Black Friday and the Saxophone
Consumerism has a holiday. A pagan festival to the God’s of commerce that some call Black Friday. After recovering from our day of Thanks, Americans fill suburban retail spaces with wants and needs. I tend to go a different direction and troll the dumpsters while attentions are diverted. While in Ballwin (Missouri), at the outer edges of St Louis civilization where the McMansion divisions lay open and protected by private security, I found a rare saxophone and other forgotten objects on their way to trash oblivion.
Rounding the curve, the orange dumpster blocked the driveway of the nice house. Items stuck out speaking of garage junk. This wasn’t a rehab, it was death purge. I could smell it. The boots and leather jacket caught my eye first and a box full of electronics with a broken laptop. The strange yellow tri-pod with an odd top was curious item, a red bird in a green forest. This Death purge had a garage vibe, with a bicycle, exercise device and huge amount of storage type boxes. As I pushed aside a bag of Christmas wrap and decorative paper, that’s when I saw the case, black and square with an old metal label. Flipping the latches what was revealed was a beautiful saxophone@ , and then I found a clarinet. With such great treasures and a worry for County cops with the dumpster visible from the road, I vowed to come back.
The story that unfolded was very curious, after bringing a dumpster diving newbie back the next day. It is a kind of code among dumpster divers if you bring a dumpster diving trash virgin, the luck will flow. The items revealed that day were as amazing as the first day. A wonderful black bicycle was beautiful and replaced my old junk off-road bike.
The exercise device turned out to be a dog scooter was used to pull a hyper dog like a Alaskan dog-sled, I also discovered paper lanterns, an air compressor, and the yellow tripod it turns out went to some high powered utility lights. Two boxes of books were uncovered, one that said “Ralph”, which was filled with the photography books and one that said “Debbie”.
Deborah was too be the cusp of the story after an internet search lead me to the clues. She passed on a few years ago suffering from an eating disorder. Her books were all about psychology and therapy, with many about shame and eating disorders. It turns out Deborah was a therapist who work specifically with these topics. Her website was found along with her business cards and “convention” paraphernalia.
The dog scooter was for her therapy dogs, whom she cared for and used in therapeutic ways. There are pictures of dogs discovered, as well as her children, all grown up now and into the world. Ralph was there too in a few photos and he might still be alive. It’s possible this was an eviction.
The saxophone sat safely in my house, till one day I decided to look it up. My assumptions were it was a simple instrument. The name Martin Handicraft sent me down a rabbit hole. It turns out it is a 1939 tenor saxophone with what is described as an “skyline” etching. A desired horn for it’s deep rich sound, enjoyed by Jazz heads and music geeks.
Another page is needed for that story but it’s value was impressive, unfortunately it needs some work to return to the world of music. The clarinet was a French made brand called Buffet, and was made in Paris with silver keys, a was a top of the line/desired tool for orchestra performing, valued near or above 2000 dollars. The Dog Scooter is a 300 dollar expense. Ironic that my Black Friday find was too be the most “valuable” find I have ever found in regards to monetary aspects.
This story is still unraveling. A woman who died of the very thing she spent her life saving others from. An artistic man, who was her heart and likely couldn’t maintain the family home financially after his wife’s death. Why didn’t he sell these things? Why would someone toss them out? The garage door was blocked by the dumpster and dogs barked as we dug. Did the therapy dogs still live there? Often with Dumpster Archeology the story maintains it’s mystery.
The saxophone called to me to be played and my goal is it’s needs. The Dog Scooter is in the hands of a woman named Dawn who owns a Boxer, a dog breed known as having high energy. The Air compressor is in the hands of my own old maintenance guy. The leather jacket was used and then lost forever in the Dream Manager Project.
“This dumpster so far is less about the people and the objects that could still be used into the future.” Lew Blink
The Story of Saxophone
The Saxophone was invented in 1846 by a man named Adolph Sax. He was the mad scientist of instruments and his inventions were largely ignored by orchestras. It is said he had friends write specific pieces including his instruments. The loud bray of the Saxophone was perfect for the military bands that remained at the time, popular in french culture. This “brass” musical instrument is known for it’s versatility of sounds with the Reed as the central conductor of it’s distinct sound.
John Henry Martin learned to make saxophones and instruments in German the old way. He came over to America and worked for various companies around Elkhart, Indiana including the famous Conn instruments and their saxophone line. His sons learned the trade and by the 1920s the Martin family was making instruments that rivaled any sold on the market. Jazz had began to embrace the saxophone, and the affordability for middle class musicians was a musical renaissance. African American jazz players like Coleman Hawkins, who innovated the jazz field for decades were very excited to use these new beautiful instruments to make unique sounds and rhythms.
The Martin Handcraft line of saxophones came with names like Committee, Standard, Troubadour and Master. Each line of instruments had a unique sound that became desired in certain segments of the population. The company produced into the late 1940’s when it shifted to student models, and the high-end earlier lines disappeared into collectors hands. The glory of those middle years, where the quality was paramount and the Martin name carried weight. It is in those years, specifically 1937, that our tenor Saxophone was born.
1937 Martin Handcraft Committee I Tenor Saxophone. Also known as the “Martin Searchlight”, or the “Martin Skyline”