I don’t know about you, but when I find myself with some leftover piece from a project or treasured belonging, I often have a hard time letting it go.
And while that’s the same basic rationale behind hoarding: cataloging dusty socks… stockpiling 10 year old hamburger wrappers… I’d like to think there’s room in our lives for a bit of old, useless stuff now and then.
Such is the case with this 60 year old stamped brass badge, removed from the canoe I gave Melissa for our 10 year anniversary.
Having parted with two of its three anchor points during decades of exposure to the salty Tacoma, Washington air where it’d spent its entire life, it could no longer be trusted to sit on its mahogany perch where it’d been since ‘49.
Heck, I doubt it’d survive a gentle scrubbing.
But this scrap – though no longer functional – still has beauty, history, and therefore some value left in it. From the knowledge that it was carefully placed on a curved plank by Floyd Willits in he and his brother’s little shop overlooking the Puget Sound… to the effects of a corrosion that I can only describe as exquisitely thorough… I just couldn’t imagine throwing this little scrap, barely larger than a quarter and half as thick, away.
Instead I found a little square frame of end grain bamboo. With a tiny dab of rubber cement, and a bit of cream-colored laid paper (the warmth of which complements the greens of the oxidized metal) I’ve attempted to elevate it to something greater than merely detritus.
Now it can be enjoyed on our desk, reminding me of the effort it took to restore Melissa’s boat, the fun of keeping it a secret for so many months, and the transient, ever-changing nature of all material things, regardless of how much – or how little – we care for them.
These once ubiquitous little fellas aren’t often seen today, but back when Jan, Erwin and the four Cornelius kids would have lunch with Re and Bob at Goodman’s (later Bobby G’s) in Highland Park, or out in Crystal Lake with Papa and Grandma, these dispensers were standard equipment on nearly every cash register counter.
I’m not sure why they’ve disappeared – unless it’s just that tooth-picking has just fallen out of style. Not that I was ever into it; putting dry, splintery sticks of wood in my mouth gave me goosebumps, akin to fingernails on a chalkboard.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Let’s stop and ponder the simple beauty of this tiny, overlooked machine. The removable top allows restauranteurs to dump hundreds of toothpicks into the hopper, and a simple turn of the knob below dispenses them one at a time. Well, usually. You sometimes get several with one twist.
But overall, it’s an elegant little design. My design highlights:
• The ridges on the knob. Sometimes knurled, but usually ridged. See photo.
• The gentle bumps inside the lid that attach it to the body without fasteners.
• The lid itself, it’s comforting pitch resembling a tiny roof.
• Last but not least, the curved delivery arms; presenting your toothpick with a dramatic flourish.
We needed frames a few weeks ago for a half dozen vintage prints that have been tucked in a manila folder. Without a second thought, we could’ve easily picked up a set of perfectly matching, perfectly new frames at the mall.
But instead, we spent an hour or so searching through thousands of handcrafted, mostly century-old frames in a dusty little shop in Niles, Illinois called Antique Picture Frames, Ltd. Amazingly, these frames (and no, they don’t come with precut mats and glass) are far less expensive than the mass-production variety at Target, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. Some are nicked on the edges, no two are alike and each is a fantastic, beautifully crafted work of art in and of itself.
After rummaging around for about an hour, we picked out a half dozen and paid the owner – the son of the original owner, who lovingly restores each one. I remember Mom and myself wandering through the back room of this place years ago with the old man, not long after I graduated from high school. We picked out a silver-leafed, scalloped frame from the late 19th century for a pastel portrait I’d done.
So next time you’re heading out to Walmart for frames, think about heading to Niles first, to try this place on for size.