Memories From Lives Long Gone

Lowell L. Getz

Fig. 1
Fig. 1. Antique store, St Joseph, Illinois.

The sign above the door reads, “Antiques”, the dictionary definition of which is “collectible old items.”  “Collectible” is defined as “an object of a type that is valued or sought after by collectors.”  “Collectibles” suggest postage stamps, coins, dolls, furniture made by some famous cabinet-maker centuries ago, porcelain from an old Austrian firm, and other objects with intrinsic value, arranged in neatly organized displays. But, when we walk through the door of the store, we see crammed, cluttered aisles upon aisles of shelves of irregularly stacked dishes and kitchen ware, cases filled with a disarray of old jewelry, pocket knives, buttons, small figurines, and books, as well as aisles of small farm tools, furniture and uncountable other items of every description.

Fig. 2
Fig. 2. Shelves of items for sale.

Fig. 3
Fig. 3. An alcove in the store.

Fig. 4
Fig. 4. There are literally thousands of items in this photograph; at one time, each someone’s prize possession.

Fig. 5
Fig. 5. Close-up of one of the display areas. Observe the large number of small items on the shelves and the array of pocket knives in the case. Once almost every boy carried a pocket knife. No longer

At first we are struck by the multitude of “things” of every size, shape and color. Where did they all come from? Some appear to have intrinsic value. Most of the “stuff” on display, however, is simply old inexpensive items that many people would have thrown away when no longer needed or when newer replacements were acquired. Some obviously are very old, but not aesthetically interesting, just interesting. Some, we have no idea as to their original purpose. We wonder, “Why would anyone be interested in buying these old, seemingly worthless items?” But, we recognize that there are amongst us sub-cults of collectors, each of which is interested in obtaining certain items for their own uniqueness. The goal of such collectors often is to accumulate a representative of each of the items of a brand that have been manufactured or an extensive collection of a given article. The primary focus is on the uniqueness of the object, not necessarily its intrinsic value.

As we dwell longer upon each item, we realize that these inanimate objects once were an intimate part of someone’s life. They observed the day to day lives, the happiness, the anguish: the platter that held the last Thanksgiving turkey he carved before the he passed away; her favorite cup for the morning hot coffee; the rag doll held by a feverish small girl as she battled chicken pox; a 1946 Alabama license plate from the very first car he owned, paid for by back pay from his prisoner of war years in the Philippines; the pocket knife given to him on his 8th birthday by his grandfather; and on and on. Each item has its own unique personal history. By simply looking at a plate, serving dish, dinner knife, rag doll, pocket knife or broach we only can speculate as to whose lives it touched or the family experiences it observed.

Eventually these items will end up in someone else’s home, most as decorative curios on fireplace mantles, or wall shelves, a few displayed in glass cabinets, and perhaps as containers for plants. Few will be used as originally intended by the new owners. Those viewing the items on display will be struck more by the uniqueness of the pieces, the color patterns, and the delicate designs than of their “personal” history. Seldom will anyone take the time to consider what the objects meant to someone or pause to imagine who owned them, who touched them.

As we walk among the aisles of the store, our mind tries to envision the personal experiences each object might have been witness to. We know that we only can speculate, but such conjectures may be representative of what might have been. We cannot describe our thoughts on everything in the store. To do so is unrealistic. We can, however, share our imaginations regarding the history of a few representatives of the items in the store.

The following are some of the items we observed as we walked amongst the aisles and the memories each object might harbor.

