Becca's Dad's Matches | Varyer
Becca’s Dad’s Matches
Becca Christman

Becca Christman

The unfinished section of my parents' basement is a time-honored museum of interesting crap: handmade Halloween costumes, a framed poster from the original run of Cats on Broadway, a giant built-in vice grip that you can crunch stuff with . . . suffice it to say, I love digging around back there whenever I visit. Among the artifacts is a stack of old shoe boxes filled with matches that my dad collected throughout the 80s. I went through the entire hoard last spring and took some of my favorites back to Chicago with me, where they've been sitting in a decorative bowl on my credenza ever since. For this edition of Shelved, I took the time to go through this abridged collection with my Dad over Zoom. After some confusion about how exactly he got matches from states he's never visited, we speculate about some of society's most pressing topics: the future of AI, marketing gimmicks, and my aunt whose house I've never been to. Below are excerpted sections from our conversation—unfortunately, I had to cut my dad's story about the scrambled eggs he had eaten for dinner the previous night, it was way too long.

DAD So some of these might not be my matches. Some I may not claim, but some I definitely recognized. I don't know you where you wanted to start.

BECCA Which matchbook stuck out first for you?

DAD Now, what is this one up here in the upper left?

BC This upper left?

DAD No, the other upper left.

BC Right. Yeah. This one is Madonna Inn, which a hotel. It still exists in California, in San Luis Obispo.

DAD Yeah, I've never been to California. Uh, so I don't know, if that was from your mother?

BC Maybe—it was in your box. I'm thinking maybe someone gave it to you.

DAD Well, I was saying the other possibility is—I think your grandparents, Grandpa and Grandma Christman—were out there on some trip. So, yeah. I have not ever been to California.

DAD Does that say Bryn Mawr? Yes. Yeah. Does that say a city on it?

BC Uh, something “Bill” or…

DAD Granville.

BC Granville!

DAD That's where [Mom and I] got engaged. I took her to dinner there the night we got engaged.

BC Did you propose at the restaurant or somewhere else?

DAD You'll have to ask her about that story, but. She knew something was up. I rented a stretch limo.

BC Oh my god.

DAD It was out around Christmas time. And we were seated at a table that was near a fire, a fireplace or something. It's an old house in Granville that they turned into a restaurant. And so we were on the ground floor, and they had a fireplace and it was Christmas time, so they had fake Christmas gifts and Christmas trees.

BC Oh no.

DAD So there were boxes wrapped boxes right next to our table. And she thought one of them was for her.

BC Oh, no . . .

DAD But there wasn't.

BC Oh, no!

BC So do you remember when you started collecting?

DAD Clearly when I was traveling a lot, when I started at the accounting firm.

BC So, like, right after college. Yeah.

DAD The Montgomery Inn could have been a trip we took for work. But I also think I took my girlfriend there—in college, my girlfriend. That wasn't your mother.

BC Yeah, I was going to say you took my almost-mommy.

❧ ❧ ❧

DAD So a lot of them were, like, Western Pancake House. That's in Cambridge [where I grew up]. We would spend a lot of time down there for work. So when we stayed out of town we would go to hotels and bars and restaurants. Yeah. Uh, I don't know. [Matches] were a pretty popular advertising gimmick at the time. And see that one there on the lower right, the yellow with an airplane on it?

BC Yeah. You have two of these that are from Airport Café.

DAD If you flip over, what's it say on the other side?

BC "We aim to please."

DAD But it's in Urbana, Ohio, the airport café. We would go there for lunch. I had a client in Urbana.

BC Got it.

DAD And we would go there for lunch because there wasn't a whole lot of places to go in Urbana.

BC There's also a TWA one, that airline doesn't exist anymore.

DAD So, again for work we went to—the TWA called it Breech Academy, where they train stewards and stewardesses. They call them flight attendants now. But it was like a small college, because they had dormitories. And the accounting firm would send new people out there for a week or two of training. You’d go to class all day and then you'd stay there. But they'd fly us out there and TWA was a client of the firm. So we stayed at the TWA Academy where the flight attendants were trained.

