backyard archeologist

thelma todd

as friends and family have been asking for updates on the mudroom reno, invariably the question, “find any dead bodies?” gets asked. (har har… but our next door neighbours did find a grave a few summers ago, so this is not totally improbable.) luckily, no grave for us — but tucked in between two bricks at the back of the house (not the mudroom, which was made of tin, spit, and shingles) was this 1938 “hollywood picture star gum” collector’s card of 1930s silent film actress thelma todd.

the cards were printed by hamilton chewing gum ltd. and you could collect all 40 in 1938. thelma is #2 and she came in a pack of penny gum, according to the back of the card, which is still legible, incredibly, after spending nearly 80 years sandwiched between two bricks. thelma now takes pride of place in our curiosity tray, which hangs in our dining room and began as a home for some of pierre’s rock collection, but is now home to lots of ephemera.

the other major find of the reno is the recycled aluminum that the mudroom was built out of. i’m saving those photos for later, but they’ll make great art pieces once they’re framed.

so, two things here. one, these little finds are why i love old houses and can’t abide new ones! i’m guessing this card was stuck in between bricks when the house was being built, as a kind of time capsule. i love that someone thought to do that and hope they know someone found it and values the story it tells. “character” in an old home is one thing, but it’s not impossible to get in a new home. a good carpenter can give you foot-high mouldings if you want to pay for them. but history’s not something you can buy. there are some things i like new — like mattresses and underwear — but old homes are the best. two, i’m thinking maybe our home is a few years older than we thought! that’s another amazing thing about this little clue — it tells us something different than our research at the toronto archives. census data tells us no one lived in our house before 1941, but with the war starting, it’s totally possible the house was built or partially built in 1938, only to sit unfinished or vacant for a few years. never would have known if not for thelma!

i’m thinking we have to throw our own time stamp down in the hole. any ideas? it’s not common to actually have physical things with dates on them anymore; most of my concert/sports tickets, etc. are just scanned off my phone. i wish i had like… a pog. i’m sure the next person who buys this house will tear it down and build something big and new and maybe they won’t be nearly as enamoured with a baseball ticket from 2015, but i figure there’s a good chance pierre and i are never moving (we’ve kind of sworn up and down the prospect of starting all this work over on a new house sounds like a very bad idea) and so it’s a little bit possible that 2015 will be just as long ago as 1938 by the time the next owners renovate and find our treasure.

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