The Spirit of the Gift: A Box of Chocolates

The Spirit of the Gift: A Box of Chocolates

Family Crest

Tucked in an old trunk, an empty box of chocolates with an inscription,

Kenneth’s first box of chocolates given by Uncle Darrel Sept. 7, 1926. 

The old box is fragile; it was constructed of paper but, it had survived over the course of eighty-eight years! I imagine that Kenneth left the box behind when he was no longer a boy; while his mother neatly tucked it away for sometime in the future.…

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The Spirit of the Gift: A Box of Chocolates

Tucked in an old trunk, an empty box of chocolates with an inscription,

Kenneth’s first box of chocolates given by Uncle Darrel Sept. 7, 1926. 

The old box is fragile; it was constructed of paper but, it had survived over the course of eighty-eight years! I imagine that Kenneth left the box behind when he was no longer a boy; while his mother neatly tucked it away for sometime in the future. Carefully, I opened the box and discovered a handmade stuffed elephant. . . This was precious; I felt a tingle up and down my spine – the spirit of the gift survived.

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Eighty-eight years later, I understood the sentiment. The first step or the first word or the first box of chocolate mark moments in time that become more meaningful over the course of a lifetime. Here I stood with this memento with its beautiful art deco design – deep blue lovely actually. I dusted it carefully and placed it on a table.

Now, in my present life, I pass things on in the marketplace – a big marketplace powered by the internet. I write descriptions that are probably too long and often, I think, too sentimental. I could easily write a description lacking the story of this empty old chocolate box; perhaps,

Old Ramer’s Chocolate Box. Good Condition. Measurement 10″ x 4″ approximately.

But then, the history is lost – and so is the meaning. So, I photographed the box, pondering each detail of the graphics; looked at the elephant again and then wrote this description:

The amazing graphics on this paper wrapped cardboard box – are remarkable and in very good condition . . . the box is dated with a charming inscription:

“Kenneth’s first box of chocolates given by Uncle Darrel Sept. 7, 1926″

The craftsman era is reflected in the graphic tree with fruit while the peacock seems more reminiscent of art deco .  . .
Whatever the inspiration, the brilliant blue, red rose and linear horizontal graphics eventually lead to the logo for Ramer’s Chocolate. The logo is repeated on the side of the box . . .

We are selling this advertising box as found . . . upon opening the box, we were surprised to see a handmade elephant tucked inside, no doubt, an attempt by Kenneth’s Mother to save one of his childhood toys. This is a treasure. Measures about 10” X 4 1/2 X 3 1/4.
Condition: At the corner of the lid, there is some loosening
of the wrap. The elephant needs a wash as evidenced in the
photograph.

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For a while, I had the pleasure of enjoying the box on the table. I wondered if anyone in the world appreciated the bits and pieces of the past. Maybe no one will ever . . . I would say to myself. But one evening, the Etsy Notification sounded . . .TMA had just ordered the Ramer’s Chocolate Box! I was a little let down, no longer would I see the beautiful graphics as I passed the table. I worried also – why did someone want this box? I carefully packed the chocolate box. I also reiterated to the new owner that this was a precious chocolate box.

Two days later, the new owner, Tanya replied:

The package arrived today in great shape – thank you so much – especially for the background information.  While having dinner just a couple of weeks ago, my daughter Ali was telling my Aunt Barbara (nee Ramer) about her new job at the bakery, which includes candy making.  My Aunt then went on to tell us how my Nana (Hortense Ramer) always knew what was inside the chocolate pieces in a candy box based on the design on the candy because she worked for Ramer chocolates – apparently my grandfather’s side of the family (Earl Ramer) owned a chocolate shop.  It was a tidbit of info that my Aunt learned from my Nana at some point (my own mother had never heard that story), so I of course had to google Ramer Chocolates to find out more.  My Nana lived in NJ her whole life, so when I saw that Ramer’s Chocolates was based in St. Paul, Minnesota, I wasn’t sure if there was a connection.  I then came across your etsy site in the google search,  and being a huge vintage fan, was further intrigued…unfortunately my nana passed away in 2006 at the age of 97, so I couldn’t ask her about working for her husband’s family’s candy shop  (maybe he was just a boyfriend at the time).  I hesitated about making the purchase until I saw the inscription from Uncle Darrel….maybe not a direct connection, but my mother’s name is Darriel Ramer, so to me that was more than a sign that this vintage item belonged in my collection – and upon receiving it, I actually got a chill when I opened the box and held it in my hand…
My Aunt did say that my grandfather’s family was from the midwest, so I am definitely going to do more digging.
So to make a long story short, the Ramer’s Chocolate box has found a perfect new home and will be cherished and handled with great care for many, many more years to come.  Thank you for brightening my day 🙂
Family Crest
Family Crest

An incredible history for an empty box of chocolates drawn from the early days of electricity to the age of the internet. I wonder if Tanya’s grandmother was there the day that the box of chocolates was shipped to Amesville, Ohio. It is entirely possible; the A. M. Ramer Company did not survive the great depression a few years later.

Lately, I have been spending some time reading about the company – I have found so many interesting details. The facility built in ca. 1916 cost a staggering 375,00.00! Saint Paul was becoming the candy capital of the world. And Mr. Ramer was a part of the growth of the candy industry and the growth of Saint Paul as a manufacturing center. The train from Chicago would pass the candy companies –  no doubt passengers enjoyed a sweet treat! But fortunes rise and fall, then as now. All that remains of the A.M. Ramer Candy Company is the bond of family. The spirit of the gift survived long past the lives of Kenneth and Uncle Darrel; the spirit of the gift lives now in the life of another family. A Circle. The circle of giving . . . Nice.