BC Fun!

DAD Let's see, what else was there. Some Playboys I saw on there. That was a thing. They had clubs. They had one in Columbus.

BC Yep.

DAD There was another in there. I don't know where that came from because I don't think I got that anywhere.

BC Yeah, I feel like some of these might have been collectors' ones they had at one location because—have you ever been to Dallas?


BC Yeah. So I'm thinking maybe you picked up some of these at one spot that just had all of the locations’ matches.

BC Do you remember why you started collecting matches? Or was it just something where you're like, "Oh, that's cool," and just grab it?

DAD Well, I never smoked.

BC Yeah, that's what I figured.

DAD I had friends in high school that smoked and they always had matches. I mean, at some point, some of them got lighters, but I don't know if that’s what made me [start collecting]. But like I said, it was pretty common advertising. Everywhere you went, they had matches because everybody smoked, right? You know, if you watch TV from the 60s and 70s, you'd think everyone smoked. Yeah, they didn't. But matches were, like I said, they were cheap advertising. And free [to take], usually at checkout counters and stuff like that. So you'd see them everywhere.

BC A lot of places today will still do that, like restaurants will do that, but it's kind of only a certain type of restaurant, you know, like a cool restaurant.

DAD But Swisher Sweets, god.

BC Those definitely still exist.

DAD Oh, yeah. And Young's Deep Cut Tavern. That was like, a hopping place in Cambridge.

BC Ooh.

DAD Although I don't think I ever went there. Aunt [REDACTED] probably did in her days. But it was—I think they used to sell to underage kids.

BC Wow, Aunt [REDACTED].

DAD But, Swisher Sweets. I know my buddy lived next door, we'd go out and he would smoke Swisher Sweets. It was weird.

DAD And Denny's. That was at, uh. What's it say? Oh, Main and McNaughton. So that was when we first moved to Columbus. I lived in an apartment at McNaughton Road with Carl McLaughlin and Rob Ball. So we must have gone there when we were out late and eaten there.

BC Is this like Denny's Denny's, or is this a different, local Denny’s?

DAD Yeah, it was a Denny's.

BC And you also have this one that you wrote out.

DAD Peddler Steakhouse, that was in Marietta. That was with a client, we went on a lot of bank audits down there. We were down there auditing a bank, I believe, down in Marietta. And that's, of course, where Aunt [REDACTED] lives.

BC Of course. I go to her house all the time.

DAD I've never been to her house.

BC You've never been to her house?

DAD Never, ever.

BC I thought we were just barred from her house.

DAD Never been invited. Oh, no.

BC Do you remember where this [Peace] one is from? This is a cool one.

DAD What's on the back side of that?

BC It’s just blue. Yeah. And you have two of them.

DAD I'm wondering if that was from somebody's wedding.

BC Oh, yeah—I was going to bring up the wedding matches. You had a few that all have the same design but just the names are different. I don't have any of the wedding ones, but when I was going through the full matches box, I was reading the names [out loud] and Mom was telling me if the couple was divorced or not.

DAD Um, yeah, clearly we did have some, uh . . . I remember going to some weddings that did that. I think Jeff’s first wedding, maybe. He probably gave out matches.

BC Oh, yeah. Is that one of your smoker friends?

DAD No, he's not. But, his first wife is named Susan, and so is his second wife. So he called them Sue One and Sue Two.

BC I remember that joke.

DAD And Sue Two is from Cambridge, too.

BC Oh, they should have had their wedding at Young's Deep Cut Tavern. He could have invited all of their underage friends.

DAD But at any rate, yeah, there's probably more stories in the box out there. Mom's gonna make me throw all that stuff away come August [after I retire], so, uh oh. Before then you may need to come home and reclaim.

BC Yeah. I’ll take a look.

DAD Though, I think that's a fire hazard to dispose of those.