Fig. 6
Fig. 6. Hoosier kitchen cabinet. Before the day of built-in cabinets and work space, kitchen cabinets were a part of every kitchen

Kitchen Cabinet: This is a well-restored “Hoosier” kitchen cabinet. The built-in metal flour dispenser on the left (handle of the sifter showing below the flour container, behind the upper left door), shelves for storing dishes behind the two doors to the right and in the open space enclosed by a roll top cover. Drawers below on the right for silverware, aprons, dish towels and the like. Pans were stored in the space behind the lower door. The enamel counter, pulled out to provide more space, was the primary work counter in someone’s kitchen for so many years, before built in counters and wall cabinets became popular. How many pans of biscuits were rolled out on a breadboard placed on the counter top? How many pies were made on the enamel work space on the cabinet—cherry pies in spring, blackberry and gooseberry pies later, lemon meringue pies for the threshers, apple, pumpkin and mincemeat pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas? The dough, made by mixing lard with the flour, was rolled out flat and thin on a breadboard. We see little girls watching their mom roll out the dough, carefully push it down in an enamel pie pan and slice off the excess from around the edge of the pan. The girls pick up little pieces of the sliced off dough when their mom is not looking and sneak away to eat them. How many years did a wife work on this cabinet top, making three meals a day while her husband was doing chores in the morning and evening and working long hours in the fields? All who used this cabinet are now gone and along with them, all the memories of this kitchen cabinet. Where will it go from here? Most likely this excellently preserved cabinet will end up at the end of some large kitchen as an antique counter-point to the modern built-in cabinets and granite counter tops. And, as a place to store additional dishes and kitchen utensils.  But, the enamel counter no longer will be used in preparation of food. No more cake, pie or biscuit memories. No more early morning breakfast memories. No more holiday meal memories. These will remain with the cabinet as it silently observes the busy food preparation by the new family.

Fig. 7
Fig. 7. Cameo. Once someone’s prized possession. Now just another pendant in a case filled with other jewelry items

Cameo: We can imagine many versions of the history of this Camelot cameo, still in its original pink box. A graduation present to the daughter when she became the first girl in the family to finish college? The first Christmas present to his wife-to-be the year they began dating? A gift from her grandmother on her wedding day? No matter how she came by it, this cameo would have been a treasured possession for all her life. Think of the times she wore it—to formal dances, when attending the Christening of her children and to her daughter’s wedding. At first, around a so smooth delicate neck, much later the neck splotched and wrinkled, but the glow in her face when she wore the cameo never diminished. Her children did not want it, so it is now just a piece of jewellery in a crowded display case. Will whoever buys the cameo cherish it as she did? Most likely not. Only another necklace amongst the several she already owns. So sad.

Fig. 8
Fig. 8. Calf feeding bucket, with simulated cow’s teat. Used for feeding calves, whose mothers could not produce milk. Note other related items: coal oil (kerosene) lanterns used when going out at night, buckets used to hold coal oil for the lamps and other things that burned coal oil.

Calf Bucket: This device dates back to when almost all farm families kept a few milk cows to provide milk for the family and a little income from the sale of milk and calves born to the cows. Sometimes it was necessary to feed by hand a small calf, whose mother died when giving birth or because of a disease, such as mastitis, could not produce milk after giving birth. Rather than try to feed the newborn with a bottle, it was more effective to use something that held a lot of milk and resembled a cow’s teat. Thus, a rubber “teat” was attached to a bucket as seen in the photo. Milk was sucked from the bucket as from the calf’s mother. We see a small boy feeding a small calf from the bucket on a cold dark winter morning. We only can imagine how many calves this bucket fed and how much it helped the family through rough financial situations during the Great Depression. We wonder what will become of the bucket now? Not much of a “curio” for a fireplace mantle or elsewhere in the house. Kind of large and not very aesthetically pleasing. There really should be a place for it somewhere, but even if there were, would anyone understand what it really represented--saving a calf and bringing in a little bit of badly needed money? By today’s standards, an insignificant amount, but back then an essential contribution to the family finances.

Fig. 9
Fig. 9. Cream separator (in far back, middle). Simple device which allowed cream to rise to the top, after which the “skimmed milk” would be drained from the bottom and the cream removed.

