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    Guess the use for this little box with annoying sound

    The square box had baffled me off and on for weeks. I had found it among some items in a box lot from an auction and was very curious about what it was.

    On the outside, it resembled a music box, patterned in inlaid wood of diamonds and zigzags with a small holder attached to one side. When I raised the cover, though, a duck with an opened red-tipped bill emerged from the bottom and a platform formed underneath it. 

    All the time, the discordant sound of a plucked wire announced its arrival. It certainly was not a music box with such an irritating sound. So what was it?

    The sweet little wooden mystery box with its inlaid patterns.

    The sweet little wooden mystery box with its inlaid patterns.

    I opened and closed the box slightly several times to try to get a look below the platform, hoping to see how the sound was generated. I was also looking for a maker’s name to search via Google. I found none inside or outside the box.

    I tried Googling using relevant and common search words, but it’s hard to search for something with no idea of what it is. Then a friend took a look at the box and made a wild guess, which made sense as soon as she said it. So I Googled to determine if she was right. And she was. I found several boxes like it on the internet, and they were identified as having been made in Occupied Japan in the 1940s.

    From 1945 to 1952, items made in Japan and imported to the United States were required to be marked as “Occupied Japan” or “Made in Occupied Japan.” A lot of these items are considered collectibles – although their values vary – and they turn up pretty often at auction. 

    Can you be as quick as my friend or as slow as me in determining what the box was used for?

    The slightly opened box reveals a wooden duck.

    The mystery box slightly opened, left, and fully opened.

    It once held items that were the rage, the items enjoyed by practically everyone because they were cool. They were ubiquitous in the movies, on the streets, at nightclubs and in the beauty parlors. They could be easily purchased – and still can be, but fewer adults partake of them these days because they’re more harmful than cool anymore. They were also easy to carry in a purse or coat jacket.

    What do you think the box was used for and how did the duck figure into it? Share your guesses in the Comments box below and then click on the second photo to find the answer.

    To hear what the box sounds like, click on the audio player:


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    1 Comment

    1. Now I’m thinking cigarette dispenser . . . . . .

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