Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Treasure Trove

My father's parents met in England during WWII--my grandfather, an aircraft mechanic for the 8th Air Force, and my grandmother, a sergeant in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (women's branch of the army). Whenever nana told me about her WWII service she always mentioned that as a sergeant, she even drilled the men (apparently being in charge of training men was quite an accomplishment for a woman in those days). I have the v-mail that grandpa sent home to Pennsylvania telling them that he'd met a new girl--grandpa was quite the player back in the day! He and nana were married a few months later, in early 1943. Shortly thereafter, nana left the service because she became pregnant with my dad.

It was over 18 years later, in 1961, after grandpa retired from the Air Force, that they bought the first and only house they ever owned. They bought it new. Grandpa died nine years ago, and about a year ago we put nana in an assisted care facility because of the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. I bought their house last August.

Tonight my father told me that in an effort to secure some government benefits for nana, he needed grandpa's Air Force discharge papers and a copy of nana and grandpa's marriage certificate or license. He was sure they were in grandpa's footlockers out in the garage. I looked.

I found no records of any kind. What I did find was pictures. Hundreds, probably thousands of pictures. I must get this trait from my grandparents--a large percentage of them are labeled on the back. I knew there were pictures in there, but I never dreamed how many.

I found pictures of grandpa as a child of dirt poor farmers in Pennsylvania--no wonder he joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. I found pictures of my nana as a sergeant, complete with the other NCOs in her unit, even though she once told me that the English told her the records of her service must have been destroyed in the war because they can no longer be found. I found pictures of my dad and uncle as children. There was a family Christmas card picture from the late 50s, and pictures of my parents' wedding (they married and divorced so young that I don't even remember their being together).

I found pictures of me. Lots and lots of pictures of me. I'm the oldest of five grandchildren, but that alone doesn't account for the overwhelming percentage of pictures of me in there.

And I found several pictures of the house. The living room, the family room, the kitchen and dining room--I remember the flooring, the furniture, the decorations on the wall. A chronicle of 60s and 70s interior design. There are views down the street--and there's not a tree to be seen in some pictures, but today there are huge trees in front of the houses. The disgusting gray-blue exterior color of this house, probably 4 color schemes ago. The back yard, which dwarfs my tiny body in the pictures but doesn't look so big today.

I'm sure there are other boxes with other records out there. I'll keep looking. Who knows what I'll find.


Joan said...

What fun to get lost in old pictures -- especially when the find was a surprise! Fun, but somehow a little sad and sentimental, too, when those pictured loved ones are no longer with us.

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

What a time capsule....you must figure out a way to organize and keep them. I enjoyed reading about your find.

Chandler said...

I know how you feel. During my heritage project I found alot of pictures of my grandpa during WWII. He was an engineer with Patton's Third Army. He fought in the Ardenne Offensive and then built the bridge at Remagen. The pictures I found were really neat. Some were of blown pill boxes, others were in foxholes with his buds. They were...well I got chills. I also dug deeper to find that his father, my great grandpa fought in WWI, lied about his age, and was wounded during the break through at the Hidenburg Line at the age of 16. Its amazing what you'll find. Even recent stuff with my dad in Vietnam. I always saw the pictures he had but theres always some you dont get around to or forget. I love looking at old pictures, not only are they history but they remind you of the sacrifices that were made.

Mike T said...

It was only a couple of years ago I found my mother's wedding album (my parents were divorced when I was 9 or so) and saw what they looked like at age 19/20. Good lord, did they look dorky. Actually, my father looked like Clark Kent (the original Superman, not Christopher Reeves) and my mother barley looked 13. Scary, will people look at pictures of me @ 20 in forty years and say "What a dork..."

I think I know the answer already.

Matt Johnston said...


What a fantastic find!! As a WWII history buff, one of the greatest times I had was meeting my father and great uncle in South Carolina recently for my great uncles reunion with his shipmates from WWI Pacific. Also, my wife's grandfather was a B-29 Mechanic in WWII Pacific and new the crew who worked on the Enola Gay. His diary is amazing.

The history we find underneath our noses far outstrips anything we could ever read in a book.

Darren said...

One picture I didn't mention: I would place money that the person in that picture is the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The picture was taken in June 1939, during her time as Queen Consort to the current queen's father, King George VI.

My letter to the Public Information Office at Buckingham Palace, with a copy of the picture included, goes out today. I want to confirm it's her.

Amerloc said...

I'm in the process of backing up all the old home movies to DVD - a similar drift down memory lane.

The process will slow dramatically when I get to the scrapbooks and start scanning individual photos (as I pause to reflect on each one).

Darren said...

The PIO has confirmed that the image *is* of Queen Elizabeth (the current queen's mother) during a Royal Trip to Canada in 1939.