Actors' Salt Lake estate yields mint, decades-old items and $87K in expired checks
Oscar Rowland's family is putting on the liquidation sale that he could never bear to have.
The Salt Lake City resident died three years ago, leaving his Avenues house, many bizarre earthly possessions and a daunting burden to his five children and their families.
"People might think that this is a bittersweet activity, going through their belongings," said granddaughter Tiffany Morris, sweat beading on her forehead after sorting items Wednesday afternoon with her father, Robert Rowland, and her cousin, Lisa Rowland. "Nope. Just anger."
Oscar and his wife, Beverly, were actors. Oscar's IMDb page features a long list of bit parts in TV and movies (including "Footloose," "Touched by an Angel" and "Everwood"), while Beverly was a prolific local stage performer in addition to her on-screen roles (most notable of which is probably "Mr. Krueger's Christmas," with Jimmy Stewart).
In the 1970s, Oscar operated an Olympus Cove gift shop, The Gallery, that Morris believes was its day's version of World Market. He also worked in a foundry, as a miner and a restaurateur.
"He was a man who wore many hats, and the remnants of all those careers are in this house," Morris said with a roll of her eyes and a long exhale.
An estate sale manager saw the condition of the house at 1058 E. Third Ave. floor to ceiling boxes with visible dust and rot, offering little hint of the potentially valuable, mint-condition items within and told them to call Utah Disaster Kleenup instead. They worry a large shed in their backyard is a hantavirus risk. And the kicker: The family found $87,000 in expired Screen Actors Guild and royalty checks.
"This was cute for a day, and now I just want to punch grandpa in the face," Lisa Rowland joked. Ironically, they say, Oscar was famously tightfisted. When he landed the role of Scrooge for Promised Valley Playhouse, Beverly said "it was the role that he'd rehearsed for his entire life."
His moods swung between cantankerous and charming, if still somewhat crass. While filming "The Maldonado Miracle," a 2003 made-for-TV movie, he told his family at a Sunday dinner that he was very impressed by the beautiful Mexican director. Morris recounts: "He said, 'If she wanted to be something in this industry, I think she probably could,' and we're like, 'What's her name?' 'Um, Salma Hayek?' " Oscar said that Hayek had chided him playfully for something on the set, and he shot back, "Do you want to spank me?"
Oscar's wife was another polymath. When Beverly wasn't entertaining on stage, she was entertaining at home, her granddaughters say. She was also a talented seamstress and dollmaker, and every card she sent was homemade.
The 3,400-square-foot house the couple shared had basement rooms in which the only clear space was a thin path from door to door. "It's kind of like an archaeological dig," Tiffany said. But amid one man's 7 tons of garbage they had to rent two Dumpsters were plenty of treasures. Not just candles, but boxes of candles. A hundred cartons of decades-old cigarettes. A wad of $3,000 cash. Imported African art. Retro tin toys. Glassware. Posters. Gift cards. Clothes. And rarely just one of anything.
The cousins say they wish they had gone through it with their grandpa when he was alive, so they could know the story behind all of it. Without that context, all it's worth is what they can squeeze out of passers-by during their amateur, three-day estate sale.
From Sept. 6 to Sept. 8, bargain hunters will find a veritable turkey shoot at the Rowlands' house. The family has done some basic appraising through eBay and learned the price ranges for some items, like a model car that is worth hundreds of dollars, but they simply haven't had time to research most of it. Besides, Morris said, their goal is for you to leave the house with this stuff.
"We're fully aware that there might be a hidden treasure in here that we're not aware of, but I say, 'Good on you guys, if you can find it.' "
Rowland family estate sale
When • Sept. 6-8 beginning at 8 a.m.
Where • 1058 E. Third Ave.
On sale • A wide variety of unusual items from the estate of two former actors. Much of it is unopened and intended for sale in a gift shop 40 years ago.
Can't make it? • Email Tiffany Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in any of the items.