Desk rescued and restored provides an unexpected gift

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Antique desk restored has an interesting history.

Donald and Barbara Lasater of Manila rescued and restored an old desk that had been in the Manila cemetery office building for many years. The oak roll-top desk was in very bad shape and it was about to be thrown out.

Barbara said she was not sure how it would turn out but she was determined to try and save the antique desk.

It turned out to be a beautiful and is right in place with other items the Lasaters have rescued, including a 1901 telephone and several tools used at the turn of the century.

Pictured are, from left: Barbara Pierce, Barbara Lasater and Donald Lasater. The Lasaters restored a desk from the cemetery office that once belonged to Mrs. Pierce's father and discovered a 1946 letter from her sister.

Mrs. Lasater did not realize what a history came with the desk or what they would find inside the back wall of the desk during the restoration.

"It was in really bad shape and I was not sure if we could restore it," Mrs. Lasater said. "It was a challenge. Donald did a great job making the missing wooden handles match those still attached to the drawers."

The desk originally belonged to W.E. Ballard (father of Barbara Pierce of Manila). Mr. Ballard owned and operated Ballard's Grocery during the 1940s and 50s. Ballard's Grocery was located on Baltimore Street in Manila. When Mr. Ballard went out of business, he donated his roll top desk to the cemetery to be used in the office.

There the desk was used for many years. Recently the office was modernized and the desk was put out in the storage room and was about to be destroyed. The desk had two keys, one for the roll top and one for a drawer. Amazingly both keys were still with the desk.

"They did a wonderful job restoring the desk," Mrs. Pierce said. "It is beautiful."

The story is not just in the restoration of the desk but what the Lasaters found during the project. Evidently, when the front was rolled up papers managed to get in between the walls of the back panel. When the panel was taken off, among the papers and other items, they found a letter from Mr. Ballard's other daughter, Juanita Scott, dated 1946. The envelope was in bad shape but the letter was still in perfect condition.

Mrs. Scott had left Manila and moved to Indiana. The date stamped on the envelope was Aug. 1, 1946. In the letter she was asking for items she could not get because they were rationed due to World War II. In the letter she was sharing the prices she was paying for items in Indiana and asking about prices in her dad's store. She wrote: pork steak was up to 65 cents a pound and steak was 75 cents a pound.

Mrs. Scott passed away several years ago. Mrs. Pierce plans to send the letter to her sister's daughter.

It took 67 years for Mrs. Pierce to read her sister's letter and she thanks the Lasaters for making it possible and for making the desk attractive and useful again. The desk held more memories than she could have imagined.

Other papers found were copies of letters mailed out by the cemetery board from the 1960s and a book on the costs of money orders from 1929, and a Federal regulations booklet from 1970. On the letterhead were the names of the cemetery board members, M.L. Downing, W.E. Ballard, Alvin Tipton, D.C. Wright, Joe Hornberger, H.D. Alston, B.B. Threlkeld, C.B. Childress, J.H. David, A.E. McCulley.

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