AT Inbox: Grandfather and grandson discover a ‘time capsule’

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I found your article on time capsules (Oct. 6 edition, page 36) most interesting, but thought, Shoot! …that ain’t nothin!

As a clockmaker and piano restorer, I have many stories that I could relate concerning time capsules; but I shall relate simply one of my favorites.

I was bitten by the coin-piano bug when I was very young and my grandparents purchased me a Seeburg E. It took me almost nine months to restore it, but I loved the instrument and it gave me valuable experience in the business. My grandfather took a special interest in my hobby-business and was always looking for Style “A” music rolls.

One day he announced that we were going all the way to Chicago to pick up some music rolls (he had paid just $1 a roll). Well, we got set for the long drive and ended up in Chicago at about 1 in the morning. We checked into a hotel and got some much needed rest. The next morning, or rather the afternoon, we went to the address he had. The place was in “The Hood,” the ghetto, whatever you want to call it. It was a frightening part of town.

Well, we parked in front of an old, well-weathered five-story warehouse and knocked at the nasty-looking door. An old lady conducted us in and we followed her through a labyrinth of rooms and staircases until we were met with a gated freight elevator, which we took to the fourth floor. We followed her again to an old, damp, back room where she showed us boxes upon boxes of music rolls all sitting there since the late 1920s.

There were hundreds – 128 to be exact. My grandfather paid her and while we hauled the musty, very dusty boxes of rolls to the freight elevator she told us that there was a Speak-Easy in the basement during the 1920’s and they once had a player piano down there that played these rolls.

Well, to cut a long story short, we drove home and fell into bed. The next day, we unloaded our treasure and went through all the rolls to find the ones that we could play (the paper is very bad on these, especially the Capitols, our favorites. We used to send them in those days to Marty Reed at Play-Rite and have him and his Ma recut them). We found almost two dozen rolls that we could reasonably play, grandpa had concocted a kill switch that we held in case we had a problem. Anyway, on the third roll we saw something getting caught up on the back of the roll and the roll started to all of a sudden heave forward. Grandpa was running the kill switch and activated it immediately. We were about half way through tune No. 1. We went to inspect what was going on. We found $20, $50 and $100 bills – all marked 1928 – were the cause of our problems.
We then spent the day unrolling all the rolls to the end of the first songs on those rolls. We found what totaled exactly $17,550, all the bills marked “1928.”

We wrote the lady who sold us the rolls a letter and stuffed half the money in an envelope and mailed it to her. She sent it back!!!

My grandfather is dead, but we always believed the money was somehow related to the Speak-Easy.

All that money has been long spent, except for one clean, crisp $20 bill. Who knows? But because that money was wrapped up in those rolls, the air never hit it and it was just like new. I remember spending those 1928 bills with Grandpa at Kohl’s and other places and the checkers would ask, “Do you know that this is 1928?” Yeah, we knew, but they weren’t worth much in those days. ?

Grüß, Karl Schröder
 München, Bayern / Princeton, USA

Holly Hobbie is, indeed, a real person

Holly HobbieThanks for printing my letter on Holly Hobbie (July 28, page 7). Karen M. Reilly is either having fun with us or seriously mistaken.  Enclosed is a newspaper article and picture of Holly Hobbie. There is a more recent newspaper article about her, but I don’t have it scanned. There is also a biography/autobiography with her name on it called “The Art of Holly Hobbie: Drawing on Affection,” printed in 1986, which has many signed drawings of hers. I wrote a story about her for Doll Castle News, in 2005. I’m a retired history professor and I always research diligently for anything I write. I got some of the information from my sister-in-law’s younger sister who worked at American Greetings for more than 25 years and she read the article before I submitted it to Doll Castle.

I live in Akron, Ohio, 40 miles from where American Greetings is located in a suburb of Cleveland. I have been aware of AG all my life. I’ve also attached one newspaper article with Holly’s picture. The same woman’s picture was in the book listed above and also the more recent newspaper article which was about her newer books. I did not put the part about what I think was the poor treatment she got from American Greetings in the article. ?

Polly Hackett-Morey, via email

Be careful storing vintage wristwatches in fire safes

I read the article by Grace Dobush regarding preservation of antiques and family keepsakes with great interest (August 25, page 26). I was very surprised to read her advice concerning the storing of an antique pocket watch in a fire safe.

I have a fire safe and I store winding new and old watches in it, but each watch is in a sealed plastic baggie and then placed in a Tupperware type plastic box. I also store important papers in the safe, but take the same precautions with them.

I was advised by the safe company and others that winding watches, valuable jewelry and all paper/wood products must be protected from the moisture in a fire safe or it will ruin the items. I personally know of a valuable stamp collection that was stored in a fire safe without protection and was ruined. Fires safes by their nature are very moist. They usually come with an antidessicant pack to aid in keeping the inside of the safe dry. The manufacturer advises that safes should be opened once a week to air-out.

Placing a watch in a cotton pouch in a fire safe will attract even more moisture because of the cotton fabric. Fire safes do their job, but owners should be aware of the negatives and take the necessary precautions when using them.

I hope the reader with her great-great-great grandmother’s watch will be advised to change her storage method before the watch is ruined. ?

Sheila Brudno
via email


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