First edition book nearly thrown away with trash to get new life
First edition work will be up for sale at antique fundraiser
By SHAWNEE MORAN DAILY MAIL STAFF
A first edition autographed copy of Helen Keller’s “Out of the Dark” almost had a tragic accident nearly 50 years ago — it was placed in an unwanted box of books intended for an apartment garbage incinerator in Washington, D.C.
But before the book was gone forever, Tom Rardin, now a Charleston resident, saved it from being destroyed. Now, years later, he has donated the almost 99-year-old book to be sold Saturday at the “Treasures on Earth” antique fundraiser held by St. John’s Episcopal Church.
In 1964, Rardin lived in a high-rise apartment near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. He said on his floor lived a mother and daughter, whose names he could not recall, who were both teachers at George Washington University.
One day the mother-daughter duo was weeding through books, placed the unwanted selection in a box and left it among trash in the incinerator room for disposal. Rardin said a porter in the building, whom he helped with documents from time to time, came to him and asked if he would be interested in taking the books.
“They had just thrown out a box of books and he asked if I would like him to bring them to me,” he said. “Most of them were textbooks they had used in the past when they were teaching. The one that stuck out clearly was (the) ‘Out of the Dark’ signed copy by Helen Keller.”
Rardin said he realized how valuable the collection of essays was and went back to his neighbors’ apartment to make sure it didn’t get thrown out on purpose. They told him he could keep the book and verified its authenticity.
“I wanted to make sure it was in fact an authentic signature so I asked the ladies that had it and the older lady that had it was the one that had it signed at Mount Vernon by Helen Keller. I think she paid a dollar for it,” he said. “I’ve had it all these years — I’ve protected it behind glass doors. I thought it was time for it to come out and be a part of our church’s process. It’s a pretty special item, that’s for sure.”
He said he doesn’t mind where the book ends up as long as it has a happy home and is appreciated.
Margaret Lieberman, the treasurer of St. John’s Episcopal Church along with Patricia Hammer who co-organized the event, hopes to raise enough money for operating expenses and maintenance.
Lieberman said when she found out that “Antiques Roadshow,” a series on PBS that features antique owners to get items appraised by experts, was coming to Charleston she knew this would be an opportunity to draw in a crowd — nearly 7,000 tickets to the event have been requested.
Members from the church and the community have come together to donate special items for the cause.
Most of the items, like the first edition autographed copy of Helen Keller’s book, have a unique story or sentimental meaning behind them — a spinning wheel made by a wheelwright generations ago in a family, an antique lamp found in a shop in Hinton, a grandmother’s peacock feather from the early 1900s, a newspaper from The Times West Virginian headlining when JFK was killed, old toys, china, furniture and more.
Lieberman said they have everything from little embroidered linen napkins that belonged to a grandparent and costume jewelry, running as little as $12, to grand jewelry running for thousands of dollars. Every type of budget is welcome to the event.
“It’s not an auction — it’s a straight sale,” she said adding that only a few items will be bid on, including a 1967 white Cadillac donated by Dwight Foley. Lieberman said since that item was first announced, the owner has decided to lower the price, starting the bidding at $6,000.
When a purchase is made at the event, organizers will record the price and let the donor know in a thank you card how much money the church received. Lieberman’s hope is to give every item a good home.
“If everything is wonderful we may make between $15,000 and $20,000,” she said.
The antique fundraiser will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Beni Kedem Temple at 100 Quarrier St.
For additional information visit www.stjohnswv.org.
Contact writer Shawnee Moran at 304-348-4872 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shawneemoran22.