Crown Life


I got back from Edmonton late Saturday night after spending a bit more than a week “on the road.” I definitely got to see a lot of the country! We didn’t take our time driving: most cool spots and hiking trails were snowed in, motels are expensive, and it was really cold most of the time. Still, it was a good trip and it solidified my connection to this massive country that is Canada.

The train got in a bit late to Edmonton but Sarah and I still managed to do a bit of a trash run in an area known as Westmount. We didn’t find anything too crazy but did bring back a few mementos. If I lived in Edmonton I’d definitely check the trash in this neighbourhood quite regularly, there’s lots of beautiful houses and a fair bit of history.


The recycling bins above contained a bunch of old liquor bottles from the 60s and 70s. If I had the space I might have taken them but alas the car was already loaded with stuff. The bags contained some odds and ends and what looked to be the contents of a deep freezer. I took these two stuffed animals both of which look to be from the 1970s. The dog is pretty cute and has movable limbs, the octopus is pretty fun as well. The dog is actually sort of collectible – it was made by Kamar in Japan and other dogs by this company have sold on Ebay for between 10 and 35$. The octopus I might just keep for myself, at least for now as it’s a charming living room decoration.


I also found a couple of cool glasses. One unfortunately broke along the way but this chalice made for the 1973 Edmonton Exhibition made it back alive. I like its kitschy design and it’ll serve nicely as a souvenir from the trip. It’ll also serve nicely for drinking wine and beer.


I’ve spent most of the last few days recovering from the driving (/ constantly sitting in weird angles) and also helping my friend get settled in. Today though we decided to use her car and drive over to TMR, hoping to find some cool trash but also some furniture for her new place. It was an interesting change of pace to use the car. It’s much faster and you can definitely cover a larger area. You can also take a lot more stuff. On the down side, however, you lose a bit of the “feel” and are more reluctant to stop at any time.

I should be able to use the car a bit going forward, I’ll just have to contribute money for gas and other maintenance stuff. This means I might be able to check out some new trash days that are otherwise too far away. I currently have my eyes on Westmount and Ville St Laurent specifically, the latter especially on their heavy trash days. The car is a small hatchback, nice because it’s pretty decent for storage but also very economical on gas.

Today’s run was pretty solid, we didn’t find anything that would stop the presses but we still came away with some interesting and useful finds. Our first haul came from this place. The owners have been throwing away a small amount of good stuff every week for a while now, likely because they’re getting ready for a move.


Inside the recycling bin was this painting. The artist’s signature looks to be written in Greek.


Inside its original box was this Holiday-brand tape deck. It looks straight out of the 70s and seems to work okay, it’s just missing one of the keys. I might be able to get a bit of money for this at a yard sale as it definitely has a cool vintage look.


Inside a black bag were some baubles and bits of jewellery. My favourite of this bunch is the horn-shaped piece on the bottom left. It’s made of some material that’s colourful and shiny, my guess would be carved mother of pearl.


These might be the best of the bunch though. Both are connected to key-chain attachments but I doubt those were there originally. The one on the left is made of sterling silver and feature some kind of Hebrew phrase. On the right is a medal commemorating the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967 during the Six-Day War. It’s apparently made of bronze, I found one that sold for 10$ on Ebay. If anyone can tell me the meaning of the Hebrew phrase let me know!



Later on we came across this spot somewhere west of the railroad tracks. We stopped only because we saw a wooden box with wheels that Sarah thought might be useful; inside the bins though was some more interesting stuff. I took this picture as we were about to leave, as you can see there wasn’t much left for the garbage truck.


Inside one of the bins was a bag full of nice fabrics and sewing materials.


Inside the other bin were a bunch of old frames and photos. A lot of the photos are pretty cool and I’ll show you some of my favourites below. I’d guess that most of the pictures were taken in the 40s and 50s.


These were worth taking for the frames alone but the pictures (and the people) are beautiful as well. I like the image of Mary on the right, it’s deep inside a very cool greenish frame that features a pattern made of shaped mirrors and black paint. To me the frame looks very art deco and the lithographed image of Mary is similar to others I’ve seen that were made in the 30s and 40s.


On the left is a very old religious image with text (I’m not even sure of the word for this kind of thing, does anyone know?). On the right is what looks to be a class photo with the title “Rhétorique ‘A’ 1958-59”. I’m not sure what that would be either, so if you have an idea let us know!


