Personal treasures found between given pages

Queanbeyan Lions Bookstore Volunteers Karen Abbott, Julia Smith, Karen Carrick, Max Carrick and Lucy Clarke with some of the items they found between the pages of donated books. Photo: Belinda Strahorn

A QUEANBEYAN charity bookstore has collected some of the weird and intriguing personal treasures left in the pages of pre-loved reads.

Assortment of ticket stubs, business cards, a love letter, newspaper clippings and an itemized bill for hats and stockings from the Winns department store in Oxford Street, Sydney, circa 1959.

Predictably, bookmarks and photographs are also commonplace in used books, says Karen Abbott, volunteer at the Queanbeyan Lions Community Bookstore.

“We’ve collected all kinds of interesting stuff,” Ms. Abbott says.

“Sometimes you get very excited about what you find.”

After escaping from between the pages of books, the volunteers randomly collected postcards, boarding passes, school ID cards, an expired British passport and photo booth snaps from the 1940s.

The volunteers also unearthed juicier finds.

“There was once a collection of photos and the clothes the young woman wore – sometimes – could betray her profession. She was obviously at home and had set up the camera in the living room, ”explains Vice President of the Queanbeyan Lions Club, and bookstore volunteer Max Carrick.

Some things found bring good luck.

Zoom in on what Queanbeyan Lions Bookstore volunteers found between the pages of donated books. Photo: Belinda Strahorn

“There was $80 in a book, and another time there were two $100 bills hidden in the pages,” says Karen Carrick, another bookstore volunteer.

“People put them aside for a rainy day and forgot about them.”

Other findings are unusual.

“I found a dead bird once,” says Ms. Carrick.

“It came from Braidwood in a box of books which was to be stored in a farm shed. It had obviously been long dead as it was quite withered.

Perhaps the best case scenario is when volunteers picked up novels and found the author’s signature inside.

“It was David Attenborough’s book, ‘Living Planet’, signed by the author himself, but someone bought it,” says Mr Carrick.

Some of the most intriguing treasures are handwritten notes tucked inside donated books.

“It’s likely they were used as bookmarks and then forgotten,” says Julia Smith, an 82-year-old volunteer bookseller.

“There is a letter from a father to his son Herman, written in German and sent from Berlin in 1968,” Ms Smith says.

Corn the “sweetest” find is a love letter, handwritten on a notebook page that reads:

Hey baby, hope you’re having a good day. Thank you for the time you spent with me. You make me happy just by being with me. I love you to the sky. I can’t wait to see you, my love, my darling and my favorite. I miss you and I will see you very soon. All my love, Timmy.

PS I left you a hug and a kiss with Jimmy Junior.

Since its inception nearly four years ago, the Queanbeyan Lions Community Bookstore has raised more than $130,000 for community projects through the sale of donated books.

Sometimes entire family photo albums are taken up in bulk donations, Ms Abbott says.

“We receive a lot of deceased estate material,” says Ms Abbott.

“When families come into their loved ones’ homes and pack up all the old books, they often don’t look properly and I think that’s where a lot of the old photo albums come from.”

Recently, Ms Abbott has turned to Facebook in hopes of reuniting lost albums with their owners, sometimes with great success.

“We had a very old family photo album from the 1860s, it was in a leather cover and it was from England,” she says.

“I posted about the album on Facebook and eventually a lady from Perth thought it was her great-great-grandfather’s, so I posted it to her.” When she received it, she said she could see the likeness of her family in the photos, so that was a great ending for that one.”

Mrs Abbott also attempts to track down the owner of the Ghoury family photo album from 2018 and a collection of Santa photos of a family taken between 2014 and 2019.

‘They came in a box and there were all the Christmas photos over a six year period with Santa, including a family photo from the Arctic Circle,’ says Ms Abbott.

“It obviously got caught up in a book donation and I’m pretty sure the family would want it.”

Some of the most special moments are when volunteers discover that a book has an inscription.

‘We had a stack of books from 1895 to 1905, they had copperplate handwriting inscriptions on the front, and people had won the books as prizes for Sunday school,’ Ms Carrick said.

“Finding this kind of personal stuff adds a human element to the book and makes you realize that it actually belonged to someone,” Ms Abbott says.

The Lions Community Bookstore, 146 Monaro Street, Queanbeyan, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

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