Throughout my lifetime, we have used cardboard boxes for storage and transporting. We think nothing of the origin of those, usually corrugated, sturdy boxes. But last week I realized that it wasn’t that common even as recently as my mother’s early life in the forties.
My aunt Deba gave me this stool, made from a shipping box. Not a corrugated box, but a wooden shipping box. Her story made it even more intriguing.
“Your mama gave me that not long after she got it and I nailed the board on top to make it into a stool. I thought it was so cute, but she said your daddy didn’t want it around.”
“Hmmm…why didn’t Daddy want it around?”
“I don’t know. That’s just what she said. So I took it and it’s been a good stool all these years.”
I studied the address. Certainly it was to my mother after she was married, but from whom? Who was this mysterious “Lawrence Thomas” who sent my mother something in a wooden box? What was in it? When?
I asked my uncle, age 96, who was a year older and in the army, but he has no memory of Lawrence Thomas. “I never knew anyone by the last name Thomas!” he said firmly.
His wife says, “But his memory isn’t what it used to be.” Whose is?
So there it is. No more information. Without a birth date, ancestry.com knows over a million Lawrence Thomases! And since Mother would have been 95, he’s probably no longer around, anyway.
Addresses back then were so simple. An abbreviation for the state: Tenn. No zip code. No street address, just Route 2. That was my home address until I was in high school.
And then another box popped up in my life. This one is very sturdy and was shipped from California to Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1979. At the time, my invalid Aunt Carleen was planning to move from living with her brother, Jimmy T, in Sacramento, to her sister Juanita’s home in Edmond. So she mailed some mementos to Aunt Juanita for safe keeping.
And keep them she did! I guess while Aunt Carleen moved from there to my mother’s home and then to my Uncle Wallace and Aunt Jackie’s home over the years, the sacred letters stayed in the box. Evidently Aunt Juanita and Uncle Gilliam moved the box from Oklahoma to Tennessee when they retired there. And that’s where we found it.
Aunt Carleen died in 1985, but her box labeled “ANCIENT MEMENTOS AND CORRESPONDENCE” has survived the years. It’s now my assignment to go through the box and determined what is worthy of saving.
Most are letters written in the late 30s, early 40s. Lots of Christmas cards. But I am finding some things of interest, such as the program for a Nashville memorial service for President Franklin D Roosevelt. And a jaunty postcard from her younger brother, L. D., sent while he was stationed in England.
What do we treasure now that will be meaningless to future generations? Hard to tell. But it does make me want to discard many mementos from my basement.