The wall held it all this time. The years slipped by one after another, and as they turned into decades, new house owners came and old ones left. They painted the bathroom walls, put decorative tiling on them and nailed up pictures. It stayed hidden within.
Then, in 2012, a pipe leaked, leaked so bad water dripped from the bathroom through the ceiling into the living room below, drip, drip, dripping on the wooden floor. This would not do. It was decided all the plumbing had to be replaced, the old pipes torn out and new ones put in. The whole bathroom, everything but the wooden beams holding it in place had to go, too.
One of the house-owner’s sons spends a whole day smashing the bathroom apart with a sledgehammer, gashing holes in the walls as he stands knee-deep in rubble. He hauls the debris downstairs and then outside, where he piles it near the curb. Nothing’s left of the bathtub, sink, floor or even the walls.
The newspaper saw light for the first time in many years that day. But mixed with the rubble, it was indistinguishable among the concrete, dust and dirt. The tattered yellow pages crumpled for wall insulation waited for transport, and certain destruction, into the dumpster.
Another one of the house-owner’s sons finishing the job a few days later sees something outside sticking oddly through the rest of the debris. He lifts it from the pile and brushes away the dirt. He studies the large pages, the fine print, the narrow columns, the year—1929—and thinks his older sister, a newspaper editor, might like to see it. I do.
I wonder how two pages from The Pittsburgh Press found their way from Pennsylvania to Northwood Drive in the Town of Tonawanda. I wonder how they passed into the hands of a builder and, more than 80 years later, into my own.
I learned through reading what I could of them that along with many other people from Pittsburgh, Thomas J. McConnell died on Sept. 5, 1929. It was a good time to die. One month later the stock market would crash, and the Great Depression would follow.
I learned that roller skates sold for just $1.59; a phonograph for $5.95; and a car tire for $4.95 (6,000 miles guaranteed). I learned through the job ads that women were mostly wanted for house-cleaning, babysitting and book-keeping. For the better jobs employers sought men.
I learned through the Lost and Found section that people had lost all kinds of things: a crystal and emerald bracelet; a box with a dress in it; a boy’s cap “with a badge”; and a coin purse, quilt and pin. Dogs were lost, too. An Irish terrier, a Boston bull and a “rabbit hound.”
I learned through reading the snippet of an article printed in full on a page I didn’t have that the writer disliked one of the Ringling brothers, of the circus, and called him a “swashbuckling old showman.” He writes: “Many of Mr. Ringling’s most noted exhibits do little more than roam about in cages, eat uncooked food and sniff contemptuously at the customers.”
I learned also that sports-fan need not be alarmed by the new football rules decided by the “rules committee.” The headline reads: “New Rules Simple: Attacking side can still pick up fumble and run with it.” The article quotes Knute Rockne, a Notre Dame football coach.
All these items made the news in 1929, the year they were placed in the bathroom wall on Northwood Drive. Eighty-three years later, the news came tumbling back out, and it got lucky.
It was read one last time.