In the late 1990s, Robert Kohl brought in a trunk, an old steamer trunk, that he thought we might be able to use in one of our theater productions. Robert Kohl was a one-of-a-kind eccentric with a heart of gold. He was always finding things "curbside" as he called it - his favorite shopping center. Over the years we had to throw away hundreds of items which were not suitable - we never, for example had a play which required three aluminum-frame high chairs with ripped up upholstery. But, then, he brought us lots of pieces that did indeed make it into our plays. One play set was built of SEVENTEEN hollow-core doors, painted and purposed to many uses, from fireplaces to walls,to magical clocks that came alive after midnight. But, back to the steamer trunk. It was a beautiful arch-top wardrobe, with brass and canvas-covered metal construction, and beautiful antique brass locks.
Only one problem, with the trunk - it was locked. Try as we might, we couldn't pick the lock. And, when you tipped the trunk on its side, something inside shifted. There was something inside that trunk, but we refused to resort to violence which would ruin the beautiful exterior.
The trunk had been in actual use - it was covered with tags glued on in a bygone gilded age. The trunk had more travel experience than many of us would ever accumulate in a lifetime. Steamships and hotels had passed this trunk through, carrying who knows what? And what - exactly WHAT was shifting inside when the trunk was moved???
A mysterious inscription "C.R. Holty" - No amount of googling could turn up a train or ship by the name of "C.R.Holty".
From time to time over the years, my curiosity would get the best of me, and I'd give it another shake. It moved around the building from year to year. Then, I took it to a locksmith. After two hours and $30.00, he couldn't get it open, either. So, back down into the basement it went, in the coal bin. (see picture at top).
After the theater group dissolved in 2003, we had occasional rummage sales, and we tried for years to unload this mysterious trunk on some like-minded adventure-hunter. We sold the trunk at a silent auction once, but the winner and the first runner-up never came back to claim it.
Then, in 2013, we got a call from Superior, WI. A lady who had seen the trunk at the silent auction was wondering what ever was discovered in the trunk by the winner of the auction. She was delighted to find that the trunk remained unclaimed and unopened. She immediately made arrangements to purchase and pick up the trunk, and she agreed to abide by our restrictions - do not force the trunk open, damaging the locks - and, we'd like to know what you found in the trunk, although we lay no claim to the contents. This would have been hard to bear had the trunk been full of money or ancient stock certificates entitling the bearer to 40% of General Electric. She agreed, and one day, she and a friend came to the studio to pick it up. Seeing the old familiar trunk going down the road gave me a strange feeling. We had been together for over twenty years, and she still held her secrets.
This morning, I received a letter from Mary. Included were photographs of the open trunk, and a description of what was inside. She had even found out who "C.R.Holty" is - it was the owner of the traveling trunk, an American impressionist artist.
And we finally found out what had been shifting around in there all these years - a classic library of 1970s-era best-seller titles.
And a movable hanger track to keep the suits from getting wrinkled. And drawers. It was a such an unexpected pleasure for her to include us in the discovery. I'm so fortunate that the trunk finally found a new home it deserves.
Happy Thanksgiving. We give special thanks for the kindred spirits who pop into our lives from time to time, to share the ever-abundant wonder of it all.
Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.