An unexpected treasure hunt

We happen to have a narrow little air-return vent under our kitchen cabinets that I had never given much thought to until a few days ago, when I thought I lost yet another kitchen gadget down its depths. At one point in time, we had a wooden grate that fit over it; however, after remodeling the kitchen with yet another layer of flooring, the grate somehow disappeared, leaving a little gap under our cabinets. Because this hole is right where we do most of the food prep, etc. in the kitchen, it’s very easy to accidentally kick things into the hole.

Exasperated after kicking yet another item into that vent (I lost a food thermometer two months ago), I needed to get into the vent and get out the stuff I had lost. I was also mildly curious to see what else was down there. After all — if I had lost two items in just a few months, imagine how many other things had made their way down there in the last 56 years!

With a screwdriver, I made a hole in the old fiberboard ceiling (the “vent” turned out to be just a space below the floor joists) and tentatively reached my hand into the dusty abyss . . . and began pulling out item after item.

I found my food thermometer, all right. I also found a treasure trove of lost items from eras past:

An old Bazooka cartoon

I wonder how many more times they played with this deck without realizing it was incomplete?

These were rather extensive instructions for Dial soap. Who knew the product was so complicated to use?

Here’s a library receipt for what seems to be a lost book. Either that, or the overdue fine was really hefty! Note the date: it’s the day before Elvis died.

There were some play balls, along with a pet ball that had a bell in it.

I got really excited when I originally found this, but quickly realized that it was only play money. There were several bills of this play money in the space. I’m thinking some child was using the slats of the vent as a cash register.

This is a play ring, and retro it is! It has a fake pearl in the middle, surrounded by light blue and silver prongs.


A 1973 model Weeble

It’s not easy to see the pattern on this, but it is so 50s — geometric shapes with a few boomerangs sprinkled in. LOVE IT!

And lastly, probably the coolest item I found:

old book
A 1958-copyrighted book. Don’t ask me how it got in that space. I can only imagine that the vent cover was an afterthought and that it had been an open space, much like it is now. The book is in great condition, save for some crayon scribbling inside the front and back cover.

We also found the original grate cover for the vent, although now that we have another layer of flooring in our kitchen, I doubt it will fit any longer.

I’m pretty excited by my finds, although it has begun a nagging thought in the back of my mind: what might have been dropped down the vents in other parts of the house? I am trying to restrain myself from ripping apart my entire house.

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6 Replies to “An unexpected treasure hunt”

    1. I’m not sure who originally built the house, but I know it was built in 1953. The brother of our neighbor across the street lived here in the 70s for a short while, and it’s his library receipt that I found. I returned it to his sister yesterday, who got a big kick out of it. I have met the people who lived here in the early 80s to 2000 (when we bought the house), but many of the items seem to predate them. I think the majority of the items belong to whoever lived here in the house’s first two decades. I should go back through our deed book and see who lived here previously.

  1. The man who built our 1879 Victorian Italianate was supposedly an embezzler! At one time he had been county treasurer, but resigned in disgrace—charges never proven.

    So when we LIFTED the entire house in 1980 to put in a full basement, my husband practically sifted every cupful of dirt! Booty? Let’s see . . .a Lutheran catechism caught in an inner wall, perfect condition brown crock jug, lots of Mercury dimes (pre-1920), hatchet, and that’s about it.

    With each successive room we’ve restored, my husband has totally gone through every conceivable hidey-hole. Never have found the big $$$, and after 36 years I don’t think we’re going to!

    The super balls made me smile. Our cat (God rest his kitty soul) loved them and would actually fetch. He’s been gone since 1994 and just a few months ago, one of the balls surfaced in an air duct.

    1. Wow! Your house definitely has a more interesting history than mine. I would have been thrilled with the meager finds in your basement, but yes, I would have been acting just like your husband — going through everything! When we started our kitchen remodel this past winter, I acted that same way when they removed the wall between the kitchen and the bedroom. I was on my hands and knees looking through all the chunks and dust left behind. I found a 1953 wheat penny, and that was my only find, but I thought it was neat because that is the year the house was built. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was an intentional drop by the builder. Probably not, but I’ll never know, will I?

      1. Jen,
        In 1978 we redid the bedroom that connected with the master bedroom, as a nursery. When my husband tore down a 1940s fiberboard wall, he found a row of pennies & dimes left by workmen (along with their signatures!).

        About the only place we haven’t pillaged is the “hermetically sealed” pantry. In 1988 we walled it up to gain wallspace in my kitchen. Now that I think about it, it hasn’t had its plaster whacked into. If we end up here in retirement, I’m sure we’ll remodel it as a mainfloor bathroom. Of course, that entails knocking through the back porch wall to connect with the pantry . . . *sigh*

        1. NeeNee:
          Hey, your story gives me hope. Maybe it was an intentional drop!

          If you ever want to knock into your sealed-off pantry, send me an invitation. I’m game! 😀

          Your house sounds beautiful, and it’s evident that you and your husband are taking good care of it. Isn’t it funny how a house starts to grow on you? My hubby and I were more in love with the location of our house rather than the house itself. I thought I’d love an old Victorian house that I could fill with antiques. Go figure that I’d come to love (depending on the day!) this 1950’s ranch that has so many repairs to be made that it’s ridiculous. There’s something interesting about a house with a history. As you take the time to peel back the layers through renovation or basic repair, the house becomes a part of you, and vice versa (as I discovered by my vent finds!). So much history settled within its depths, and even more so for your house.

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