The Box

Back in the ’60s, (I’m not exactly sure of the year, but my Mom probably remembers), she bought my Dad a treasure chest jewelry box. Why, no one’s quite sure, as my Dad wasn’t very big on jewelry and truth be told, they hadn’t been married long and they didn’t have much between ’em. As I recall, Dad had a watch, his wedding band, a couple of tie tacks and a recently-gotten pair of cufflinks. But, I guess Mom saw an opportunity to get him something cool, so he could keep it all in one place.

That box was pretty common back then. The kind of thing you could get at Gertz. Or Stern’s. Or at A&S or Gimbels. (Getting the picture? This thing outlasted all those department stores and a number of others.) You would see them on display in store windows, with spiffy rings and baubles jewelers and other shopkeepers were hawking.

That box was a fixture on my Dad’s dresser for as long as I could remember. Inside? Well, most of its contents never moved. Oh, sure, his wedding ring and watch went in and out of the same compartments, but otherwise? If he got a watch (as he did from the bank one year), it would find a spot in the bottom compartment. Cufflinks sort of went out of vogue. He had an American flag tie tack I remember him wearing a couple of times, but tie tacks and tie bars? They didn’t stay trendy long beyond the ’80s.

Old Subway Token

Old Subway Token

In the bottom compartment, I remember Dad having some mementos. A ticket to see the ’69 Mets. Ticket stubs for the reopening of Yankee Stadium after the big renovation in (if I remember right) the mid-1970s. A stub from the Rangers vs. Russians game from the 1975 matchup at Madison Square Garden against Red Army One. A subway token with the punched out Y. Oh, and of course, extra ChapSticks. He always had extra ChapSticks in there. We used to joke over the years about what we wanted when my parents passed. We’d be sitting around in the lanai after Mom and Dad moved to Florida, having a holiday dinner, talking about “dividing up the inheritance.” Dad would usually mention it after someone questioned what Mom had paid for a particular Christmas decoration, and so it would go. Who’d get the coffee can filled with pennies he and Mom had used for card nights over at my Aunt and Uncle’s? Who’d get the collection of silver dollars
still stored in a glass jar from back in the mid-’60s.Who’d get the Monet?

Me? I wanted the box. That was it. Even now when we joke around, I tell my Mom not to leave anything but bills. I don’t need anything, I don’t want anything. Neither does my sister. Nothing more than her to have fun while she’s still here and not to worry about leaving anything behind.

Old Jewelry Box

This vintage jewelry box is just like my Dad’s.


The box? By the 1980s, you could find them for $5 at flea markets. They’d become kitsch. So many were made, I believe, that despite the cool design that had made it iconic, it wasn’t enough to impress anyone any more. But even back then, I didn’t have much jewelry or wear much. A herringbone chain with a hockey mask charm on it from my Aunt Rae. Dad’s old signet ring. A pocket watch I bought, hell, I can’t even remember where. Didn’t matter, though. Someday? I’d get the box. And then it would grace my dresser, as it had Dad’s. I wasn’t in any rush.

Fast forward to 2012. Dad passed away. Like zombies, we went through getting done what needed to be done. Arrangements. His cremation. His blowout memorial service at Pine Lakes. Relatives in town. Going through his closet. Donations. And so on. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that my Mom started bringing up what me and my sis, and the grandkids, might want. And, she went through a laundry-list of things. None of which any of us really wanted to cover just then. Plus, it wasn’t like we needed to go through his stuff. It was Mom’s, after all. Besides pictures and maybe things of sentimental value???

So, I mentioned the box. Now, remember. I’m blind. Haven’t seen the thing, at the time, in probably 15 years, 10 of which were due to sightlessness. Which was when I found out.

“What? His jewelry box? That thing’s gone. It’s been gone for years.”

Gone? I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t understand it, is more like it. Why? What had happened? Had it finally fallen apart after 50 or so years in service?

Nope. Apparently, no one ever thought I was serious about it.

Sometime either right before my parents moved down to FL, or right after, it got donated. Goodwill or Kiwanis or Salvation Army is my guess.  Last Christmas, I asked Pam to go on eBay and find me one. I mean, these things were mass-produced. They were never very expensive. I was sure she could find one someone was getting rid of for a couple of bucks.

Pictured, is what my sister finally located online. And, it’s the box all right, albeit a little bigger model. Right down to the side chains, the little embellishments, and the metal hasp. Same interior lift-out tray, same compartments, pretty much the same everything. Wasn’t $5 bucks, either, but I guess maybe I’m not the only sentimental fool out there trying to track down 50 year old kitsch for reasons beyond nostalgia.

