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The Tentacle


January 27, 2005

Bargain Basement

Jason Grabill

Well, the move to the new house continues apace. Or, as fast as it can go, with all the permitting, weather issues, money issues, and whatnot. And, naturally, it's the time of year when the entire family is sick from one form of croup, catarrh, flu, or other unknown disease brought home from school.

Having kids in every level of the school system lets us enjoy the benefits of all kinds of various and sundry diseases, and this year, we've had 'em all.

Regardless, we've been tossing stuff out left and right. I've got three huge hefty bags of kid's clothes alone heading for charity. It's amazing the amount of sheer crap one family collects.

Actually, I shouldn't say that, since I'm the biggest offender. You see, for the past 30 years or so, I've been a militaria collector. I've been gathering up military stuff since I was about nine years old or so and never stopped. When I was younger, my Dad and I would go to all the different flea markets and yard sales in Frederick, and pick up what we could. People gave my Dad stuff as well, including German helmets they'd brought back from World War II.

(By the way, if anyone has any military stuff they want to get rid of......by all means, let me know!)

So, the basement is full, the cellar is full, and my "office" (formerly this residence's formal living room) is also full. I've hauled out about 10 truckloads of stuff so far, and a dent has been made - but not nearly enough of one to make this move any easier.

My long suffering wife, Anna, has declared she is going "minimalist" at the new place; nothing that is non-functional allowed. She's been tossing "dust catchers" and "stuff that's been sitting around we never use" for the past two months. Thankfully, she's given the basement over to me - for "The Collection" as it's known.

The point of all this is, you'd be amazed what folks toss into the trash. I've been known to hop into a dumpster or two in my quest for bargains! And, I've been lucky; I've found not only military items to add to the collection, but old books, a truckload of magazines from the 60's (literally, a truckload), and everything in between.

I once recovered a stack of books on early rocket science, from one of the early pioneers of space flight. They ended up on EBay, but it was better than being turned into pulp, I thought.

Some of the saddest things, though, I think I've "recovered," have been the military uniforms, once proudly worn by our veterans. I've found complete WWII uniforms, lovingly kept in a closet by the veteran, only to be tossed to the curb or into the dumpster, still in the plastic bags or footlockers, by relatives or unknowing family. To me, that's history!

In one of the military chat groups I belong to on the Internet, a fellow recently told us he'd rescued a metal footlocker on its way to the recycle bin, on the back of a truck. He gave the driver $20 for the footlocker, which was locked. Inside were the complete uniforms of an officer who served with the 88th "Blue Devils" Division in Italy in WWII, along with his personal papers, a diary, medals, and letters. All of this now resides in this gentleman's personal collection.

Now, I know "you can't keep everything - as I've been told on numerous occasions by family. But, I'm a sucker for a good story and a sentimental sort to boot. So, I'll keep my eyes open for those lost treasures, even though I already am working on a basement full. It never fails, though, I always blunder into another truckload of stuff when I'm in the middle of a move. My wife just rolls her eyes. "Where are you gonna put that??!!" is usually the nicer of what's said.

Ah, well. I'm hoping that come spring, when the birds are singing and everything is turning green, I'll be finally moved in, and can go back to hitting the yard sales for more military treasures! After all, I've got a basement to fill....

In the meantime.Stay Low!



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