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  • The sound from the oscillating fan hummed in cascading waves as it droned back and forth, circulating whatever cool air was available. Even in 2012, in the most technologically advanced city and country on the planet, summers in the small apartment in Tokyo could be miserable without some kind of fan.

    The Emerson fan, which left the Massachusetts factory in 1927, found its first home in George Vezeey’s Feed Seed & Grocery store in rural central Texas where it kept the flies off the fresh onions, tomatoes and 50-pound burlap bags of sorghum seed for more than 40 years. All it took to keep it humming was a little machine oil every six months.

    When Mr. Vezeey died at age 82, and the little store, which also served as the U.S. Post Office in Placid closed, people had to go to town to get their mail and their groceries. The fan sat in his daughter Olivia’s garage in Fort Worth for the next 10 years until one spring cleaning she sent it and 6 boxes of old clothes to Goodwill.

    It got a new lease on life at “For the Good Times” antique store in McKinney. This was after Gideon Ramsey, owner/operator of “Gideon’s Fan-Tasy” repair, immaculately refurbished it in 1982 and put it up for sale at his little booth at the store.

    Sandy Tanner, a decorator with an unerring eye for exquisite Art Deco objects, was hired by a wealthy Dallas couple to give some much-needed panache to their new place. While making her usual rounds at the antique stores, she saw the fan and immediately secured it for her clients. Still working perfectly, the fan looked fabulous in their very stylish, upscale condominium high-rise.

    Unfortunately for couple who epitomized the group that was to later become known as the 1%, the bottom fell out. Almost overnight, there was no money.

    When Lloyd’s trust fund, started by his granddad, ran out in 1972 and the price of West Texas crude dipped to $20 a barrel, he and his wife Teensy had to sell the Turtle Creek high-rise and move to the only family owned home that didn’t have a mortgage payment due – 4805 Swiss Boulevard. The fan made the move when the couple was forced to take these cheaper accommodations.

    After a string of failed wildcat ventures, followed by collapse of the family’s primary bank in Midland in the 1980’s, it was hard to keep the big house on Swiss up. When this was combined with the occupants’ penchant for consuming massive quantities of alcohol, the former stately mansion transitioned from chic to shabby.

    By 2010, the fan almost qualified as an antique. However, its usefulness outweighed its decorative attribute. In workhorse fashion, it kept the stultifying air in the front parlor of Lloyd and Teensy McCulloch’s un-airconditioned, 4,500 square-foot crumbling mansion circulating.

    There were no more gardeners or handymen and even Floreen, who had cooked for three generations of McCulloch’s, had to be let go in 2001. So, after Lloyd died in a fiery crash while returning from and all-night poker game (the result of traveling at a high speed while going the wrong way on the North Dallas Tollway), Teensy was left to manage the family “mansion” on her own.

    The social and organizational skills she had learned at Hockaday and later polished at Vassar were of very little value when there was no staff to manage and no charitable events to ramrod. As a result, the once glamorous foyers and elegant staircase where Hollywood actresses and nightclub singers - in town for soirees and thinly disguised, shameless self-promotion - had graced the once stately structure were now replete with peeling, lead-based paint and the smell of rotting mildew mixed with the urine of feral cats, rodents of every size and the occasional raccoon.

    Through it all, the Emerson fan kept circulating the often rancid air in the front parlor. How many back and forth cycles had this old fan made since 1927? How many gallons of perfume scented perspiration had been evaporated from the skin of dilettantes on how many gin-soaked summer nights?

    In many ways the garage sale held in the home after Teensy had finally succumbed to Alzheimer’s and cirrhosis was a more pathetic than her poorly attended funeral two weeks earlier. The two young men who had become her constant martini confidants convinced her to ignore the advice of the woman who was her friend, neighbor and attorney and sign over the rights to the home and its contents to them.

    In her drunken, delusional state, Teensy was easy picking for these two life and business partners. They managed to ransack the contents of the house while Teensy was living and the garage sale after her death was staged to get as much of the crap as possible out of the house before they began demolition. In the rush to clear out anything of value from the house, the boys overlooked a piece that would have fetched a nice price at their "Deco-Licious" retail store.

    Chris Chance, who was visiting his home in Texas from his current residence in Japan, was jogging through the Swiss neighborhood and noticed the crowd outside 4805. "Estate Sale" and "Fabulous Antiques" signs were placed at strategic places on the front lawn. He decided to catch his breath and get a glance at what garage sales looked like in this stately neighborhood. The front porch had been reinforced with 2x4’s and the creaking floor gave the impression of imminent disaster.

    Outside, in the overgrown backyard sat 15 or 20 sealed boxes with a large “?” stenciled on the side. When Chris asked someone with a clipboard what these boxes held, she said, “It’s a surprise. The guys thought it would be great fun! They love, love LOVE surprises! For $10 you can have any of the boxes. You just can't know what’s in any of them before you buy them.”

    Since he’d always been lucky, Chris fished out a 10 dollar bill. He picked the smallest box, handed over the cash, picked up the mysterious package and walked a few blocks to his parents’ home. Inside the box were about 25 fashion magazines from 1935, some kitchen utensils, an empty (but classic) bottle of Gordon’s Gin, some wadded up newspapers and at the very bottom of the box, completely covered by an old torn, silk housecoat and a burlap seed bag was the small Emerson fan.

    After cleaning off the dust and grime and checking the internet to see if there was anything about getting an old Emerson oscillating fan to work again, he located the opening on its base where the Wikipedia article said the two drops of machine oil should be added.

    When he plugged it in, that irrepressible hum began. He knew exactly where this little fan was going next. He had no idea how many future stories it would be a part of, but he knew it would make them all a little cooler.
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