Mama was a saver. Growing up during the depression era she saved everything from aluminum foil to last year’s Christmas paper. She kept my sister’s dolls for me to play with and my brother’s Lionel train set. She kept comic books and story books, greeting cards and baseball cards. Nothing that could be repurposed was ever tossed because we might need it someday. She even saved cereal box tops to use for redemption of those cool prizes on the back of the box!
In the spring of 1969, she took me up to the corner drug store and we bought my first pack of cards. I somehow suspect the purchase was prompted by carry-over guilt from not having met Mickey Lolich. Neither one of us knew a thing about collecting cards because it wasn’t something my brother had ever pursued. In fact, in hindsight, none of the men in my life collected cards. It was just her and I, one pack at a time.
At a quarter a pack, it was a reasonable thing to get a kid who wanted everything she saw in the store. If I behaved while she shopped, I got a pack of cards. It was a simple proposition and one that worked quite well in her favor and mine; she got a well behaved child, I got cards. Lots and lots of cards. As my shoebox collection grew, I grew older and discovered Teen Beat magazine. At that junction, the cards were neatly tucked away in the root cellar of our basement.
There they sat until she passed away some 15 yrs. later, at which time the shoebox moved to the basement of my apartment building. There the box remained until we bought a house in the country, complete with a somewhat dilapidated shed, where those cards sat for several more years. Let me tell you, that shed leaked! For some reason only half the roof had been shingled and it was NOT the half where the forgotten box of cards sat.
At some point, now living alone, I decided to tear down the shed and put a new one up to keep things like a four wheeler, riding mower, and that everlasting, long forgotten box of 1969 Topps. Rediscovering that old box, while sorting out what to keep in transitioning from one shed to the other, brought a smile to my face; like finding an old friend after “all these years”. However, discovering that they were still in good shape - not smelling of mildew from the manner in which they were stored and not chewed by the ever present “country mouse” - was a joy in and of itself.
These days those old cards are stored properly in binders; and in the case of the Tigers, with some reverence. Having reintroduced myself to the collecting of cardboard, I now pass along the doubles I pull from current packs to my grandson. Although he lives in a house with a basement, his cards - most of which are commons - are already in binders and will never see the inside of a shoebox. On the rare occasion when he’s given one in a top loader, he knows those cards are “extra special”. One day when I’m long gone, that young man will have himself a nice collection of ’69 Topps cards too. But don’t worry, they’ll already be in binders.