Ramer Candy Company Building

One last thought, I won’t worry about my descriptions being rather long or overly sentimental. Well, not so much . . .

Athens County Fair

Things have changed since the first county fairs in Athens County. Until this century, after the Great Depression, most folks lived in rural areas. Not until the last quarter of the last century did we witness an exodus to the city – people left to find “good jobs.” The pendulum swings again, the “good jobs” have evaporated… . demographics shift again. But  people still gather at county fairs…

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Local History – Athens County

Local History

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I am an historian – a card carrying historian – the post doctorate degree made it official and public. I look at the world around me with a particular if not downright peculiar lens. Every object that I look at tells a story. Recently, I acquired boxes of papers and books left by a teacher who enjoyed a long career in the local schools of Amesville.  So far, I  have only managed to touch the…

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Athens County Fair

Things have changed since the first county fairs in Athens County. Until this century, after the Great Depression, most folks lived in rural areas. Not until the last quarter of the last century did we witness an exodus to the city – people left to find “good jobs.” The pendulum swings again, the “good jobs” have evaporated. . . . demographics shift again. But  people still gather at county fairs or church celebrations to share a sense of community with others. . . in fact, fairs in medieval Europe had the same festive atmosphere that our county fairs have today. As luck would have it, recently, quite a few boxes of papers have landed in my lap . . .  from Amesville spanning eighty years. It is a treasure trove filled with notebooks distributed to farmers to keep records of planting time, fertilization and crop yields; guides for putting foods by; guides for young people in the Grange; beautiful cards distributed by a baking company with illustrations of birds that were “good for the land” – and photographs of boys with girls posing for school pictures, yearbooks among so many things precious and rare. . . IMG_5271 But perhaps, the strangest and most interesting of all is the story, “Travels of a Rolled Oat” published by the Quaker Oats Company in 1930. in this pamphlet, we see oats that are first planted, processed and finally eaten by a young child.  The story starts like Moby Dick . . . “being an account of an old man in Sweden” who keeps a shop. . . and tells Nils how it is that oats are grown. The oats are depicted as if they are living organisms that finally become a part of the young man. It is the rolled oats who tell the story and in the end, “the rolled oats become a part of Nils.” IMG_4432There are other pamphlets as well, such as Pigmies. In this tale, germs are represented as pigmies – the smallest of characters taken from myth by the author to tell the morality tale that Hercules could not fight against an army of these! Another pamphlet, The Jungle Pow-Wow published by Colgate Palmolive to teach the universal benefit of brushing teeth. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the hygienic movement addressed many concerns. Teaching children the virtues and benefits of cleanliness, good health and an adequate diet were among the topics that teachers, like Mrs. Linscott at Amesville-Bern Middle School addressed. Teachers used materials provided by private industry to teach. Funds were limited and resourceful teachers used these aids. . . The radio and television were just new mediums for major companies to influence our tastes. From my vantage point, the pamphlets are priceless – they often have amazing graphics. And the pamphlets tell a story of all the resources that one teacher pulled together to address the needs of her class. I am humbled by this rural school teacher . . . who has left me with new insight into how it is that we became a “great melting pot.”

Ephemera

Ephemera is one of those words that when spoken sounds like its meaning . . . a soft, wispy sound like whisper and rhymes with chimera. Ephemera are things that last only for a brief moment in time . . . like whispers and chimera, ephemera lack real substance but not necessarily importance in everyday life. You might even say that we take some of the most important things in life for granted.

The bits and pieces of ephemera that we come across can really stir memories. Monogrammed paper napkins carefully folded then placed in a book . . . garters thrown at weddings . . . matchbooks from a restaurant . . . cards, letters and postcards. Fragments of life . . .

So when I first spotted this A&W root beer container . . . IMG_4536I was so surprised! I had forgotten about these containers (waxed cardboard) in the shape of a bullhorn. The root beer was so damned good; hate to admit it but when I was pregnant with my first child, I craved root beer from A&W at all hours of the day and night!

Another example of ephemera are the round cardboard inserts that were used to seal glass milk bottles. I love the reminder to wash the bottles before returning. Reminds me once again that reusing is the predecessor of recycling. Hard to believe  . . .  but those were simpler times long before a madman decided to tamper with the supply of Tylenol.  Glass milk bottles belong to the time when we had public trust . . . like trusting the milk man to keep the milk cold as he delivered it to our homes every morning.

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Even though the milk bottle is not ephemera by definition,  I found a very special milk bottle  from Chicago Heights, Illinois – and so am I.

As the collection of ephemera grew, I realized that I needed a good way to pass it on without damaging papers sometimes fragile but always precious and quite often rare. I am now packaging many of these papers in a way that makes sense to me and I hope, makes sense to you. IMG_4597There are vintage wrapping papers for weddings and baby showers, rain bonnets for showers, postcards, old coins, buttons, illustrations among other bits and pieces that fit together in ways that seem to bring them to life. I imagine some of you might use them for scrapbooks or wrapping presents or in a collection of some sort or other. I have found them useful – as they were yesterday. And beautiful, each in their own way.

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Would love to hear your ideas . . . and you might want to take a peek on Etsy or see them in the store at Eclipse when we are back from summer break.