For part one of this story, go here.
The thing about getting a package from Grandma was that I never had a clue what would turn up inside, but I knew it would be odd – something neither I nor any other person on the planet would buy. Clothes were never her strong suit, but on the off chance she sent me something I might wear, I could count on a note safety-pinned to the garment if she hadn’t yet washed it. And not just any note, mind you. Sometimes she ran the sticky note through her typewriter instead of writing on it by hand. When I called to thank her for a crazy T-shirt that hung down below my knees (I think maybe it was meant to be a sleep shirt), that came with no note, she explained on the phone that she’d already washed it, but she assumed I knew that since she didn’t pin a type-written sticky note on the front.
As a small kid, 4 or 5 years old, I went with my mom to bars now and then. I entertained myself by playing dice with the bartender. Family legend has it I was pretty good. A couple of years ago, my grandma sent me an antique dice cup, to commemorate my young passion for playing Liars’ Dice and her passion for antiques. The hand-made cup is dark brown leather, slightly misshapen, a bit weak at the seam stitched up the side. The leather, though smooth, is hard as tack, but a simple wavy pattern circles the center of the cup where the maker likely used a sewing machine to punch a bit of decoration into it. An old yellowed newspaper clipping is curled up inside that tells the story of the demise of the bar from which the cup apparently came. The clipping was from a 1981 newspaper – one of those ’50 Years Ago Today’ bits. It reads:
50 YEARS AGO TODAY – FEB. 12, 1931
With the interests of the old people at the Reiss Home for the Aged and the future expansion of St. Nicholas Hospital in mind, Hospital Sisters of St. Francis have acquired the Acker property at the southeast corner of the intersection of N. Tenth Street and Superior Avenue. The Acker site is 120 feet square. On it is a double two-story building occupied by the Joe Acker saloon and boarding house, and a barn (ausspannung). Part of the main building was formerly occupied by the Bruder Radio Company. … With the purchase of the Acker real estate, the Hospital Sisters now own all the land in the block in which the hospital is located except a small house and lot in the southwest corner.
I like that the paper tossed in just a single German word in that little article. Weirdly, though, the translation seems to be ‘relaxation.’ It’s unclear whether one would seek relaxation in the boarding house or in the barn.
Check out the dice – I love that they are stamped like playing cards, not the boring old pips I expected to see when I tossed them out of the cup. There’s no way to know if this cup actually came from the Joe Acker saloon, but Grandma is convinced, and old objects always seem cooler when they come with a story, so I’ll stick with it.