Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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On Tuesday I bought a new pair of gloves. When I got them home, I decided I didn't like the color, so the next day I brought them back and exchanged them for a different pair. On my way back from the glove exchange, I decided on a whim to stop at a vintage shop in my neighborhood, where I came across this old jacket. I liked the cut and the fit, but I don't usually wear pale colors, so I wasn't sure about it. As I was trying it on, I felt something in one of the front pockets, so I reached in and pulled out a small wad of papers, all folded up. I didn't unfold them, but I could see that several of them had handwritten notes and appeared to be yellowed with age.

That was enough for me. I put everything back in the pocket and bought the jacket.

When I got home, I examined this new stash of ephemera, beginning with the check that's shown at the top of this entry. As you can see, it was written to pay a phone bill, but it bounced. It's not a report card, obviously, but it nonetheless feels very Permanent Record -- an old document of someone's personal details. How does this stuff keep finding me?

Naturally, I began searching for Ronald and Ann Marie Kroznuski. It turns out Ronald passed away just a few months ago in South Carolina, but Ann Marie is still alive. It feels odd to know that she bounced a check 36 years ago -- a small record of shame to which I'm privy (and now you are, too).

So what else was in the jacket pocket? For starters, a time card from Ronald's job:

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No indication of what the job was, which is semi-maddening. Would it have killed Ronald's company to put its name on the time card?

There were also two short grocery shopping lists. One of them was on the back of a small (2.5" square) Woolco sales slip:

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The other shopping list was on written on the flap of an envelope (hey, just like the Gettysburg Address, right?):


Next up, a receipt for a gallon of paint at Sherwin-Williams -- "Tivoli Green Accent 4492":

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That paint color corresponds to one of the hues on this swatch strip, which has some basic arithmetic on the back:

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Green, incidentally, has been my favorite color ever since I was a little boy -- another sign, if you choose to believe in such things, that this stuff was meant for me.

One final item -- a pocket calculator user's manual:

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Hmmm -- if the Kroznuskis had a calculator, why did they have to do math on the back of the swatch strip? Maybe the latter inspired the purchase of the former.

That's it.

Did the jacket once belong to the Kroznuskis? If so, had these cards and papers been sitting in the pocket for 36 years until I found them a few days ago? And what about the staff of the shop where I bought the jacket -- don't they go through the pockets of a garment before putting it out on the racks? Maybe they found this stuff in the pocket but decided to leave it there, thinking it might make a nice bonus prize for the jacket's new owner? Or maybe they randomly seed their vintage clothing with assorted detritus, just because it's fun?

Meanwhile, should I contact Ann Marie Kroznuski? Should I just pack all of this stuff into an envelope and send it to her, with a note explaining how I found it? Should I send the material back anonymously, with no note? Or should I just leave her alone and enjoy these latest artifacts to find their way into my orbit?

Finally, consider this: What if I had bought the right color of gloves from the start?


  1. the easy answer is to do nothing... but you wouldn't have posted this if you didn't want to do anything. although the story of the people is intriguing, I think the most potentially interesting aspect is finding out how this jacket with their artifacts got from Pottstown, Penna (I love that abbreviation, btw) to a vintage store in your neighborhood (in Brooklyn, I believe, right?) 36 years later.

    1. Taha, it's Pottsville, Pennsylvania, not Pottstown. I grew up in/around Pottsville. The writing on the memo line is a Pottsville phone number (area code 570). Paul, I can post this to my hometown friends on Facebook and see if anyone knows the Kroznuski's, if you'd like.

    2. I posted it about 24 hours ago, and no one has bitten so far. I'll keep you updated.

      Incidentally, today's UW post is about Hershey, which is less than an hour from Pottsville and about 20 minutes from where I sit right now.

  2. if you were to return it, the swatch strip might bring back some vivid memories. though the return of any of these items without proper explanation could come off as rather creepy to an elderly woman. . . tough call.

  3. If you'd just found the documents, and had no other information, then with the Permanent Record project to point to I would say go ahead and contact the Kroznuskis.

    However, you mention one additional piece of information - that Ronald Kroznuski passed away only a few months ago. That means you'd be approaching a widow whose grief is still quite fresh, and you would know that was what you were doing. If Ronald's coat was in the vintage shop then the chances are that Mrs Kroznuski and/or their children only recently disposed of Ronald's belongings. It's not like the report cards that hadn't been touched for years and were never truly the belongings of the students to whom they refer.

    As Greg says, there's also the "creepy" aspect.

    Personally I'd leave the idea of approaching Mrs Kroznuski, although if you're really interested, the vintage shop may have taken more of Ronald's effects than just one of his old coats.

  4. I believe that these odds and ends keep finding their way into your hands because you will do more than just throw them away. Well done, sir.

    Vaguely along these lines, several years ago I was looking through an old law book and found the top part of a billing statement pressed in the front. It was dated April, 1939 and reflected the sum owing of $5.00 for the original purchase of the book. It also listed the original purchaser, Claude Pollard of "Railway Genl. Mgrs Assn. of Texas."

    I was torn. Should I leave the piece of paper where it had been for many decades? Should I save it from being lost in that book for decades more? Strangely, I put a lot of thought into it. I ended up removing the partial statement and keeping in my desk along with other souvenirs of my job. My reasoning was that this inanimate object now feels appreciated. Odd, I know.

    1. Neither "strange" nor "odd," Robert -- just a very human reaction to an artifact.

  5. While there are a lot of good points in the comments above, overall, my hunch is to focus not on the ephemera, but the people behind it. I'm a firm believer that every person has a story, and that that story should somehow get out. While right now might not be the time, at some point, the Kroznuskis' story should be pieced together and told--and you are just the one to do that.

  6. Though I've found plenty of old things like this, I never held onto them long enough to focus on the possible stories behind them. I like seeing the photos of the lists etc .. because it's like a frozen moment and the only thing remaining of that moment is that piece of paper and the ink. it's so ordinary but also extraordinary at the same time. -- Lianne (lordy, does anyone know how I can change my account name away from my ESL Class ? !)

    1. Beautifully put, Lianne. You should write a song about this kind of thing!

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  8. Ann Marie and Ron are my grandparents... The color swatch matches the walls in the upstairs hallway of their old house, which my dad lived in until about two years ago. I'm very interested in your findings. :) If you still have them, I'd love to talk more.

    1. Hi, Kimberly ... Yes, I still have the color swatch, the check, and everything else. Please feel free to contact me directly: plukas64 at gmail.