Category Archives: scrapbooks

Suitcase Full of Memories

I had today off from work, but no money to do anything. I gave the wife her Valentine’s gift last night (the newest Rachel Morgan book from Kim Harrison entitled Ever After) and she fixed us a nice meal of comfort foods (steak, potatoes, peas, and cornbread). After eating we decided to go move some more boxes from the old house.

At the moment we’re trying to clear out the attic which mostly holds my toys. I still have a large amount of the toys I grew up with and I used to collect them as well, so there are plenty of boxes of odd action figures and the like. There was also a large suitcase that my sister had gotten me when I graduated high school back in 1982. I used it several times, but not recently. I had no idea that anything had been packed away in it, but was pleasantly surprised to find that something had indeed been stored in it. When I was a baby, my mom had a drawer in which she kept awards that I had won at kindergarten. She also had my baby book in there and artwork I made in school. She saved my Doctor Doolittle sweatshirt and my Jungle Book shirt. As I grew up she kept other things in there as well. My graduation program, my diploma from NEC, and other items. I had wondered the other day where some of this stuff might have gone. When I opened the suitcase, the question was answered for me as soon as I spotted the green trimmed white sweatshirt with Rex Harrison and a pushme-pullyou on it. This was the holy grail of childhood treasures.

I wish Mom was still alive to go over some of these items with me. I’m not sure what the significance is of some of them. I think the old mercury thermometer in the blue plastic case was my baby thermometer, and I don’t think this one was designed to go under your tongue. I’d really like to know what was special about it. There is a plastic elephant that I played with as a toddler, but I didn’t think it was a seminal item from my childhood. There was a stuffed doll with red hair and a bell inside it that I remember being much more important to me, but I didn’t find it in the case. I also remember hearing Mom, my aunt, and my cousin talk about a string of plastic bells that I had to have from Arlens back when I was still a baby. That also hasn’t shown up. I did find a toy lion that Mom said I used to carry everywhere with me.

The funny thing is, as much as I would love to have Mom tell me about all the things I don’t remember, I would also love to hear her tell me about all the other stuff just one more time as well. At one point I wanted to take a video camera and record my mom and my aunt talking about their lives and my childhood so that I could pass it on to my kids. I kept putting it off because there was always something else that needed to get done. Now both of them are gone and I can never hear those stories ever again. There’s probably an extra bit of nostalgia over this tonight because it was the day after Valentine’s Day, February 15, 2007, that my mom passed away. She had always been an incredibly strong woman. She broke her hip in 2002 and never regained her ability to drive or to walk unassisted. She had gotten worse before one night in January 2007 she fell in the shower. She kept going further down hill. My wife and I sat with her in the hospital for several weeks on the late night shift. My sister and her family sat with her during the day.

One night she seemed to be pulling out of it. She wanted to watch Charles Stanley, a television preacher she enjoyed, and I made sure to find him for her. We talked and she seemed coherent. About a week later they were putting her in hospice. I had to return to work and so my wife took the evening shifts at hospice. On Thursday afternoon, I drove my wife up to sit with her and let my sister and her husband go home and rest. It was a rough day. It had snowed on Wednesday morning and my son had fallen asleep at the wheel of his car and slammed into a power pole. He missed a gas meter by a few feet. The car was totalled, but he was fine. My other sister had been planning to come in from out-of-state, but had a medical emergency of her own come up and wasn’t able to be there. We were worried it was cancer.

When I got to Hubbard Hospice House, my wife asked if I was coming in or just dropping her off. Mom’s condition hadn’t really changed since they moved her there. She wasn’t better, but she wasn’t any worse either. She was just out of it. She didn’t seem to know a lot of what was going on. She couldn’t really talk anymore. At least not to where you could understand the words. Those of us that knew her seemed to instinctually know her meaning however. I told my wife that I was going in. I didn’t plan to stay long, but I wanted to Mom to know in whatever sort of fog she was in, that I was there and I loved her.

When I got in, she was worse. Lots worse. Her breathing was more labored. The staff all said she likely didn’t have long. My sister didn’t want to leave, but she had to eat and shower. She needed some rest too. I called work and told them that I would not be in. Mom needed me and I was going to be there. My sister left and told me to call her if there was any change. I sat there with my wife for an hour or so and we talked to Mom. She couldn’t reply, but we wanted to let her know she wasn’t alone. My other sister called and I talked to her. I held the phone to Mom’s ear and let her talk to her as well. Mom’s eyes seemed to show at least a glint of recognition. My sister told her that she loved her and we finished the call and hung up. Within moments Mom’s breathing slowed even more. We called the nurses and began trying to reach my sister that had just left and my cousin. Everyone was on their way, but before any of them could get there she was gone. I held her hand and held my wife and cried. My cousin and her son arrived just a few moments later. It was over so fast. She was no longer in pain.

