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Hometown stories:Heidi McElfish

Treasure hunter misses out on find in old safe

August 25, 2010 - A 21-year-old Clarkston man – I will call Kip McLaughlin – was always dreaming that one day, he would find a treasure.

Growing up his parents were avid collectors. Every vacation, every road trip, they would stop at any antique store, vintage shop or junk store. (According to his Dad: the more junkier and disorganized the better).

Of course the hunt was almost as much fun as finding that cool, rare, retro piece, that undiscovered treasure, that no one new about.

Since treasure hunting and collecting were in his blood, it was no surprise when Kip and his friend when up-north this past Memorial weekend, stopped at an estate sale. The old man was selling an old safe without the combination for $50.

The old man said, "Ya the couple died, we're selling everything. The son came by and took out everything valuable out of that there safe, locked it and left the rest inside. Too bad though, don't know how to open it."

Kip whispered to Mike, with gleaming eyes, "Maybe, there's something still in there."

So they both pitched in $25 and gave it to the man. "We'll take it!!"

Kip backed up his car and they both lifted up that 300 lb. safe and threw it in his trunk. All the way home, back to Clarkston and for the next month they talked to all their friends about what kind of treasure they would find in that safe. They both agreed that they wouldn't open it without each other.

So a few months went by and they never found the time to get together. It was in Kip's Dad's garage. The first week in July, Kip's Dad had a big wood-working project he had to do and of course, 'the safe!' was under foot and in the way.

Dad got mad at Kip and justifiably said, "This is taking up all the room in my garage and I'm tired of moving it all around. How are you going to open it up anyway? There's nothing in there."

Remember this was the original junk collector talking, "There's nothing in there?"

That rang in Kip's mind, even my Dad lost his mojo!. He doesn't have that "I'm going to find a treasure drive anymore."

Kip retaliated by picking up that safe (all 300 lbs), thru it in the back of his trunk and sped down the driveway. His mom (a super-wonderful, kind, patient and beautiful thing) dashed out of the house and said to her husband, "Where is Kip going with that safe? I hope he doesn't do anything rash."

Kip headed to Dixon selvage yard about 3 miles away and sold that 300 lb dream for scrap metal. At least he got $18 for his trouble. And that was that! Dream shattered!

All was quiet in the McLaughlin home and garage when at 8:20 am, two months later, they get a call from officer Fitzgerald.

"Can I speak to Kip about a certain safe that he sold." Sure, Kip responded and headed down to the police station.

Mom and Dad look at each other and thought – what happened? I hope there wasn't drugs in there or some 'chopped off' body part that Kip will get in trouble for.

Half hour later he comes back and sheepishly says…"I'm going to kill you Dad….. in that safe was my treasure. It was filled with antique jewelry, old gold coins, silver coins and ˝ carat diamond ring that I could've given Jill (his fiancée,) and old bonds….."

Yes, Kip made the wrong choice, even the officer asked, "Why didn't you open it?"

As the story goes… Charley, the guy at the selvage yard is now reaping the reward of Kip's dream…. The hunt will have to be the only pleasure he got out of that journey….

Will he ever buy another safe?.... Will the treasure hunting continue on…..that remains to be seen.

Based on a true story. Raised by Polish parents in the metro Detroit area, Heidi McElfish was always entertaining the neighborhood kids with stories and plays. In school she majored in English Literature and Creative Writing. Now living in her dream city, Clarkston, where she raised three spunky kids, she spends her days snuggling with her high school sweetheart and husband of 29 years. She loves to entertain, has a passion for antiques and loves to make people happy by baking her famous polish cookies.

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