The “recyclers”, Danilo
“This clock belonged to a soldier who fought in the Great War. I found it when I was 18 years old at almost 3000 m. It is a relic of that period, even if at the time we didn’t really value things like this. The Second World War had just ended and boys like us would go up to the Adamello to look for metal objects. We were called the Recyclers. We would strip the mountain of everything that the First World War troops had left there and that could be reused.
Today museums would be filled with these objects, but back then, as the mines were still closed, the foundries in Brescia would pay you 500 lire per kilo for copper, 120 lire for lead, and for brass, of which there were greater amounts, 300 lire. One day we found 50 kilos of cartridge cases, which meant the salary earned in one month by a worker. We had fun. Ah, we really liked it. It was like a large treasure hunt. We were young, we were good walkers, we had physical stamina and a huge mountain area, full of secrets, to explore and rewards to be collected.
And it was still all there. The Austrians had left, leaving tons of war material, trenches and corpses. We also found corpses, which were half buried by ice. Some recyclers joined these poor men; they were blown up while hammering on bombs to open them and recover the copper strips inside. But my brother and I were very careful and we never got hurt. We would avoid the bombs and shrapnel and the rest was all good stuff. Pieces of cannons, cableway wheels, cartridges and cartridge cases: we would bring them down from the mountain tops and huts at high altitudes. We would sleep up there in order not to lose too much time and we would stay there even for weeks at a time. Our father would come up with a cart from Val Genova to bring us food and retrieve the material that he would then sell to foundries in Pinzolo.
This lasted a few years. And they were beautiful years. Then I had to do my military service as a clarinet player in the military band. When I got home, mining activity had restarted, metal prices had plummeted and it was no longer worth retrieving these things. No one retrieved such things anymore.
After this I started touring around the Adamello with a camera in my hand”.
Written by Alessandro Cristofoletti