Yesterday, I was reorganizing a downstairs closet and rediscovered my granddaddy’s old briefcase. I couldn’t remember what was inside so I sat down to go through it. What a wonderful treasure chest I had opened up.
Granddad died back in 1997. I know I’m biased but he was a great man. He raised 3 boys (two of them twins) alone after my grandmother died when she was 29 years old. My dad was 4 and my uncles were 18 months. It wasn’t until about 8 years later that he met and fell in love with the woman I would later call “Grandma.” She had two sons also and after they were married, had two more children: my only aunt that isn’t married into the family and another uncle. A true “yours, mine and ours” family.
I really could go on about the history of my family, but that would take waaay too long, so I won’t. But if you like history and old things, I hope you’ll like what I have to share from my treasure hunt.
Granddad was a plant pathologist and an expert in his field. I remember hearing about his travels when I was younger but didn’t understand the significance of some of the locations he had gone to until I was older. Remember the “Iron Curtain”? He went behind it at least once that I can recall. Anyway, his briefcase has the stickers from his travels all along the outside although there is one still in the plastic wrap inside the case that he never got around to sticking to the outside.
The first thing I found was the “Ode to a cedar desk” poem that used to hang on the wall above my granddaddy’s cedar desk, which I also have. I think there’s a funny story about how Granddad got the wood for the desk, which he had made, but I don’t remember the details ~ something about a diseased tree that wasn’t really diseased and sure, Granddad could take the tree down and take care of it for the guy.
But I also found a letter that my grandmother had written to her parents back when Granddad was serving in the pacific during WWII. It’s a photocopy of the real thing and a little hard to read because the copies aren’t clear. The original paper was so thin, when the copies were made, you can see where the writing from the back of the page came through. What’s cool about this letter, though, is that she talks about using woolen fabric – scraps from suits and dresses and the like – to make a rug. She even has a drawing sketched out of what she has planned. She’s asking her mother to send the scraps of fabric to her as well as some burlap feed sacs (my great-grandparents had a farm). I couldn’t possibly imagine making a rug.
Granddad was a writer, too. As a professor at a university, he had published many scientific works, but he had also written a book from all the letters he had written to my grandmother during WWII. He had no idea she had saved them until he found them after she had died. Again, there’s another story there, but too long to tell here. Granddad also wrote poems and there are a few that he had typed on an old typewriter (remember what that is?) that I found copies of in the case. There’s also a copy of one he had hand written. I’ll probably post some of those later.
There is some of the typical detritus found in a briefcase: bandaids, business cards, a key and a lock (that may or may not match), an old plastic matchbook with wooden matchsticks, an old sewing kit from a hotel that looks like a paper matchbook and three linen handkerchiefs.
He had an envelope of mostly index cards that he had typed or handwritten different quotations from. Many names I recognized and some I did not. I’ll also post a few of those later.
Granddad used to teach a Sunday school class at his church. One of the things I had found was something he had written, if memory serves, either for the class or for the church. I can’t remember which, but it’s written as though he’s going to read it out loud to a group of people. It’s a wonderful message and reminder of what it’s like to be a Christian and I’ll definitely be posting that later.
Finally, I found two newspapers – one with his obituary and one with an article about the letter book he had published – and the program from his funeral. I had to laugh when I saw the hymns listed because Granddad used to sing… loudly… and sometimes at inopportune moments… old hymns. One of my favorites was The Old Rugged Cross, which was sung at his funeral.
Thanks for taking this walk down memory lane with me. I love a treasure hunt.
A plant pathologist is one who knows a great deal about very little, and keeps on knowing more and more about less and less until finally he knows practically everything about nothing. ~copied
(from one of the index cards in the “Quotations” envelope)