By Brenda Zimmerman
“If you find one among something, there’s a good chance you’ll find two,” says Tommy Kimball. And he was right.
Garage sales and estate sales related to cystic fibrosis have a good reputation in the community of Salisbury. Helen and Ralph Brown have worked with a team of volunteers for over 16 years, contributing nearly $ 350,000 to help research and promote awareness of cystic fibrosis, which damages the lungs and digestive system.
The largest individual estate sale began in March when Tommy Kimball and his sister Libby Holman asked if the Browns volunteers would consider selling the property of their aunts’ house on Park Avenue. Why were there two of everything? Well, the aunts were twins – Marie Barringer Cuthrell (husband Stewart) and Miriam Barringer Clary (husband Jim). Tommy Kimball and Libby Holman are the children of the twins’ older sister, the late Catherine Barringer Kimball.
On day one, volunteers came to the house to see if the property was suitable for a cystic fibrosis sale, the yard was covered with a snow-white carpet of Star of Bethlehem. The irises were about to bloom. It was a beautiful setting for what would soon become a sort of archaeological dig. The house had not been inhabited for months. Parts of the house had not been inhabited for years.
The twin aunts were the middle children of Myrtle (Fisher) Barringer and Calvin Brown Barringer. Born July 28, 1924, the little girls were named Lily Marie (4 lbs, 3 ounces) and Anna Miriam (4 lbs, 5 ounces). Matching cast iron cribs and matching baby comforters are just two of the duplicate items still on the property. A pair of small wooden ironing boards, matching dolls, and dainty crochet baby hats were just a few of the things that told of a childhood filled with love and creativity. The most endearing childhood find was a small pair of matching pink cribs with composition dolls and wardrobes. In another closet, a pair of wicker doll strollers.
While the girls were the center of the world in the house, there were quite a few people living under one roof. The house was shared by parents Myrtle and Calvin, their three daughters and a son. Catherine Kimball’s husband, John, joined the house in 1941. In 1947, Miriam married Jim Clary and moved into the house. Marie and her husband Stewart Cuthrell moved into the house when they married in 1962. At one time, three generations and four family units lived in the two-story, five-bedroom wood-frame house. Grandmother Eugenia (Jennie) Fisher lived on the streets and also spent much of her time at home. It’s amazing so many things happened in pairs, but there was only one tiny bathroom on the first floor for all these people!
Miriam worked in the Rowan County Clerk’s Office. Her husband was a part owner of a local furniture company: Clary and Reavis. Marie worked in the Carolina Rubber Hose office while her husband, Stewart, spent over 30 years as a nurse at Salisbury VA.
Over the years, twins were well known in the city for dressing exactly the same until they were 80 years old. Clothing is an obvious item to find duplicate. Often hung together, the wide range of jackets, pants and dresses spans decades of fashion. And if one jacket has a pin on it, both jackets have the pin. Baby outfits, beachwear from their teens as well as newer clothes tell a story of tailoring, planning, and how their time was spent.
In addition to the “twin” treasures and the usual trinkets, books, dishes and household items that cystic fibrosis volunteers are accustomed to, the Park Avenue home has revealed some incredible finds. During the nine months spent in the house, there were daily surprises. It has become an archaeological dig through four generations of heirlooms and memories.
Volunteers were often able to determine the general age of particular items based on their number. If there were two dolls that matched, these would fall in the 1920s. The unique bisque dolls likely belonged to the ancestors of the twins. Research into the name and brand of the dolls has proven this.
The twins’ contemporary simple clothes were probably those of the older sister Catherine. Beautiful, carefully sewn insert lace garments in organdy probably date from the late 1800s and belonged to Myrtie Fisher Barringer or her mother.
A favorite find was a strange biscuit “doll’s head” with a vague resemblance to Charlie McCarthey. The 7 inch head had grooves all over the scalp area. A few days of research revealed that this little character was Smiling Jim, created in 1939 as Chia’s original pet. It seems Jim is quite a collector’s item.
Other collectibles included 1950s Little Golden Books in great condition, vintage games such as the original Twister and Kerplunk, WWI and WWII items, and HE Rufty collectible plaques.
The unique upstairs closets of the house make use of the available attic. The narrow tunnels go up to 15 feet under the roof of the house. It was obvious that at one point things were just put away in the cupboards, pushed back and compacted as tightly as possible. Each layer peeled off to reveal a decade older.