Cream Separator: Few today remember the dread days of the 1930s Depression or know what this “thing” was used for. It is a simple crude cream separator. Milk was placed in the deep container and let stand for a few hours. Slowly the cream accumulated at the top, the depth of the layer was observed through the glass panel on the side. When it appeared that all the cream had “separated” from the rest of the milk, the “skimmed milk” was drained from a bottom spigot to be put in “slop” (“skimmed milk”, vegetable trimmings from the kitchen, uneaten food from the table, among other things) for the hogs. The separated cream then was drained into a small “cream can” and kept in a cool place. At each milking, milk that was used to obtain cream would be so processed until the cream can was full. Then it was sold to the “creamery” in a nearby small town. The small amount of money realized from the sale of the cream often was the only money available to the family to purchase necessities at the grocery store. Not many ways to display such a device. Maybe someone will use it for holding a potted plant in the sun room. Few of those looking at the simple tin separator will know what it is or understand the role it played in feeding a family during stressful times.

Fig. 10
Fig. 10. Angel food cake pan. Battered and scratched from who knows how many angel food cakes, fruit cakes and other cakes that were baked in the pan.

Angel Food Cake Pan: Envision all the angel food cakes that were made in this old scarred cake pan. Dozens upon dozens of birthday cakes, holiday cakes, summer picnic cakes, and wedding cakes. And, even fruitcakes, in a day when fruitcakes were a welcomed pastry, not a subject for late night comedians. Unlike the “cooks” of today, who make their angel food cakes from boxed mixes by simply adding water, the women who used this pan, made theirs from “scratch”: whipping egg whites in a large platter until foamy, adding sugar, flour, and small amounts of cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and salt. For most of its “life” the cake pan baked its cakes in wood burning stove ovens, maybe latter in ovens heated by coal oil burners. The cake pan may look old and tarnished now, but in its “day”, it was bright and shiny, days when it provided dessert for innumerable family celebrations. No one today would want to bother actually using it, with its solid bottom/center tube. It would be much more difficult to remove the cake, and to clean, than the current angel food pans with their removable bottom/center tubes. Where will end up? With imagination, individuals proficient in “crafting” may be able to incorporate the pan into a rustic dining table centerpiece. There it will sit, with all its memories, memories no one will stop to appreciate.

Fig. 11
Fig. 11. Church pew. No longer needed in a place of worship. But, think of the people who sat on this pew as they listened to sermons, watched christenings, saw the bride and groom come back down the aisle, and saw for the last time a loved one as the casket lid was closed.

Church Pew: The short length of this well-kept church pew suggests it came from a small country church. In earlier times there was enough support for churches that even sparsely populated rural areas could maintain a small church. Let your mind wander back in time. The senses you can feel and hear from this pew: restless little boys wishing the preacher would hurry up and quit talking; little girls giggling when they see that the woman sitting in front of them has forgotten to take a small curler from the back of her hair when she dressed for church; an older couple quietly praying for the safety of their Marine son, fighting in some far off Pacific island; a proud mother and father clutching hands as he sits down following giving away their daughter to her long-time boyfriend—he leans over to his wife, grinning as he says “Now she is his problem!”, getting a stern look and an elbow in the side in return; quiet sobbing of another couple as the coffin lid is closed over their 12 year old daughter who had just died from the 1918 influenza outbreak; expectant laughing little children at the Christmas party, waiting for the names on the gifts under the lighted Christmas tree to be called out (no one worried about the hazards presented by the burning candles lighting the tree). Small churches eventually fell victim to societal changes, as have most small towns and family farms. Such churches no longer were sustainable by small congregations. Now, churches have spacious sanctuaries with long benches, “welcome centers” with associated kitchens that resemble large restaurants, and basketball courts. All the sensations experienced by this pew soon to be quieted when the pew becomes just a bench in someone’s sun room. Few, if any, will stop to imagine all those who have set on this “bench” and the emotions they felt. The pew still feels them, but can tell no one.

Fig. 12
Fig. 12. Serving platter. Imagine all the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners on which this platter held the turkey for carving.

