The Case of the Larcenous Lady*

It was the trip of her lifetime. She had scrimped and denied herself small pleasures at home so she could fly Braniff.

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So she could stay at the Waldorf.

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And at the Lake Placid Club.

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And the Copley Plaza.

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So she could ride the Pullman Railroad and let the porters bring her tea.

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And as she left each place, each adventure, she knew she’d never be back. This was, for her, the last hurrah.

So, she slipped a little something in her case, just to keep as a small memento of this special time.

It wasn’t that she was a thief. No, never that! She had just looked forward to this for so long and spent so much money, surely a small souvenir would do no harm.

_____________

Do you know this woman? There must’ve been many like her, to judge by the vintage linens I’ve come across from hotels and airlines and resorts.

These linens all speak to an era of travel that is long gone by—elegance and attention to detail. 

I’ve never brought home a pilfered souvenir from a trip, although I was almost seduced  once by the heavy silverware at the Saturn Club in Buffalo, with the tiny stamp of the planet on the handle.

But I admit I’d’ve been sorely tempted by these lovely items of a bygone time.

*My blog post title was apparently the title of an episode of the old Perry Mason TV series!

 

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74 thoughts on “The Case of the Larcenous Lady*

  1. What a wonderful grouping of vintage linens. I’m sure there are many collectors out there who would be very interested, especially the Pullman items. I’m attracted to silverware monogrammed with unusual names…so I can research them.

    • So you can research them–yes, of course! You know more about silverware than anybody! And most of the linens I showed have already found new homes–I am always confident, when I find these sorts of things, that I can sell them.

  2. Oh the number of times I was so temped, just like you! But my strict Protestant upbringing already brought red cheeks of shame with the thought only. What a wonderful collection!!!! Thank you for sharing, xo Johanna. Ps I do know of a number of people that collected souvenirs like these but they are all men: what does that say????

  3. Oh my goodness, what a treat! Some pretty lovely linens there! I once loved a pillow so much, I went down to the front desk and asked to buy it, but they wouldn’t let me…I sometimes wish I hadn’t asked!!

    • I’ve been to hotels where they actually offer to sell you the bed linens–but I can’t remember where. These old pieces are such nice quality–it makes me a little sad that we’ve lost that elegance.

  4. We were train people! My father loved them. For several Christmases my family and often my cousins as well, would take the train from Trenton, NJ to somewhere in Florida. What I remember more than the linens, was the heavy train silverware. (And the wonderful food, made by one man in a teeny kitchen.)
    And those fancy hotels…nothing like them. My parents treated me to a few nights in the Ritz in Boston, circa 1974. We were going in to lunch and I was refused service because I had on jeans! It wasn’t “jeans” per se, but they weren’t designer ones. I also remember getting a salad on a plate and having the worst time eating it. A lettuce leaf scooted to the floor and I kid you not – the maitre d came across the room and picked it up. I was mortified!!!!

  5. I started to smile as I began to read this. What a great way to start a mystery novel. 😉 I have never taken any either but would have asked permission to purchase something. If they are unwilling to sell, that seems very short sighted on their part. It’s a different kind of travel I do with cheap lodging and linens. 🙂 Nothing I’d want to purloin. Wondering what you will do with this collection?

    • I keep threatening to write a mystery novel . . . in my free time–ha! Most of the items in this collection have already found new homes, through my Etsy shop. And they didn’t all come from one person, if my story gave that impression–I came across them over the years.

  6. They may not all have been nicked, honest. I had among our family treasures quite a lot of heavy damask tablecloths from up-market hotels. My mother assured me that her God-fearing mother (my grandfather was a clergyman and exhaustingly honest) used to buy such things to cover the long trestle tables at parish suppers when said hotels sold them at auction – they often had very small signs of damage..

    • That’s an insight I didn’t have–thanks for that. I wouldn’t have though of a hotel auction but I do have several small tablecloths from one hotel and maybe that’s where they came from. And I love your turn of phrase “exhaustingly honest”! I know people like that.

  7. What a fascinating collection! i suppose you didn’t get this collection from one source – but i quite like the idea of a woman of small means wandering about the US pilfering fine linen as she goes. When I read the title I thought of the old Perry Mason shows immediately – maybe subconsciously even remembering that particular programme………. I used to love them when I was a kid.

    • No, I got these things over the years, although I did go to one estate sale where I found several of the and that made me think of the larcenous lady. One of my other readers, Carol, says she just re-watched the Larcenous Lady episode! I didn’t even know Perry Mason shows were still available for viewing!

  8. I’ve been told…all the “sampling” is all factored into the prices. Coincidentally, for the past few months, my husband and I have been enjoying a classic Perry Mason episode every night (to combat the stress of the nightly news). The black and white whodunnits are so well written (however, the acting can be over the top, at times). I’m totally comforted by them. We’ve actually seen the episode of which you refer (Louise Fletcher..One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Nurse Ratched was featured). Love the linens and your stories (that might have been). Thanks Kerry.

    • Where do you find the old episodes? Are they shown on TV or did they make it to DVD? I read mystery novels for the same reason–they are so comforting, when justice prevails and the loose ends are all tied up. So glad to hear from you!

  9. Oh, gosh, these linens are beautiful. I remember on a flight to London on Virgin Atlantic years ago getting a lovely soft plaid blanket and watching in horror as my row mate stuffed it into her backpack before we got off the plane. Like Johanna, my upbringing forbids…

    • Oh, I know–I’ve coveted that kind of thing, too . . . but I could never, never just take it. And, now, of course, there’s nothing even tempting about airline blankets or hotel towels!

  10. Your story writing is fabulous. I want to know more about this woman who saved her money and finally go to do the things she had longed to for so very long. Did she grow old happy? Happy because of what?…….