A cedar chest contained a huge archive of Henry “Stewart” Cuthrell’s WWII artifacts: a pea coat, a Navy uniform, a panoramic photo of his ship and crew, medals, ribbons , etc. Some of the military finds were donated to the Rowan Museum. The two-story house contains hundreds of needlework: tattooed, crocheted, embroidered and sewn. There are lighters, pocket knives, briar pipes, kitchen gadgets, vintage lingerie, original paintings, four bedroom suites, two dining sets, a collection of irons, a complete toy box intact from the 1950s, local advertising memorabilia dating back to the turn of the 19e century, vintage hats (two of the most), books, Christmas collectibles, many porcelain and glassware sets. None of this sounds too extraordinary until you realize that it covers all five families and over 125 years.
Much of the genealogy is sprawled out in the details of cut-out articles, documents, photographs, family notes. The volunteers enjoyed connecting the dots. An interesting inscription on the back of a painting provided details that made it possible to understand the name of Stewart Cuthrell, Sr. A tragic 1940s story of a death in Iwo Jima, the subsequent suicide of a father and A mother’s suicide attempt was pieced together from a series of recorded newspaper articles that included the last names Cuthrell and Forbes.
Myrtle Barringer was a basket maker and ceramist. She made matching birth announcement plaques for her daughters, and a generation later for her grandson, Jay Clary. The house was filled with examples of his work. She has won numerous county fair ribbons for her pottery and basketry work. Wicker baskets were in every room, including a cradle made for Jay Clary in 1954. Over 100 baskets and hundreds of ceramic pieces were cleaned and displayed for the next sale.
Someone in the house was a quilter. Almost 50 finished quilts have surfaced, carefully wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. Some have never been used or washed, and the original pencil marks for the quilting lines are visible. As was to be expected, a few are couples! Traditional motifs included a single Irish chain and a trip around the world plus scrap samplers and quilts are in the mix. A matching pair of worn embroidered quilts were for Marie and Miriam’s beds when they were young and featured beautiful needlework.
Thousands of amazing photos, documents, articles and books have been sorted into large boxes. Some of the material will go to the McCubbins files in the Rowan Public Library’s History Room. Some will go to the First United Church of Christ and the Rowan County Museum. The twins documented much of the restoration of the Park Avenue neighborhood and also took photos from the grand opening to the ribbon cutting of Cannon Park, which grew before their eyes right outside their front door! These will go to the city archives along with photos of the neighborhood Christmas parties that Clarys and Cuthrells have hosted over the years. The Rowan Museum has received many military collectibles.
Massive quantities of vintage linens as well as modern sheets, towels and blankets have been handled in preparation for sale. Many boxes of factory-sealed Cannon towel sets have been found. These were left in the elaborate vintage boxes.
All other linens have been washed, laundered, folded and ironed. Four volunteers spent an eight-hour day at a local laundromat and loaded the equivalent of 80 loads of laundry and clothes into the large machines. The volunteers also took 20 to 25 loads of more delicate linens to their own homes. Items deemed unsuitable for resale were folded, cut, wrapped in over 100 bundles and delivered to animal rescue groups and veterinary offices in the area.
The men of the house also had interests. More than 250 fishing lures will be offered for sale as well as rods and reels. A signed Bass Masters baseball cap is a collector’s item. Many maps of the local lakes have been found. Garden tools and carpentry tools are plentiful. Jim Barringer and Stewart Cuthrell’s workshops are filled with gadgets and supplies.
The property includes a cellar and several outbuildings as well as the main house. An interesting feature is the unusual pulley system used to hang out the laundry. To use it, the person had to climb onto a platform about 8 feet off the ground with the damp cloth. Standing in the same spot, the objects were pinned to the double line and dragged into the back yard. The sheets never fell to the ground or dipped into the koi pond.
The massive sale will take place on two consecutive weekends: this Friday and Saturday as well as November 5 and 6. Friday hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday hours will be 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition to the contents of the house, merchandise will also be offered in five outbuildings.
A new inventory will be established as sales and space are created. There is simply too much stuff and too little space to have it all in one sale. COVID protocols will be put in place. Please wear a mask.