Garbage magic


The weather has been warm and sunny, a nice burst of summer weather before the cold comes for good! Thursday morning (Rosemont and some Outremont) was pretty quiet, though a friend who accompanied me made off with some decent kitchen stuff. In the evening I went out hunting in the central section of Rosemont.

Near the end of my route I came across this pile of bags, one of which contained some old travel souvenirs mixed in with some home-made ceramics.


I’d guess these would have been made sometime between the late 60s to maybe the 80s.


My favourite is this little piggy bank. It was made in Korea. It looks sort of vintage, but I couldn’t find any reference to the company (D L C) on the internet. Most likely it’ll make a good yard sale piece.


Also in the bag were four big shells. I often find bags full of old shells that people picked off a beach somewhere but rarely are they this big or nice. Often when I find stuff like this I take them and leave them by a playground or elementary school yard. I figure some kid would think it pretty cool to find a shell on recess, maybe spurring their imagination and an interest in the natural world. I still have these shells, they might make good yard sale pieces, although there’s also an elementary school nearby.


I finished the route and started biking in the direction of the Plateau which also has a Thursday evening pick-up. I decided to take a small detour to check out (yet another) part of Rosemont which has its trash collection on Friday mornings in the off chance that people had put some of their garbage out early. I used to frequent this neighbourhood pretty regularly but it’s kind of far to go from my new place.

I stumbled across this accumulation of bags and boxes somewhere around Masson and 1 Av. I was poking around when an older lady came out and started encouraging me to take stuff. “Prens, prens!” (take it, take it!) she said. Much of it was old fabrics and shoes which had a slight to moderate musty smell to them. It was probably stuff she’d had in the basement for a while.


I took this collection of dolls off her hands. I can’t be sure how old they are, however I’d guess that they were made in the late 60s or early 70s – the girl on the back left has what looks like a “flower child” hairdo. The woman told me she was Ukrainian and that a few of the dolls were Ukrainian as well. She was a pretty nice lady, even helping me finds some of the matching clothes for the dolls!


I stayed up late last night to have some drinks with friends. I thought I’d take the morning off, but when I woke up wide awake at 730 I figured I might as well check out Villeray. I’m glad I did. My finds came from this small pile on Berri near Cremazie.

Part of what I look for while trash hunting is a larger than “average” pile on the curb – this definitely didn’t meet that criteria. I almost biked on by but when I looked back something caught my eye, probably the old piece of tupperware in the clear bag which gave me the feeling that the things inside might not be the usual boring old recycling.


Inside the clear bag was a nice old paper bag, a couple of instruction manuals for old audio equipment and a 1960 pamphlet for RCA all-in-one stereos. It’ll probably make me a couple of bucks at a yard sale.


The best find, however, was in the black bag. Inside was a pretty random assortment of almost-interesting things (a pair of old worn knitted slippers counts as “almost interesting”) as well as a pile of rubble, the kind of stuff you might sweep up off a basement floor. Being thorough I looked under the rubble and found two rolls of black and white negatives, a box of slides and a cardboard box that was just packed with slides.

A man had walked by and saw that I found the negatives. He was pretty excited by them and we started talking a bit. When I pulled the cardboard box out of the bag and opened it, revealing the treasure trove of old slides, he was doubly excited. Garbage is kind of magical sometimes: you dig into a boring black bag, one of our society’s most recognizable symbols of uselessness, the tool with which we get rid of ours undesirables and you pull out a treasure. The house they were in front of was recently sold, according to the sign out front, so I assume the new owners were just throwing out a few things left behind by the previous owners.

Most of the slides are from the late 50s to late 60s. There’s a few from the 70s as well. They seem to be in pretty great condition. Many looks to be tourist shots – I saw some that were definitely from Paris and Venice. There are a few local shots (my preferred vintage photo find) of the aftermath of a 1960s Montreal snowstorm. Who knows how many of these will be interesting, but I think there’ll definitely be some that are photo-blog worthy.

(I haven’t updated my photo blog in a while I know. The problem is that my scanner doesn’t work with my operating system! I also need to make a trip to a local archive were I can convert slides to digital. It’s just a fairly time consuming process).


In the meantime here’s a preview of a few of the slides. I have a slide projector (also found in the trash) so I projected a few of the slides onto the wall and took some pictures. These people are standing in front of a ship called the “Homeric,” a cruise ship which operated in the 50s and 60s.