Wish I’d known at the time Dad was going to get rid of the original. He’d have given it to me in a heartbeat if he’d known I was serious about wanting it. As for the contents? Maybe I might see if Mom still has some ticket stubs around. She doesn’t get rid of much. She’s already given me one of his watches, and one of my nephews another.

Me? I’ve already gotten a head start. You can’t go wrong having an extra ChapStick sittin’ around.
* * * * * * * * * *
Currently listening to: “Under the Milky Way Tonight” by The Church

It’s finally here!

Well, depending on when you read this, it’s either about to be here or perhaps it’s already winding down. Still, you can imagine my excitement every October as Halloween rolls around.

There’s some video up on my channel, from previous Halloweens, and one of the big complaints has always been: How can you scare little kids?! My position on it is, and has always been: If I’m giving out free candy? You gotta earn it. You get scared? You get scared. It isn’t the end of the world.

That said, reminds me of a great Halloween we had when I worked for the Valley Stream Parks Department, and ran their haunted house walk-through attraction. Good times, that event. Me, Erin, Rich, Kevin, Clara, my sis, Joanne, and undoubtedly people I’m forgetting. But anyway, on to the story.

We’ve got this walk-thru set up, with “hallways” formed out of black tablecloths strung over wires, black lights and a lot of neon creepyness, and a couple of cool scares. Rich’s severed head on a dining platter-and how he’d open his eyes and talk, or shriek, or beg for help. Tommy T, in one of my fright masks, “caged” behind a cell made of dowels and 2x4s, painted to look like steel. Somebody in the casket with the fake floor I built, waiting for me to close the lid, so suddenly an empty casket would fly open to expose the hidden ghoul inside. Cheap thrills, but effective.and fun.
So this one Halloween, I’m guiding, and a group of young adults want to walk through. Wasn’t our first older group, and I sure as heck didn’t mind. They were all about 20, and one guy’s girlfriend was, to be honest, a bitch.

“This ain’t scary. This isn’t gonna be scary. I’m not gonna get scared by a bunch of kids,” and so on. To be fair, I could understand why her boyfriend was with her. She was not hard on the eyes. If she had been a mute, I might’ve envied him. But alas, she wasn’t, and so we began, with her commenting negatively about everything.

The coffin got her a little. I sold it dramatically, asked her to get close so she could see what was inside, and threw the lid up fast. She jumped, saw it was empty, and made some snarky remark. Then I slam the lid, she jumps, and BANG! Knowing what was going on, whoever was inside (still trying to remember) throws up that lid and howls.

Score one for the good guys.

We move on. Get to my old dining room table with the leaf pulled out, the tablecloth cut, and Rich’s head sticking out through the platter. He, too, has heard the approaching group and knows what’s up. She jumps again, and now wants out.

So, we meander on past Tommy, who’s got his back against the wall in the “cell”, not moving. That doesn’t really get her (of course), and even I don’t know what Tommy’s planning. But we continue, and go on to the end. Kinda. The group passes my sister, standing by the side exit door (which is hidden behind a 5′ hanging skeleton). Sis offers them candy from the cauldron, as we move on to the door marked EXIT. Which.isn’t. It’s actually the door to a broom closet. So I bid the group good-bye, Little MissCan’t-Be-Scared opens the door, and Kevin Wallace, who hadda be at least six-one, maybe even six-two, jumps out, wearing a different mask, in my full black oilskin duster, wielding a running chainsaw. Before she can back away, Tommy has crawled out of the cage, and is half-hidden by fog from my fog machine. He groans, and lunges, trying to grab the chick’s leg.

Can you say: “Gotcha!”

That chick hit the door by my sis so hard I’m surprised she didn’t break her arm. The skeleton went flying. She disappears out into the parking lot screaming like someone just cut off her finger with a pruning shear. Outside, parents and kids are watching this woman run off.and not stop.

Hysterics. Little Miss Can’t-Be-Scared’s boyfriend comes up, throws his arm around my shoulder, catches his breath long enough to thank me, and swears he’s just had the best Halloween ever.
Okay, so we take a break to reset. As I’m going past the table with Rich’s head sticking through it, someone points out a sizeable puddle on the floor. We check. No, the fog machine isn’t leaking. No, there’s no point-of-origin for this mystery fluid. Hmnnn.

You wanna talk success? I’m sure the folks out at McKamey Manor in San Diego are familiar with mopping up piss, but for a rag-tag group like us to pull off a scare that caused some woman to wet herself?

Not sure, but just may have been one of my best Halloweens ever, too!



Currently listening to: Spellbound by Siouxsie and the Banshees