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Boxes in the Attic

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Home improvements uncover a time capsule.   By Hannah Wallace   “Take care and tell Delsey to keep her knees together,” L. Leetzow, Aug. 4, 1970   CCB and I recently tackled some much-needed home improvements—i.e. buying a gigantic television and then installing some motion-sensor lights so people won’t steal it. Wires had to be […]

June 20, 2008


Home improvements uncover a time capsule.
 
By Hannah Wallace
 
“Take care and tell Delsey to keep her knees together,” L. Leetzow, Aug. 4, 1970
 
CCB and I recently tackled some much-needed home improvements—i.e. buying a gigantic television and then installing some motion-sensor lights so people won’t steal it. Wires had to be strung through the attic (by CCB’s coworker; god knows you don’t want us doing electricity). Just inside the attic entrance above the bedroom closet, we discovered a couple small, disintegrating boxes of paperwork, which had to be removed and set out of the way on the bedroom floor.
 

Later that night, CCB dragged the boxes out of the bedroom and into the TV’s warm, glowing, warming glow. Exploring. Nothing remarkable at first—manila envelopes and leather-bound ledgers embossed by year: 1966, 1967, etc. The only color, an old noisemaker with a bright-green feather glued to it. A couple of silverfish.

 

Amazing, though, the kinds of images you can piece together from business calendars and travel receipts. Like a flip-book cartoon: The more pages we sorted through, the more the names animated.

 

Leonard Leetzow, and later Lorence, (a son, we think), sold “backlighting equipment” in the 1960s and ‘70s. These boxes seem to contain their entire careers. Papers upon papers of everyday occurrences—receipts and duplicates, business cards and sales diaries, “March 4: Wrote letters; March 5: sick in bed.” Less than banal. But from 40 years away, we invented significance, both personal and historical. As though, just by being in our rented attic, they connected us—and Bradenton—to something universal, a collected memory of the 20th century.

 
The familiar things jump-started the connection: A receipt from sales of emergency lighting for the Asolo Theatre Building, May 14, 1970; documents from a bulb-maintenance project in Huntsville, Ala., CCB’s hometown.
 
Letterhead correspondences ranged in tone from professional to bawdy. “Our 6 watt unit will light the top of a 75’ palm tree from the ground,” Feb. 10, 1970. “Take care and tell Delsey to keep her knees together,” Aug. 4, 1970. A folded and faded page explained different types of people based on fart characteristics.
 
A sales slip for a 1968 Volvo 144S, four-door, $3,273; minus discount, including tax and financing, $2,912.80. And the Volvo Air Conditioner Owner’s Guide & Warranty. A December 1970, speeding ticket, clocked by aircraft.

Then, insurance pictures from a car accident. Palmer’s Steakhouse, Kountry Kitchen and Ta-ho Lounge in the background.

 
The few personal effects stood out. St. Patrick’s Day greetings, handmade by children. Three Mother’s Day cards from 1971: The first, “Best Wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day,” signed, “Love, Mom & Dad Leetzow.”
 
Another, the card read, “Happy Mother’s Day from your intelligent, good-looking, talented child…and that’s not conceit…it’s heredity!” Signed, “You betchya! Love, ‘Dubbie’”
 
The last, “To My Wife…” Signed, “Love of all my life, I hope you enjoyed your day! Love, Larry.”
 
A clipping from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, torn crudely above the fold,showed a photo marking the formation of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Second from the left was, according to the caption, “Leonard Leetzow, Manatee County, representative of the distributor of the backlight equipment.” The face of one of our ghosts.
 
It took us a few minutes to notice Leo because the picture had been printed on page 2. The opposite side of the clipping contained the front-page headline for Monday, August 3, 1964: “Torpedoes Fired at U.S. Destroyer; N. Viet Nam Blamed.”