I had a cool tourist rooms globe, circa 1910, that's easily worth $900 that’s been in our virtual lay-away department since last fall and I asked Tim if he still wanted it or should I put it up for sale. “Where do
we stand on our running tab?” he wanted to know. I got out the book and I owed
him $563. Tim pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket, counted it out $437 and
says, “I’m taking it home today.” Like I said, money rarely changes hands
between us and I have strict orders not to tell his wife what he paid for the globe. Tim knows the guys who wrote
the collector's guide on globes almost as well as I do and a quick phone call would get
it sold, should he ever want his money back. Those guys are like head-hunters for globe collectors. They know who is looking for what.
The tourist globe is an interesting piece of Americana from
the days when automobile travel first became popular and tourists were looking
for rooms to rent as they used the then newly connected interstate roads. Motels were still
nonexistent and travelers often pitched tents in city parks with their blessings. Enterprising people rented
rooms out in their homes along the routes and got listed in guide books that were put together by entrepreneurs and visionaries. These globes were hung in the windows of private homes and if the light was on that meant their room-for-rent was vacate. (Motel-6's tag line is a throwback to those early days.) Cross-country auto races were also a gimmick to promote auto sales and auto travel in the same era and newspapers all across the country covered them. I had a small
collection of circa 1910 early tourism stuff…mostly photos
of auto-campsites and races, a travel guide and a how-to auto-camp book---all of which I sold on e-Bay. I still
have a full, disposal paper towel dispenser with cool graphics on the front showing an auto-campsite that I’m
keeping for God knows why. It doesn’t offer
the same opportunities for show-and-tells as when I had more early auto tourism stuff. Yes, we were that couple who had endless stories about those 'madcap days' when horseless carriages and touring cars caused life as they knew back then to change forever.
Don had a roll top desk that he bought when Tim and his wife
were living across the street as newlyweds 35-ish years ago and while he
was here I told him my April goal was to sell the desk and its match filing cabinet.
We started looking it over and Tim grabbed the handle to pull the rolling top closed
and before I could stop him, it was locked. With the key to open it locked
inside the desk. The swear words that came out of me shocked even me. He never
swears. Ever. So I’ve always been careful around him not to let even the mildest
swear words like ‘crap’ slip pass by my lips. And my swear-fest started the Circus Hour. He
kept saying, “Don’t panic!” while we both panicked. “We’ll get it open!” He
called a locksmith and got instructions on what he could try and a $90 quote to
come out to solve our problem. The suggested credit card trick didn’t work. We
googled the brand of lock and found keys online for $9 to $15. We tried pulling so
hard that the screws were coming out of the wood until we were afraid we’d
split the oak. We even considered filing those exposed screws in half.
At one point Tim looked at me and asked, “Are you laughing
or crying?” “A little of both,” I replied. “This reminds me of the time Don
took the drawer out of an antique National cash register and couldn’t get it back in.”
The elderly man who ran the antique store where the register was up for sale was freaking out and so was Don who
spent the next hour trying to get it back in place. He took the drawer out to
show the guy that on the underside of those old Nationals was the date it was
built, the model number and other interesting things only the release latch on this
guy’s register wasn’t working properly. It was working by the time Don took it apart and put it back together but the old guy's daughter had to be called in to calm shop owner down while Don worked on it. After that
day neither Tim or I would let Don touch an antique cash register which wasn't easy because it was one of his favorite "parlor tricks." Tim was with Don that day and, thankfully, I wasn't but the story had been retold so many times I felt like I was.
Back to the roll top desk. “Don’t you have a bunch of skeleton
keys around here we could try?” Tim asked. “I had over 250 keys and I sold them all on
e-Bay,” I told him and then I got out a 4"x"6"x1" tin box of extra keys for things I still owned to show
him how few keys I still had left. Don and I took a lot of kidding over the
years about the volume of our keys. We both had every obsolete key to every single thing we ever owned plus we bought skeletons whenever we found them. Not to mention we had keys for 15 vehicles that we used for business---all with locking gas caps---a four family apartment building, a storage pole barn, padlocks on gates, 3 houses plus keys to our parent's houses, 2 snowmobiles, countless tool chests and filing cabinets. We also had keys to the maintenance rooms at a shopping mall and a multiplex theater where we had to go when we needed to turn on the parking lot lights when we did snowplowing, power sweeping, fixed potholes or painted yellow lines in the middle of the night. And did I mention we had locking showcases in our vendor spaces at several antique malls? For Christmas one year I made Don a fancy wood key rack and tooled leather key tags to ID and organize all the business keys. Took me forever but it was worth it. Don loved it!
And guess what we found in the tin box I showed Tim at the end of our Circus Hour. a key carefully labeled "extra key for Don's roll top desk." I apologized up one side and down the other for wasting an hour of Tim’s time and putting us both through a lot of stress. I even offered to credit him for an hour of labor on our running tab and he says, “I got another great Don and Jean story out of it so I'm good,” and he ended by saying he wants to buy the desk and filing cabinet. He just needs to work on his wife a little bit because when he came over that day, his wife said to him as he was walking out the door, “Don’t buy any more of Jean’s furniture!”
I offered to give Tim the $563 I owned him if it would make his wife happy to come home from my place with something other than a barter---keep the globe in lay-away a little longer. But I think he was afraid with all the people coming to pickup Marketplace purchases someone will see that tourist globe, offer me more than the $900 and I'd cave. It already happened, twice---not the caving part but the rest. Tim is restoring a vintage Airstream camper up at his cottage with all mid-century vintage kitsch stuff. Apparently, there's a whole network of retro travelers who seek out and pay good money to go back in time to vacation like we did back in the 40s, '50s and '60s. The tourist globe will serve a similar purpose to the way it was used back when it was made only it will go in his cottage window instead of the Airstream's window that is permanently parked next door. When he gets it finished I'm going to reserve some time to stay there. ©