Mackay-Bennett & The Dumpster Dive

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Mackay_BennettThe funeral service is conducted by the Reverent Canon Hind. For nearly an hour the words “For as must as it hath pleased, we therefore commit his body to the deep” are repeated, and at each interval comes ‘splash!’ as the weighted body plunges into the sea, there to sink to a depth of about two miles. Splash, splash, splash.

From the Diary of Frederick Hamilton(Cable Engineer: Mackay Bennett)


The underclothes above Rosemary’s head are what this true tale is about.

The Mackay-Bennett was the ship commissioned by the Titanic to recover bodies after the sinking of the ship. They couldn’t bring all of the bodies back to shore, so many of them were buried at sea. Now, what I’m about to tell you is of course nowhere near as dreadful as that, but it was terrible all the same. This is the story of how I got the fabric for O.L.D. No. 00030 Rosemary’s underclothes. You can see her adoption page HERE.

Two doors down from me is a lovely old house that for the longest time was lived in by a 90+ year-old woman I called “Heloise.” She was very spry for her age and would set corn mackaydeer1out for the deer. Several times I would wake up in the early morning hours in the dead of winter as I frequently do, and I would look out my window and see a magical sight; several deer visible in the warm glow of the light on Heloise’s garage, surrounded by fir trees and freezing snow, quietly eating.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI went into Heloise’s house once. She had a composition doll that needed repairing. Her home was beautiful. All original woodwork and light fixtures. Stunning, is the first word that comes to mind. Crammed would be the second. Crammed with so many things that I could hardly absorb any of what I was seeing. I do remember lots of books, but who knows what else there was?

Then one day Heloise was no longer there. She had gone to a nursing home. Not long after, a dumpster arrived, and Heloise’s sons, “The Boys” as Julie and I referred to them, even though they were probably around 70 years old, got to work. Day after heartbreaking day, all I could hear from my open window (it was summer) was Crash! Crash! Crash!


Once I happened to be outside at just the right time, and one of the boys handed me a box without me even asking! Inside was this very pretty King’s Cross Cranberry Punch Set. Can you imagine all they threw away?!

All manner of glassware, knick-knacks, furniture and books – almost a century’s worth! –  hit the metal base of that dumpster without any ceremony whatsoever. It was HEARTBREAKING. Once Julie and I were driving by as they relentlessly toiled away, and she spotted a pretty vintage floral chair from the 50’s era that she so adores. She asked if she could have it. One son was gruff, “Okay, but that’s IT! We don’t want you dumpster diving!” the other was friendly, “Do you want the ottoman that goes with it?”


One of the five chairs. It looks like a vanity chair from the Victorian era.

Day after day the overflowing dumpster would disappear and then reappear, empty and ready to go all over again, and there would be more heart-breaking crashes. Crash! Crash! Crash! I had to close the window of whichever room I was in.


Here’s another. A simple and sturdy old rocking chair.

In their defense, on more than one occasion, a chair would magically appear on my porch; five in all. The nicer “boy” – at least, I suspect it was him – became my very own Chair Fairy. Why they chose these particular things to give, I have no idea. But I was grateful all the same.

The day finally came when they were done. The house was empty of most of its contents, “The Boys” were gone, and silence reigned once more. Who knows all that was lost?

In the driveway of Heloise’s home stood that dumpster, full for the last time with contents from that beautiful house.

doll-editWith The Mayor with me for company and courage, I finally did what I’d wanted to do for days, I climbed up onto that dumpster to see what I could see. By now all that was left were the nitty-gritty strays. Trash and old vacuums and the like. All except for one thing that I plucked from the center of the pile: five or so yards of the most beautiful white lace fabric in delicate cotton I’d ever seen. It was dirty and needed a washing, but Hallelujah! It made my day.


Here she is, all dressed up.

Our Rosemary is the first doll I’ve used it for – after washing it, of course. Both her slip and her onesie. I made her slip first. Then I trimmed around the flowers to create a second “fringe” of lace for the legs of her onesie.


Rosemary’s baby is a Nancy Ann Storybook doll. Her baby’s baby is a tiny Kewpie under 2″ tall. Not super old, but very sweet. And he can double as a necklace!

