My paternal grandmother, who kept journals for at least 29 of the last 31 years of her life, also kept scrapbooks. There is little family information in her scrapbooks, although I did find the short clipping of my Uncle Calvin finding some human legs in a city dump quite interesting.
Tucked in among the weather news and clippings of local-girl-turned-radio-star Louise Fitch was a photo of an odd-looking contraption headed to the recycling center. It was an outdated fire truck acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad sometime around the Civil War. Since the horse-drawn pumper was no longer in service, the railroad was sending it to be melted down to salvage the metal for use in the World War II effort.
I can’t say for certain what today’s Union Pacific leaders would say about the matter, but I’m pretty sure they’d like to have the pumper on display at its museum today.
These things happen in war. Many Civil War cannons and pieces of antique farm machinery that would be historic treasures today were consumed by the 1940s war machine. I fear that lots of family treasures face the same fate today.
Just as our World War II vets continue to die off at a staggering pace, their offspring are at an age where many of them are downsizing themselves as they move into smaller residences to accommodate their own empty nester lifestyles. That funneling effect means something has to go. But what?
Items are often pitched out of ignorance of their value, either in a family history sense or in a real, free-market sense. Rather than just blindly kicking old or ugly stuff to the curb, a wise person would ask some questions first to determine its real value. Only then will you really know where it belongs.
Writing prompt of the day: Write short histories of family items you value and make certain your heirs have access to them. This will help them assess the items’ value after you are gone.
Photo: 1942 newspaper clipping of Civil War-era fire truck. (Jessie M. Lehmer collection).