Education Matters: The search for buried treasure

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

Nearly 20 years ago, I bought from my mother the house that has been the Kimber home for 60 years now. It's one of the oldest houses in Montrose, and since I've been writing this column I've received dozens of e-mails from friends who remember the old place.

We moved into the house in 1951, and one of the first things we learned was that it was built by a sea captain in the early 1920s. He could not have known that 30 years later a family of boys would be scouring every square inch of the house he built and digging up the yard — front, back and side — looking for the treasure he hid.

All sea captains bury treasure chests, don't they? We knew that, and this old house had an attic, a cellar and all sorts of "secret areas" where the captain could have stashed the treasure.

In time, however, the wild imaginings of young boys turned to other things, and one by one we gave up our search for Spanish doubloons, pearl necklaces and diamond rings. For many years it has been nothing more than a fading but fond memory of our youth together.

But recently, the whole notion of buried treasure on the premises has made a comeback because of something I've found. I'll leave it to you to decide whether I'm understandably intrigued or just slightly daft.

My backyard is now mostly asphalt and decking — very different from the all-dirt lot that it once was. Just outside the back door is a sliver of a 2-by-6-foot planter that extends along the side of the house. I was recently digging in that planter when I hit upon a solid piece of thick tile about 8 inches wide and 24 inches long.

Digging further, I encountered a second piece directly in front of the first, same size, but 6 inches below it. My excavation was stopped by a 4-inch-thick slab of concrete that is my patio, but before I came to that end, I found five more tiles spaced in a row and each successively lower by the same 6 inches — all leading directly from the original back door of the house.

My conclusion was that they are/were steps that lead to the center of my patio. And under all of that concrete is a chamber of some sort that has been buried/cemented over.

What else could they be but steps? And if they are, what do they lead to? It could be an old storage room, a fruit/wine cellar — it could be a treasure trove just waiting to be dug up.

The only way to find out is to break up the patio and dig. A neighbor suggested that I take a core sample by drilling through the concrete and about 20 feet below it. If there is a gap of dirt on the drill, then there is most certainly a cavity, some kind chamber below my patio, put there by the captain many years ago.

I've contacted my brothers, and they're all thumbs up on breaking ground to see what's down there, even if all that turns up are dried figs or empty bottles of port. (I'm guessing that some of you are leaning toward the "slightly daft" choice given above.)

Another household mystery about to be solved involves a certain World War II bayonet brought home by my father as a souvenir of the war. Many years ago, our mom took said bayonet and flung it somewhere under the house. Apparently we boys were using it in our war games, and it was a little too real for her.

I've crawled under the house a number of times and have not seen the weapon, but I'm about to remove some old decking on the side of the house that has covered up a certain access hole for many years. That small entry leads to the one area under the house that I have never been able to get to. I'll let you know what I find.

Paneling that has been removed in the den has revealed old Superman and Justice League of America comic books — all in terrible shape. Other paneling upstairs revealed a secret crawl space and different, rather more adult reading material next to a pile of very old cigarette butts. I know to whom they belonged, but I also know that my mother is reading this so his secret is safe with me, for now.

Maybe I can get him to pay for the core sample.

DAN KIMBER is a former teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

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