by Chris Clemens
I’m a sucker for garage sales, flea markets, and second hand shops. They’re usually a great way to discover regional artifacts. While walking through a garage sale in my Rochester neighborhood last year, I discovered a shoe box of random items.
Typically, a box of random stuff will have at least one gem, but it takes some digging. I was out of time and patience that day, so I just grabbed a handful with high hopes, paid for them, and went on my way. I quickly noticed that one of the items was a theatre ticket in the original mailing envelope but didn’t look too closely beyond that.
I did briefly wonder why there was only one ticket. Some people go to shows alone, so it probably wasn’t that weird.
But, the ticket was never used. Had they gotten sick and couldn’t make the show? Why not give the ticket to someone else!?
Maybe the show had been cancelled and patrons were told to hang on to their tickets for the rain date. That seemed like the only logical explanation. I figured someday I’d pull out the ticket and do some researching.
That time has come. And, it turns out, it’s not a ticket at all. It just looks like one.
Before even opening the envelope, it’s surprising to think that an item so small could be mailed. It measures 4 1/2″ by 2″, much smaller than the 3″ by 5″ minimum requirement today.
It was mailed to a Mr. and Mrs. Refermat of Lux Street, a short residential street on the north side of Rochester that crosses over Portland Ave. Apparently, on April 2 in 1948 you could mail a tiny little envelope like this for just 3 cents!
The ticket turns out to only be a clever way of sending a birth announcement!
Jack and Carrie Kohler became parents to David Bruce Kohler at Strong Memorial Hospital on March 22, 1948. They even included the time of the “showing”, the “directing” doctor, and the “costumes” having been provided by “Ma Nature”.
The more I looked at the ticket, the more I became enamored with its story. I contacted Strong Memorial Hospital’s PR team to find out if these tickets were a thing, and when they went out of fashion, but never got a reply. I took to Google and found only a couple others from around the country available on eBay for a few bucks. I couldn’t find any evidence of a trend or who started it.
I asked around to some of my “older” friends in hopes that someone somewhere would say, “OH my gosh! I remember these!!!” But, I got the opposite. All I got was, “That’s really neat, but I’ve never even heard of such a thing.”
Was it a service that hospitals provided? Was it a service that local print shops provided? Were the Kohlers just super creative? I hit a lot of dead ends.
I have amassed a pretty cool collection of ephemera and artifacts that in some way tell a story of our region. There are some that I’ve decided to part ways with, and have made them available via the Exploring Upstate store. This item didn’t seem right to keep or sell.
Recognizing that it was David Kohler’s 70th birthday in a few months, I began attempting to track him down. Maybe a gift from a total stranger on your 70th birthday is weird, but quite frankly, I like weird.
David Bruce Kohler
Sadly, I discovered that the “Boss” on my old ticket stub had passed away on April 11, 1974. David Bruce Kohler, the subject of my most recent tangential fascination, had died at the youthful age of 26. I would not be meeting him for his 70th birthday. I would not be surprising him with his birth notice.
More sadly, I discovered how he died.
I posted a photo of the ticket on Instagram, and one of my followers turned me on to an article published on April 17, 1974 in the Webster Herald.
David Kohler’s brief time on this planet came to end as the result of a single-car crash on Maple Ave., the very same road as the cemetery that he now rests in.
As Webster is also my hometown, I did go visit his grave. I assured David that his birth announcement was in good hands, and it would remain in my collection. I also told him that I had to share it with the world, because it was just too cool and unique to keep to myself.
R.I.P David “The Boss” Kohler.
Thank you, Jack and Carrie Kohler, for issuing a most interesting birth announcement for your son, David. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Refermat for saving it. And, thank you, anonymous person with the garage sale for never having thrown it out.
Note that the featured image for this post of a man viewing a baby Strong Memorial Hospital in the summer of 1947 is made available by UR Research at the University of Rochester.
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens