'Great silver give-back' gets raves at the Waldorf

It is being called the "great silver give-back" and it now totals 85 spoons, 1 oyster fork, a sugar bowl, an ice bucket, and 2 candlesticks. The beneficiary -- the posh Waldorf-Astoria Hotel -- is delighted. Those returning the objects to the hotel presumably have relieved guilt-troubled consciences.

Some of those guilt feelings go back a long way. One person returned four 65 -year-old spoons dating to the days when the hotel occupied the site where the Empire State Building now stands. In April a woman sent back a 49-year-old sugar bowl that, she said, had been taken from the Waldorf by her grandmother.

A hotel spokeswoman says the returns began last Jan. 28 and that most of the pieces are being put right back into use.

Why the rush to give back the silver? Says Waldorf manager Eugene Scanlan: "The news of high silver prices made people realize that any item of silver has value. The sudden realization that 'borrowing' or taking a souvenir is actually theft has given many Americans pangs of conscience. Obviously, they're honest people who really didn't mean to steal."

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