Picked Over

Newspaper clipping, no date or other information. With a little research, I found that it appeared in the February 7, 1976 edition of The New York Times. As you can imagine, the words hit home for me, seems like I go through this ritual almost every day.

People picked over Josephine Oliengo Paglieri’s belongings Thursday night. Her books, furniture and clothes were strewn about the sidewalk and street, lying in the snow.

Mrs. Paglieri, who operated Enrico and Paglieri Restaurant after her husband, Paulo, had died in 1950, lived in a small flat over the restaurant at 64 West 11th Street for 50 years.

The restaurant, which opened in 1908, went out of business last year. But Mrs. Paglieri continued to live in the apartment with the same desk, bureau and bed she had had for 60 years, until she died last November, at the age of 95.

On Thursday, Mrs. Paglieri’s friends cleared the apartment of her personal possessions and left them on the sidewalk to be picked up by the Sanitation Department. Presently, a young hippie came by, grabbed one of her battered suitcases and began to stuff her old books into it. He hastily selected the few leather-bound ones.

Applying The Crusher

"You’re a fast worker," said his female companion. She lived next door, near Fifth Avenue, and was dressed in a fur coat.

Somebody else rummaged through Mrs. Paglieri’s worn dresses. “These are great for old clothes,” she said. Other people peered inside the drawers of Mrs. Paglieri’s plain wooden bureau.

That night a large sanitation truck rumbled up the street to pick up the goods. An old olive-green velvet couch crumbled under the tongs of the truck’s crusher.

The desk fell apart when the garbage men tried to pick it up. A lifetime of personal papers, letters, souvenirs and stationery swirled all over the sidewalk outside the restaurant that Mrs. Paglieri used to own.

The sanitation men shoveled and swept, and threw them inside the truck. But one photograph remained on the street behind the vehicle. It was a picture of Mrs. Paglieri as a young girl, with her family.

The driver of the sanitation truck picked it up. He glanced at it while the desk was splintering under the weight of the garbage. He hopped into he cab and roared off, leaving a few papers fluttering in the wind.

Found in "The Silver Arrow" by Earl H. Reed. Published by Reilly and Lee, 1926.

-Click to enlarge photos-


  1. How sad. The desk and the personal papers touched me the most. Thank you for sharing.

  2. That is so depressing. What a sad commentary on human nature.

  3. so sad.. but I have admired the reporter's style..she wrote.. must be a she ☺ almost a short story...

  4. Such a poignantly written story. Also, I was curious about the restaurant so here's this: