Saturday, November 07, 2009

Weekend Assignment #292: The Oldest Thing

This week's Weekend Assignment question is a simple one, but may require a bit of thought. Even if you don't normally participate in these things, please take a moment to answer it in the comments below.

Weekend Assignment: #292: What is the oldest thing in your house or apartment?

Extra Credit: Is there anything from your childhood that you've managed to hang on to all these years?

As you probably know by now, our house, otherwise known as Casa Blocher, the Museum of the Weird, is full of artifacts from the midcentury modern era, roughly the 1950s to early 1970s. Much of our furniture and decor dates from that time, along with lots of books and toys. If I may be mildly indelicate for a moment, our current bathroom reading includes a stack of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine issues dated 1949 to 1953. They're fascinating documents of the postwar era, but the oldest of even these are just 60 years old.

So what do we have that's older? How about this?

This sampler was apparently made by my paternal grandmother (whom I knew as Grandma) or great-grandmother. The real thing is browner than you see here, the original fabric having gotten quite dark over the last century or so. My German doesn't extend beyond a few words I learned from my social studies teacher Mr. Hennigan in seventh grade, so I can only guess at what it says. God Bless This House, perhaps? My dad sent it to me several years ago. I don't know the age of the thing, but it's certainly older than our midcentury stuff. But is it older than this?

This is one of a number of bound volumes we have of The Strand Magazine. These are not reprints, I'm pretty sure, but actual British magazines from the late 19th century, bound into books. Some of you have heard of this long-defunct magazine, I'm sure. Here's why:

This is the magazine in which most of the Sherlock Holmes stories were first published. The most famous illustrations of Holmes and Watson, drawn by Sidney Paget, originated in The Strand Magazine. John and I are pretty sure that this series of bound volumes is our oldest possession. Above you can see two pages from "The Musgrave Ritual," a story eventually collected in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. It's an unusual story, in that Holmes narrates the adventure to Watson, the original events having taken place "before my biographer had come to glorify me."

As for stuff from my childhood, I confess that much of what I have now was purchased over the last decade or two, replacing things that were given away, thrown away, or sold in a garage sale while I was 600 miles away. But the three items below are the originals.

The green April Showers box held my mom's talcum powder, dating to my early childhood. I loved the smell of it, and the container itself. By the time I hit high school, my mom had just about used it up, but I got her to give me the empty container rather than throw it away.

The china dog, Heather, came on a planter my mom was given circa 1965. I appropriated it for my china animal collection a few years later. I occasionally dropped the shoebox I carried them around in, and what I didn't break, our twice-a-week maid did. I think the breaking of Heather was my fault.

The dragon bank, called Dino for obvious reasons, dates to 1970 or so, when I was in seventh grade. He's also been broken and repaired.

So what old stuff have you hung onto over the years? Is it your family heirloom jewelry or china? Antique furniture? A rare book perhaps? Tell us about it, either in your blog or in the comments below. But first, here's a wrap-up of last week's responses:

For Weekend Assignment #291: It Didn't Work!, I asked about disappointing purchases:

Julie said...

It seems that last Christmas nothing I bought for Paul worked as advertised. The one cool gift I thought he'd really love was one of those virtual keyboards that projects a laser display on the desktop. It didn't work with any Bluetooth stack (software) he had, as I recall. It went back. (And there's the extra credit.)

Ari_1965 offered advice in a comment on lights for dog collars, something I've had trouble getting to work...

Regarding the dog light, I use a CatEye product meant for use on bicycle handlebars. It has a round light on a loop strap. I loop the the light through my dog's collar. It has survived life with a very active shepherd mix. They're about $15 at REI, less elsewhere. Here's the link to them on

Mike tells us the sad story of a new power mower...

I pulled the handle to get the motor purring. No dice. I expected that, though. The thing was brand new and I expected it to be a bit difficult to start. Pull again, and again, and again. Each pull was raising my blood pressure a little higher. Not because of exertion. I can't remember how many times I pulled that stupid cord, but it did start eventually, but it didn't stay running. No, why would a brand new Zorro start and stay running on the first day? That's silly.

Thanks, you guys! Sorry about the mower!

Here are the guidelines if you'd like to participate in the Weekend Assignment:
  1. Please post your entry no later than Friday, November 13th at 6 PM. (You can also post your response in the comments thread, but a blog entry is better. )
  2. Please mention the Weekend Assignment in your blog post, and include a link back to this entry.
  3. Please come back here after you've posted, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below.
  4. Visiting other participants' entries is strongly encouraged!
  5. I'm always looking for topic ideas. Please email me at mavarin2 on if there's a Weekend Assignment theme you'd like to see. If I use your idea, you will be credited as that week's "guest professor."



Daephene said...

Interestingly, just last night I wound up the old blue teddy bear I've had since I was a toddler. He still plays the Teddy Bears Picnic. He and a giraffe and a little koala all date back to early childhood, and live in my collection of stuffed animals I have been unable to get rid of for sentimental reasons. His name is David, but don't ask me why. The other two are Giraffe and Mr Koala.

I think my bedroom furniture is older though. I was given it when I moved last, the woman who owned it before is in her 90s now. I don't know for sure, but there's a possibility it was around before I was born. If not, then the oldest thing is probably my copy of Ivanhoe, printed in 1968.

barrettmanor said...

I'll work up an entry tomorrow. But in the meantime, may I say I'm drooling over that bound volume of Strand magazines?

barrettmanor said...

What the heck. I decided to post tonight. Now I can sleep in tomorrow! Muhaha!

BTW, you're pretty much right on the German in the sampler. It's "God bless our house."

Carly said...

Hi Karen

I haven't done a Weekend Assignment in a long time, so I thought I would give this one a whirl. You can find it here...

Florinda said...

I had a few old things to write about, but no particularly interesting antiques, unfortunately.

Mike said...

I have some old stuff, too.

Good idea.

Shari Malin said...

Here is my weekend assignment: