Monday, September 14, 2015

Keeper of the Keepsakes

I am the first-born and only daughter in a family of five children. With this position comes certain responsibilities, one of which is being the designated repository for family memorabilia. And when I say memorabilia, I mean postcards, report cards, Sunday School certificates, high school musical playbills, newspaper clippings, letters, notes, dress patterns (like the one from the 1940's on the left) and photos. Many, many photos. In fact, thousands of photos. Over the years, I've kept the items stored in plastic bins with new bins added as family members have died and their memorabilia has been added to the repository. That's about to change.

It started with my neighbor. She remodeled her living room which gave me the itch to finally do something with my guest bedroom a/k/a the storage room. I ordered bedroom furniture but then I had to make room for the furniture and that meant diving into the boxes for some heavy-duty sorting and tossing. Remember back in the olden days when we put film in our camera then took the film to the store for processing? Remember the stores that offered double prints? It seemed like a good idea at the time but I have to ask, "Why did I keep two copies of hundreds of photos for more than twenty years?" And that's just the beginning...

I'm still working on the first box but here are a few treasures I've uncovered so far:

A packet of postcards from Georgia that my mom mailed to my brother and me (we were staying with our grandparents) in 1957. Postage was $0.04.

A photo from 1953 of my cousin and me dressed for a special occasion. Love his hat and my cross-body bag! As you can see, the cat is obviously impressed by our fashion style.

The program from my Junior Prom. I had no idea my mom had saved this. Our theme was "Three Coins in a Fountain." A few months later, I would be throwing coins into the actual Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy.

Mileage Ration stamps for a relative's 1936 Pontiac. My mom also saved one of their food ration books from the WWII years. It brings home the deprivation they endured in a tangible way.

A birthday card my college-student dad mailed to my mom when they were dating in the late 1940's. The sweet note he wrote inside shows he was definite romance hero material!

Letters from my uncles to my grandparents, sent via Veterans Mail in 1944.

A 1943 receipt for my grandmother's annual dues ($1.00) to her local Rebekah Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. I wasn't familiar with this organization so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Here's what they have to say:

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a global altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization derived from the British Oddfellows service organizations of the 18th century.[ 
The word "Independent" in the organization's name was given by the English parent organization as part of the chartered title of the new North American chapter:
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded on the North American Continent in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.[1]
Odd Fellowship became the first fraternity in the US to include both men and women when it adopted the "Beautiful Rebekah Degree" on September 20, 1851. This degree is based on teachings found in the Christian Bible, and was written by the Honorable Schuyler Colfax who was Vice President of the United States during the period 1868–73. Odd Fellows and Rebekahs were also the first US fraternal organizations to establish homes for senior members and for orphaned children.

Go, Grandma!

A photo of my other grandmother that looks remarkably like me at the same age (at least in my eyes). Love those high tops she's rockin'!

The Official Guidebook from the 1948 Chicago Railroad Fair.`Not exactly a politically correct cover by today's standards but I doubt anybody even blinked at it back then.
Note the $0.35 price. It's a pretty thick book.

Those are a few of the unexpected treasures I've uncovered so far. I can't wait to go exploring in Box #2!

Who is the keeper of the keepsakes in your family?

What's your most prized family keepsake?

Did your mom keep a lot of memorabilia from your childhood? If you're a mom, do you do the same for your own children?

Are your keepsakes keeping company with one another in boxes or have you organized them in some way? If you're one of the organized folks, what method are you using? Photo albums? Scrapbooks? Something else?

What do you think? Do I look like my grandmother or do I just look like myself? 

Let's dish!


Since some of my favorite keepsakes are books, let's give some away today. One person who leaves a comment (U.S. only) will receive a package of books from my stash!