Serving Platter: The Thanksgiving dinners this platter must have been witness to. The turkeys the plate held as the father of the family carved off drumsticks and wings for the children and thighs and slices of breast meat for the “old folks?” The young boys and girls would hurry and finish their meals, become restless, begin punching each other with their elbows, wishing the grownups would hurry and finish their meals so that they could have their pie, steam pudding and “heavenly hash” deserts. Then there were the Christmas dinners, happy occasions for the boys and girls, thinking about the presents from under the tree that they just opened. Even thoughts of the desserts to come are over-ridden by wanting to get back to their presents as soon as possible. Hopefully, someone will buy the platter to use for their holiday meals, continuing to add to memories of happy times.

Fig. 13
Fig. 13. Chicken waterer. Think of the little chickens that drank from this device and later became fried chicken dinners.

Chicken Waterer: There was a time a watering device such as this was an essential item on almost every farm. Early each spring a hundred or so small chicks, ordered from a hatchery, arrived by mail. The chicks would be placed in a heated brooder house. Some farmers that had no small brooder house would put them in large pens in a spare room in the house. Small feeders for chicken “mash” (finely ground corn, oats, beans, and supplements) and a watering apparatus similar to this one were used until the chicks were old enough to be placed in outdoor pens. These chickens provided the main source of fresh meat during the summer and autumn.  In those days, most farms were without electricity and any means of preserving meat, other than sugar cured and cold packed pork. Fried chicken was the fresh meat of choice for most farm families. Thus, this old waterer was an integral device for providing food for families. Now, if we want fried chicken, we go to “Colonel Sanders”, “Chick-fil-A” or some other fast food chicken restaurant. Few take the time to fry their own chicken.  Not sure what will become of this waterer. Maybe used as a bird water device in the back yard during very dry periods? Not sufficiently aesthetic to be used to hold a potted house plant in a sun-room.

Fig. 14
Fig. 14. Meat saw. An essential item for butchering hogs.

Meat Saw: How many “butchering days” has this saw been a part of? The neighbors would arrive early in the morning to help. The hog to be butchered would be shot, dunked in a barrel of boiling water, the hair scraped off, the carcass hung up, blood drained, head cut off, and the intestines removed. The carcass was then laid out on an old wooden door supported by saw-horses and, using a saw such as this, divided up into the various cuts--loins, pork chops, bacon, and hams, among others. In early times, most farms had a “smoke house” in which the pieces would be hung up and smoked to preserve the meat.  Later on, pork often was “sugar-cured” by rubbing in Morton® Sugar Cure® mixture. After being “sugar cured” the large pieces of cuts were placed in oiled paper bags and hung in an enclosed shed until needed the next spring, summer and autumn. In addition to these processes, some of the meat would be ground up, sage added, and then made into sausage patties, which were fried and then canned (“cold packed”) in glass jars. This all seems so foreign compared to today’s preparation of meat, but was the standard means of butchering hogs and preserving pork in those early days. Now meat saws, such as this, are of little use other than as decorative items, perhaps on the wall of a rustic den.

Fig. 15
Fig. 15. Quilted blanket. How many hours did she spend making this hand quilted blanket. And, what of the little girl who wore the dresses from with the pieces were cut.

Quilt: We see a hand made quilt with a simple design. But, not the hours spent cutting the pieces just right, piecing together the top by sewing the pieces into a colorful pattern, attaching the batting and backing and then many more hours spent quilting the three layers together by hand. Finally, adding the binding around the edges. One has a hard time perceiving the hours upon hours spent on this quilt. The pieces for the top most likely were from the baby clothes of a daughter, adding further to the sentimentality of the quilt. Hopefully, whoever buys the quilt will be able to visualize a little girl playing, laughing and crying while wearing the dresses from which the small pieces on the top were cut. Will anyone sense, the empty, yet proud feeling of the mother as she carefully cut up each dress into small pieces, remembering things her now grown daughter had done while wearing each dress. The “Sunday” dresses, the play dresses. The dress she wore her first day of school. Or, appreciate the loving care and time that went into making this quilt? Both the quilter and the “little girl” who wore the dresses are long gone from us. Now, just memories sewn into an old quilt.

Fig. 16
Fig. 16. Treadle sewing machine. This sewing machine was a much-used item in days when there was no electricity on the farms and most kids clothes were home made and adult work clothes were patched when worn through or torn.