BC I don't know about matches. I'm sure some restaurant somewhere went out of business and had to throw out, like 1,000 matches or something. So we can look up how they threw those out. Though, I was trying to light a candle or something and without thinking grabbed one of these and tried to light it and the striker just turned to dust.

DAD Yeah they all, you know, they fall apart. I don't know if they lose their flammability, though.

BC Yeah, I feel like if you safely want to throw them out, you could just like soak them in water then it’ll destabilize them.

DAD Or just put them in a barrel and—

BOTH —light 'em up.

BC I was going to ask also, have you ever collected anything else? I know you like holding on to stuff, but did you ever collect baseball cards or anything?

DAD Uh, we did have some. We had some old Batman and Beatles and. It's some baseball cards, Man from U.N.C.L.E. cards. I don't know if we got rid of those when we cleaned out the house.

BC I have some Beatles ones, and I remember seeing Man from U.N.C.L.E. cards.

DAD I may have boxed some of those up. I was never big baseball card collection person. You know how you’d buy bubble gum and [the cards] would be your prize, and then the cards kind of became the thing to collect, so then it was that you’d buy the cards and the stick of gum would be the prize. I'm trying to think what else we had. I mean, you guys collected, like, Pokémon.

BC Yeah.

DAD You remember that, right?

BC Yeah, no, it was banned from the blacktop in at Saint Mark's because they thought it was demonic. Actually, I think that fact might have been my own invention. I think it was actually because of kids fighting with each other over Pokemon.

DAD It made kids demonic.

BC Yeah. It made kids demonic.

BC You also collected golf balls for a little bit.

DAD Yes. I think Uncle Les had gotten me one of those display cases.

BC Yeah, that was in the basement.

DAD Downstairs in the basement. And I have a collection of visors.

BC Yes, I know those.

DAD Those are in the closet up here. Yeah.

BC And you said you can't wear them anymore because your hair is getting a little thin.

DAD Yeah, I have to wear a full cap now. Yeah, but a lot of those are from Myrtle Beach, all the different golf courses. That was kind of a thing. I'd buy a visor. So have quite a few—a hat and visor collection. So, I don't know. It's just goofy things.

BC Yeah.

DAD But, you know, when you're pretty shallow otherwise in life, you know, that’s what you do. At any rate.

BC That's a great that's a great closing quote for the article.

DAD There you go. You're not making me look like a fool, are you?

Note: this isn't one of my dad's matchbooks but my mom wanted this one that she's held on to included.

BC I'll let you know if I have any more questions. I'm going to try and use an AI to transcribe this for me, but we'll see. I've never done that before.

DAD I was just watching an old news episode when they were—a senator had an AI version of him speaking. Pretty amazing stuff, right?

BC Pretty interesting.

DAD Can be scary, though, I suppose.

BC Yeah. I think it could be used for cool stuff, but a lot of it's just pretty goofy now.

DAD Yeah. Anything that can be used for good can—

BC Be used for evil, yeah.

DAD Yeah. But you can say that about everything.

BC True.

DAD I mean, it's not so much about who created it, it’s about the listener and whether you're listening.

BC Yeah. It's also made from human intelligence. So it's just going to reflect how humans are. And I’m not so sure about those guys.

DAD Yeah. I don't know if they're going to last.

BC I just hope my job doesn't get replaced by AI.

DAD Well, that's what they're saying. I guess as long as you have other skills and abilities, you won't have a problem. Things don't go quite that quickly.

BC Yeah, I think I'll be fine in my working lifetime.

DAD I remember when you guys were looking at colleges or especially when we started with Abby. But they would say, you know, X percent of what people do in their lifetime, that’s not what they went to school for. So it's important to have—I mean, that's the argument for the liberal arts college education: you need to be well-versed in many things so that you can adapt, so to speak. But they also say that the as time goes on, the jobs that people will undertake don't even exist today. The jobs that you will have in your future don't even exist today. Maybe a job late in your life, but at this point, your job exists, I presume?

BC Yeah.

DAD But at any rate, we'll see.