  1. This is wonderful. The nostalgia .To me the picture of you & your grandma look like the same baby. :) I'm one of five and our youngest iste has pretty much been the caretaker of our Mom & Dad's things. I have seven grown children and believe me when I say it was overwhelming the amount of things I'd saved from their school years alone. So a few years back I gave everyone their own things. It's only recently I started going through tons of pictures. It gets a little emotional because both of my brothers left us too soon but it's also wonderful to go back. Thanks for sharing PJ.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    1. Carol, I'm so sorry for the loss of your brothers. It's so hard to lose loved ones, especially when they are young.

      I understand the "overwhelming." I have to focus on only the box I'm sorting and not the others patiently waiting. ;-)

  2. I am the keeper of keepsakes in my family (as the youngest of four, with everyone five years apart in age).
    I started scrapbooking almost 10 years ago and am also throwing out duplicate photos, as well as pictures of noses, wedding cakes, and basically just too many photos. I have thrown out thousands and am only to 1992 so far (but they make great notepads!).
    My scrapbooks are my most prized family keepsake. I was born in 1959, but my parents were born in 1917 and 1919, so I have photographs dating back to the late eighteen hundreds. Actually, my husband was born in 1949, so I have HIS family's photos dating back then too. When his mom turned 80, we knew she had memory issues (later diagnosed as Alzheimer's), so I created her own scrapbook, complete with her 16 own pictures, her sister's 16 pictures, her sister-in-law's 144 pictures, and my husband's siblings' and our photograph copies. She is 88 now and no longer allowed to hold onto the book herself, as she tears pictures for no known reason. However, it is brought out every so often to show her and will be used at her funeral visitation/reception some day.
    My own mom did not keep any memorabilia. I have whatever I saved myself. I also have saved from my 28- and 30-year-old children.
    Memorabilia was kept in magnetic photo albums until 1997 when my youngest destroyed most of them. Stuff was kept in file folders by month afterwards, but I have more on the computer that needs to be printed (also kept chronologically). I keep chugging away at it, but it's slow going. I remember when I got to pictures of my first born's birth. I had eight of him lying in a blanket on the hospital bed, and I threw seven of those out and kept the best. I had several friends gasp at that, thinking that was sacrilegious or something. I knew by that point that one was enough and my own kids could make copies later if they wanted, but I didn't need all those pictures. It has been a wonderful cleansing when going through them (but a LOT of hard work).
    I am not in the US, so please don't enter me in your draw.

    1. Hi Laney! *waving*

      Wow, you're so organized! I have hopes. *grin*

      Sending you hugs and prayers for the Alzheimer's journey you're traveling with your mother-in-law. It's such a difficult path.

      It has been a wonderful cleansing when going through them

      Yes! That's exactly how I'm feeling. The more clutter I clear out the lighter I feel. :)

      Come back next week! I'll be celebrating my birthday all week and there will be international prizes.

  3. While I am older, my sister is the real keepsaker. I have several photo albums and a few boxes of pix including many of family members from many many years ago.

    My sister went to France in the spring and took a picture of herself where my dad stood 70 years ago - I have that framed side by side. Awesome. That along with my photo of my granddaughter after she was just born are my most prized.

    Mom now in nursing home; she is 95 and it really makes you think how precious loved ones are.

    Yes, I think you do look like your gma.

    1. That was my comment; sorry.

    2. My sister went to France in the spring and took a picture of herself where my dad stood 70 years ago

      This gave me chills. That's a treasured keepsake that I'm sure will be cherished for generations.

  4. That was me about my sister and dad from 70 years go. Sorry.

  5. That picture of you and your cousin is the most adorable kid's picture I've seen! Him looking all Frank Sinatra with that suit and HAT! OMG! And you're so ladylike and stylish! Adorable. I love the ration coupons and would love to read the letters. *sighs* I love stuff like that.

    I have a lot of that type stuff. My sister has some stuff too, but since she married, some of her is tangled with historical memorabilia from her husbands (current and divorced). But when Dad died, I really wanted the trunk that was in the livingroom. I dug through it and my grandmother had a scrapbook with newspaper cuttings and the like that are just a time capsule...and my dad's navy suitcase is a lot like that too, though many kids and grandkids and cousins have all dug in that suitcase and played in it over the years. I'm surprised anything is left.