My sister and her husband soon showed up as well. My wife began making the calls. She had her parents go to the house and get the kids. Her dad talked with the kids and told them what had happened. Our daughter went home with them, but my son decided to stay home to help field phone calls.

That was 6 years ago, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her. There have been many times something has happened and I think, “I need to call Mom and let her know,” only to suddenly remember that I no longer need to tell her because she already knows. As I said I’d give anything to be able to ask her about the stuff in that suitcase. I wish I could remember what all that stuff meant, but at least I will never forget who saved it for me and I will always remember how amazing and wonderful she was. Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom. I miss you so much.

Don’t Throw That Out

There was a comedian on The Bob & Tom Show awhile back that commented on how Hoarders and American Pickers are two sides of the same coin. They both feature people going into people’s homes where they kept everything and never threw anything out. On the one show they talk about how sick these people are and that they need help while on the other show they talk about how amazing these people are and how they are preserving rare bits of the past. My wife sometimes accuses me of being a hoarder while I think of myself more as preserving the past. The thing is, every time I give in to her and throw something out, I always end up regretting it. It’s been that way all my life.

Now let me be clear. I do not have a house that you can’t walk through with stacks of empty milk cartons and half eaten peanut butter sandwiches stacked from floor to ceiling. I do however have a large collection of books, magazines, toys, DVDs and CDs. I also have a collection of candy bar wrappers. Okay, that one may seem a bit strange, but hear me out. As a child I used to love going to 7-11 and buying candy bars. One of my favorites was the original Marathon bar. One of my fondest memories of my years going to National Education Center’s National Institute of Technology was going to the Ben Franklin’s next door and buying a candy bar for break. I was quite fond of the Mars bar. Neither of these candies are produced any longer, and as I watched more and more limited edition candy bars come and go like the inside out Reese’s Cup, I decided to save some of the wrappers. I began by carefully removing the candy and then placing the wrapper in an old photo album. I’m a little behind in placing some of my wrappers into the photo albums, but one day I will. And while this may sound like the collection of a mad man, it’s actually pretty cool in my opinion. I love seeing how M&Ms have tried all these new flavors and promotions over the last few years. There’s a crispy M&M wrapper, a white chocolate M&M wrapper done for one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, ogre sized M&Ms for one of the Shrek films, raspberry, orange, candy corn, and all sorts of other specialty flavors.
MandM

My wife has tried to convince me (half jokingly) to throw the old wrappers away, but to me they are little pieces of art. Also I know as soon as I do, I will immediately regret it. I used to have several years worth of Entertainment Weekly and in an effort to cut back on the amount of stuff I have, I agreed to throw them out. They were magazines and they were for the most part written to recap the entertainment news of a particular week. Why would I ever want to refer back to them. About two months later I was cursing the decision as I tried my best to locate an article they had done on scenes that had been cut or altered in Fantasia only to realize that issue was one of the ones that got pitched. I ended up buying most of the issues back through eBay. A similar thing apparently happened with some old composition notebooks I used to have. These books contained a listing and mini review for every film I had seen from around 1976 until 1982. They told where I saw it, when I saw it, and who I saw it with as well. I would love to have them to look back over now, but I think they got tossed during one of our moves. There is still hope that they may be packed in one of the books in the attic that we haven’t moved over to the new house yet. The only thing for certain is that I will never replace them on eBay.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to throw out stuff like this, but it is. I have successfully pitched some magazines without any regrets (Esquire, Interview, Radio Electronics), but then I have regrets over purges of other magazines from as far back as Junior High. I have made some horrible trades for things I was really excited about at the time. I traded a Mego Star Trek Enterprise play set for a daybill style ad for Futureworld and I traded a stack of old EC comics for the first appearance of the Swamp Thing. I sold a huge collection of Fantastic Four comics for far less than I should have to help finance a trip to Canada back in High School (and then ended up not going on the trip because I didn’t get enough money) and sold some Aurora Monsters of the Movies model kits for money to buy some Doctor Who paperbacks at a science fiction convention.

So I have a collection of lots of useless geegaws that mean nothing to most people, but they still mean something to me. I have my original 1978 Star Wars calendar in the original mailing carton it was sold in. It will never be 1978 again, but for me there is a tiny bit of the magic from that wonderful time in my life trapped inside those pages. It contains the fuel that lights 1000 memories of my childhood. How could I possibly part with that?

Childhood Dreams

I recently found a box of papers that I thought had been lost in one of my moves throughout the years. It contained some small books from grade school book fairs that I had adored, some pamphlets from early trips to Illinois to visit my sister and her family, a paper bag from King’s Island when the characters on the bag were Scooby Doo, The Funky Phantom, Hair Bear, and Dick Dastardly, and other childhood treasures including a notebook full of old Virtue of Vera Valiant comic strips that I had clipped from the Charleston Daily Mail. The crown jewel in this box was my very first scrapbook.