Treadle Sewing Machine: We cannot begin to fathom all that this sewing machine made from the time it was bought, perhaps a few days after the wedding, until Rural Electrification became available and an electric sewing machine was purchased? We see little girls’ dresses, little boys’ shirts and pants, shirts for her husband, dresses for herself, bed sheets from feed sacks, sewing up tears in her son’s overalls, curtains for their first house, and perhaps a wedding dress for the then grown-up daughter. Cooking and routine chores consumed most of her day-time hours. Most likely she would sew late into the night, with the light from a coal oil lamp. Now few, but the dedicated for which sewing is a hobby or avocation, make extensive use of even an electric sewing machine. A common fate of old treadle sewing machines is as hall-way tables, but most of those have drop-down sewing machines and a flat top  This machine sits on top, with a wooden hood over it. Perhaps it will be put next to the door, the drawers in which to put keys and the like, upon coming in the door from work and maybe a few decorative items (purchased from elsewhere in the antique store?) on and around the hood. A rather mundane ending to the “life” of a machine that contributed so much to the needs of a young family.

Fig. 17
Fig. 17. Mixing bowl. Just think of the cakes, cookies, date bars, candy, pie crusts, biscuits, and loaves of bread, among other things for the table that were mixed in this worn crockery bowl.

Mixing Crock: The worn places in this well-used mixing bowl give testimony to the lives it has touched. It is not difficult to comprehend what all has been mixed in this bowl: angel food cakes, chocolate cakes, yellow cakes, white cakes and apple sauce cakes, birthday cakes, wedding cakes, cakes for funeral receptions, pie dough, brownies, fudge, suet pudding, “taffy for taffy-pull parties” (who remembers those?), large round balls of bread dough, to be kneaded and placed on a warm surface to rise before being placed in the oven, and on and on. The bowl is not decorative, just a simple utilitarian mixing bowl that provided the means for so many happy, and perhaps a few not so happy, times. What will become of it? Set on a table in the back entry way or in a patio room, in which to toss small items that one needs to keep track of?  Wherever it will be placed, will any one take time to reflect on all the deserts this worn old crock has made for the family?  Probably not.

Fig. 18
Fig. 18. Coal oil lamp. The main source of light, especially in farm houses before arrival of Rural Electrification.

Coal Oil Lamp: How many nights did this simple lamp, with its wide cloth wick, light up the room? In the years before Rural Electrification arrived, any work, play, or reading that was done in farm houses at night relied on the light from coal oil lamps, such as this. By today’s standards, a room so lighted would be considered almost dark. But, for those of us who lived in places without electricity, we knew no better. Coal oil lamps were all we had. Even if two lamps were placed in a room, the room was not well-lighted. It was only natural that we had to pull our chairs up to the table and angle the book just right to see the print. Then there were the card games. With the lamp at the edge of the table, all seated around the table could make out their cards and see what was being played on the table. This lamp may be consigned to providing an unique “period” decoration on a fireplace mantle and maybe an emergency light when the power goes off. But, one should stop now and then to reflect upon what this lamp had contributed to the family that owned it. And, why those of us who lived during those times were so excited when “electricity arrived.”

Fig. 19
Fig. 19. Horse collar. Look how worn. Think of all the fields that were plowed and prepared for planting, planted, cultivated, and harvested with horses, using this collar as the source of power.

Horse Collar: The worn leather on this old horse collar is evidence of the years it had been used. How many sweaty horses’ necks have been in this collar as they struggled to pull a walking plow (only a few of us know what a “walking plow” is, let alone having followed along in the damp furrow behind one), a wagon piled high with wheat bundles, a manure spreader, or loads of corn stalks taken from shocks in frozen fields in winter. Imagine the relief the horses felt when the heavy harness and collar were removed and after a long drink from the horse tank, were let into the barn stall where they could feed on barley or oats and clover hay. What would farmers of the era when this collar was a part of the main source of power for farm work think, if only they could see the monster tractors, 36-row planters and self-powered combines (with air conditioning and stereos, yet) of today’s farms? These pieces of equipment can do more work in a few minutes time than could the horse-drawn equipment in an entire day. Further, many now utilize GPS to steer the tractors through the fields. “No hands” except to turn at the ends of the field. This horse collar may end up as a decorative piece over a family room fireplace. But, will anyone looking at the collar even begin to fathom the amount of sweat and effort endured by the horses wearing it and by the farmer who used it in working the fields?