    I did box all the pictures in one big plastic tub--my intent is to scan and digitize the lot. I have framed several pictures and hung them on my walls too. I have mom's bible and dad's bible but my sister got bibles that had important dates in them. I would like to have a family bible with those kinds of dates, but I'm not sure how to apprehend one of those. *LOL* My sister's version I think is only first generation with some deets on my mom's siblings and the like. I'd like to see a family bible with dates from dad's family reaching back into the 1800s.

    1. I've enjoyed reading the letters, Hellie. They are written by two of my uncles so I'm going to scan them then send them to my cousins. I'm not sure if they even know they exist. They are both fascinating and mundane. Most are untouched but a couple have blacked out words and sentences (they went through military sensors before being sent back to the U.S.). Makes me wonder what was written!

      My mom was big on keeping newspaper clippings. I haven't gotten to that box yet. It's going to be a doozie! lol

  6. dad does the genealogy and I am keeper of all things old. We don't have much as both sides of my family were poor. We have some hankies, aprons, buttons, letters from the war that grandpa wrote. I some money my great grandma collected from service men while she was working at a diner at Shepard AFB

    1. My mom's and dad's families weren't wealthy either. Our keepsakes are sentimental which, for me, holds more value than high-priced material goods ever could.

  7. I'm a pack rat so I try to keep everything lol. My mom is one to throw almost everything away. So I have very little from my childhood or from grandparents .Eventually my sister and I will get some things. I do know that my sister has some photographs and various items because she married first and had her children right away. I have some of my two girl's possessions in boxes but also lots of stuff still in their bedrooms. They don't even want some of what I've kept lol. Neither have children yet so I'm hoping that might change their minds.

    1. When I was younger, I viewed my mom's penchant for keeping things with dismay. Today, I'm grateful for so many of the wonderful memories I can revisit through the items she saved. That's not to say I'm keeping everything because, let's face it, there's a whole lot of stuff! ;-)

  8. When we moved to a smaller house several years ago, we had to go through things that my mother and her mother had saved. We threw away tons of photographs, many of people we could not identify and many duplicates. Ten nearly identical photos of family reunion groups seemed a bit much, as did the stack of memorial cards for generations of deceased family members and friends. My mother had also saved every Christmas, birthday, and Mother Day card she had received from a family member. My sister and I could not bring ourselves to throw those away when we went through Mother's things shortly after her death, but time made us more pragmatic. We kept only a few. We did hold on to more of the letters, thinking they may be of interest to the grandchildren some day. I cherish my grandmother's family bible and my mother's bible that was given to her by her minister brother and a few photographs, including one of my great-grandmother as a baby and one of my parents before they were married. One of my nephews has made genealogy his hobby, so we passed a lot of things on to him. Deciding what to keep and what to discard is tough, and the wider your sentimental streak, the tougher it is. Mine is wide.

  9. I don't have a sentimental streak I don't even keep books I've read. No space...

  10. My mom is still alive and the keeper of keepsakes. She has kept my special childhood things in a box as she has for my siblings. Our most prized keepsake is a menu from the restaurant that my father co-owned. I am trying to keep things for my children too and each has a box.

  11. My mom is still alive and the keeper of keepsakes. She has kept my special childhood things in a box as she has for my siblings. Our most prized keepsake is a menu from the restaurant that my father co-owned. I am trying to keep things for my children too and each has a box.

  12. my parents are haorders, but not a lot of keepsakes. I have some things for my kids. I have my grandma's wedding ring, plus some quilts.


  13. Loved, loved the pictures!!! You have some real treasures there..

  14. I am the keeper of things. That came by default when my mom died. I just wished she labeled pictures. She didn't talk about her parents much. So going through her things I found so many things. I have my grandfathers pocket watch. I have my grandmothers and great-grandmothers prayer books that are in German. On the front page of my great-grandmothers it list the names and dates of birth of her children. It has the date that she married my great-grandfather. It lists the date of his death. I have my grand parents certificates of when they became US citizens. I have some dishes that were my grandmothers, especially the one I called the cookie plate. I have many things of my mothers. I lost so many things of my kids when our place was flooded. Just listing these things has made me want to pull things out to just look at them. Thank you for taking me down memory lane. Oh by the way, I think you look just like your grandmother.

