I love auctions. I love the smell of old books and finding an undiscovered piece of porcelain and the bottom of a dusty box in a dark corner of an estate sale. I love a new discovery, specifically one with a story attached. I have always been a history buff. Stories thrill me – how and why and where and when things happened is a puzzle I love to piece together. I thought this summer I would chronicle my adventures in treasure hunting as a way to keep a record myself but also to share my hunt with others. So please check back in, stay tuned and follow my blog as I share my weekly adventures treasure hunting for under $5!
The week that started the challenge.
In a simple room, bathed in natural light from the warm summer evening outside were boxes and tables and cupboards stacked with knicks and knacks, forks and pots, books and light bulbs. Every room in the small wartime home had been emptied into the front room, piled on 75 year old hardwood. Estate sales are bittersweet. There is the obvious sadness – a family’s final measure to let go and say goodbye but also the relief of being able to leave another footnote of grief behind. Whenever there’s an auction I like to spend some time speaking with our hosts. I like to think there’s a measure of comfort in it – reassuring them that we will treat these items, sentimental or otherwise with great respect and in 2 or 4 or 6 hours we will be out of their space, the home will be empty and a new chapter will begin. There is a memorial quality to an estate sale. Often, especially in small towns, they are a gathering for friends and neighbours. There are shared stories and a laugh or two as folks gather to say a final informal farewell and take a memento of their friend along with them. Perhaps a neighbour shared weekly coffee and that one gold inlay porcelain tea pot brings a happy memory to them whenever they use it. There’s something comforting knowing that the item will be cherished and result in a warm embracing memory of the one they lost. Even if the item is purchased by a stranger – being able to see them, meet them, perhaps hearing their plan for the object can be rejuvenating – a sort of reincarnation.
On this particular evening my colleagues and I emptied that front room onto tables in the front lawn. Visitors checked in at the desk and got a bidding card and the evening got underway. $1, $2, $10 – one item and in some cases boxes of items was raised, described and purchased in swift measure. Cups and plates, Tupperware and suitcases, things I wasn’t quite sure I could identify and some I thought that I might be inclined to use at home. 5, 10, 30 minutes passed and I hesitated and waited and didn’t bid on the $5 knife block and $2 Children’s books. Suddenly something caught my eye and my heart sped up a little. A large brown book with tattered pages and worn binding. Did I mention I LOVE old books? It was a bible and I bid. $2. No one else felt for it the way I did so I gathered it up and was visibly giddy I’m sure about my find. It was, as it turned out, the family bible. 200 years old and full of entries and stories about the Schram, Burgess and Davis families. How they settled on 400 acres outside what is now Thorndale Ontario when they arrived in Canada from Ireland. There were pressed flowers, newspaper articles from the 30s, Birthday cards and baby shower invitations, Church bulletins and census registration cards from 1918. There was a story clipped about Al Capone and I read the classified from 1937 where I could have gotten a 7 room house with a fireplace for $27/month. I spent 4 hours reading, taking photos and researching. I found the church (still in operation) and sent them an email to share these wonderful finds with. Bulletins from 1913, 1938, 1942 and a little bit of history on the family that started the parish, donated the land for the cemetery and also served over the generations as Reverend’s and missionaries.
I continue to uncover and unlock mysteries. Ancestry.com is my friend these days and instead of model trains or video games or painting in the yard…my hobby has become finding out more about these people who, 2 weeks ago, I had never even heard of.
Until next time…and another $5 treasure.