    • Now, see? That’s the fun of fiction–you can write your own ending for her! I have always thought it would be fun to write a murder mystery–it’s pretty much all I read so I have the tone figured out!

  11. What a collection! And where are those woven wool blankets gone? Now Aer Lingus only provides a skimpy fleece blanket! Can you not imagine rows and rows of folks slumbering away on their trip to Ireland, all tucked in with a woven wool blanket!

  12. Bygone days. I can only imagine the stories you envision going through your lovely collection of vintage linens. Speaking of gorgeous linens, I have mine all pinned down, but I’m forcing, and I mean forcing, myself to finish my indoor painting project first or I’ll never get it done. As it is, I keep asking myself why did I start this. 🙂

    • Oh, I make up stories all the time! I’m easy to amuse that way. . . . I hope you get your house painting done soon so you can have some fun with your sewing project–I have a special interest in that!

  13. A) There is a reason that such places cost so much to stay at (i.e. anticipated replacement costs). B) There is a reason for gift shops (and now wedsites) for such places to allow people to take home, through honest exchange of money for goods, what they desire to surround themselves with (e.g. the prestige of having stayed at said resort). C) There is a reason that most morality follows the sequence act-first-justify-later. – Oscar

    • All true! But, sadly, most of the sorts of items I showed are simply not made or available any more, except at the random garage sale–that quality is lost, I’m afraid.

  14. The linens in your post are an homage to bygone manufacturing, when such branded items were common for hotels, restaurants, etc. There’s still lots of branded items, but they are often copyright Disney, and woe betide you if you violate that copyright. While I don’t condone stealing, I must say that Aer Lingus throw caught my eye.

    • Disney–ick. I’m an old-fashioned kind of gal, as you probably know, and I love the aesthetic conveys by these items. The Aer Lingus throw came from an estate sale where there were quite a few hotel linens–the person who lived there must really have been a larcenous lady.

  15. I have a standing joke with my husband whenever we are out – ‘oh what a pity I don’t have a larger handbag with me…’. There are plenty of times when I covet linen, glassware etc etc. But I am never brave enough to act on such impulses. Good on your ladies for doing so – as you say, it is the age of elegance personified. If it were not for their efforts, how else would we have access to such important social history! 🙂

    • I always love coming across these items, for exactly those reasons–it’s not just a pretty towel or napkin but a sort of repository for a whole way of life that’s lost . . .

  16. I never taken any thing more than a pen, which I needed to sign a paper then promptly walked out the door with it in my hand . I guess if they wanted it bad enough the desk clerk could have reminded me that I still had the pen!😂but I can understand why one would if they did the trip of a life time,and needing a memory…and they were beautiful! I too,was raised that if it was someone else’s then be honest and leave it there!

  17. Those pieces are beautiful. I can understand the temptation. I’ll admit to keeping an airplane blanket I used in early June of 1988, on a flight that was so cold I nearly shivered the whole time. On the trip back I had a hard time convincing the flight attendant to let me have a WHOLE CAN of 7Up, rather than the third of a can she poured for me. I’M PREGNANT, I said, and dehydrated. I NEEED the whole can! She twisted her lip and relented. Made me feel not very bad about the blanket…

    • We could all be lots of things, if we had the time, right?? Choices must be made. I think it’s kind of neat that, though, these items were stolen initially, I feel like I can own them legitimately, by finding them at a tag sale and paying a little for them!

  18. those are all lovely things! And yes, that does sound like a Perry Mason novel title. They were often alliterative.

    The only thing remotely like this that I have participated in was at one of my Dad’s weddings (don’t ask). I said to my brother that I thought the pitcher for the cream was cute – it was a little washstand bowl and pitcher. As we were walking out to the parking lot hours later, he pulled out from under his suit jacket the bowl and pitcher from the table! He presented it to me, and I should have returned it but didn’t. I still have it and it looks sweet with pansies in it.

    • My husband’s father was married 6 times, twice to Don’s mother–so I won’t ask about your Dad’s weddings! And I know people just like your brother, who can’t resist little doodads . . .

      • lol You do understand!

        Dad has only been married to each wife once – and certainly my mother would never think of marrying him again – but the family joke is that he has married every woman he ever dated. My grandmother used to tell him he didn’t have to do that, but he never believed her, or something.

        And I learned not to let on to my brother if I really like some little thing. 😉

    • It’s the variety that keeps me going, with the vintage linens. After all these years, I still see completely new and different pieces every day!

  19. I used to work for an airline in the 80s and have a few bits and pieces that were used as ‘giveaways’ in Business and First Class. No linen though. Having just returned from a trip across to the U.K., I can only dream of the luxury travel invoked by your linens having been shunted from pillar to post in slow winding lines, stressed by having to empty out ‘suspicious’ items from hand luggage after walking what felt like the distance between France and the U.K. through endless airport terminal buildings and, once on board, paying over the odds for a cardboard cup of ‘coffee’ with some plastic milk sachets which have a tendency to squirt their contents all over the place when you try to tear the corner off. No wonder nobody bothers ‘to dress’ for travelling any more.

  20. Aren’t they lovely. My step mum pilferedcoat hangers and ash trays. I do love a nice pen and note pad, I assume they are for taking, oh and little soaps. I do cherish one from San Fransisco with the golden gate bridge on it.

  21. They don’ make travel like they used to thats for sure. I was lucky enough to travel on Concord before it was decommissioned and that was an experience, great food and service with linen napkins and proper silver cutlery. But recent experience on British Airways was very disappointing. I am pleased that someone else mentioned the rudness of the hostess staff as I have found that to be very lacking on recent flights which is a terrible shame, kindness costd nothing to provide and is such a big part of one’s travel experience,

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