While rustling through an old desk drawer, I ran across a bit of memorabilia given to my grandfather, Gilbert, when he was a boy in the ’30’s. This old piece of history — a leathery looking, paper booklet stamped on the cover with the word “Autographs” and inscribed “School Day Memories ‘07” — looks to have been stowed away blank and finally repurposed in 1936, when he was just 14 years old.
In it, I found three old movie tickets, two business cards and a small antique parchment stamped with the image of a classic 1920’s woman. Maybe it’s a cover for a movie ticket book? I don’t know. The real treasure, though, is the variety of short poems and nuggets of wisdom written just for Gilbert. The contributors: the various leaves on our family tree (and several close friends). This is a find I’ll treasure for the rest of my life!
Filled with playful, silly and often astute advice from family members long gone. A few messages bear repeating:
In 1934, someone in the family resolved to ship the booklet up and down the West Coast in preparation for gifting it to Gilbert. The dates range from 1934-1936 and some folks included the cities they lived in.
Some of the quotes in the book are not original and a few are wrongly attributed. Also, for obvious reasons, I’ve obscured the names of the writers.
It’s exciting to think this booklet was touched by at least one member of every generation that has ever been named. The inscriptions are written by members of the Lost Generation (born: 1883-1900), the G.I. Generation/Greatest Generation (born: 1901-1924), then given to Gilbert himself, a member of the Silent Generation (born: 1925-1945). The book was passed down to Gilbert’s Baby Boomer children who shipped it to me, Generation X, because they know I love the memorabilia. Then, finally, enjoyed by my Millennial son who has a great love of history.
Gilbert ended up being a very successful man. Was it, in part, a result of the wisdom contained in these pages? They say it takes a village to raise to child. It seems that Gilbert’s village was strong and wise, indeed.
It’s hard to argue with this solid advice, which I’m told was originally penned by Henry Wheeler Shaw under the pen name: Josh Billings.
The world has changed a lot since the 1930’s. Do you think the quote below still holds true today?
Of course, there’s this timeless classic:
And this, the very best piece of advice in the entire book (and oddly out of place for the times):
It worked. Grandpa wasn’t a smoker.
This next one was ignored, though. Gilbert traveled extensively for work and for pleasure. It was one of his favorite things to do.
There are so many more bits of wisdom and insights for 14-year old Gilbert between these pages. Maybe I’ll preserve a few more in a future post. For now, though, I will simply be thankful for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what motivated one family in 1936.