I love old certificates and this one is no exception. It was issued in 1952 to a boy in honour of his passing his catechism test. I have another one just like it for another, slightly younger boy.


A few more pictures. The one on the top looks like Niagara Falls. On the bottom right is a boat that looks to be full of military personnel. It’s one of two different framed pictures of the boat, which lead Sarah to note that the boat itself must have had some kind of significance to the photographer, especially since one of the pictures wasn’t a particularly good shot (a bit blurry). If I were to guess I’d say that this boat is bringing back soldiers from World War II and that the person who took this photo was the wife of one of the men aboard.


I also really like the picture on the bottom left. It’s taken inside of a Crown Life Assurance-Vie (life insurance) office – you can see the name written backward in one of the windows. The view of the outside is awesome, giving a view of a bunch of 1950s cars (“boats”) and an old Shell Oil sign. The photo offers a great look at what a desk job back then could have looked like.

I might keep a couple of these as decoration but many will likely end up in a yard sale. Old black and white photos are fairly popular in my area and since they are already framed I can charge a bit more for them.


By the time we got home we had filled most of the trunk with stuff. Some we left in the Give Box on St Viateur (the basketball, a ski bag and a fake Louis Vuitton bag) and some we took back to her place (including the wire mesh table, wooden planter, the box in the back which was full of old wallpaper designs and the red toolbox). All in all it was a good haul.

I’m trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. I could do my usual run though Rosemont but I could also make a special trip out to Westmount (the Montreal one this time around). It’s a very rich neighbourhood but it’s a bit far away to go to by bike. There’s also a lot of big hills that make using the bike trailer very difficult. Anyways, we shall see. I’ll keep you posted regardless!

19 thoughts on “Crown Life”

  1. I loved the painting with the Greek signature that you found in the recycling bin in TMR as well as those old framed photos from the forties and fifties.Your octopus find in Edmonton is great too,but as you wrote,Edmonton is usually too cold in February to scavenge with ease.Now that you have a car,please also go to Montreal West,Verdun West,LaSalle,Lachine,Dorval,Ahuntsic and the wealthier part of Montreal North.Expand your range.Congratulations!

  2. You are so right about being more hesitant to stop in a car. I find so much more while walking my dog than I do driving by. I usually only stop for big pieces of furniture that I can see clearly from the road when I’m in my car.

    1. Last July 1st I saw a pickup truck going around, well loaded with metal scraps. Right in front of me they stopped to pick up something, maybe a single metal sink, something that size. I was surprised, cars were parked along the street (except for spaces being held for moving trucks) and I’m not sure how they saw this bit of metal).

      You can’t see anything but the big things, on the other hand, it’s the one time when the most noticeable items can be taken. At least one area here has a day or two each year when people are encouraged to put out big items they no longer want , so others in the neighborhood can take what they want. I’ve gone out there a few times, and I saw nothing that could be carried on foot. Even the encyclopedia set was too large to bring home unless I’d had a wagon. On the other hand, it seems a great place to go if you need used exercise equipment, and have the means to get it home. It’s also the same area that has a long street sale in the spring (and adjacent streets get into the action) and it’s full of people within walking distance, so easy to get something home if you live a few blocks away. Or when the students move out from near McGill University, it’s not uncommon to see pairs or more of people moving furniture from one apartment to another. Sometimes it’s people just moving a black or too, other times it’s people finding furniture that they need for their new place.


  3. Good to see you back! The octopus could be your alter ego … grabbing all the found treasures with his many arms, and smiling at his cleverness. 🙂

    You found some good frames there. That art deco one is sweet.

  4. Congratulations on rescuing those gorgeous framed photographs.What a pity and waste to throw them out in the first place!My aunt sold her home in Town of Mount Royal 6 years and moved to a seniors residence.But very little was thrown out in the trash,except old carpets and furnishings,some old clothes and some furniture.Most of the furniture was sold in a garage sale,20% of the furniture was donated to charities and some furniture was taken by other family members.My aunt took all the old family photos and about 200 books to her seniors’ residence,giving the rest of her books to her nieces and nephews for their homes.If she passes away,hundreds of old photos will be kept by family members.Why do people throw out framed photos in the trash,even if they are moving?

  5. A number of people have told you to open recycling bins more.You see,you found those framed photos and the Greek painting inside recycling bins.I check out recycling bins in Ahunstic,Cartierville and Ville St.Laurent often while biking in spring,summer and autumn.Besides cans,I find and sometimes salvage great books,postcards,stamps,paintings,etc from recycling bins.You are more likely to find photos,postcards and books in recycling bins than in garbage bins or garbage bags.I encourage you to check out the contents of recycling bins more regularly.

