Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finding Stuff





The following is known in the trade as a "helpful visual aid".

(You may well be asking, "What trade?", but I'm not going to tell you. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that I made that opening sentence rhyme.)


View Larger Map

In the map above, zoom into Caddy Road. #14 was my house. River Street was the main drag. You've heard the cliche about living on the wrong side of the tracks? The trolley ran parallel to the river, with Dorchester on one side and the rich suburb of Milton on the other. I lived in Dorchester.

(Milton was just named the second-nicest small town to live in from the entire United States, according to Money magazine. Dorchester wouldn't make that list even if the voting was limited to residents of Dorchester. My paper route was in Milton, and that will tell you most of the difference right there. Nobody from Milton delivered papers in Milton. It was all kids from Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park, the parts of Boston that border Milton, who delivered their newspapers to them.)

To be totally honest, Caddy Road was a pretty nice street with mostly middle-class families. I wasn't living in a slum. But, if you wish to get a better feel for the neighborhood as a whole, zoom in on Sanford Street, or Wichita Terrace, or maybe Cedar Street, after you take a look at Caddy Road. You'll see that it isn't a place where rich folks congregate. Anyway, keeping with my current theme of generally pointless nostalgia, I was thinking about one of my favorite things to do when I was a kid - finding stuff - and I thought referring to the map might add to whatever scant enjoyment you're likely to have while reading this.

Be that as it may - and it might be - some things are found just because you happen to see them while you're doing something else. A few of my finds fell into that category, but I'm mostly talking about things that come under the heading of Stuff I Found While Really Actively Looking For Stuff. Now, that's not to say I was really actively looking for the specific stuff I found, but rather to say that I set out on some days with the specific goal of finding something. I started doing this because I quite often had stumbled upon found money (and not always in Milton.) It wasn't a big deal, but it was a dime here, a nickel there, sometimes a quarter, and plenty of pennies. Perhaps once a year, I'd stumble upon an actual dollar bill.

(That was always a thrill. A dollar, in those days, set up a Dorchester kid with enough money for candy and comic books for a whole weekend. And one time, when I was about 11, I found an actual twenty-dollar bill in the grassy median between The Star Market and the Arco gas station on River Street. That was spectacular. I had become the richest kid in my neighborhood in one fell swoop! I didn't worry about the cost of anything for a week. I went on a Mallo Cup and Zero Bar bender that was the equivalent of a sailor's drunken binge during a three-day shore leave. Looking back, I'm amazed I didn't go into a diabetic coma of some sort.)

Anyway, after having the thrill of finding a few coins, I started going out for walks around the neighborhood with the intent and purpose of finding things. The hope I had was to find more money, of course, but I realized that if I kept my head down and truly studied the gutters, or investigated the detritus that gathered in public driveways and cul-de-sacs, I would often find something that seemed just as valuable to a dumb kid like me.


[Image of 1965 Hawk Taylor card from HERE. If you have any 1965's sitting around gathering dust, why not go see if you can complete his quest to collect them all?]


Baseball cards and other sports-related collectibles were plentiful, although most were weather-scarred to some extent. It didn't really matter to me, though. In those days, I enjoyed baseball cards just because they were baseball cards, even if slightly damaged, and I had no notions concerning their future worth if they had been kept in pristine condition. They were mostly used to play "flipping" games with the other guys who had baseball cards. Whoever was competing would "flip', or sail, a card toward a wall. The kid whose card came closest to the wall got to keep all of the cards flipped during that round. Most preferable was a "leaner". That was when your card actually leaned against the wall in a semi-upright position. If you did that as the last player, you were the automatic winner, of course, but if you were one of the early shooters, your card now became a target, with the other kids trying to knock it down, and in order to do so, it had to be hit, and that tended to crease your card a bit. One way of gaining an advantage was to have a card that had been dipped in wax or paraffin, giving it more weight and a chance at better distance, but this was mostly considered a cheat and you might be barred from the contests if you tried it and got caught. In any case, all of these things didn't lend themselves to cards that kept their initial appearance. 

(My main fun with baseball cards was in playing imaginary baseball games with dice, as written about in The Green Sox, which you could read if you have another hour or two.)

