Attic-renovation project yields fun find for St. Paul family – Twin Cities

After Aaron Nunberg and Jen Kamarainen ripped out the carpet in their St. Paul attic last week, they decided to pull up part of the hall.

They wanted to determine the strength of the bar below.

They found the beam and an unexpected treasure: four pages from the April 19, 1942 issue of St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The torn, yellowed and brittle Sunday newspaper gave them the opportunity to show their sons Theo (9) and Walter (6) what life was like during World War II.

A photo of a page from the 1942 issue of St. Paul Pioneer Press found in the attic of a house in St. Paul in January 2021. (Courtesy Jen Kamarainen and Aaron Nunberg)

From the ads they learned that a 78-rpm Columbia Records record by Benny Goodman and his orchestra performing “Buckle Down Winsocki” could be bought for 53 cents; A chenille bedspread was $ 3.98. A five-piece Chromium dinette set would make you $ 34.95. and a “space-saving simplex ironing machine,” one of the most expensive items listed, was $ 39.95.

The headlines ranged from “Underprivileged children of the city look forward to co-op camping” to “Lord and Lady Halifax Ride Jeep” to “Bank teller 3 years for theft”.

But it was the “Sugar Rationing Details Listed” heading that really stood out, Kamarainen said.

“That was one that we pointed out to our boys just because we wanted them to understand that this was a thing during the war,” Kamarainen said. “Walter in particular had a lot of questions. He kept saying, “Well why couldn’t they get more?” It was a good lesson about the casualties during the war. “

According to the article published four months after the US entered World War II, sugar rationing was due to begin at midnight the following Sunday. “From then on, no more sugar will be sold until the morning of May 4th,” the article says. “This will be effective across the United States.”

According to the article, Americans had to have government-issued sugar stamps in order to buy sugar. But family units “that had six pounds of sugar on hand for each member would not receive books until supplies were brought down to less than two pounds each,” the article says.

Although newspapers were widely used as insulation in old houses, including in the basement of the couple’s 1900 home, that didn’t appear to be the case with the Pioneer Press they found in the attic, Nunberg said.

“It just seemed like a random piece of paper under the floorboards,” he said. “It was in a gift box for clothes. It was in an isolated area, but this was just a single sheet of paper folded flat. “

“This one was just lying there and that made it weird,” said Kamarainen. “It was in a half-built gift box and there was actual insulation.”

On Tuesday, January 19, 2021, a 19-pound bag of what appeared to be sugar was found in the attic of a renovated house in St. Paul. (Courtesy Jen Kamarainen and Aaron Nunberg)

Nunberg and Kamarainen, who live on the 800 block of Holly Avenue, took photos of the newspaper pages and decided to create their own miniature time capsule under the hall in the attic. They sent a message to their neighbors asking for a copy of last Sunday’s Pioneer Press to add to it.

Once the new oak floor is installed, the attic will be turned into an “exercise / video game room,” Kamarainen said. “It’s kind of a wide open space with a chimney in the middle. It will be bonus room. We had a play set up there, but as our boys got older, we kind of outgrew it by that point. “

On Tuesday evening, the couple decided to take another look under the hallway before both newspapers – which were nearly 79 years old – were put in the room.

There, hidden deeper under the wood in the insulation of the attic, was a dusty white cloth bag containing a white substance that appeared to be sugar.

Theo Nunberg (9) and Walter Nunberg (6) examine a bag of sugar that was found in the attic of their home in St. Paul on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. (Courtesy Jen Kamarainen and Aaron Nunberg)

“It was hard and it was big and it was hard to pry out,” said Nunberg. “I had to work it through the hall space because it was full and solid. At that point we suspected it was sugar. “

The drawstring bag, which was filled about a quarter of the way, weighed 19 pounds.

“The newspaper seemed random until we found the bag of sugar,” said Kamarainen. “After re-reading the article on sugar rationing, our guess is that the household hid its excess sugar to qualify for its sugar stamps.”

Theo and Walter, who posed for pictures with their finds, “are amazed that the newspaper – and now the sugar – was there longer than their grandparents were alive,” she said.

The couple are still trying to confirm that the white matter is sugar. Nobody tried, they said.

“I just texted a chemist friend to see if they had a Benedict solution so we could confirm it was sugar without trying it,” Kamarainen said, referring to the chemical Test to check for the presence of reducing sugars in a given analyte. “We heard a lot of jokes about telling people about the white powder in our attic. They say, “Oh, do you really think the white powder is sugar?” ”

“We didn’t call the Haz-Mat team,” said Nunberg.

On Monday, the couple released an update after a weekend test. “After comparing his appearance to sugar in our closet and doing a quick outdoor burn test with sugar / baking soda, Aaron tasted it comfortably,” Kamarainen wrote in an email to Pioneer Press. “We can now say with confidence that the white matter we found under our attic is actually sugar.”

The bag of sugar was not in the family’s time capsule, Kamarainen said.

“We’re a bit amazed that there was no evidence of ants, mice, or other living things getting inside,” she said. “We didn’t take this up again because we decided it wasn’t good to leave sugar in the house. We don’t want mice to nibble on the rafters. “

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