Thursday, May 23, 2013

Atlas Truck Filled with Treasure

In 1968, we had just moved to Pennsylvania. My mother was interested in antiques, and a distant relative caught wind of this. The old lady had no children, so she willed us the contents of her apartment when she passed away.

Imagine this, if you will: a rental ranch-style home, late 60's. An huge Atlas truck pulls up. Two red-faced guys proceed to unload boxes and boxes of furniture, old toys, glass, and books. Everything is taken down to our very musty basement.

I will never forget the weeks that followed - unpacking those boxes was like a walk through time to a different era. Some objects showcased the wonders of the past, like the series of cigarette cards produced for the World's Fair. Others whispered of a bad side, such as an old Amos 'n'Andy map.

There were random treasures, too. I was enthralled by a Fortune Telling Device, a packet of cards "Guaranteed to Answer any Questions You May Have" with the picture of a very unlikely-looking gypsy lass on the cover. We all loved an old Imp's Coin collector book, complete with old nickels and dimes, enough to make up the princely sum of two dollars.

The furniture included an old bust of Schiller, a large pair of portraits of the old lady's parents (and didn't the father look a real fright, with his dark muttonchops and piercing eyes! He used to give me nightmares) and a marble Oriental table with devil's faces carved into the dark wooden legs.

Our favorite things, however, were the albums of old Post Cards. The old lady collected them and put them into huge, dark, Victorian books. They spanned the late 1800's, with faded-looking pictures of Niagara Falls and bright cartoons from the seaside, some of them VERY rude.

There were cards of cityscapes, with windows and moons cut out. When you held them up to the light, the cut-outs glowed yellow, and the card came alive.

Some had pictures of motion picture beauties of the era, with long ringlets past their waists and huge feathered hats.

I distinctly remember one card from the 1940's with the picture of a Horn and Hardart Automat. Obviously, someone had gone there and was so impressed they had to buy a souvenir. 

That delivery was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was like Aladdin's cave had been packed up, stored in an old moving van, and sent to our tiny rancher. The contents were the result of several lives, now long gone, and I will never forget it.


A.B. Shepherd said...

What a treasure and wonderful gift! I would love to find things like that. My family tended to be nomads and purged too frequently. I have few keepsakes.

K L Candela said...

Love this. Wish I could desend into my father's basement now - where all sorts of treasure exist. I didn't however, appreciate them as a child. Now I do.