Saturday, April 5, 2008

Light Olympic Torch

Wednesday morning, while driving north, as my furniture-moving colleague began to read aloud Dick Dorworth’s Tibet –the conscience of the world column, I couldn’t help but to glance over at the paper, when he started reading about the elaborate plan for the Olympic Torch relay up Mount Everest, as he and I had just been talking about this.

Then when he got to the part, where Mr. Dorworth mentioned the 1936 Olympic torch flame, I had to pull the big rig over to the side of the road to finish reading the article and became immediately overwhelmed by a compulsion bring this brief story to light:

Brad Nottingham, who used to work at the Express from 2000-2003, now works as museum courier, transporting valuable pieces between auction houses and collections throughout the country. A few months ago, Brad and his moving partner, were called to package up the Olympic Torch used by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics. The first time I told this story, I had disrembered some of the facts since the incident, so here I'll paste Brad's clarifications:

Jim, some corrections: Our company US Art was hired by the new owner of the torch as a surprise customer. We were trained as art handlers, packers and shippers. The client is a large scale (meaning size) marionette builder often contracted by theatres across the country. He builds them and ships them; we saw at least a dozen, very ornate craftsmanship. He had recently purchased the land with deteriorating house originally damaged by the 92 Hurricane Andrew for the land only; the house had been deteriorating. THAT home's original owner didn't have sufficient funds, nor insurance to repair his original home in 1992-3, so he just lived until old age next to his original damaged house in a mobile unit, (maybe an early FEMA trailer?)

When the Marionette builder bought the property to build on, he was wandering around the bulldoze site after hours, the work of which was interrupted by the blown hydraulic line, so the earth moving clean up crew never did any poking around.

The old crates housing the 1934 Hitler bust and pre-WW II German radio, as well as the 1936 Olympic Torch had been stored in some lower region of the delapidated house, about to be done in when the hydraulic line was to be repaired. The new property owner accidentally spotted and recovered the items, and at our arrival time, the time the torch was already requisitioned.

On the other hand, the radio and full-sized bronze Hitler "head" were not sold yet. The torch, appearing to be stainless steel was determined to be nickel-plated. The engraving we conditioned as "exquisite", as well as the preservation of the torch. It now has been in the hands of the Holocaust Museum in Linthicum for a few months; not sure if it has been displayed yet. (It seems as if that same museum might be interested in the Hitler stuff, but don't know).

The head office personnel of US Art in Randolph, MA were the ones that falsely presumed that an Olympic Torch would be "heavy" perhaps they were envisioning some larger sculpture out of which burned a gas flame or something. Basically, when we arrived, we knew not what we would come across..... but we knew the torch was carried, and thus would be short and lightweight. We were right, and it only required a double wall cardboard box and some careful foam-contouring, which we did.

The elderly original collector we surmise had collected these items back as early as the 1950s from the point of view of the Nazi's, and his own advancing age may have made him not remember or protect the accidental discoveries when the property was sold. We don't know if he gathered the items out of admiration for the Third Reich or not, but that is my guess. The new owner felt much better having the torch go in the direction of a Hollocaust Museum. This new landowner just wanted to have the items "move on", and was not particularly needing the money from the items. We were employed by our company to take care of the transition.


Above are photos of the 1936 Olympic Torch, right before they soft-wrapped and crated it for transport from Florida to Maryland

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