The Object of My Affection

Kenneth C. Hoffman

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Everyone has objects in their attics and cellars that are wonderful reminders of the past. True antiques are at least one hundred years old, but often these treasures are valuable in their very existence if not quite making the century mark. Dusty, broken, missing parts, we still have not the heart to relegate them to the dump. So we hang on to them, tenderly wrapping them in newspaper and marking the box in large crooked letters.

Then one day, someone comes along who offers to make your precious object like new, raising its stature to a beautiful objet d’ art and creating a vision of hidden spot lights and alabaster pedestals in your living room. I am such a person. I have rescued neglected mandolins, violins, near-Tiffany lamps from the teens, rare wind-up toys from Japan, delicate three-tiered bird houses from China, and a nineteen thirty nine rich child's tricycle. Some things have been found in a garage sale, others entrusted to me by friends or neighbors.

My most recent project involved the dismantling and restoring a nineteen thirties Japanese boat compass. This sixteen pound relic was personally carried home by a neighbor's husband who was killed in World War II in a plane crash. Made of solid brass so as not to rust on the high seas, no expense was spared in the hand-made manufacture of this compass. A beveled plate glass window provided access to a blued steel floating compass. A rear glass window offered additional viewing, lit by a built-in oil lamp on the side. Someone had painted the whole thing with dark green shutter paint which by this time had half peeled off. The cracked and peeling white paint inside did not deter the family of spiders living there. One week later, my hard earned scuffed knuckles produced a shining new boat compass. The widow almost cried when she saw it and immediately found a place of honor in the living room.

Buoyed by this success, the lady supplied me with a new and exciting project in the shape of an nineteen twenty two original wall telephone. Complete with speaker microphone and ear piece, this Western Electric gem even retained it's original matching telephone book shelf. The metal parts are made of nickel plated brass, the speaker and ear piece of Bakelite and the case and shelf carved from durable oak. Pictured in my mind were the pre-electricity folks chatting on this Early American Party Line invention. I plan to spend three weeks enjoying the restoration of this beauty and collecting the reward for my hard labor - the huge smile on the face of the owner.

The satisfaction may not be instant, but it's real.


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