Friday, August 2, 2013

The Charlie Story

My friend Sue has been in my life for decades. Many. Decades. We have more things in common than not. We both live in century homes, were Girl Scout leaders together, have kids the same age; well then, I went and had 5 more. Our boys were in Boy Scouts together, and we went family camping. Our love for saving old things is almost competitive, and, on the 'couldn't save' front, our husbands, Charlie and Howard, died a year apart from each other.

For years Sue has thrown me life preservers, not actual, more in the form of life-lines when I was in crisis. When I was out of work, she suddenly needed her house cleaned every two weeks. When one of the kids terminated a car because of a rash move by Bambi, she lent me the money to get another. Periodically, she parted with items that belonged to her parents for me to sell on Craigslist, when my cash flow became constipated.

A few weeks ago, she brought over a bunch of wooden boxes, a manual key-maker, some old tools and cookie cutters, to do with as I liked. She also dropped off Charlie's father's tool box that he used at the steel mill for me to restore. His name was also Charles, but at work they called him 'Chuck' and that was the name stamped on the front of the chest.  Most of the items found new homes (taxes were due), but I especially liked working on the boxes. This is a photo taken on the day they came.

The top box looked like this in the interim, and eventually became The Miss Lucarelli Box 
(no finished photo available)

                         The second box was painted khaki and embellished with First Aid markings and sold at the show. The third box I will show you at the end.

The Yale manual key maker in its dusty glory, eventually looked like the photo below and was gobbled up at the show.

The soldering torch is decorating my garage.  It does have a very nice patina with my secret sauce, and would look very nice at your house. 

This is the "Chuck" chest when it first arrived.  If only this blog had "smellovision". Think old factory on the olfactory. 

I first cleaned the chest with several series of bleach washes with a scrub brush to get out the oil stains and unhealthy microbes because if its "eventual destination".

Note the side ledges that once held a tool tray.

Although I cannot be confused with a carpenter, I made a little tray with finger holes so little great-grandson, Charlie, can use this as a chest for Matchbox cars, Skylander games, and other important stuff.

                                          The finger hole tray was cut from an old factory pallet.

And so, a keepsake gathering dust in a basement becomes a treasure for its namesake.

Which brings me to the Third Box......

Usually, when I put my hand on an old piece of furniture, something comes to mind immediately.  It is as though the wood were speaking to me, and telling me what it wants to become.  No such happening in this case.  I knew the box could be an important addition to the Antique Show as it was more than 60 years old, but nothing was coming to me.  I NEVER just start sanding a piece without some clear inkling of a finish, but I did, start, sanding, and finding, WORDS. Names. A name. Charles Putnam. Charlie. It was Charlie's Boy Scout box. More words.  I called Sue and asked if she was busy. Of course she was.  Could she stop over when she got a minute?  Half an hour later she walked in the door.

Charles Putnam, Troop 70

B.S.A. Camp Zeke, Cleveland, O.

11800 Miles Ave.

Once held camping gear.

I told Sue that I could not sell the box. It was hers to take back and use for her house or grand-kids. I would refinish it as best I could to preserve the stenciling.


The 'Charlie' that this 'Legacy' is about, was a good man. By some standards, a great man.  He served his country in Vietnam. He named his son for a comrade who did not make it home. The war cost him more than just a friend, it gave him the illness that eventually took his life. Agent Orange was supposed to defoliate cover for the Viet Cong, but collaterally damaged everyone in the range for which it was used. When Charlie came home, he became a police officer in the poorest of neighborhoods, a profession taken up by his son, Matt. Charlie was a family guy, loyal, committed and grounded.  He's not a guy that would understand the fuss about finding something that he owned as a kid and having it restored. Just a simple man. Working a hard job so his family, and the world, would be a peaceful place.

Sometimes, steering a seemingly "one-parent" family is overwhelming, as we both know. But, it is the "what went before" that laid the groundwork for how we raise, and how we love.  Charlie, you may be no longer visible, but, you are in everything we know and touch. And, is nice to find a tangible surprise from you, once in a while, as a reminder.

As ever with love,
La Verne

1 comment:

  1. I love this restoration story LaVerne. Poignant, touching. What a wonderful keepsake for the family.