Great moments in building history: What carpenter doesn’t dream of finding a cache of cash during a project?
Carpenter folklore is full of stories of valuable objects lost and forgotten in walls. What carpenter doesn’t dream of finding a cache of cash during a project?
With such a notion tucked in our minds, my friend Richard and I found ourselves in the demolition stage of a small renovation. One day, I was in the kitchen cutting a doorway for a new laundry room. As he considered reuse potential, Richard was removing some shiplap mahogany boards that paneled a living-room wall.
Midmorning, I heard Richard call me: “Bob, I’ve found a cavity in this wall, and there’s two suitcases in it.” Two old, dusty, mysterious suitcases. Clearly, we wanted to get at them right away. Our enthusiasm for this stage of demolition was accelerating quickly. Unfortunately, we still had to save the mahogany boards. About five minutes later, we got the boards off and pulled the cases out. We set them on the floor and paused before opening them. My mind was filled with images of currency, new cars and me on the beach in Hawaii.
But when Richard opened the suitcases, we discovered a collection of old, deteriorating issues of late-1950s to mid-1960s men’s magazines with photos of women in various phases of dress and undress.
Reality came crashing back in. We realized the suitcase-containing cavity was accessed by a removable ceiling panel in a closet on the other side of the wall. A tattered piece of rope attached to the suitcases’ handles attested to a broken recovery line, and the hidden contraband’s becoming lost in the wall. After a quick laugh, we went back to work.
About a month later, Richard and I were discussing the incident. I admitted that one thing that bothered me was that when we had those suitcases before us, I was thinking, “How much money would have to be in here to keep me from telling the homeowners what we found?”
Richard, who also has some moral integrity, answered, “That’s nothing. When I saw those suitcases in that cavity, my first thought was, How can I get these out to my truck without Bob seeing them?”
—Bob Mentzos, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Drawing by: Jackie Rogers