Our Walls are Talking

We have been right in the middle of a remodeling project in our home for awhile. In phase one we ripped out layers of flooring and had the hardwood flooring refinished in one bedroom and the staircase.

Here’s what the flooring project looks like:

That leads us to the little situation of the hallway, which has mint green textured paneling, mint green trim around the window and doors, and built in storage benches built with plywood that is now starting to smell. I’m sorry, but those benches and the paneling just had to go.

We were already living in a construction zone and the two neighborhood contractors had been to our house checking things out a few times a week (they have gutted and refinished their own houses and are looking for another project). They had big ideas for us, including a drywall project in the hallway and a new stair railing, but they said first we had to pull all that paneling down.

So I started with removing those benches using a hammer. There were many pieces, some of the nails were half an inch long – other nails seemed like they were four inches long – but the benches really did deconstruct quickly.

Just as I pulled the back of the built-in bench off of the wall, I saw a big stack of papers fall to the ground. Then I was intrigued. As I looked through the papers I found that they were bank ledgers from the late 1940s and copies of checks. The names on the papers were consistent with the name of a former owner, but the interesting thing is the checks also had the business name of Royal Jewelers on them. That jewelry store is still in business in downtown Fargo and it’s where we go to handle our jewelry maintenance. Pretty cool, right?

I was still thinking of those papers as I pulled out the second bench and wouldn’t you know it, the same exact thing happened – more papers slid to the ground. But this time, when I peeked over the debris I saw small colored photographs. Now this was getting really exciting!

This was the envelope with the small photos that we found.

We had always wondered what our house looked like years ago, and staring back at me was a 2×2 inch colored photo of a woman standing near the corner of our house, a clear view of the side of the house and the garage, and a vintage looking car parked in the driveway. There were also small colored photos of the Royal Jewelers sign. Next to the photos I found a small envelope postmarked Sept. 1949; someone had mailed these photos from St. Paul after a visit to Fargo.

Later Terry and I looked closer at all of these finds. The copies of checks told a story of their own: milk delivery to the home, what church the family attended, the charities they donated to, and the price of items in 1949. We also found a receipt for two taffeta twin comforters, which is interesting because when we had the bedroom floors refinished we found bedpost markings for two twin beds – one on each side of the room’s window.

We called Royal Jewelers and talked to the owner, Richard. When we told him what we found he knew the family right away – his father worked for them. We set up an appointment next week to drop off the items and especially the photos for Richard to check out. I wonder if he’s seen the photos of the outside of his store from 1949?

We will find out.


  1. Annie says

    I think that before you give the wonderful surprises back, you should take a photo copy of that post marked envelope, enlarge it and frame it for that room. I’ve seen it done on Pinterest and it makes Great Wall art!

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