Below is a 1950s street scene picture. Any help on identifying the building would be appreciated! Chances are it’s reasonably notable building, though it could be anywhere in Europe or North America based on the slides I’ve looked at. Someone with a knowledge of old cars might be able to pinpoint the country. The second photo is a family barbecue photo from the same era, perhaps taken somewhere in Montreal.



I appreciate these kinds of finds. They help me imagine what it’d be like living “back then” and I can share that experience with others (who may or may not have actually lived in those days!). Saving these moments in time from their destruction is a satisfying experience.

I hope to find some more good trash later when I explore another part of Rosemont and the eastern section of the Plateau.

20 thoughts on “Garbage magic”

  1. Those are beautiful travel souvenirs.I can’t believe somebody threw them in the garbage.

  2. another good bunch..interesting maybe more than good, but still

    it is very nice that you place seashells for kids to find…(not saying yu should do the same with these large ones, as I think ones those size might be worth a bit more..)

    I recall when my son was little, he would get so excited and pleased to find loose change on the ground..Heck even pennies were exciting. To this day I try to pass it on, and will often “drop” my loose change where I think a kid will find it.

    those old photos, if you don’t use them/find someone to buy them, here is a marketing suggestion.. I have seen people make art collages out of old bits of this and that, often including old photos/old letters/old pay stubs etc, found at sales, etc, and combined into an artwork. you might market them so many to a bag, with other bits of this and that you find tossed in bag, and label it “ephemera” (sp?) , for artwork/collage/scrapbook (have seen a lot do this)

    1. It’s a good idea. Ephemera usually sells pretty well, especially in my new area (lots of arts and crafts types). What I usually do is throw it in an old suitcase and let people rummage through it.

    2. It’s a good idea. Ephemera usually sells pretty well, especially in my new area (lots of arts and crafts types). What I usually do is throw it in an old suitcase and let people rummage through it.

      1. if you could make up some “sealed” packs, before your next garage sale..also, you have an online shop, right? I have seen scads of these for sale on line. They’ll have a page fr this/page fr that, and folks have told me the sell

        maybe if you can find more bits in garage sales to put in
        pay stubs
        old Christmas cards
        old post cards
        lots of these have old photos
        old letters
        old travels stuff – tickets/baggage tickets/etc
        old menus
        old wedding invites/announcements
        old bits lace
        old buttons

        you seem to come across lots of goodies

  3. that is such a good idea to leave the sea shells at a school ground. I would have loved to find something like that when I was a kid. back in the 1900s

  4. Those photos of the vacation from the Fifties are beautiful,beautiful and maybe have historic value.Please do not give them away or sell them for a song.Keep them.

  5. I grew up in Montreal North just west of St.Gertrude street.Now I live in Pierrefonds.In the sixties and seventies Montreal North had beautiful homes with large families.I have great memories of growing up in Montreal North.Please venture out to the richer areas of Montreal North on recycling pickup day or garbage day and check out the trash there.You never know what treasures you will pull out there.You have never covered that borough and even Ahuntsic for that matter.I am looking forward to seeing you cover that area and report on it.

    1. My new location (having moved recently) is a bit closer to these areas. I did a little research on Ahuntsic and Cartierville, apparently the oldest church in Montreal is up there. It’s still fairly far but I’ll make a point to check it out. Apparently pickup days are Tuesday and Friday mornings.

  6. It’s amazing what people will throw out. it’s alot of family history that the younger generation would have loved someday but now they are someone else s’ treasure

  7. I so enjoyed reading this. My Grandpa used to take me “garbage pickin,'” as a kid and I loved the thought of a treasure inside. Of course this was before recycling so you never knew what you were gonna find… I’m jealous that you can venture out and pick. I’m homebound with little girls but would love to join you!

  8. I understand biking is very effective for you because it helps you cover great distances.But while biking fast you can miss out on interesting trash because you may not see it from afar.On some streets,it is best to lock the bike and just walk from one end to the other slowly examining the trash.I did this once on Toupin street in Ville St.Laurent (I do not know if you know this street).I also did this on garbage day on Verville and Meunier street in Ahuntsic,came home with some great knickknacks rescued from the trash this summer.The north end is very full of people and could be a bonanza for you.

  9. Quite a variety gleaned from this outing. Those shells are beauties. I can’t understand why anyone would discard them in such a manner … but they’ll be a very real treasure for any kid who comes across the ones you’ve left out for their discovery. Looking forward to seeing all those slides properly scanned and posted on your blog.

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