My mom had bought me a large notebook at either Hecks or Arlens or G.C.Murphy. It featured a typical late 60s early 70s age of Aquarius design of the sun with the signs of the zodiac circling it. I had initially taken pen to blank paper and drawn a bunch of pictures in it. I must not have been too thrilled with these pictures because I soon began covering them up with movie advertisements from the Charleston Gazette. Many of these were ads for Disney movies that I had seen or wanted to see. There’s a cartoony looking drawing of Buddy Hackett staring lovingly at Herbie, the Volkswagen, in an ad for Disney’s new movie The Love Bug. Another ad touts “The Greatest Adventure Of Them All” over a drawing of a pirate attack from Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson in Technicolor Panavision (Starts Wednesday at the Kearse).

There are lots of non Disney ads as well. Cougar Country (In Color) was Coming Soon one ad exclaimed. Another ad promised “The Greatest Hunting and Fishing Spectacular Ever Filmed” in an ad for The Outdoorsman (Now! at the Capitol). Yet another ad touts the “Authentic True-To-Life Adventure” of North Country (In Color). Apparently in 1971 it was still necessary to advertise the fact that your film was in color. As you can tell most of the movies I was interested in were about animals. I remember when my mom took me to see The Outdoorsman, she was afraid I would be upset about all of the animals that were being shot and killed by the big game hunters, but for some reason I didn’t pay any attention to that. I just liked seeing the big horn sheep and the bears.

Not all of the ads were for films that I got to see. I have an ad I clipped for K. Gordon Murray’s Rumpelstiltskin that I don’t recall seeing in theaters or anywhere else for that matter. There’s also a pair of ads for the double feature of Sssssss and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (one for its run at the Valley Drive In and one for its run at the Trail Drive In). I loved monsters almost as much as animals, but there was zero chance of Mom taking me to see these movies even though they were both rated PG.

What’s amazing to me is the number of movies that you hear nothing about anymore as well as the number of theaters that I had forgotten existed. Browns Theater in Cabin Creek? Not a clue, but there it is alongside the Marmet (in Marmet) and the Roxy (in Clendenin) under the more prominent Kearse and Cinema 21 in another larger ad for North Country (Now Showing! One Week Only! In Color!). Does anyone else remember Hang Your Hat On The Wind? or Smith starring Glenn Ford? And where can I find a copy of Journey to the Beginning of Time with its “Authentic Re-creation of Prehistoric Times” not just in color but “In Full Color”?

Of course just like Facebook is not only pictures of cats, my scrapbook was not just movie ads. There were pictures of animals, celebrities I liked (or had at least heard of), obituaries for classmates that died way too young, and other items. There is a wonderful ad from Kmart for Halloween costumes during their “Million Dollar Discount Sale”. You could buy a pirate or a bunny for only 87 cents. If you wanted to dress up like Major Matt Mason or one of the Banana Splits however, it would set you back almost double that; $1.67.

The scrapbook also became the repository for the pictures off of my old Aurora monster models. I was keeping all of my old model boxes, crushed down flat and under my mattress. Mom thought I was crazy for saving them and they were starting to create a bulge in the mattress as well. She convinced me to soak the pictures off of the cardboard and glue them into my scrapbook. Eventually I gave up on trying to soak them off and just glued cardboard and all into my scrapbook.

Not only is this scrapbbook a wonderful trip down memory lane for me, but it reminds me of how much things have changed since I was a kid. They don’t make movies like Cougar Country, North Country, or The Ra Expeditions any longer. At least not with the frequency they made them back then. There are no more drive-ins and no stand-alone theaters in the area. There are more screens, but they are all located in four buildings. Newspapers don’t publish huge ads for new movies with artwork. Movie companies no longer try and produce art style posters for their films. Photoshop has killed the modern one-sheet in most cases. Figure models like the Aurora monster model kits are a thing of the past except for higher priced specialty kits from Moebius and other similar companies. And if you want to buy one of these kits, you won’t find it in your local Walmart or Target. Even the hobby shops have a very limited selection if they have any at all.

Of course one other stumbling block to a scrapbook like this is the slow death of print media. The Gazette and Daily Mail are both still around, but they just aren’t the same as they were. I miss the old days when I would wake up on a cold morning, crawl out of bed in my footie pajamas and plop down in the living room floor in front of our gas fireplace with the morning paper and a bowl of cereal. I started out just looking at the movie ads, but I soon started reading the comics. By junior high I had ditched the footie pajamas for pajamas and slippers and had started reading James Dent’s column The Gazetteer along with Ann Landers. By high school I was actually reading the news as well. I loved to read, and much of that was thanks to the morning newspaper, a family that read to me as a baby, and comic books (which is a topic for another post).