NORTH SALEM, N.Y.--With precious possessions in tow, residents arrived at this year’s Strawberry Festival with more than an appetite (although all 250 plated servings of strawberry shortcake were gone before the three-hour event was over).

History buffs and summer picnic-lovers alike enjoyed slices of strawberry shortcake on a beautiful sunny day Sunday, July 16, at the North Salem Historical Society’s headquarters and one of the town’s historical landmarks, “The White Elephant.”

This year, Jack DeStories of Fairfield Auction was there to bestow some of his 25 years of appraisal wisdom on residents in possession of historical knickknacks.

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DeStories said North Salem and New England in general produce many antiques.

“My great-great-grandparents went from Kentucky to Illinois, and then to Texas and then maybe California,” he explained. “Anybody who traveled like that didn’t carry a lot of early things with them the whole way; things got dispersed along the way, whereas, if somebody’s family lived in North Salem for the last four generations, or even the East Coast in general, they’re more likely to have kept a lot of things. Plus, the East Coast and New England are just more traditional than the rest of the country, so they’re going to tend to have decorated with these things through the 20th century, rather than sell them off.”

People from as far as New York City dusted off their precious items, which they carried gently tucked into pockets and purses or wrapped in blankets and towels, to see if they had more than sentimental value.

While some walked away as much as $50,000 richer, like the woman who brought a menu from the Titanic, others were given the gift of knowledge, learning more about the curios and baubles they have kept for years.

Carol Kennedy, who splits her time living in Vermont and North Salem, brought a frog-shaped container she found in the bottom of a river in Ohio about 40 years ago. 

“I’ve had it ever since and I’ve just never known anything about it,” she said.

Other than the inscription on the bottom, which indicates it was a Listerine brand shaving product, she didn’t know when it was produced.One of DeStories’ colleagues said the container is a used razor blade holder given as a promotional gift sometime during the 1930s to 1940s. At the time, Listerine products were sold under the Lambert Pharmacal Co. name. The container is valued at about $50, Kennedy learned.

“I think it’s adorable. I would never want to sell it, but I’ve always wondered about it.”