Urban Archeologist: A Box of Junk

…is one urban archeologist’s treasure.


Sometimes there is no better way to write the subject of these articles than to just call it what it is — no puns, no metaphors, no similes, no double-entendres. Urban Archeology is not unlike an improv comedian who has just been given a prop or a subject and directed to make something out of it.  As I enter each sale I am often searching for the story, and the subject of this article was exactly what I got.   

I have to confess that not every box claiming to contain junk is going to make me race for my wallet. This box, with its intriguing label and muted color had me as soon as I laid eyes on it.

As you can see, it's not Al Capone's vault, it looks as though someone may have used the box as a sewing kit. (TIP: sewing kits and button jars, boxes, etc. are great catch-alls for other things.) I did clean out some of the old buttons. I don't ever plan to start a button collection, but I might as soon as someone can teach me what to look for.  

Here are the items that were left: the standout item was a folding compass from 1888 (or later). The pencil lead holder seemed to have character. So too, did the glass tube of green beads. Everything else in the box had the feel of the 30s or 40s, but I don't know.

The other items seemed fairly innocuous: a small plastic tape measure, and a cloth one, a marking block, a wooden dowel, a small container of cuff links, a little cardboard box (possibly a Rx, but there was no writing), a knife, a seam ripper (I think). And then there was another paper container that I still can't place because there was no text anywhere on it, but inside it was obvious.

Look at the attached images maybe you’ll recognize these? I used them when I was a kid, but they never came in this kind of container. Mine were on rolls and I spent many a dull summer afternoon igniting them a hundred ways other than using a cap gun. Packaged in sawdust one would think they were blasting caps, but I doubt it.

I don't know how they ended up in mom's sewing stash, other than a pure act of confiscation due to the disruption these were guaranteed to create. I can't toss them because they represent an era in toys that is long gone. I can't imagine that anyone has them in this condition today. If they do I sure hope they let me know because I would love to have more information about them.

Visit the blog and see if you recognize this 1967 back to school essential.

 Greg Van Antwerp is a Connecticut resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story.  You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.


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