Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Treasured Trash

"Union Steel Chest moved from Rochester NY to LeRoy in 1932. Operation of the company began in 1893 with the manufacture of drafting tables, and later machinists tool chests and specialty cabinets. The manufacture of light formed metal tool and utility chests began in the 1920s." MC, Collector's Weekly

There is nothing like a little garage envy to become motivated. We recently visited friends, who have put a lot of time, attention and money into making this oft-neglected space gleam. Upon returning home, our pet sitter/house cleaner had gotten a start on our...uh hem...mess.

With a weekend to kill (I'd post the pictures of my wife's business trip to San Diego, but I'm still in therapy) I undertook the chore of chores. I bought a big tool chest, a work bench and started throwing, cleaning, organizing. Tucked onto a forgotten shelf, behind several layers of "I'll get to this when I've submitted my More Perfect Union query" I found this:

I don't remember when or where I got it. One like it, for sale on eBay for thirty dollars, was manufactured in the 1950's. Perhaps it belonged to my late grandfather, a passionate fisherman. It could have been a gift - we lived not far from LeRoy (where, oddly, jell-o was invented) during the Sixties. It would not have been out of the question to have found it under the Christmas tree, my dad hoping his oldest would be the fishing buddy he craved. Sorry, Dad.

I learned early on that, with the exception of adolescent soirees into Powder Mills Park to entice trout (with worms, no less) I was content to do my angling in the fish section of Wegman's. Evidence of that finds itself on an ancient length of masking tape across the lid with the words "Paint, brushes, glue etc" written on it. I would love to know what I envisioned "etc" to be at eleven or twelve.

It is once again filled with fishing tackle - including a jar of thirty year old salmon eggs I discarded unopened. I assume I filled the box with hooks, lures and the other trappings of angling as my children grew older. Alas.... All three have something of their father's genes.

Thirty dollars for an old, beat up metal box? Union Steel Chest moved to Arizona in 1973 and ceased operations shortly thereafter. Apparently, time and plastics had rendered these lovely old things obsolete. A pity. What must it have been like, for the last employees to douse the lights, pull closed the door and walk sullenly away from the building they'd called "work?" With the company defunct, they are now collector's items.

Mine has collected memories of aircraft, automobiles and comic book heroes glued, painted, displayed and then discarded with the other trappings of youth. Maybe I'll keep the thing around, so it can talk to me when I'm old. There are no doubt stories it could tell me of the days when I was not.    

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