What’s in your box?

The Compass - - COMMUNITY BOARD -

A TV ad for a cer­tain credit card ends with this ques­tion, “What’s in your wal­let?” Per­haps the ques­tion that should be asked of Jim Christy is, “What’s in your Peek Frean’s tin bis­cuit box?” I will ex­plain, but first, a bit about the man him­self.

Christy is an artist, au­thor and trav­eller. He has ex­hib­ited his art in­ter­na­tion­ally. He has writ­ten more than 20 books. His trav­els have taken him from the Yukon to the Ama­zon. He was raised in Philadel­phia, but moved to Toronto when he was 23 years old. Be­com­ing a Cana­dian cit­i­zen, he cur­rently re­sides in the town­ship of Stir­lingRaw­don, On­tario.

His gem-of-a-book, “Sweet As­sorted: 121 Takes From a Tin Box,” was pub­lished in 2012 by Van­cou­ver’s Anvil Press.

“For nearly 40 years,” Christy writes, “I’ve had this metal Peek Frean’s box into which I’ve tossed items ran­domly, willy-nilly and with nei­ther rhyme nor rea­son …

“Go­ing through the box, tak­ing in­ven­tory, has meant one dis­cov­ery af­ter an­other …

“When I be­gan ri­fling through the box this time, I re­al­ized there was a story be­hind ev­ery item …”

Christy re­lates the story be­hind 121 ob­jects stuffed into his tin box. Ac­cord­ing to his pub­lisher, the reader will find “half-fin­ished notes, scrawled snip­pets of con­ver­sa­tion, ob­ser­va­tions made on the run, pho­to­graphs of people known and un­known, scraps of paper with puz­zling sketches on them, re­ceipts, match packs, post­cards, and other as­sorted para­pher­na­lia.”

Post­cards piqued my in­ter­est. There’s one from St. Au­gus­tine Al­li­ga­tor and Os­trich Farm. A sec­ond fea­tures the per­son ev­ery­one called Miss Swe­den. “She was friendly and talkative but not given to rem­i­nisc­ing. She was pleas­antly pudgy, wore harem pants, loads of jew­elry, veils, leis and a hal­ter top em­bla­zoned with the leg­end ‘Swe­den So­cial Demo­crat.’” A third is a colour pic­ture of a dec­o­rated van. Yet an­other is from Ravenna, Italy.

I’m in­trigued by the pho­to­graphs. There’s one of Bar El Ga­leon at El Pro­greso, Yu­catan, Mex­ico. There’s an­other from Buenos Aires, and two from Saigon. Yet an­other is a stu­dio pho­to­graph of Joseph Isaac “Ike” Clan­ton, taken at Tomb­stone, Ari­zona, 1880, the year be­fore he and his brother, Billy, were gunned down by the Earps and their den­tist pal, Doc Hal­l­i­day.

There’s a 46-cent Cana­dian postage stamp fea­tur­ing a draw­ing of Guy Lombardo, “prob­a­bly,” Christy sug­gests, “done by some­one who was not a fan. It looks like a goofy Guy, a real square at the party, look­ing for a lamp­shade.”

Coins caught my at­ten­tion. There’s a Kennedy half-dol­lar, as well as a 50-cent piece from the King­dom of Swazi­land, and a bright Cuban peso coin.

I won­der how many of us have our own “tin box.” Well, it may not be an ac­tual box; it might be some­thing as sim­ple as a file folder. I have one with the head­ing of “Keep­sakes.” It’s bulging with this, that and some­thing else. While writ­ing this col­umn, I dipped into it, to see which ob­jects I had col­lected over the last three decades.

There’s a book­let, “The Ad­ven­tures of Pac-Man” which, ac­cord­ing to an in­scrip­tion on the cover page, be­longs to my son, Christo­pher. There’s a de­pic­tion of a boat, “Hay­ley, Caleb & Han­nah,” drawn in church by one of the sib­lings and passed along to me.

There’s a post­card from one of the young people in my youth group who had re­lo­cated to Bri­tish Columbia. The front is a draw­ing of a bald man, along with the words, “Bald is beau­ti­ful. God only made so many per­fect heads. The oth­ers he cov­ered with hair!” Touche.

There’s a let­ter I wrote in 1980 to my dearly beloved, Sherry, with this prob­ing ques­tion, “By the way, what are we go­ing to do on the night be­fore we’re mar­ried?” I’m not go­ing there.

There’s a post­card with this in­scrip­tion on the re­verse, “Hi, there. From Sally Field.” Sally Field? Wher­ever did I get that?

There’s a Mer­chant’s Coupon Book, pro­duced in the first decade of the last century. I bought it at some auc­tion, but I don’t re­call which one. There’s an Au­tumn 1946 book­list from SCM Press. There’s a book­let about Gil­lett’s Cream Tar­tar from E.W. Gil­lett Com­pany. There’s a sawmill re­turn, pro­duced by the Com­mis­sion of Govern­ment’s Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, St. John’s, in 1943. There’s an an­nounce­ment of the 1939 Royal Visit to New­found­land. And, there’s a Dar­ren Lang­don hockey card I picked up for my son.

On and on it goes and, ad­mit­tedly, I won­der to­day why I kept some of this stuff but, at the time, it ob­vi­ously meant some­thing to me. In short, there’s some­thing for ev­ery taste in my Keep­sakes file, as well as in Christy’s book. What’s in your box? — Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

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