  6. After a mild three or four days,temperatures again will be much colder next week.You will not be able to go to distant neighborhoods for foraging,unless you take your car.

  7. after you are done cheering on the Canada hockey team,
    keep an eye out for
    celebration souveniers
    collectibles from folks who attended/participated in Sochi Olympics

    ask around , see if anyone has a lead for you on folks who attended/participated
    — check their garbage over next few weeks

  8. Sometimes I think your iinstincts can be wrong.You mention how you stopped your car and looked inside this recycling bin full of photos because the other car passenger found the spot interesting.Even with your great experience and savvy,you may miss some invaluable treasures because you choose not to open many trash cans ,garbage bags and recycling bins.Actually,I am delighted with you for salvaging those wonderful vintage photos from the trash.But success at foraging seems too hit-and-miss to me.

    1. Do you know how much garbage there is?

      You have to be selective, or else you’d spend your time going carefully through all the garbage bags on one block. There are indicators to suggest one pile will be better than others, or indicators that what you are looking for might be there, and that’s a presorting method to help the process.

      It’s always hit and miss. Go this way and you may miss something, but you’ll never know. Go three weeks in a row to see if that computer store has tossed anything interesting, and find nothing, and then the fourth week when you decide it’s not worth going that way, they may toss loads of good stuff. But so long as you find things, of whatever you judge as valuable, then you are doing okay.

      I’ve found fascinating things all by themselves lying on the sidewalk, a completely random thing, sometimes on streets I’d never expect to find things. My friend Helen, who was homeless, would comment on how common it was to find things like food just lying on a mailbox or the sidewalk. Not garbage, just a mystery of why it was left there.

      Digging carefully through one pile may offer up one thing of “value” but if you checked first for more obvious piles, then you will uncover more. Someone clearing their house is more likely to offer up more things than someone just putting out that wee’s garbage. There really is garbage out there. The moment you find one thing in a pile of value, that’s the time when you pursue it more, because it is reasonable to assume that if something interesting gets tossed, there will be other things of value.

      For all the piles checked, and good things found, there are far more piles checked
      where there is nothing interesting. Those don’t get reported, they are just “the cost” of looking for things int he garbage. Of course a pile ignored may have interesting things, but it may also turn out to be a dud.

      Like I’ve said before, all kinds of people go looking, and will ignore things out of their interest. They aren’t being hit and miss, they aren’t being wasteful, they are looking for what they can process. If somebody misses something, there may be someone else to find it.

      The point of all this is not to keep good things out of the garbage, but to find interesting things. Martin does extremely well. He has to decide whether it’s good enough for himself or not, and whether to “work harder” or not.

      No matter what you do, there is always more. He could be sick one day, and miss the find of a life time, but since he doesn’t know about it, it can’t hurt him.

      Again, most people walk past piles of garbage and only see piles of unwanted garbage. If they did their part, then they’d be finding their share of “valuable” things. It’s not up to Martin, or anyone else who looks for things in the garbage, to rescue it all.


      1. Well put. In the end it’s impossible to save everything. Even if one were to meticulously check every bin they would spend so much time doing so that other, better trash would be taken away before they could get to it.

        I have decided that my current style (which varies somewhat day to day, week to week, etc while continuing to evolve) is the best way to ensure I get as much as possible. I stop often at places where I suspect there could be good trash while not getting bogged down so that I miss a sweet find later on. I’ve decided that focusing on finding bigger finds, especially those from the clearing out of homes and from people moving, gives me the most bang for my buck. I can never claim to find everything there is to find but I think my technique allows me to find amazing things regularly, things that other people would never find otherwise.

  9. If Martin doesn’t open many trash cans and recycling bins in the Plateau,Mile End or Rosemont,missed treasures will still very often be recovered by others.A lot of people scavenge in these areas.But if Martin misses treasures by not opening many trash cans and recycling bins in the Town of Mount Royal,those treasures will most often end up in the landfill——because few people scavenge in TMR,and because area residents are usually too snobby to poke into the trash of others.But Michael Black is right,Martin does a superb job overall.

  10. The Western Wall keychain says “If I forget thee, Jerusalem” from Psalm 137:5.

    (Sorry I meant to reply sooner but I only remembered it today.

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