The Things That Come In | Page 55 | Newberry

The Things That Come In

You want more stories about our donations? You’re insatiable, children, but settle down around the fire and I’ll tell you about the carful of Bibles and the condo full of bibelot.

He was the nephew of one of our volunteers and he worked at O’Hare. An unclaimed shipment of books been held up by Customs was slated to be destroyed.  He thought that was a shame, and his aunt suggested he see if we could pick them up. We sent out a volunteer with a car.

Not everything would fit in the car, but the volunteer crammed as many boxes in as possible. And what we got was Bibles. Big white Bibles for brides to carry, little zippered Bibles for kids to take to Sunday School, immense Bibles for putting on the parlor table: hundreds of brand new Bibles, in three colors, in about ten different sizes, all still in their original boxes.

It took us a while, but we figured it out. The Bibles had two things in common: they were all the New Jerusalem Version, and they were all bound in leather. The religious organization which had been shipping them to its missions overseas had failed to find out that the country they were shipping to had strict laws regarding the importation of leather goods. So they were grounded at O’Hare.  Talk about judging a book by its cover!

We were once given an apartment full of bibelots. That’s a fancy word for doodads, gimcracks, and thingumabobbers. The lady had planned her estate very carefully. She had already given her niece whatever family mementos mattered, and was determined after that the niece receive only money: no junk, nothing that would take any time or trouble to dispose of. So she bequeathed her apartment to one charity, all the clothes and furniture to another charity, and all her books, figurines, works of art, and what have you to the Newberry Library Book Fair. That was fun to pack up because it was very close to the library, and we had several weeks during which we could drop by and pack things up in easy stages. There were many wildlife posters and animal figurines and just generally doodads of a high enough quality to be called bibelots.  Naturally, there were problems of definition: was the food in the pantry furniture or was it artworks? We decided the fresh strawberries needed to be dealt with right away, and were therefore a work of art.  The ten cans of lima beans constituted furniture and we left them behind. 

A lady came to me once and said “You don’t want my records.”

People say things like this to me. I said, “Well, I do sell records.”

“But these are commercial recordings,” she said.

“Most of the records I sell are commercial recordings,” I pointed out.

She shook her head. “I said that badly. These are recordings of commercials made at an ad agency for clients.”

I said “Gimme Gimme Gimme.”

There are several Jonathon Winters fans out there whose collections are now richer for including his album of commercials for Fiat, probably one of his rarer recordings. Some Ken Nordine fans and Irwin Corey fans have richer collections as well.  And the Newberry is richer for that, too.

On the other hand, I had another lady come to me and say “I did you a favor yesterday. I helped somebody throw all her records down the garbage chute in her building.”

“But I sell records,” I said.

“Oh, you wouldn’t have wanted these,” I was told. “These weren’t commercial recordings. It was just music she put on disc back in the 1940s for her Ice Capades routine.”

And somebody asked me the other day why I have so many white hairs. “People give ‘em to me for the Book Fair,” I said.

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