The one the got awayFeb 27, 2023 09:56AM ● By Melinda Abraham
Please don’t roll your eyes when I mention that I once owned a photo signed by all four Beatles. Scout’s honor!
Please feel free to laugh when I explain why I no longer own the photo…and when I add that Antiques Roadshow featured a similar item that appraised for five figures.
One of my core competencies is the amazing ability to divest myself of assets. It appears to be embedded in my DNA. Some people inherit musical genius. I inherited an uncanny knack of ridding myself of anything that is of value now or might be of value in the future. I’m pretty sure that this highly refined skill is hard-wired and has been passed down through the generations.
Family lore is filled with stories which prove my point. My great-great-grandfather owned a sawmill which sold railroad ties to help build the transcontinental railroad. He amassed a sizable fortune. In 1874, he owned a prosperous hotel valued at $275,000 (equivalent to approximately $6.5 million today). A guest knocked over a candle and the entire building went up in flames. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Unfortunately, my family had forgotten to renew their fire insurance. The fire occurred three days after the policy had lapsed.
For obvious reasons, my family’s mantra has always been, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” We’re big milk spillers—and have been for generations.
My brother briefly forgot about our family legacy. He fancied himself a land baron and exchanged his hard-earned cash for barren land. Decades later, his useless parcel is still barren. For years he’s been known in our family as the Land Barren. It’s not the title he wanted. But it suits him.
Now about that prized photo that got away. The saga began in August 1964. My brother-in-law, a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, used to moonlight security jobs during his off hours. He regaled us with stories featuring various actors and actresses as they filmed TV shows and movies on location around LA. Parties were legendary. Several times he helped with security at the Chartwell Mansion during the filming of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
One night, my brother-in-law worked security at a private party in Beverly Hills where the Beatles were the guests of honor. It was their first trip to LA. The Beatles were signing photos and my brother-in-law had each member of the band autograph an 8x10 black and white photo for me.
When I mentioned the photo to one of my friends, she got very excited and promptly offered me $50. In my world, $50 was a king’s ransom.
I quickly concluded that if she was offering me that much money, then the photo must be worth even more. I was not about to let the photo go for a song. I decided to keep my treasure. I set it in a place of honor on my chest of drawers.
A few days later, when I came home from school, the photo was missing—totally gone!
There was no sign of forced entry. The rest of the house appeared to be undisturbed. I didn’t know what to make of it. When my mom came home from work, she solved the mystery. She apologized for having borrowed the photo to show to the ladies at work. She said that she should have asked my permission first. Of course, I would have said yes and she knew it. So it was no big deal.
Then my mom started apologizing profusely for a particular mishap. One of her friends said she’d love a copy of the photo. In fact, all of the ladies in the office wanted copies.
Without hesitating, my mom inserted the photo in the intake handler of the office copier. As soon as the photo disappeared into the belly of the beast, the machine jammed—not all surprising since the photo was on cardstock which was thicker than regular paper. But that fact hadn’t occurred to my mom until after the photo was stuck.
No amount of coaxing worked. A repair person had to be called. Extremely tiny particles were extracted from the copier. Not a single piece recognizable as having been a part of a photo was to be found. A shredder could not have done a better job of destroying the photo.
Some may say that the moral of this story is that you shouldn’t use the office copier for personal use. I prefer to think that a picture may be worth a thousand words and a signed Beatles photo circa 1964 may be worth five figures. But continuing a family legacy is priceless.