I’ve long wanted to do a doll with a doll of her own. When I saw Rosemary (that’s her real name. She was made by the Effanbee doll company), I knew she would be perfect for the role. Because then I could have “Rosemary’s Baby”! See what I did there? The The Mayor (aka Julie) piped in and suggested “Rosemary’s Baby’s Baby” and I obliged. And I finally used some of that beautiful white fabric. Rosemary’s coat sports the VERY LAST “Made Especially For You by Ruth” tag. A sure-fire way to identify them as made by me for the Antiques Roadshow in 2168! I’m going to miss them…

Heloise recently passed away, and with her goes a little bit of magic from my life. I’ve missed those deer feeding at night for quite some time now. But her house once again is lived in by a lovely young woman, who is slowly re-filling it with treasure. And thus ends the tale of the Mackay-Bennett dumpster dive.

Mabel is headed off to Colorado! The lovely and loved Michelle E. strikes again! Thank you, Michelle! I shall be haunting YOU! Eventually…maybe.

And with that, I leave you! Happy Tuesday, you’re my favorite!

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10 Commentsto Mackay-Bennett & The Dumpster Dive

  1. Sue Ann Blott says:

    Greetings Ruth! Gees, I’ve always said (and meant it), that you are my favorite! Well, after reading the story of you & your Dear sister, The Mayor, & the Dear sweet little ole neighbor lady & the estate dumpster dive…You had my attention & again YOU ARE MY FAVORITE! Such love in the past & respect for vintage/antique people & things! Love the OLD doll & you for presenting her with such care & respect & love. I too go to various estates sales, yard sales & thrift stores & wonder what stories things must have! Thank you for this heartfelt doll & provenance! Doll Hugs, Sue Ann

  2. Ruth says:

    Aw, THANK YOU, Sue Ann! Some day you should come to Iowa and we can play! Maybe dive in a dumpster or two…although it’s not something I normally do. There was just that one time, actually.

    You are always so nice – and it’s MUCH appreciated! You’re totally my favorite!



  3. Sarah says:

    Dear Sweet Neighbor Girl, I love how you treasured our kind “Heloise”. We enjoyed her immensely. We too often look to see her garage lights shining down on her beloved deer munching corn. We are grateful you have some treasures from that lovely home. She was a wonderful woman filled with grace and knowledge beyond measure. We truly miss her.

    • Ruth says:

      Dear Neighbor Sarah, thank you! I did treasure her. I of course know her real name, but sometimes couldn’t think of it so she became “Heloise” to me. She made my first several years here magical. I didn’t know you could see the deer too all the way from there! Maybe CiCi will put out corn too…

  4. Jane Agle says:

    What a wonderful story. Oh how I would have liked to be there to dumpster dive too! The lace is so lovely.

    • Ruth says:

      Nothing bonds a mother and daughter more than a good dumpster dive! I wish you could have been here too. I bet YOU could have talked The Boys into more!



  5. Jule Hudgens says:

    Oh Ruth, the next time you go dumpster diving give me a call!!!LOL Your story is so exciting I love it. I love the doll and know whomever got it will love her!! Love your work and waiting for your book sale too!!

    • Ruth says:

      Will do, Jule! You can come with! But BELIEVE me, there was NOTHING else good – THAT time, at least…

      Thank you so much for your kind comments, much appreciated!


  6. Sue Ann Blott says:

    Dearest Ruth, OK, I guess it was not meant to be (I lost the auction for Rosemary & Lavender! Funny I bid $240 at the last few seconds to beat the other bidders & the one that bid $210 won? Guess I’m not quick enough? No sour grapes here! Darn sure wanted those cuties, but was not in the stars. I’ve been preoccupied with new tile work (floor) & some home improvements; so I guess my fingers were not fast enough or the other bid was maximum bid placed way before I got my last bid in. OK , I’ll stop worrying now, cause it’s ended, huh? Sure wanted those dolls…next auctions I’ll be quicker! You are my favorite! Doll Hugs, Sue Ann

    • Ruth says:

      Aw, I’m sorry Sue Ann! Curse those tired tiling fingers! There Will Be Others – and hopefully another O.L.D. will call out to you soon…

      You’re my favorite back!