Greek immigrant and saloon owner, Mr. Bates, owned the largest, l-shaped parcel of land that surrounded our wooded property. On the land set a gold mine of Sothby’s-quality antiques.
Some pieces set inside and under the vacant, dilapidated cabin in the dense woods adjoining ours. Some were hidden inside the tunnel of an underground bomb cavern.
Most of the antiques were crammed into the two huge boxcars. Both set in an untilled field, camouflaged by a dense overgrowth. Located less than one thousand feet from our fence line.
The cabin site housed dozens of wooden cigar boxes. They were filled with old currency from the U. S., Greece, British Isles, etc. Some boxes were stuffed with matured U. S. Savings Bonds – over one hundred of them.
Ceramic, porcelain and earthenware dishes, pots, pitchers, vases, and trays set on the floors in both rooms. Also, many old pieces of flatware: sterling silver, silver-plated, gold-plated.
Old saloon and bar furnishings filled the boxcars. That included three complete bar sets; fixtures, mirrors, picture frames, wall mural panels, etc. Also china, crystal, glassware, and cooking accessories.
One boxcar contained eight or nine rolled up imported oriental rugs. And, over six wooden crates of fine tapestry.
The other one housed two complete front and back bar systems. Both were constructed of rich, solid mahogany, and similar in design. Each back bar measured at least 21 feet in length, and 17 feet in height.
The Back Bars featured inset twin beveled mirrors, fluted columns, intricate relief carvings, and built-in drawers. Also, small cupboards and three glass cases. Both were appointed with brass trim, hardware and railings. One unit included built-in steps to reach those higher areas.
The Front Bars of both sets featured a brass beer drain board and a polished counter top. And, each included brass boot rests/bars.
Over the years, the heavy key locks on each boxcar were broken or cut off repeatedly by thieves, or “snoops.” Little was ever taken. Perhaps because most of the pieces were so cumbersome. And unusable somewhere other than inside a bar or pub. Or, a huge residence, or museum.
At some point, the attorney for the elderly property owner engaged our closest neighbor and us to keep a close eye on the property. And, its contents. We were “enlisted” to watch out for all trespassers. (A little more about that follows.)
The hardest part of that job was spotting the intruders that snuck onto the wooded section. First, they had to slip or sneak through our woods. And, the entire wooded area was unusually dense, even in the winter. Also, hunters wandered – trespassed – onto the back of our property, then onto the neighbors.
Another problem: Some of the intruders were the grown nephews and families of old Mr. Bates. And, reliable sources had informed us that the three nephews eagerly awaited their inheritances.
But, a funny thing happened as their greed grew. The owner set up an interesting system of trusts for his entire, massive estate.
The nephews would receive access to the estate only after the youngest child of any nephew reached eighteen. And, at the time of the owner’s death, the youngest child in the group was under age one.
By the time Mr. Bates said his earthly goodbyes, his attorney faced a much easier job of settling the estate.
The elderly owner had already sold off most of his real estate in town, including the saloon. Nearly all of the antiques had been lifted from the boxcars. The cabin and underground cavern had been looted, and fallen apart from gross neglect. (Too, the most forceful nephew had died of a heart attack.)
Even at the end, our family possessed special access to the Bates tales. From school days, my father knew the attorney. And, my mother and the attorney’s wife belonged to the same philanthropic sorority, Tri Kappa.
Still, I was not prepared for the trivia that hit my e-mail Inbox last week. One of the “authorized looters” of those boxcars was a young Greek bar owner in South Florida. The furnishings that he had lifted were shipped to Florida, and set into his family’s pub in the early 1990s.
Today, that pub is owned and operated by his two Baby Boomer sons, and their adult children.
Thanks, Mr. Bates. What a fantastic idea for the plot of a mystery novel!
Own your day, and value its contents. rdh
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Copyright 2016. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.