WINTHROP — These days, it’s a sign of the times that Mainers frequently find needles in public places that were used to inject drugs and discarded on the side of the road.

Read the daily police log, and you’ll notice some of the occasions when police are called to dispose of the pointy paraphernalia.

What’s less common is for the needles that Mainers discover to belong in a museum, but that’s exactly what happened when Randy Hooper, who lives on Old Western Avenue in Winthrop, dug a hole in his back lawn several weeks ago.

Hooper’s wife had brought home a high bush blueberry plant and asked him to place it in the ground, and he had dug about 8 inches into the ground before striking what felt like a pipe.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I probably got a sewer main,’ ” he recalled.

In fact, the pipe was short, closed on either end and possibly made of cast iron. Hooper removed it from the earth, and made plans to open it with his nephew several days later.

“It wasn’t a pipe bomb,” he said. “I knew it was too rusty for that.”

It didn’t explode, and when he pried it open, he found a rolled up issue of the Boston Sunday Globe from Oct. 2, 1955, with advertisements for hunting trips to Quebec and windows that could be installed for $13.85.

Tucked inside the paper were some old needles and syringes, a pestle for grinding, and two glass containers containing white powder – one of which had shattered.

A maroon label identified the substance: “1/8 Ounce Sulphate of Morphine Poison: Manufactured By Rosengarten & Sons, Philadelphia.”

Handling the contents a couple days later, Hooper wore gloves and was careful not to touch the broken glass inside the capsule.

“I was hoping for a picture, or a handwritten note,” Hooper said. “Not drugs.”

On a recent afternoon, Hooper did as so many Mainers do and called the Winthrop Police Department to report his finding. Fifteen minutes later, Officer Justin Trask came for the loot.

Hooper briefly held his hands behind his back, as if to be handcuffed.

While Hooper has contacted the local historical society about his find, he’s still not sure what explains it. Detective Peter Struck, who took Hooper’s call that afternoon, did not respond to a request for more information.

“We’ve found all kinds of things,” Hooper said, referring to his yard. “We’ve found batteries, lots of bottles, glass, and beer cans, but nothing like that.”

He bought the property in 1989 and estimates the house was built in the 1960s, he said, but he’s not sure who lived there in the decades before he took residence, and a neighbor who might have had more information has died.

He’s also not sure what motivated someone to bury that pipe, the needles, the powder and the newspaper 8 inches underground.

“Maybe it was someone who knew someone who was addicted, and he wanted to hide it,” Hooper speculated. “Maybe someone wanted to get his drugs, so he buried them.”

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

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