Fig. 20
Fig. 20. Chair. How many evenings did he sit in this chair thinking of the days work and about his family, and finally dozing off before going to bed?

Chair: This chair exhibits its age and amount of use it has seen. Most likely “his” favorite chair as he rested from a long day at the office or working at a construction site. The wide arms were ideal places on which to set his evening second cup of coffee as he read the newspaper. Or, as he relaxed while listening to the news on the radio during “The War” (World War II), wondering if their son was apart of the operations being described by Gabriel Heater, and worrying about his safety. Years later he would watch the evening news on the new television set as he drank his coffee. All the worries and happiness this chair has seen: birth of their son; because of the depression wondering if they would ever get out of debt; worries after their son was drafted and spent two years of combat in the South Pacific; their son’s safe return and his marriage to the girl he had dated in high school; nights he sat alone in the chair after his wife of 50 years had died, drinking his coffee and reminiscing what had been. Can anyone else who leans back in the chair, placing his hands on the arms, fingers gently gripping the ends, sense what this worn, faded old chair has experienced? Most likely not.

Fig. 21
Fig. 21. 1950s kitchen table. So “pretty” back then, so “retro” now.

1950s Table: This chrome and Formica table is distinctive of the 1950’s. Try to picture the first time the table was used by a newly wed couple as they began their life together in a small rented apartment. At first it was just the two of them as they struggled to get ahead financially. Eventually they were able to have their own home.  The table was moved to the new kitchen. About the same time children began to arrive. How many? We’ll never know. But, think of high chairs next to the table, later little kids sitting in chairs with catalogs on them so they could reach the table and finally sitting in the chairs with no booster support. What about the spilled milk, the over-turned cups, the pouting because they did not like their mashed potatoes, peas or green beans? Eventually the table had served its purpose and no longer was in style. When the new wooden table arrived, was the Formica table was placed on the back porch, where it served to hold odds and ends of items until they could be taken to the shed in back? Finally, the husband died and the wife moved to an assisted living facility. The table, with all its memories is now to be sold to someone needing a storage table for the back porch or work shed. Wherever it ends up, it will not engender any more family reminiscences. But, the life-time of memories of its original family will remain, if only someone stops to contemplate what may have taken place around this so out-of-fashion table.

Fig. 22
Fig. 22. Three generations frozen in time. How had been their past? What became of them after the click of the camera shutter?

Three-Generation Photo: We cannot help but wonder of the lives of the three generations in the photo. We know nothing about them--their names, where they were from, what they and their husbands did. What had happened to the husband of the sober looking grandmother? What kind of life did the stern husband and non-smiling wife have? Were they happy? What became of the baby? Did she die young of some disease that in a later generation would have been easily cured? Did she live a long life? Did she marry and have children? Was her husband kind to her? Did she live to have grandchildren of her own? Most importantly did she have a happy life? We will never know. The haunting faces, starring at us from so long ago, are fixed in time. We can only hope they had good lives after the click of the camera shutter. This framed photograph most likely will be purchased for the frame. But, maybe someone will want it as a nostalgic decorative piece and hang it on the living room or family room wall with the photograph remaining

Fig. 23
Fig. 23. China set. A wedding gift (?) that served all the important diners for the family. Think of the conversations these dishes “heard.”

