Stuff We Found On The Way

The things people use for bookmarks! Besides the bookmarks themselves, which are sometimes so complex that once we take them out of the book we can’t figure out how to use them again, we’ve found plane tickets, credit card receipts, recipes, pressed flowers, once a love note, prayer cards, sheets of stamps, four fifty dollar bills (the Book Fair budget wasn’t very big that year, so we spent it on tape and Mylar bags), an insurance bill from 1973 with the check written to pay it, and a campaign ribbon for Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin (pasted in, doggone it).

We found a schedule for the rerouting of subway trains for the coronation of George VI, a bookmark for the Scottish Widows’ Fund, and a very thin silver necklace. (I’m not counting in this context the book safes we sometimes get in with treasures still hidden inside. That’s another blog.)

People read on the bus, too, so we’ve had hundreds of bus transfers from the days when such things were long and decorative, sometimes with poems on the back or rules for customer conduct. We get plenty of Christmas cards and birthday cards, of course, and I am preserving the Alcoholics Anonymous book which contains a picture of a very over-served woman at a party. Was this her own reminder of why she was using the book?

And photos, lots of photos, though never yet anything worthy of being used in blackmail. (I used to watch all unmarked videocassettes, in case it was somebody’s really private home movies. The most private material I ever ran across involved a young man crawling around a swimming pool, completely nude. Of course, as his mother’s voice noted in the background, he was ten months old at the time. The only really pornographic videos came in with misleading labels on them, but that’s another blog, too.)

Once we were given a collection of books from a family which had, for a century, spent not one thin dime on photo albums. All the family photos were stuck into books on the family bookshelves, apparently at random. Here was somebody’s collie in 1952, here was somebody’s company baseball team in 1908, here was a kid blowing out a birthday cake in 1967. I turned up twenty books in this collection, and approximately 600 photos stuck between the leaves.

They’d gotten a receipt, so I had their phone number. I called and asked about the collection.

“Oh, rats,” said the woman who answered. “We thought we’d pulled all those. No, keep them. We have plenty.”

Thought they’d pulled all those? If they had overlooked 600, how many did they start with?

Maybe the answer is these old empty scrapbooks I sometimes get. I can fill them with this stuff at random, make up captions, and sell them on eBay. Scrapbooking as an abstract art form? Love it.

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