2012.11.09 A bag full of history

Written by David Green.


Colleen was in the attic recently looking for baby clothes or toys or something before the grandchild visit. 

It’s not the attic below the roof of the house where the bats and squirrels play games. This one is reached through a little door inside a closet. Actually, it’s a typical unfinished attic above the kitchen, so I guess it’s our second attic.

No animals have ever been spotted there to my recollection, but the possibility of bats always looms large and Colleen insisted that I stay close by as she entered. Did I stand at the doorway and throw some object across the dark room?

It was her first visit in many years, apparently, and she was surprised by some of the treasures that she spotted. At one point she brought out a plastic bag from Shaw’s Clothing in Wauseon and inside it was a collection of items from my past.

Sticking out through the top was the cleaning rod to my Aulos treble fipple flute. I gained quite an appreciation for the fipple flute when I had a music class at MSU. I had returned to college to earn a K-8 teaching certificate and everyone needed to learn an instrument.

I chose a cheap instrument—a simple fipple flute—and I learned how to play it. Actually it was a process of re-learning because I first learned to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in fifth grade when the fipple flute was known as a Tonette. More precisely, it was a recorder which is a kind of fipple flute. The fipple is a block in the airway that splits the rush of your breath.

I dug deeper into the bag and found the case for my treble recorder, but of course the flute itself was nowhere to be found. It’s been in hiding for several years now.

I started pulling slips of paper out of the bag and found one reading: “Attention, if you experience the loss of movement to an arm or leg following treatment, please contact my attorney, and good luck to you.”

Another scrap of paper had this message: “If you experience involuntary drooling following treatment, please be advised the condition is only temporary. In the meantime, we recommend wearing a bib.”

I knew exactly what these were. They were from a series of small posters I made for a doctor in Sylvania to hang on his wall. He had a good sense of humor, I think.

I have my bag of treasurers beside me now and it’s like I’ve hit a gold mine. It’s a history bag. There are so many interesting and sometimes inexplicable items. 

There’s a cloth band with dead elastic that reads Chessie System. Jerry from Saginaw gave me that in 1974 to wear around my pants cuff while bicycling. Jerry worked for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.

Here’s a Post-It note reading: “My beak is gone – anybody seen it? Last place was tan van.” Doesn’t everyone carry a beak around in their car? My wife does.

Hey, there are my old high school eyeglasses and also the big frames from the early 1980s.

Here are some notes written on a sheet of Morenci Engineered Rubber Products note paper. My father used to print those at the office.

“One woman almost had to have herself hospitalized. Another person knew of someone who cried. A family knew they would have to move because the man needed Michigan residency in order to keep his job.”

What was that tragedy all about? Hmm, must have been notes taken after a particular April Fools Day newspaper story.

“Do you remember where you were in August 1975?”

That’s the only thing written on a piece of paper. I suspected it referred to President Richard Nixon’s resignation; I was on my way to Toronto for a weekend trip. Wrong, that was a year earlier. I think I was bicycling through the Canadian Maritimes, heading for Maine. Why do you ask?

Wow! The writing on that envelope sort of looks like Aunt Louella’s. Inside I found two twenties and a ten.

Colleen just walked by and noticed a jump rope still in its packaging, a massage ball and a package of Tit-Bit poona masala candy.

“Oh, all the things I’ve given you that you never opened up,” she said.

That may be a start, but I’m sure there’s more. Oh yes, there’s a package of tea tree flavored Australian chewing sticks and bar of bay rum exfoliating soap.

I have my membership card from Ron Riley’s Batman Club. He was a DJ on WLS radio in Chicago.

Here’s a letter of recommendation, I guess, written in support of our former superintendent of schools Dana Compton who was seeking a job in Boyne City. I gave several honest reasons why they should hire him. 

There’s quite a collection of former pocket notes, including notes from a wrestling tournament and notes from a baseball game and notes for an editorial that may never have been written.

“Driving north, I fell in love with brown. The color is incredibly beautiful.” I remember writing that note. It was a family vacation in the winter and all the vegetation was brown and beautiful.

I have some excellent fossils, some very interesting old earrings from Aunt Louella, old subway maps and a mystery key. I’ve barely begun this search through history, but I’ll stop now and leave you with these words of wisdom:

“Sudden blindness associated with treatment should not be a cause of distress. This message also available in Braille.”

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