Trashy Treasures


Some of my favorite memories as a kid were the long summer evenings in the suburbs.  The sun set around 8:30, but it was still “light” until well after nine.  A group of us kids hung out around the neighborhood and on Wednesday nights, we’d go garbage picking.  It was exactly what you think it was.  We’d wander up and down the streets at dusk, looking to see if anyone was throwing out anything good.  Sad to say, I was never very lucky.  I found some old record albums once.  Another time I found two plastic racks that could hold eight-track tapes.

Believe it or not, someone threw this out.
Believe it or not, someone threw this out.

On the other hand, my brother David had a knack for coming up with buried treasure.  In the mid nineties, we were living together with my mom in a townhouse.  David kept the garage full of stuff he’d found.  At any given time we might have garden tools, books, bicycles and various car parts.  Saturday morning he would load up his little pick up truck and take his haul over to one of the flea markets in the area and pick up some extra cash.  Soon he was cutting deals with other flea marketers.  One guy would buy any lawnmower David could find, regardless of condition.  Another guy was looking for radios and electronics.  I remember David had a map of Chicagoland tacked up on the wall in his bedroom.  The suburbs were all color coded based on what night their trash was put out for collection. 

One night my mom got a call.  It was my grandma.  She was upset because her television had expired and she didn’t have any money to get it fixed.  Neither my mom nor I had enough money to buy her a new TV.  David didn’t bat an eye.

“What size would she like?” he asked.  That night, he came home with half a dozen television sets; everything from a portable five inch black and white set you could take to a ball game to a stately wood grained console set that took the two of us to drag it out of the bed of his truck.  We spent the night cleaning and testing.  I used my year of Radio Shack experience to adjust colors and take the static out of the sound when the knobs were turned.  Needless to say my grandma was ecstatic to get not one, but two TV’s that weekend.  We set one up in her living room and put the other in the back room for my younger cousins to play video games on.

Estelle 25

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