Chapter 26: Opening the Box


Things had been settled and the opening-ceremony was arranged. The kids did their community-service time. 

Ten days later, in a meeting room of the town library in Adel, stood two long tables, end-to-end, with the box. 
The family sat up front, along with the curator of the Adel Historical Society to record each of the items as they came out of the box. 
There was also the Mayor of Adel, one of the County Supervisors, Sheriff Leo, Mr. Grey and Sgt. Steele present. 
Of course, the head Librarian was there and a couple of reporters from local newspapers, with photographers. 

With everyone assembled, Sophie’s dad said, “Well, we’re opening a box, not swearing in a new president, so let’s relax and enjoy this event. Sophie and Parker will be taking the things out and putting them on the table. We’ll see what is in the box. The box has some heft to it, so I expect it to be full. Sophie, you may open the box.” 

With shaking, excited hands, Sophie slid the lid off the box. The guests stood up and came close to the table to see what was in it. 
On the very top was a handbill (poster) for the Orton Circus. The circus used to have at winter camp east of Adel; a place the old-timers called 'Ortonville'. Sophie looked at it with delight, and then turned it around and for all to see. Then she laid it off to the side. 

Inside the box, there were two paper-wrapped packages and one box inside the larger box. 
One package was marked ‘Open First’. 
The other package was marked ‘Open Second’. 

 “Parker, please remove the first package and give it to your Aunt. I want her to unwrap it so the paper isn’t damaged.” 

Parker did as he was instructed. Sophie's mom adjusted the package in front of her and untied the bow of white butcher's string that held the brown paper together. She asked Parker to unfold the wrapping, which he did. 
A letter on the top of the package slid down onto the table. 
Sophie’s mom opened the letter and read it out loud: 

"Hello; my name is Lila May Palmer. 
I am the third contributor to this box of tidbits and remembrances, meant for whoever discovers it. 
I learned of the box from the woman who lived here before my sister and I. Her name is Miss Watkins. I have decided to add to it and leave it here for someone else to discover. I have taken nothing from the box; only added to it. 
I will not tell the next inhabitant about the box. 
Let it be a be a time capsule.

We are sisters, Lila May and Edna Palmer. We moved to Adel in 1924 to set up a chiropractic office. We are as yet, unmarried, and moved here from eastern Iowa. It is October of 1934. My sister and I will be leaving because of the economy, and because of the severe drought here the last two years. 
Even so, we enjoyed most of our ten years here and leave a few bits & pieces of our lives for you to consider.” 

Parker picked up a cloth sack the size of soda can. He could tell it was full of round things, so he loosened the drawstring and let the contents gently roll onto the table. Out came several marbles, and a couple of ‘shooters.’ A shooter is a large marble used like a bat for baseball. It is ‘flicked’ out of the palm by the thumb, while it is being held by in the upside-down hand of the person shooting, with the knuckles resting on the ground. 
(the term ‘knuckle-down’ is actually a shooting position when playing marbles.) 

Following the marbles out of the bag was a white ball about 1.5” in diameter. Everyone was puzzled. “Why is there a cue ball with the marbles?’ asked one person. “That’s not a cue ball.” said another. “It’s too small.” 

Sergeant Steele picked it up and said, “It has some weight. I’d hate to be hit by it at 10 paces.” 

They went on with their discovery. Sophie’s dad picked up a small paper bag and handed it to Sophie. She unfolded the flap and slid out the contents. The museum curator identified the pieces as tatting, most likely hand-made. They were pretty, if somewhat yellowed. Also in the sack was a small, unused 1934 desk calendar from a local store. On the bottom part was the calendar with the merchant's information. On the top half was a little mirror, and it had a kick-stand to prop it up. There was also a stationery box, made of cardboard. 

Parker sighed and mumbled, “So much girlish stuff. Why are there no swords or knives or horse shoes; neat stuff like that in here?” 

Sheriff Leo commented, “Son, I have a hunch that something to interest you will be uncovered today.” 

“I sure hope so. Except for the marbles, I feel like I’m at a bridal shower.” 

Sophie lifted the lid on the box. A note inside said, “from Edna Palmer DC” 

Inside was an elegant fountain pen, a few trading tokens from local merchants, and some Christmas cards she received from patients over the ten years she practiced there. 
Sophie’s mom sorted through the stack and read off the names of the senders. Sergeant Steele recognized one from his great-grandfather. Other onlookers also said they recognized some of the surnames. 
Under the Christmas cards was a lady's hanky, with fancy embroidery, probably from a patient. Finally, in the bottom of the box were a few souvenir postcards from the Iowa State Fair, which the Palmer sisters attended at least two days each year. Parker saw animals and machines on the postcards. 
That made him feel better about the first package. 

Well, that part was done; very curious and very satisfying.  

Eric J. Rose
middlegrademysteries.com
photo: https://circus.pastperfectonline.com/archive/56CBC705-B987-4EFB-B1C9-181989905152
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