Friday, October 25, 2013

Trash Picking

I come from a long line of  trash pickers. We see potential usefulness in stuff others toss out.

When I was a little girl walking to Philip Sheridan Elementary School I remember seeing the trash out along Rosemont Avenue and every now and I saw something in the trash that did not belong there. I would fret and worry and wish I could save it.

My brother even decorates with trash. Like stuff he finds in the canal in back of his house. He pulls up some pretty good stuff!

My Grandmother Gohenour worked in the Goodwill store in Tonawanda, NY which gave her first pick. I wore old flannel nightgowns from the Goodwill when I was a girl because there was no heat in the upstairs bedrooms of the 1830s farm house.

A family friend worked for the school system and before he hauled the trash to the dump he'd stop by the house. I remember rummaging through the books and claiming what I wanted. One book I found was a 1929 edition of "The Cradle of the Deep" by Joan Lowell, the story of a girl growing up on her dad's "four-masted, windjammer rigged schooner engaged in the copra and sandalwood trade between the islands of the South Seas and  Australia." Oh the adventures she had! I also found "The Adventures of Benjamin Pink" illustrated by Garth Williams. I read that to my brother many times. It was about a rabbit lost at sea who becomes king of a monkey island.

Here is my greatest trash picking story.

Back in the 1970s a family friend found a picture in the Tonawanda, NY dump and gave it to my brother who was living with our folks in Clawson, MI. Dad put it in his basement Man's Cave, which had dark wood paneling, a bar, a pool table, and a dart board. The picture was still hanging there in a dark corner when Dad passed and I inherited the house. I brought it upstairs into the light and realized it was really cool! It was real ART and not a print. The matting was yellowed and stained. I asked my brother if he wanted it, and when he said no I took it to a frame shop.

The framer removed the back paper and removed the art from the frame. It was a pastel. Underneath the mat was handwriting. The artist's name was Alfred W. Holdstock and the painting was titled Lake des Allumettes. The detail is amazing.

When I got home I went online to research Holdstock.  Between 1850 and 1870 he painted First People around Montreal, the Ottawa River, and the Thousand Islands.

Holdstock was born in Bath, England in 1820 and educated at Oxford University.  Around 1850 he emigrate to Montreal and taught drawing at the Government National School. He died in 1901 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The Isle Aux Allumettes in the Ottawa River was inhabited in ancient times. The Iroquois Indians exterminated the Algonquin tribe around 1650. The Algonquin chief Tessout was ambushed by the Iroquois near the Allumette Rapids. The island was uninhabited for 170 years. On 1836 there were still only a few families on the island. Holdstock wanted to capture a dying way of life.

The origin of the name Allumettes, meaning matches, is explained here:

We had the pastel framed. And its now our favorite piece of  'trash'!


  1. Love your "trash" find! My Dad was a principal at a poor inner-city school. In the summer we would cruise the suburb schools and check what was being tossed. He would fill the station wagon with worn books, bookcases, chair, whatever and then spend the summer fixing them up for his school. Early recycling!

  2. Good for your dad! What a great thing he did for his school!

  3. What a great story, and I love the painting! One of my favorite activities when I was a child was going up and down our alley checking out our neighbor's trash cans. My favorite find was a big box of old sheet music.

  4. So glad I am in good company! Martha, I have a whole music cabinet full of sheet music...started collecting it in the 1970s!