The community room at Littleton’s Bemis Public Library looked more like an estate sale Sept. 13 as more than 200 people filed through with an assortment of family treasures.
Appraisers were on hand to offer insight on everything from a Marilyn Monroe Barbie to a Russian samovar, including watches, jewelry, artwork, furniture, muskets, china and even what looked to be an American Indian peace pipe.
Elizabeth Cooley arrived with her grandmother’s journal from 1904, along with photographs depicting her life on a Wyoming ranch. The documents gave Cooley insight into the life of Mabel Emilia Underwood, the grandmother who died before she was born.
“Agnes was telling me Gus took Daisy Trout to the dance,” wrote Underwood as a 25-year-old woman on Nov. 25, 1904. “I have my opinion of such a fellow. I’ll never speak to him again.”
Then, on Nov. 29: “If I could, I’d shake Daisy Trout. She is so hateful.”
Clearly, Underwood’s journal shows some things never change. But beyond that, said Daniel Geary, owner of Lone Tree Antiques and Fine Art in Eaton, Colo., it gives a real feel for what her life was like.
“Women in the frontier, there’s not a lot of record of that,” he said. “It’s not always pretty, but they were tougher than nails.” Underwood’s written words depict a hard-working and windy life of churning butter, ironing and scrubbing laundry offset by near daily visits to or from lots of friends — real ones, not Facebook friends, in a world where “social media” was the dining-room table.
“I always thought life on the ranch would be so boring, but they had company every day,” said Cooley. “And our kids think they have it so tough when we ask them to empty the dishwasher.”
Geary said there’s not a lot of value to such memorabilia beyond enlightenment, which Cooley said was the most important thing to her.
“I think it’s a real eyeglass sense of the past,” said Geary.
Joyce Russell brought an item that tells the story of her father’s near-death experience in World War II.
“My dad, Arthur Russell, was a medic stationed in Germany,” she said. “He was tending to a soldier down on the ground when a German soldier came up behind him with this knife and was going to stab him and kill him. Dad didn’t see that, but one of our soldiers shot the German soldier. And this is the knife.”
She also had with her a huge red banner bearing a swastika that her father said he took out of a meeting room in Germany. She plans to keep them in the family, but headed to Bemis out of curiosity as to their worth.
Geary said it was hard to place a value on the artifacts without more research because they are fairly common, but details could reveal more about them. He placed a ballpark figure on the two together of $2,000, but to Russell, they symbolize her father’s very life.
“He was a medic, so as he was saving lives, his life got saved,” she said.