In the Basement Mixing Up the Medicine

Until my recent birthday dinner, I used to tell people that the best birthday present I ever received from She Who Must Be Obeyed was a house. We signed the closing papers on November 28, 1995 – my birthday – but we didn’t move in until the following weekend, which corresponds to this weekend.

On move-in day, I walked down the stairs to the basement, and noticed a flash of light coming from above one of the massive beams that forms the joist structure of the ground floor. I reached up to find the object, and there, buried under a thick layer of dust, was this bottle:

Whiskey Bottle

The cork in the bottle disintegrated as soon as I tried to remove it. Part of the label has flaked away, but it identifies the contents as a pint of Old Charmer Whiskey. There’s no date, so I assume it twas manufactured before Prohibition began in 1919 (the house was built in 1897). I have been unable to find any information about the Swallow & Fales Company of City Square, Charlestown, Massachusetts.

How did the bottle get there? When we moved in, the furnace was an original coal-burning model that had been retrofitted with an oil burner and insulating jacket (asbestos, so much to remove and dispose of). What is now a small window above the foundation line used to be the delivery hatch for the coal chute. I suspect the man of the house had to feed the furnace, and took the opportunity to fortify himself with a nip from his private stash – for medicinal purposes only.

Which only leaves the question: How did he forget about a half-full bottle?

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