Matchbook covers were another good find, as they always contained enticing offers. My favorites were the ones that promised a high school diploma without having to go to school, which I would have dearly loved not having to do, but I never did mail away for the details. Others asked me to send away for something, such as stamps or coins from far-off lands, so finding them was useful for igniting imaginative dreams. I did send away for some stamps once (the cost was 10 cents, as I recall) and the stamp company was true to their word in sending back a big sack of the things, but they also sent a bunch of very valuable stamps "on spec", which I didn't understand at the time meant that I would have had to pay something like fifteen dollars (a relative fortune, to a kid) to keep those. I just thought I had gotten lucky and someone at the stamp company had made a mistake in my favor. My parents set me straight and made the necessary arrangements for return of those time bombs before I ruined them and they would have had to pay..


[From HERE, where I see, by the price being asked, that collecting these would have been even more profitable, on a percentage basis, than collecting baseball cards. The matchbooks were free for the taking in those days, so it would have been pure profit. Damn. I could have been a millionaire long ago had I just saved all the seemingly useless crap I found as a kid.]

If I felt like doing something truly constructive, and not just going in for unrealistic daydreaming, I could always spend an hour collecting bottles that were returnable (after a bit of cleaning) for two-cents deposit each. Not only was I cleaning up the neighborhood, but collecting twenty-five of those gave me enough scratch for admission to the most excellent Saturday kiddie matinee at The Oriental Theater in Mattapan Square, a good five hours of entertainment value.



[From Tavern Trove, where I see that, as with the matchbooks, I would have been better off saving beer bottles rather than cashing them in for a deposit. I cashed 'em in for two cents, but now you can sell 'em for about $16. That's... let's see... a jillion percent profit, if my math is correct.]


Most of these scavenger hunts were made while walking along the streets of Dorchester, maybe investigating a few trash cans along the way if I felt adventurous enough. The best place to find bottles, though, was by the shores of the Neponset River. Teenagers who hung on the bridge, or nearby in the woods along the bank, would throw their empty beer bottles there. The teens weren't legally old enough to drink, so it wouldn't have been too smart to have a big pile of empties sitting by their side on the bridge when the cops drove by. I'm sure most of the empties ended up on the bottom of the river, but enough were on the banks to make it worth your while to explore for a few minutes. I recall one Saturday morning when Joey Santucci and I worked our way toward Mattapan Square (about a mile away by car, but a bit more by walking the river bank) with the express goal of finding enough bottles by the time we reached there to be able to go to the movies. We were successful enough to not only go to the movies (and get popcorn, besides) but also had a dime apiece left over, se we traveled home in style on the trolley instead of walking River Street.


[This is the trolley at the grade crossing on Central Avenue, my stop. Found the photo HERE.]

I could go on, telling you about finding things to eat (such as the blackberries and raspberries growing wild in the vacant lot behind the liquor store, or the peppermint that serendipitously grew by the side of my house one spring) or about the kittens Stephen Murphy and I found on the second story of the abandoned Dodge dealership on Dorchester Avenue (we found the mother cat dead in another section of the building, so we gathered up the kittens and brought them home in a box, where My Mom called the ASPCA or some such organization to help them) but... well, I guess I just now did tell you about them, so there you go!

I don't know how to end this, except to say thanks for reading and if you have a story about finding something interesting or valuable, how about sharing it with me in the comments or maybe over at your place?

Soon, with more better stuff.




36 comments:

haphazardlife said...

Nice of you, taking the kittens home...

Craig said...

More wonderful stuff, Suldog; thanks. . .

I never much cared for the Mallo Cups, but I loved the Peanut Butter Cups and the Smoothies made by the Boyer company. And of course, you remember that all of those Boyer candies came with the cardboard 'coins' in the package. Usually, it was just a penny, but you'd occasionally see the higher denominations, in decreasing frequency as the value went up, right thru quarters, half-dollars, and rarely, even a 'dollar bill'. If you collected $5 worth, you could send 'em in for a box of 10 (or was it 12?) of the Boyer candy of your choice. I can recall getting four or five of those boxes in the mail, during my childhood. . .

You and I are just old enough to remember what it was like to collect baseball cards just for the fun of it (and the stick of bubble-gum that came in the package), and not because it was gonna fund our college education. . .

Buck said...

Heh. I got burned on stamps sent "on approval" when I was eight. I also received quite a few intimidating letters from the Littleton Stamp Company threatening to take me to court, which traumatized my young ass to such an extent I NEVER forgot the company's name. But I skipped the country when my father was assigned overseas and they never found me. I think.