China Set: Just contemplating the importance of this set of dishes to someone makes a person misty-eyed. Think how proud the young bride was of this present from her grandmother. The elegant table setting it made when she entertained her in-laws for the first time. Most likely the set was used only on special occasions, making each dinner extra special. Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners, when “special guests” came to dinner—the minister who had married them when he and his wife came back to visit their church; his supervisor and wife, from the first job; her college roommate and her husband, when they came to visit. When their children became adults, the set was used for the first dinner in which the parents of the man who later became their son-in-law came to visit. Extra care was used in washing and drying these dishes. Because of such care, the set is in excellent condition and very well could become a part of another family’s life. There it will accumulate new memories of holiday meals, family events of another family. But, those of its first family will endure.

Fig. 24
Fig. 24. Irons. The only way to press clothes before the arrival of electricity and electric steam irons.

Irons: This array of old hand irons is from the days of no electricity, no steam irons and shirts and dresses made mainly of cotton. No “perma-presses” or polyesters. These irons were heated on top of a stove, most likely a wood burning stove. A wooden handle (seen on most) was snapped into place when the iron was hot (as tested by licking the finger and quickly swiping it across the bottom of the iron). Water was “sprinkled” over the shirt or other garment to be ironed by dipping a hand into a water bowl and shaking it over the cloth. Then the piece of clothing was ironed until the iron became cool, when it would be replaced back on the stove and the handle snapped onto another iron. A slow, time-consuming process, as were most necessary chores in those days. Now few pieces of clothing need more than a tumble drying and placed on a hanger. For those that do need ironing, we have fancy steam irons with temperature settings for several categories of material. These old irons will end up as decorations on a fireplace mantel in the family room or as door stops. They long ago ironed their last shirt.

Fig. 25
Fig. 25. Sled. Can you hear the excited screeches of the kids riding this sled down steep, bumpy “horse barn hill?”

Sled: This old sled has seen its better days. The varnish is long gone from the boards, painting on the boards no longer is visible and the metal runners are rusted. What memories this sled must have garnered, memories that those who used the sled never forgot. The yells, squeals and whoops of faked, and often not so faked, scares as the sled sailed wildly down the steep bumpy hills, sometimes flipping over, tossing the rider off to sail on down the hill without the sled. To us older adults, the thoughts of the cold snow, the biting blowing wind, the struggle to pull the sled back up a steep hill to fly down again at break-neck speed do not seem “fun” now. But, when young we, too, felt the exhilaration of the scary wild rides down rough precipitous hills, the snow and wind whipping us in the face and our hands, in wet gloves, chilled to the bone. For us, back then, that was “fun”. It is doubtful the old sled will provide anyone else with such entertainment. Shiny new sleds are available for much less at Wal*Mart, Target or other discount houses. This old sled will live alone with its memories, where we do not know. It cannot stay here indefinitely. Most likely it eventually will be tossed in the trash. As for so many objects that generated pleasure and memories, the boys and girls that experienced those joys are gone and so will be the sled and its memories.

Enough Memories For Today

Our legs finally become tired from the slow walking and standing in front of items, as we contemplated what they might have been a part of. After so many mental excursions back in time, our brain becomes overwhelmed reflecting on the possible nostalgic history of each inanimate object. It is time to leave the store. We thank the woman at the counter for letting us have our trip back in time as we wandered through the displays.

As we pass out through the door, we take one last glance back at the myriad of objects throughout the store, oblivious to the unheard din of memories emanating from all the objects. All once were someone’s prize possession or a part of the daily life of a family, now only “curios” waiting for someone to purchase them. And, that is what most will remain, “curios”, placed in a room to add to the décor. No longer will they be involved in the active life of a family. They have had their “time in the sun.” In a way they are fortunate. Their owners did not toss them into the garbage once their utility was no longer required.  They were saved that they may remain on display, representative of all those items that played such valuable, but seldom realized, roles in the lives of individuals and families of past times.

We can vision one hundred years from now, people entering a store displaying an “Antiques” sign. Upon entering they will see aisles upon aisles of a disarray “things”, items we now take for granted as parts of our routine lives, in no way understanding that they someday, long after we are gone, will be “collectible old items” sought after by collectors. “Antiques”, with memories of our lives.