So ends our second trip down to the Santa Cruz area to liquidate the estate of Joyce and Carl Holstrom.
We spent much time on our first visit in July with some helpful young men and nearly finished phase I of the project which was to simply unearth all the burried treasures in this multi-building 3 acre estate and sort it. In two weeks with all that help, we only got about 80% of that done.
The collage below best describes that time:
Now that was exhausting!
But this time we came to complete phase I and do a yard sale to liquidate all this stuff.
Carl had an imense amount of stuff: 14 cars, 4 tractors, 100s of screwdrivers, wrenches, plyers, cutters, hammers, and other hand tools, dozens of tool boxes, dozens of dril bits, milling bits, micrometers, and other fancy instruments, drill presses, band saws, table saws, electric drills, vacume cleaners, etc.
It was as if he could never throw anything away. Multiple sets of the same thing, many times, unopened from the store. Enough oil to fill a garage, oil filters enough to fill a bedroom, paints to fill two truckloads, lamps by the dozens, furnature, brake pads, engine blocks, etc. etc.
The sadest thing is that the only evidence we found of his faith was a single picture of Jesus on the livingroom wall.
This couple never had children and she died of uterin cancer and he died of prostrate cancer – I guess if you don’t use it you lose it.
I estimate that if we had spent a year sorting and doing the ebay thing we would have made about $300,000 on the stuff alone. As it was, I think we sold about enough to cover our expenses.
Much of what they saved, they saved for so long that even though the stuff was state-of-the-art when it was new, the technology advances whiped out their value even when kept in great condiditon. They saved stuff to their own hurt.
What was more revealing was the fact that Carl accepted a large gift from his sister as a donation because she thought he was poor!
They had dozens of bank accounts – one account showed over $70,000 in interest in one year – they didn’t need gifts to get by!
It was sad to think of what Carl would have thought as we were liquidating his stuff for pennies on the dollar.
It was also revealing in dealing with the people who came to buy stuff at the yard sale. Some had very clever techniques of asking the price for several items, then bundling them together to get a discount price, then removing items that cost the most to try to obtain a new lower price and then buying the removed items at another yet reduced price. I asked one buyer "hey what do you want – everything for free?" and he replied "sure!".
There was certainly little respect for the life these tools and items that represented the life of Carl.
Much of Carl’s best stuff was pilfered out of his home long before we ever saw it and we believe much of that theft was done by Carl’s "Best Friends" who lived with him in one of his many homes on the property. Somehow, after Carl died, his friends saw his stuff as theirs and had no qualms in taking them.
As we would question them about the disappearance of things we clearly knew Carl had, the story would change with each rendition and eventually, things would "reappear" as they admitted to finding some things "just now" in the other room. But as the evidence mounted and they were presented with the distinct possibility of an investigation by the authorities, they quickly saw it convenient to move out of state immediately.
On the second day of the yard sale, many items simply disappeared. We simply were too busy to watch what everyone was doing. We had to make sure our own suff and anything we wanted to keep was locked up somewhere. By the end of the yard sale there were barely enough tools left to maintain the property. We should have thought to separate out a minimum set of tools for ourselves before starting the sale.
Another interesting thing was the appearance of all kinds of interesting characters who offered to clean everything up for us for free if they could just take the profit from the scrap. Then these individuals would appear the next day and work like dogs all day to remove all of the most valueable scrap, never to return to take the rest of the stuff they had promised to haul off for us.
The hasmat removal was a bit of a nightmare as well. I personally hauled off about 60 tires. At first I heard I could dump these at the dump for free but then I learned that I needed a manifest for each load (so I would not be arrested for illegal hauling of more than 5 tires at a time) and I would have to pay the dump $3 for each tire. It seems there is this guy that determines if your particular cleanup is worthy of charitable consideration or not. Since Carl had collected all this stuff, it was decided that his heirs should properly pay the cost for his collection removal – a debt somehow owed by them to society for his sins. I later found that a local tire store would take them for $2 each so I hauled them there. Luckily I had a canopy on my truck so I wouldn’t be hassled by the police for hauling them 15 at a time instead of 5. A few days later one buyer confessed to me that he told the dump that the tires he had were not really on his property – he was just trying to be a good sumaratin and clean up the mess around him – he got the free disposal deal because he had a good lie.
Taking paint out was a similar hassle. You could only dump 15 gallons of paint at a time and had to show proof of your address. When I told the hasmat guy at the dump that I had at least another 120 gallons more to dump he said I had to use a professional waste disposal hauling company to do it. They would not accept the materials. He said I would be under tremendouls liability for trying to haul that much paint at once and shouldn’t even try this myself.
I called a company and they estimated it would cost me about $1500 to haul what I had. On the day they were to come and take the stuff away I called in to ask them when they thought they would get there – the phone receptionist simply laughed. Later that day an enterprising man arrived and offed to haul it all off to his house for $1000 and he would remove it a bit at a time (he had "friends" at the dump you see). Later when I asked him for a receipt he thought he would do me a "favor" by offering to make the receipt out for more than what I actually paid him! I simply explained that I don’t work that way.
The hasmat company finally arrived the next day with very little to take away.
We still awiat there testing of some subceiling tile we think could have asbestos in it. It sounds like if it does, we could have a very large bill on our hands to dispose of it properly.
So now Carl and Joyce’s homes are empty and most of the stuff is gone and we can soon sell the estate property itself. Carl had enough wealth to travel the world or give much to those in need. Instead he and his wife pursued more and more things and money and died alone in their home and thievs and rust took the rest.
This is in such contrast to the recent death of Wally Caruthers with a funeral of over 3000 in attendance and a witness of a life lived for others and a legacy for his family. He didn’t horde, lie or cheat anyone yet he had much more than Carl could have ever stored. He had treasure in heaven.
This is not to say that Carl cheated or lied but he was a collector to his own hurt.
Well, that was an exhausting ordeal and one I am glad is now done done done as far as I am concerned!