So... ain't GoogleEarth a wondrous thing? I've found some of my boyhood homes on GE... one such being 3 Rue Mozart in Sceaux, Seine, France... which is also where I hid out from the Littleton Stamp Company for three years. You fired off some synapses with this post, Jim.

Daryl said...

I found your blog a while back and its the best thing I've found in a long time (even with the sports)

Suldog said...

Haphazard - Yeah, the mom had been dead for a while. Not to be too graphic, but her corpse was being eaten by things. The kittens had probably been without food of any kind for days. How they survived, I don't know.

Craig - Damn! How did I forget to talk about collecting those "coins"? Oh, well. Another time, I guess.

Buck - The Littleton Stamp Company! That was the place! Damn, Buck, thanks for dredging that up from the murky depths!

Daryl - Aw, you're so nice! If you were here, I'd kiss you (or promise not to, whichever was better for you.)

Craig said...

Ohmigosh, are you guys serious? . . .

We just went thru the same damn thing with the Littleton Coin Company. 8M (age 9) saw some ad for a hodgepodge of super-interesting (if you're a 9-year-old boy) coins, for some variety of a song. He asked if he could send for it, and I thought it would be fun to introduce him to coin-collecting, which is a low-grade hobby of mine, so we told him OK. And of course, they sent their assortment of junk coins, along with a couple that an experienced collector like 8M's dad could recognize as non-junk, so we set 'em aside special. And, in due course, the bill came for $35, or something like that. So we sent back the two good coins, along with a check for $2.50 (or whatever the heck it was) to cover what 8M thought he was signing up for in the first place (and which we couldn't have sent back if we wanted to, since they were strewn all over 8M's bedroom). . .

And I told 8M that we weren't gonna be doing any more business with the Littleton Coin Company. . .

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I really should do a baseball card post someday. I remember in '77 or '78 my friend Paul and I were both trying to collect the entire Topps set. I was one card shy . . . Brewers utility man Jamie Quirk. Paul had like five of them and wouldn't trade me. I offered him Guidry, Rose, Schmidt, and two Munsons and he wouldn't do it. I finally got one, but for months he was like my version of your Bucky Dent.

Jamie F-ing Quirk.

silly rabbit said...

Great memories! I still love Cup'O Gold, but they are getting harder to find.

Once I found a nice quality garnet ring. My mother made me put an ad in the newspaper. Being a kid, I imagined a great reward. When an elderly lady came to claim it, I was so excited that I could hardly stand it. My reward? A kiss on the cheek from the old gal. Need I say that I was not thrilled?
But that night, my dad gave me a crisp five dollar bill as a reward for my honesty. That was waaaay more like it.

Kat said...

I didn't hear much after the mention of the Mallo Cups. I'm afraid I was a bit distracted.
Drooling.
Mmmm. Mallo Cups. The best!


Your adventures sounds much like my neighbor boy and I when we were little. We always went down to the beach searching for "something". One time when we went to the quarry to go swimming I found $5. SUCH a great day. :)

Suldog said...

Knucks - The only collection I ever truly tried to complete was the '65 Topps, and that's because I got an amazing head start on it when my buddies in the neighborhood gave me a whole shoebox of them when I was sick one week. They had found that shoebox of them in the trash somewhere, so it goes right with this story (and is also mentioned in the "Green Sox" story linked here.) Never did complete it, although I spent loads of nickels on fresh packs of them after I got better. Oh, well. Had I completed the set, and then had My Mom toss them out, it would have been even more of a bummer than it was when she tossed the incomplete set some years later (but I know you're reading this, Mom, and I love you anyway!)

Suldog said...

SR - Isn't that usually the way? We build up these grandiose dreams of huge rewards and get dragged back to reality when the exchange actually occurs. No doubt she would have given you something if she could have afforded it, and you made her happy. In the long run, that's the good thing, right?

Suldog said...

Kat - I had trouble writing while I was thinking of the Mallo Cups!

i beati said...

Did your mother ever hear of the GRace Shopping plan - $1.00 per week to buy something great like a pressure cooker, pots and pans, mixer?

