A Box From A Time Not Forgotten:
I was tooling down the road that runs in front of Charlotte Motor Speedway one Saturday afternoon in the old ford pickup. Windows down, radio on; It was seasonably warm here in the Carolinas. Set back off the road is a 20's era farmhouse with a yard sale in progress. The old farmhouse appeared to be in need of repair. The wraparound porch, and wooden siding begged to be scraped and painted. The front yard's lawn had long ago turned to hay. Strangley, the front door was wide open. In the yard there were some old items set on tables for display; a Bakelite bodied radio, large 2 motor aluminum casting vacuum cleaner, and many other items from an era gone by. My kind of signal of good things possible. Perhaps I can satisy my newly found addiction for for vintage tools. I slowed the truck and eased onto the grass shoulder, pulled her down into reverse, and backed to get within walking distance while keeping her out of the ditch.
Once in the front yard I couldn't help but notice that there were none of the typical yard sale items out for sale. No baby gear, velvet framed posters, RCA TV's, or particle board furniture. It all seemed to be early 50's or earlier vintage stuff. I'm specifically keeping an eye out for tools, but unfortunately do not see any. There was a small carboard box with some tools but it contained mostly bent screwdrivers, grime, and rust. Pass.
I'm walking the rows resigning myself that this will not be my lucky day. Out the front door bounds this youngish, long haired dude, with an unlit marlboro out the corner of the mouth, and a JD ball cap. He is taking the assorted sale items back into the house. After a few trips back and forth this way I stop him to ask if there are any tools for sale. He says "No tools left. They were all sold in the two auctions last month. The entire contents of the house was sold at auction. This is the stuff that was left over. Anything not sold today will be trashed." I thank him and set to heading back to the truck. I notice on the ground a small wooden box that looks interesting. As a box maker it peaks my interest. I pick it up to get a better look. Its constructed of plywood laminations. The corners are finger jointed and the lid is connected with solid brass hinges. It's kind of dirty, has paint splatters and that really old grandma's house smell to it, but it has appeal. On inspection of the bottom panel has an insciption that reads "O____ S______ (full name left out to preserve privacy), March 30th, 1942, Fort Bragg NC, GI, CMJ".
I'm taken back and feel a small lump in my throat. I think about that date and realize that's right after the start of WWII, and this box may very well have been made by a new GI waiting for the push for action in Europe. From what I understand Fort Bragg's ranks swelled as the US was gearing up to take on the Axis powers at that time (my Dad included).
I head back to pay for this old treasure and ask "dude" what he'll take for the box. He says "Whatever?". I offer "A buck?". He replys "Done". In retrospect I could have offered a dime and he would let it go. Payment made, I'm off, pleased with the new treasure in hand. The whole experience seems like a dream to me now.
I was going to just clean it up and leave it original. But on seeing some tar like substance on the sides, etc. we decided to take the hinges off, sand it down and refinish it to bring it back to original condition once again. I'll leave the bottom panel untouched to preserve the inscription. This box is now restored and standing tall. As I'm no spring chicken, I've since given this box to my young nephew for safekeeping.
It is my hope that O.S. would have been pleased. We honor the sacrifices made by him, and all those from the "Greatest Generation". It is through their peril that our precious freedom is preserved.