Treasures | Newberry


Do not think, Ham Ripple Sundae, that just because there is no Book Fair planned for July, 2020 that you will be deprived of your access to your Uncle Blogsy. Not only will you still see his blog (this counts as Working From Home) but he is still reachable through email or the Comments section below. (If I can find you among the ads for generic Cialis and Slobbovian Girls Who Really Want To Meet You.) Inquiries about books and Book Fairs are always read.

A concerned reader sent an inquiry which went straight to the heart of what I do for a living. He had just finished using a roll of Saran Wrap. He was a little vexed with the plastic wrap because it had been difficult to use and smelled a bit funny, but he attributed this to quarantine sensitivity. But when he went to throw away the box, he paused, reading it for the first time.

“It says it’s ideal for going from the freezer to the microwave,” he told me. “How long ago did they even bother to say that? And the picture of the microwave on the carton…this thing is at least twenty, if not thirty, years old!”

Did I mention my caller is a bachelor? His concern, however, was a problem of our modern age. “Is this thing collectible, or would my heirs just find it with my stuff and say ‘That crazy old hoarder!’?”

The answer, as you already know if you are a regular reader of this column, is “Yes.”

I told him the story of one of my volunteers, who years ago wound up as executor to her bachelor uncle’s estate. She found, to her utter amazement, that the man “saved his breakfasts”, as she expressed it. Every orange juice can he had used since he started keeping housekeeping for himself, had been rinsed, dried, and flattened. He had kept every egg carton, flattened and preserved every corn flakes box, and had treated his milk cartons just as he had his orange juice cans. Everything was clean, intact, tidily stacked, and then thrown away by the executors.

I said, “Wow! Do you know what those corn flakes boxes would fetch on eBay now?”

She shrugged. “His fault, then, for dying before we had eBay or cereal box collectors.”

I hear about so many of these collections after the fact. There was my volunteer who, as I have mentioned before, helped her neighbor throw all her old 78 rpm records down the garbage chute. I told her, “But you know I sell those; you’ve bought some from me.”

“You couldn’t have sold these,” she said, “It was just records she had recorded to play behind her Ice Capades routine.”

There was the donor who brought me four hundred postcards. “There would have been more,” she said, “But I knew you didn’t want the ones with messages on the backs, so I threw those all away.”

In both cases, I could have made money with those things; in the case of the Ice Capades records, the Newberry might even have kept them for the collection. (They might have done the same with the postcards, too. Sometimes the message on the back helps justify the picture on the front. That’s a whole nother blog.)

On the other hand, I once had a lady bring in her collection of Good Housekeeping magazine. Good Housekeeping is a document of American life now, and she said she had a complete run of it. I notified the Powers That Were to expect a treasure for the collection. The lady had, however, not kept them in terribly good order. I would get eleven issues from 1983, one from 1910, two from 1935, and one from 2000, all muddled together in boxes with her junk mail and grocery store sale fliers. She would drop off another box of this mangled paper every three or four months, and died before she got even half of the stuff brought in.

My caller, like most of my audiences, was more bewildered than instructed by my cautionary tales. He said, “So cut to the chase. Should I keep this or not?”

“Absolutely,” I said.

“Keep it?” he demanded.

“Or not,” I said. I didn’t even know you could slam down the receiver on a cell phone.