Suldog said...

i beati - No, we didn't have that, at least that I know of. But we did have "lay away" plans at places like Gilchrist's, where you picked out something from the shelves, brought it up to a service desk, and had them hold it for you while you made small weekly payments. Once you paid it off, you took it home!

messymimi said...

Ah, the things we should have kept, had we but known.

Great post.

Red Hamster said...

When I was little, every city block was bisected by an alley...those alleys were marvelous places to find "stuff". On trash day, my best girlfriend and I would make our way down several blocks of alleys, picking through everyone's trash.

One time we found a big, gleaming half-shell of an abalone. We thought it was a gorgeous, exotic treasure; our mothers thought the shell had been someone's disgusting ashtray. I'm sure I would be appalled today by some of the "stuff" we dragged home from our neighbor's trash barrels.

lime said...

another fun remembrance of times gone by. i don't remember specifically going looking for stuff or any particularly great finds but i have a child who was a looker/finder. from toddlerhood until about age 9 any time we went out she'd come back with pockets stuffed full of what she referred to as her "treasure." it usually consisted of price tags that had fallen off garments or an occasional button bag. one find she was terrifically excited about was a flip chart of numbers used for price displays.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I grew up in Milton, and several of my friends were paperboys and our paperboys when times were good enough to afford to have the paper delivered were always local.

Then again, we lived in the two-family houses section of town right down the street from Mattapan Square.

Many was the time that I walked home from The Ten Pin rather than to Fields Corner for lack of the quarter fare to get to Ashmont and the 'free' trolley. :D

ethelmaepotter! said...

Know what I found? All the houses on Caddy Road were pretty much just alike. Yeah. I not only zoomed, but I also took the street tour.

We found a dead mama bat one time, with babies under her wings. Our neighbor made us go home while he "took care of it." I was so naive, I actually thought he was going to bring the mama back to life and set them free.

We never had to find kittens, though - they always found us. Honestly, I think cats have some sort of secret network and know where they can go for a warm bed and free meals...for the rest of their lives.

I liked this post. Made me think.

Suldog said...

Hamster - You reminded me of when I had a job with the City Of Boston Department of Public Works. I swept three alleys and the surrounding main streets for one summer. In one alley I was sweeping - and I mean literally sweeping, with a push broom - I looked over at a trash can and saw something gleaming. I walked over, and there was a set of 1969 coins - penny to half-dollar - enclosed in plastic, sitting on top of the rubbish. The plastic has a crack in it, but the coins were still there. Only in a rich section of the city of Boston would people throw out money because the container it was in was cracked! I took it home; still have it.

Suldog said...

Anonymous - I hope you didn't take offense. Anyone who lived in my area, or in yours, would obviously know that not every single person in Milton was/is rich. I exaggerated for some comic effect, of course. Thanks for stopping by!

Suldog said...

Mimi, Lime - Thanks for the kind words. I don't have anything of value to add, but I'd feel bad if I didn't acknowledge your visits!

(I'm in the mood to answer comments these days. You've been coming here for a long time, so you know how haphazard I can be in that respect. Enjoy it while you can!)

Suldog said...

Ethel Mae - Hah! Very true. They were even more alike when I was growing up. They've gained some small measure of individuality as the years have passed. To the best of my knowledge, the whole street was carved out of some woods in about 1953, with identical housing built primarily for returning Korean War vets. Each house is a duplex - two families having one side of the house apiece (which meant two bedrooms, living room, kitchen.) That's why I suggested looking at the surrounding streets, as they contain much older buildings in various states of disrepair (and some charm in that, too!)

Thanks so much for stopping by and thinking!

Michelle H. said...

The Overlord found a quarter on the street just the other day. We were walking from the Dollar store. She spat out her pacifier on the street. I bent over to pick it up and there was a quarter sitting right there.

I remember the Sunday comics and the part where it was sort of a science section. Kids would send in their questions, and the comic science expert would tell you how it worked or what it was made of.

Anyway, I sent in a bunch of questions with my sister, and one of ours was picked. They were suppose to send us something through the mail, something like a t-shirt or baseball cap. We never did get it. Seems you had better luck with the matchbook and stamps.

Bazooka Joe gum did the same thing, but offered only if you collected enough bubble gum wrappers and sent them in. Did that and asked for... I forget. They sent me a letter, saying the item was out of stock and they would send a replacement gift. Never got that too. I always wondered what they did with those wrappers. Probably reused them.

