Steamboat Springs The never ending quest for column material took me this week to the Unique Shop at 116 Ninth St. in downtown Steamboat.
I was led to believe that I would find something singular there to write about.
Ultimately, I was not disappointed.
I'm not sure what to wager either everyone in Steamboat has visited the Unique Shop at one time or another, or perhaps, most of you have never crossed through the doorway it shares with the Bamboo Market behind Lyons Drug in the Squire Building.
The Unique Shop is a cooperative of consignment sellers who periodically clean their attics and barns of a seemingly never-ending supply of antiques and bric-a-brac.
The late Virginia Andrew, who died last year, kept the Unique Shop going for many years through sheer will.
It's a tiny store, probably no more than 400 square feet. There are no computers at the Unique Shop. In fact, there isn't a cash register. A cash bag, a legal pad and a pencil are all the clerks need to keep the records.
They figure tax from a printed list. But the shop is packed with merchandise that defies categorization.
There are some genuine treasures in the Unique Shop. But it's fair to say that for the most part, there's a lot of curious old stuff.
What other label is there for a Zip-loc bag containing someone's collection of used matchbooks? I'm a pack rat, so what the hell?
I bought the entire bag for $2.
My favorite is a black matchbook printed in white ink, with the picture of an airport restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisc. The restaurant on the matchbook is the kind of period joint that had an old prop plane like a Lockheed Electra protruding form the roof.
The matches are all spent, and I can imagine there is a story about an airport rendezvous behind that scrap of cardboard.
Last week I stopped into the Unique Shop and pawed through a collection of old sheet music, but passed on it.
I can't read music.
I also passed on the postcard collection of downtown Omaha's architectural wonders circa 1960.
Still, I managed to find a treasure before I left.
It's a little hard-bound book in an orange cover bearing the title, "The Body's Needs."
It was published in 1936 by the MacMillan Company in New York. The book is devoted to guiding elementary school-aged children into leading healthy lives, and it gives some fascinating glimpses into what life was like growing up in this country 65-years ago.
For one thing, attitudes about exposure to the sun's rays have changed.
The book advocates a daily sun bath: "The sun is a health giver. Sitting in your bathing suit for half an hour in the middle of the day, out of doors or beside an open window in the spring and fall, with the warmth of the sun shining on your bare skin is a good habit."
The book warns about sunburn, but there is no mention of sunscreen because it hadn't been invented.
The book also contains a curious passage with advice on how school children can wash their hands before lunch, in the case that their school does not have running water! Just in case some of our local educators find themselves in this situation one morning, here's how it is done:
"The children used a pail as a sink. They poured clean water from a gallon measure. They used an oil can to hold liquid soap. They made the liquid soap by boiling a teaspoonful of powdered soap five minutes in a quart of water.
"Three children had charge of the hand washing. One poured some liquid soap on the hands of each boy and girl as they walked by in line. A second child poured water on the hands which were held over the empty pail. In this way, 20 children could wash their hands in about five minutes."
It sounds to me like life in America 66 years ago was a lot like camping out today!
The book also strongly advocates daily consumption of milk by growing children.
To make its case, it contains a chart comparing the weight gain achieved by rats given different diets. The rat who lived on bread and meat alone gained only 20 grams. The rat who supped on bread and eggs gained weight steadily, but not nearly so fast as the the rat who was served bread and milk.
That rat started at 50 grams and weighed nearly two-thirds of a pound at the end.
The same study today, to be meaningful, would have to include a rat fed a diet consisting solely of Goldfish crackers and Capris Sun.
Life presents opportunities like stumbling on a rare copy of "The Body's Needs" just once. I've learned that if you don't act on them, you will come to regret your indecision.
So here's what you do.
Go out for lunch downtown this week and order milk and bread. Then, allow yourself an extra 15 minutes before you return to work. Head over to the Unique Shop and promise yourself you won't leave until you've blown five dollars.
You'll get a kick out of it.