Saturday, March 29, 2008

My House Has Secrets.....

Old homes are ripe for the picking when it comes to mining treasures from the past. One of the things that is the most fascinating to me is the demolition process and the surprises contained under the facade of the present day. They have been here all along, covered by dirt, time, and miles and miles of ugly wallpapers. We did not uncover a lot of new treasures under the horsehair plaster in our living room, if fact I can show you both small treasures with this photo:

An old fashioned fish hook and the tiny cover to a jar of Mentholatum. Will you look at the line on that fish hook? It appears to be a woven cotton cording made many years before the invention of nylon lines. I'll bet the trout heard that hook hit the water a mile away! I wonder how it ended up in the horsehair plaster? Do you suppose the plasterer (plasterman?) leaned over the bucket to stir it and didn't notice the fishhook fall from his pocket?
I am going to share other more interesting finds from a few years ago when we renovated the bathroom. We had to tear the floor out because moisture had rotted most of the floor boards. What we found beneath that floor still amazes me to this day.
Apparently they used any papers they had handy to line the layers between the floorboards and keep the cold air from seeping through. Our first find was this still beautiful postcard:

If you can't read the verse, this is what is says:
"Home to his nest the swift gray gull is winging
Through the still dusk I hear the sailors song.
Night to the weary rest from toil is bringing,
Wilt thou be long."
Here is the back of the card. I can't make out anything that it says, but the stamp looks like I could peel it off and use it again today, it wouldn't take my postcard far, would it?
The next small treasure was a ticket to the fair, dated 1896. It took you from Augusta Maine to the fair and back, but you had to pay your own admission. I wish I could see what they got to ride on, perhaps a horse drawn carriage led by 4 Belgian draft horses carrying 20 or more fairgoers? Or perhaps the Narrow Gauge railroad that passed this way many many years ago? I wonder...
You know how when you pay for your groceries the printed receipt has ads on the back? Well I guess that is a very old custom, as you can see on the back of the ticket was an ad for the East Side Drug Store. I wonder what he had to pay for that ad, a dime? The next small treasure is a recipe. My first thought was that it was cut out from the electric bill. Oops, I guess not. Homes were not wired for electricity until 1920 or later, I guess that explains why the rolls require a "brisk" oven. How many sticks of wood would you use to get your oven up to "brisk"? Four? Needless to say that explains why there is no oven temperature given. Closer examination reveals that it was most likely an insert from the "Magic Yeast" carton.
The best find of all was a nearly complete newspaper dated Monday, February 17, 1896. It was the local paper from Augusta Maine, the one I read all my years of growing up. But reading this paper was like reading the news from another planet! Here is an example of some of the BIG NEWS of the day:And the news in Hallowell is even more fascinating:I wasn't lucky enough to have a column labeled "Gossip" when I was growing up, but will you just look at the juicy bits from this column! I certainly am glad they found a way to can "short" lobsters without hindrance! And what do you suppose "hard sledding" is? Something like rough sailing? Oh, those contemptible Bath people!
And here is more gossip: The first bit could have been written this year. And the second bit? State officials need to take notice, what a clever way to reduce the population in our overcrowded jails! Here is an example of one of the columns contained therein: WELL, THIS IS A QUEER WORLD. Catchy title, don't you think? My favorite part of the paper has got to be the advertisements though. LOOK! Big news! A shipment of sauerkraut has arrived in the City of Augusta! Get out your party clothes Momma we're celebrating tonight! Look at the ad for chewing tobacco: It is the largest piece of GOOD tobacco ever sold for 10 cents! I wonder what the largest chunk of bad tobacco cost, a nickel? It kind of strikes a cocky pose, don't you think? This ad, hmmm. I woudn't comment on this with a ten foot pole. Just, well, hmmmn. These ads are good, but the best ads are the ones that let you see how far we have come in the field of medicine in the past 112 years.
There was a wonderful healer coming to town, one who made the blind see and the deaf hear. He cured cancer or there was no charge. Wow. They had a cure for worms in your children, this household remedy was over 44 years old in 1896, it must have been a big problem. YUCK! If your problem was not worms, then Johnson's Linament cured nearly everything else, AND, it was pleasant to take when dropped on sugar! (Same could be said of arsenic...)

There seemed to be another more rampant epidemic that year, though. Something that hit nearly every household, and half the newspaper ads had to be dedicated to solving this particular problem. Something that made the moustache of every man affacted droop to his chin and made the ladies cry. People, we are talking about MALE IMPOTENCE! But there were remedies galore: There was NEW LIFE: (It also cured insanity, lassitude and Night Losses. NIGHT LOSSES??????) There were Nerve Seeds for Weak Men! Complete with illustrations demonstrating moustache improvement in 1, 10, 20 and 40 days!
There was Lost Manhood:But the best cure of all has to be............. SEX-INE PILLS! (Today we call it Viagra...)

Will you just look at all those moustaches perking back up? What do you suppose made these guys so desirous of perky moustaches? Perhaps Mr. Wonderful Healer above needs a dose, what do you think?
And there were some products for the ladies too, like Belladonna Plaster...

Do you think this ad is terribly erotic or is it just me? Hmmn...
But I have saved the best "under the bathroom floor" find for last. This was an announcement from a local church concerning a certain club the Pastor was trying to round up some young girls to join. Here it is:

We have always gotten a good chuckle from this one.
Well, that ends my show of "Treasures From The Past" for today. I hope you enjoyed seeing them!


blueheron91 said...

Great post, Darlene! Thanks so much for sharing your house's deep dark secrets....

Daybreak*Dawning said...

Out here in the wild wild west we don't have much that is old, but in the bigger cities like Seattle and Portland in the original neighborhoods, you are quite likely to wake up and find a deep hole in your back yard...folks rustling old bottles out of the former outhouse pits or family garbage pits.
Thanks for sharing!