Suldog said...

Michelle - You got gypped!

(That's what we called it in our neighborhood when you were supposed to get something and didn't. We also said you got rooked. As we became older, the expressions took on a more scatological nature, as you might imagine.)

The Overlord is off to a great start. I'd save that pacifier. It might have magic money-finding abilities!

Michelle H. said...

I think it's the Overlord who might have those abilities. On days where she is happy, things are good. On days where she is upset, things aren't so good.

Case in point: I took her to get her 6-month vaccinations. She was cranky, tired and upset from the shots and long wait. I went to pick up a prescription from the store, thought I stuck the money in my pocket, and walked out. The money fell out somewhere.

Uncle Skip, said...

Gee - I might make a similar claim about delivering newspapers in a different community from where I lived. The irony is that all I had to do was cross the street that runs by the house... about 40 feet. The downside was that the kids over there wanted to know why I didn't deliver in my own neighborhood... they were assweasels. The parents weren't so bad, though. I made out like gangbusters at Christmas.

Jeni said...

Hmmm. One thing I never gave much thought to as a kid was delivering newspapers -probably because two families here in town kind of seemed to have claimed the rights to selling/delivering the local newspaper and also The Grit! But I was heavily involved in other sales -Cloverine Brand Salve was one and the other was selling greeting cards and stationery products!
As to collecting, when I had a bit of cash (very rare) I was into buying mallo cups though -for two reasons -I liked 'em a lot and also, to collect those coins and redeem them after what seemed an interminable length of time to acquire the amount needed for that!
My best friend and I did go through a period when we gathered up stones to make up what we thought to be a fantastic rock collection -which in retrospect, I think was more a collection of different sized pieces of gravel -and another summer, we were into collecting insects for a project I think that was with our 4-H group. That was probably the last time I willingly tried to catch and actually TOUCH any insect that was alive at the time! ICK!

connie/mom said...

Thanks, Jim. I just finished the last of my guilt sessions. Now I'll have to sign up for more!!!

When we were little Aunt Jeanne and I found a huge box of jelly doughnuts behind a bakery. We brought them home and kept them under our bed and had a midnight snack every day for over a week. We were lucky I guess. They could have been thrown out because a container of rat poison spilled into them or something.

As an adult, just recently I picked up a lottery ticket, on a whim, in the parking lot of Rite Aid. It had not been fully scratched and when I scratched it it was worth $50. Top that one!!!

Suldog said...

(Not My) Uncle Skip - That was absolutely the best time of year to be a paperboy! Getting the Christmas tips - and the folks in Milton were not parsimonious - was great!

Suldog said...

Jeni - Jeni - You've reminded me of my time selling greeting cards door-to-door (and maybe for the same firm you worked for? I can't recall the name - maybe "Cheerful Greeting Card Co.", which is ever so much nicer than the "Extremely Gloomy Greeting Card Co.")

I do believe you've given me my next writing assignment! Thanks!

Suldog said...

Mom - All guilt you feel is strictly unintended on this author's part. Trust me on that.

(I didn't tell about the "fallout candy". Do you remember that? Another story to tell...)

Congrats on the lottery ticket! All of them I look at - including those I buy - are worthless.

(No, I take that back. I remember you buying me one when one year I was short of Christmas cash, and it was worth $100! A true blessing, and I thank you again!)

Clare Dunn said...

It always makes me happy to drop in here and read your 'stuff'.

Thanks, Sul!

xoxoxo, cd

Kathryn Magendie said...

Welp, I found a cat's skull right after I was writing about finding a cat's skull in my novel - in the novel the cat was named Mr. Shitters, so now I have a Mr. Shitter skull hanging up on the outside of my little log house -- and joining it now is Coon Skull which may have been old Boo BoO the coon, or it could have been the skull of the coon whose head sat on the side of the road with a cap of jaunty snow on its head.

Huhn. The wonders of life.

Teehehee

Suldog said...

Clare - Thanks! Always a pleasure to see that you've been here!

Kat - Yikes! Your finds are more gruesome than mine! I mean, Hawk Taylor's stats are pretty gruesome, but nothing compared to cat and coon skulls!

Mich said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA I did the stamp thing too!! I've never met anyone else who's ordered from the pack of matches...