Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We Found a Treasure in our Attic

Like, real treasure. Seriously.

Here's the story:

We waited until the fall until really exploring our attic, because attics are hot in the summer. We knew that there was some stuff up there, because the former homeowner had told us so--"Mostly Christmas decorations," he'd said. "You keep them."

Well, I'm NOT the type to say no to the possibility of vintage Christmas decorations, or even the possibility of a junky attic with old stuff in it--there could be comic books up there! Or toys! Or treasure!--so we were totally fine with that arrangement, but when it was fall, and we were finally settled and unpacked-ish (we're still not fully unpacked, just so you know), we figured we might as well do some exploring and see what needed to be cleaned out.

You get into our attic like this:

This attic must have been accessible only from the outside before the house's expansion (you're looking from our front hallway into the kitchen, through it into the playroom, and through that to the old front door), so I'm guessing that anything in there was put in during the 1980s, after the remodel put this attic door inside the front hallway, and it mustn't have been used very often, because getting into it is a bitch. I didn't expect much, then. Tacky Christmas decorations. Dishes, maybe. Paperwork.

There were no dishes, but there were tacky Christmas decorations, all of which the children ADORED. To hear them tell, they'd always longed for their very own ceramic light-up Christmas village, and indeed, they did set that village up under our Christmas tree this winter, and fuss with it daily, so I suppose they're telling true.

There was paperwork, mostly old drive-in stuff (the former homeowner is also the former owner of the drive-in next door, you may recall). I was sorry to see that there were record albums--Friends, do NOT store your record albums in the attic! You might as well just go ahead and toss them into the trash if you're planning on storing them in the attic. Around some of the Christmas decorations there were decades-old newspapers, the comics pages of which entertained the children to no end: 

And then I found a heavy cardboard box, and I peeped inside that cardboard box, and I found this:

I had found all of the letters that our former homeowner sent during the years of 1942-1945 to a woman addressed as "Ruth" in the earlier letters, "the Future Mrs. Stewart" in the middle letters, and "My Dear Wife" in the last letters. They were sent first from officer training here in Bloomington, then from San Francisco, and then from, depending on the date, either somewhere in Europe or somewhere in the Pacific.

Although I wouldn't have said no to a Captain American #1, I know you'll agree that this?

This is treasure. Treasure found right in our attic.

Because we have very nosy noses, the kids and I of course spent an afternoon "putting them in order"--this is my euphemism for nosiness, because of course the postmarks were often smudged, so one must look at the letter itself to determine its date, and if one is looking at the letter, one might as well read the letter, yes? I mean, it's already open right there in one's hands!

The experience was a fabulous crash course in World War II history for all of us. Our former homeowner did not write anything relevant about the course of the war or his specific actions in the war in his letters (this was also educational, explaining to the children why that was the case), but to see the types of things that he *was* interested in and allowed to write about were fascinating, as was learning to decipher his handwriting--

--as was discovering the other little souvenirs of the time. The children saw real telegrams for the first time. We found these enemy aircraft spotter flash cards:

We found an officer's training notebook, and some shells, and a straw handbag souvenir.

Here's everything all nicely organized:

We have to track down the contact info for our former homeowner, so that we can get these precious letters back into his hands. We're also going to super nicely ask if he'll let us record him telling some of his stories from the time, and maybe let us ask him some nosy questions.

And you know that my heart is joyfully singing the following song: was there ever such a wonderful impetus for a World War II unit study?!?


Tina said...

That's it, I'm buying an old farmhouse next place we go!

That is such a cool find. We have an attic here at our rental that we are interested in exploring, but I have a feeling it's gonna be pretty boring.

julie said...

Go up into that attic right now! Former tenants could have left really weird stuff! Tacky lampshades! Ceramic unicorn figurines! He-Man action figures!

This week, I've been sawing down all the shrubs that have grown up thisclose to the house and ruined its foundation, and I keep finding myself expecting, at any moment, a further find of archeological interest, now that I've been primed for it. I'm ready for lead soldiers and handmade nails and rare old coins!