooler of his youth. The one that his aunt and uncle packed with drinks and food for family road trips or took along while fishing. For him, a metal Coleman cooler brings back distinct and warm memories of a time when his Aunt Lucille would fill the cooler with enough sandwiches to keep the kids fed during stops at roadside picnic tables long before drive-through fast food became the norm for travelers.

On Saturday, after another long day of treasure hunting, we inaugurated the red cooler while “chairing” (see Chairing from July 31, 2014) with a bottle of champagne in our backyard. We made a toast to the couple who had valued their possessions and the people who wouldn’t throw old stuff away just because there were new things to buy.

And The Old Man is happy to report that the cooler still works…perfectly.

Advertisements

The Present

Standard

By Pookie

Griffith gave me a book,
I don’t know him.
The book was a present,
left on a shelf
in the house of a dead man
for me to find.
Maybe it was Griffith.
It’s a book of poems
meant to make light of dark days
or to hold down papers.
I think Griffith liked this book.
Maybe he wanted to make sure
it went to loving hands.
Maybe that’s why his name is still there.

Pookie is a poet and proud Ole Miss Alum who is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree.

“I AM ALWAYS DRAWN BACK TO THE PLACES WHERE I HAVE LIVED, THE HOUSES AND THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS.”

Standard

I might be rich. Or I might own a really bad counterfeit copy of a first edition Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

You tell me.

The provenance of the book is perfect since it came from the wonderful estate of a high-end collector who lived in New York City in the 50s and 60s and was friendly with many in the publishing world. The sale was held in his home where thousands of volumes were double and triple stacked and I, along with many other local book nerds and out-of-town dealers, spent hours that stretched into days combing through the shelves and finding numerous signed first editions.

So, when I spotted the bright orange cover pressed in between two larger books I was confident in its authenticity.This was not a man who bought fake books on street corners.

The jacket cover is worn and bears the first edition pen drawing of Capote on the back. But after I got the book home and examined it further, there are some issues:

  • The jacket has no price or printing date.
  • There is no copyright page or a Random House imprint anywhere except on the “about the author” page.
  • It is not bound in the First Edition bright yellow binding but in a more red/brown tone.
  • The paper is thin and upon further examination the typeset is unaligned.
  • There are missing words in the text. Some letters are handwritten (which does look like a galley.)
    And most concerning is the side title on the book jacket which reads “EREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS.”
      After some investigation around town, one friend of the original owner told me that he had heard that it was a bound galley copy that Capote had printed for his friends in advance of publication.
      But a book dealer I know was puzzled, thought it might be a bad 1950s fake and suggested I find a modern literature book expert. And that’s where y’all come in.
      If you have any ideas, let me know. I’m prepared for the bad news…but if anyone has some great news that would also be welcomed!
      In the meantime I’m proudly displaying it as my mystery Capote book. It somehow seems appropriate.

Pennants

Standard

As the child of public schoolteachers, summers for me meant car trips. Not simple weekend getaways but months-long excursions that my mother meticulously planned with the AAA and road managed with her dog-eared Trip Tik.

Over the course of my childhood, we saw the country from coast to coast several times over; always taking time to stop at historical markers and national parks in addition to homages to the legendary horse racing tracks that my father had always dreamed of visiting. (In the 1960s and 70s children could still visit racetracks, but that is another blog post!)

These were the days of Stuckey’s, those blue-roofed wonders where in addition to refilling the gas tank and taking a restroom break, a child could always find a sticky pecan log, a key chain with your name imprinted and my favorite: felt pennants advertising the local area.

In the days before instant cameras, pennants were an easy and fast reminder of all of the places we had visited. Recently, I cleaned out the hall closet and came across my collection in an old Maas Brothers bag and still in good shape.

And did the memories come flying back! There was the 1965 Disneyland pennant that represented my highlight of our trip to Los Angeles in a black Volkswagen Beetle—complete with the specialty luggage that fit behind the back seat and in the front “trunk.”

From 1970 were my two beloved Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” pennants that took me back to the middle school summers we spent in Cincinnati so that my father could attend graduate school. I don’t know what he learned in his studies but I do know that I learned how to decipher a box score.

And among the assorted Florida pennants was the one from the Kennedy Space Center. In 1971, the seventh grade of Marshall Jr. High School spent a Saturday traveling on school buses to Cape Canaveral for a day-long field trip. This was the height of the space race we were all convinced that we would see a real astronaut or engineer that day; the Justin Biebers of our time. I’m sure I took lots of naturally 1977 filtered pictures on my Instamatic camera. But all it took to transport me back to that feeling of actually BEING in a special place at a special time was my pennant.

Not a bad thing to collect after all.

The Old Man: Marrying Stuff

Standard

When the Old Man was much younger, he took a beautiful bride who had many old things. Some of these things were antiques she and her parents had collected and some were heirlooms of previous ancestors.

In most cases these things were odd (five wooden wall clocks from 1900, commemorating the Spanish American War) or cumbersome (an ornately carved pump organ). Other family members had already furnished their homes in particular styles, so these things became our things.

I think many young people are reluctant to accumulate antiques and heirlooms because they fear their ability to choose things for their own idiom might be compromised. Or perhaps they wisely anticipate the burden of a 250 pound pump organ.

We, however, had little to place in our first homes and we were possessed of a romantic – or perhaps simply unrealistic – nature. So the organ first joined us in Winchester, Virginia, and we then took it with us to suburban Chicago, back to Florida, then to Washington, D.C. and finally back to Florida again. Never once, have I been able to play an entire song on it. But great grandchildren of the man – my late father-in-law – who replaced the fabric on the wood treadles half a century ago merrily coaxed low moans from it just the other day.

Some of the other pieces that have been with us our entire lives together include:

•A Victrola that stands four feet tall in a conspicuous place in our living room, and still spins nonagenarian records at 78 RPM whenever the spirit moves us and we want to know what 1924 sounded like.

•Clocks and more clocks, in addition to the aforementioned timepieces from the Spanish American war. These include a small, ornate German clock that used to chime the hours and tick the moments in between for us in our cold and cramped first apartment, an English basement on Capitol Hill.

•A cherry china cabinet with glass shelves and a bowed glass door that my wife helped her father refinish, using Q-tips to reach into the narrow, carved grooves. As young parents we feared a toddler would crash into the glass, and for years positioned furniture defensively around it.

•A maple gate-leg table from the Depression that could tuck into a small space against the wall when we didn’t need it, or be made to expand by means of an ingenious folding leaf into a surface large enough for six and a Thanksgiving turkey.

Call them antiques, heirlooms or hand-me-downs, I think we always felt that these things were a trust, over which we would enjoy stewardship for a time, and then it will be someone else’s turn to live with them. We have added considerably to the collection over the years with many odd and cumbersome pieces of our own. What makes them special is the knowledge that they meant so much to someone long before us, and they have continued to play prominent roles in the accumulated memories of our family for the past three decades.

I hope our kids have big houses.

The Old Man can be found teaching vocabulary to his gun dog in the back yard of the Old House and occasionally typing his ridiculous and profane thoughts on an old Underwood typewriter.