Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Unexpected Gift

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally Published December 28, 2006

Sometimes the unexpected generosity of people around you completely catches you off guard. And it’s not always big moments. It is often the simple acts of kindness that mean the most. Such was the case when I recently met up with Brad Anderson.

Brad dropped by on a late November evening at a show George South was running in Mooresville, NC. He was visiting friends and also brought his Dad’s maroon-and-gold wrestling boots and maroon ring jacket for me to photograph for the Minnesota Wrecking Crew website.

Brad is constantly uncovering buried treasure when sifting through his Dad’s belongings. This time he had found an old metal key ring made by the Zippo Manufacturing Company, the maker of classic lighters going back to the 1930s. The key ring was embossed with the full color Mid-Atlantic Wrestling logo. Equally cool was the felt-lined Zippo box that contained the key ring, a throw back to an earlier time, with the Zippo logo from over 30 years ago.

Zippo began making lighters in Pennsylvania in the early 1930s and branched out to other products in the mid-1950s, mainly in support of their promotional products division. These included pocket knives, golf greenskeepers, pen-and-pencil sets, and pocket flashlights.

And key rings.

Brad said he didn’t know the story on this item other than that it had belonged to his father. We laughed as we speculated that there were probably at one time stacks of these things sitting around Jim Crockett’s office. Perhaps it was a gift that Big Jim gave the folks that worked in the office. Maybe all of the wrestlers got one, too. Or maybe there were only a handful made for trusted members of the inner circle. Who knows? Whatever the case, this was one cool artifact, and a vestige of a simpler time and better days.

I marked out over it, of course. Anything with the Mid-Atlantic logo gets my attention to begin with, much less a genuine item over thirty years old that belonged to Gene Anderson. It was something he had bothered to hang on to and now it was his son’s. I held it and looked at it for awhile, imagining that Gene Anderson might have briefly thought about using it, but then maybe he decided it was a little too nice to get all scuffed up and left it in the box, tucked away for years in some drawer in an old chest at the house.

"Bet you Ole didn't keep his!" we laughed.

Santa's Boots
Later that evening Brad was getting ready to leave, saying his goodbyes to a few folks. As we shook hands, he held out the Zippo box. “This is for you,” he said. “I could tell how much you liked it.”

I was speechless.

Since that night, I have reflected back a time or two on that moment and can’t decide what about Brad’s gift meant more to me; that it was something that once belonged to his Dad, the great Gene Anderson, or that the great Gene Anderson’s son had been nice enough to give it to me. Either way, it was more precious than any present I would find under the Christmas tree later that December.

Santa Claus had snuck by a few weeks early, wearing his maroon and gold boots, and brought me the most special gift of all.

Key ring image by Dick Bourne, from an original photograph by Blake Arledge taken November 20, 2006, Mooresville, NC. Copyright © Mid-Atlantic Gateway