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Urban Archeologist: Saved From the Dumpster

Think before you toss.

 

I’m getting tired of hearing that old saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Aside from being sexist (women have trash — don’t they?), it isn’t really true. Trash is refuse, garbage, and commonly understood to be of use to no one.

It is a sad fact that we have so much stuff that we literally don’t know what to do with it. Sometimes the only way to get new stuff is to get rid of the old stuff. Why usable things end up in the trash could be caused by an aversion to tag sales, Craig’s List, and free piles, or maybe desperation.

If someone believes that everything unwanted belongs in the trash, then they really don’t know the condition our landfills are in. Nor do they see that everything has value. The best thing anyone can do is — Think before you toss. Fortunately, I have friends and neighbors and associates that think this way. For example, last week, as I returned from walking my daughter to her bus stop, I heard a faint whistle.

Walking down the road, holding what looked like a tray, was my neighbor Pete. He stepped carefully and the closer he got the more I sensed old paper. I was half right. Cradled in his arms was a picture frame that was backed with a heavily acidified newspaper.

Pete is an excellent source of Danbury memories; he remembers the businesses and the colorful characters that ran them. He appreciates the past and when he sees something old that someone has become tired of, he knows what to do with it.

Pete told me how he had found the frame in a dumpster in Danbury, and while we poured over the faded ads and articles trying to determine the year, he said, “Wait, it gets better.”

Pete carefully turned the frame over to reveal the most amazing part. The painting of two cabins on a hill, but not just on any old canvas, this landscape was painted on the glass itself. (See the images in this article's gallery.)

The newsprint finally gave up a date of 1910 and the paper seems to be the Kansas City Star. The painting is incredibly vibrant for its condition. The windows shimmer thanks to clever use of mother-of-pearl.

Sadly, its days may be numbered — every turn of the frame causes flecks of paint and brown paper to fall like needles from Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree (Augh! I killed it!).

The paper has been pressed up against the glass for the better part of 100 years and is adhered to most of it. Still, it is a gem and definitely worth a rescue from the dumpster.  

So, I’ll update the old saying I started this article with to “What one abandons, another may adopt.”

Do you remember Hydrox Cookies? See if you can guess what’s wrong with this ad for the famous rival of the mighty Oreo.

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield 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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