Monday, April 19, 2010

Ghosts in the Walls

Work continues in fits and starts on the Castle5000 bedroom remodel, and recently we tore out some crappy built-in bookshelves to replace them with, hopefully, better built-in bookshelves.

Whenever you open up the walls in an old house, you have good odds of finding little items that, although commonplace enough, are rendered mysterious by where you've happened to find them.

Houses often change their shapes over the course of their lives. Amateur home archeologists that Mrs.5000 and I are, we were intrigued to find three layers of wallpaper, one painted over, on a surface that hasn't been exposed for decades.

This game piece for Reversi, or perhaps Othello, must have fallen through a crack sometime in the last 40 years. Who lost it? When? Did it ruin their day, or did they not even notice it was missing?

A playing card, folded in quarters. It's the three of diamonds, which seems like an inauspiciously weak card to draw from behind the walls.

A broken part of a cheap, militaristic toy airplane. "Made in Hong Kong," as was so much toy trash of the 1960s and 1970s.

And then, along with an old battery, broken paint brushes, two pennies, a safety pin, and other minor items: a strip of negatives. Remember negatives? They were a kind of intermediary between film cameras and the prints that you would pick up from the store, back when you would sometimes see your pictures weeks or even months after you pushed the button. This has, quietly, been one of the more profound changes to everyday life during my adulthood, so it was fun to take the negatives across the street to the drugstore, just like in the old days.

What came back are pictures of children engaged in wholesome-looking educational activities.

We can determine, to our disappointment, that none of the photos were taken in Castle5000. Did the children live here, though? Or were they dear to someone who did?

These kids might be anywhere from 25 to 50 today, although 35 to 45 seems like a reasonable guess based on the vintage their surroundings. There is no date on the film, and no clues to their connection to the house. They could be anyone, in a sense, and they could be anywhere.

If you happen to BE one of these children, please check in. We're curious.


Elaine said...

Looks a bit like a Montessori preschool; perhaps the teacher lived in the house.

I am guessing that the playing card was used as a shim.

Kind of cool to see your collection!

Michael5000 said...

Yeah, we thought there was a Montessori je nais se quoi going on in the pictures too. Playing card as shim is good; we hadn't thought of that.

margaret said...

Ooh, I LOVE finding artifacts. Dunno if it's true, but my building crew said it's a tradition in their trade to hide a bottle of whiskey (cheap) somewheres in the walls. At least that's what they did here (somewhere). Cheers!

Elaine said...

We stripped the lath and plaster walls in our Cincinnati 'shotgun' house--almost 1/4" of wallpaper/paint layers--and repaired the cracks. Behind the mantel I found a memorial card for a sailor, surname Stoneking, who died at 19 at Portsmouth Naval Yard (training accident? fire?)... very sad. (These are often still shared at Roman Catholic funeral masses in Cincinnati.) And in the basement, there was a 'paint cupboard' that I disassembled and hauled up the steps (think, 'slide down my cellar door') and find it was a solid walnut wardrobe minus its bottom and top pedestals, but with 1" thick walnut shelves inside. It still looks fabulous.

sister jen said...

You should consider sending these to up their alley.

HOW does all this stuff get into walls? How is it that walls are that get-into-able? Fascinating.

Michael5000 said...

@margaret: No whiskey to date, unfortunately.

@Elaine: When Mrs.5000 was still Girlfriend5000, I tore out a closet in her entryway to find that it was mostly made from 2x4s and pressboard 1950s or 1960s signs advertising Rainier, a regional beer up in these parts. It wasn't solid walnut, but it was interesting!

@Sis: In this case, the back of the built-in was a fairly thin and flexible board with widely-gapped studs behind it. That created a crack at the bottom where stuff could fall through. The other MAJOR trove of stuff we've found is behind built-in drawers, where stuff probably just fell out into the open space.

We also put new stuff into walls; whenever we have a wall open I usually leave a note or just write on a surface what we are doing and when for the amusement of Castillians of the future.

Jenners said...

OH MY GOD ... why are you publishing photos of me and my friends????????


Weird stuff to find in the walls.
And only you would develop these!

UnwiseOwl said...

There are very few people who find negatives and develop them just because they can...were you looking for something dirty? Perhaps that's why you haven't shown us all of the photos.

Michael5000 said...

Huh. I know y'all's joking, but I would expect most anybody with an old house to wonder about who had lived there before and to jump at any mysterious photos that showed up. I was mostly hoping that the pictures would be from inside the house, and that we would be able to see what the rooms looked like back in the day.

Rebel said...

Have you ever watched Amelie? I think you need to try to hunt down those children and return their photos to them. =)

Michael5000 said...

Just what I need! Another project!