  15. awww... thanks for sharing!! We recently had an impromptu family reunion of my mom's family and my grandparents brought out all of the old photos :) I'm glad that they are still very healthy and spry in their mid 80's. I think that my aunts will divide all of the keepsakes once they're gone. Thanks for sharing!

  16. I've been working on organizing family photos - there are some that I don't know who they are, and probably no one else living does either. And there are some I know who they are, but the next generation won't unless I put some id on them. There's a picture of one of my great-grandfathers that I think my brother looks very much like, and one of my father's mother that I think looks like Dad's sister, but people say I look like (I don't really see it myself). I can see some similarities with your grandmothers picture, but you are your own person (as most people are).

    I had gotten a set of five plastic boxes at Costco - they were meant for craft projects, but I'm using them to sort the pictures.

    I've got a letter my Dad had written my Mom when they were dating - I wish more letters written by family had been kept - it would have been fascinating to read them.

  17. My nana is definitely the keeper of the keepsakes :) I have a box of my own filled with them, and some out on display. It's nice to be surrounded by things that have meaning :)

  18. I have many old photograph albums from my mother and grandmother which I treasure but no one will want them nor know the people in them when I am gone. I save them since they are meaningful and I cherish them.

  19. I enjoyed this beautiful post filled with gorgeous photos, letters, information and just such fascinating tidbits. It is so meaningful and precious. I save things but I know that no one will want these lovely and special articles and items when I am gone nor will they care.

  20. Loved the post. My aunt is the keeper of treasures. I am interested in family history and like to look at photos and hear about the past. But that is the extent of it.
    Karen T.

  21. I am the oldest in our family, but not the real keepsake keeper. I do have some pieces, but my sister has many from our family and one of my brothers has many family photos and documents because he has been working on the family genealogy.
    My most prized keepsakes are my grandmother's treadle sewing machine and the cradle from my dad's side of the family. My granddaughter is the 5th or 6th generation that has used it.
    I really was the one to keep my memorabilia from my childhood. When I went overseas after college, I packed all my stuff into 3 small boxes. When I came back 3 years later, I found that my parents had thrown 2 of them away. Some of my favorite things were in those boxes.
    I have saved all the important things from my children's childhoods. I have them in folders and in a trunk. As they are settled enough, I am giving them to them.
    And, lastly, yes, you do look like your grandmother.

  22. My sister has many of the surviving family photos -- our mother's place got flooded and many were destroyed. I would love to get the photos scanned into a digital format so that we all have access to them, and we don't have to worry about another wave of destruction. We did divide a lot of mom's stuff after her death so that all 3 of us kids could have things to pass on to our children and grandchildren - when then come around.
    I saved a ton of my kids' school projects, costumes, favorite Tshirts, etc. They are all organized in boxes, but not scrapbooks -- I'm not crafty enough to make cute scrapbooks.

    I love all the pictures in this post, PJ! You do bear a strong resemblance to your grandmother -- both of you were adorable kids. :-)

  23. I guess it's me... I'm the one who lived in-state and closed out two houses. One was my great aunt who lived to be almost 102.. the other was our mom. She sold the old home in town in the mid 70's and had an auction ... boy did some of the stuff leave!! Mom & Dad had stuff from both sets of parents in a full basement of an 1880's 4-square!! Our 3rd bedroom is crammed with stuff from both estates ... I just need the motivation to get in there and clear it all out! But it's hard to just toss some of those things!

  24. I must have been really tired last night. I don't see my comment, so I must not have posted it.
    I am the oldest and have some family items. I feel lucky to have the ones I do. The most treasured is a cradle from my dad's family. Our grandchildren are the 5th or 6th generation that has used it. I also have my grandmother's treadle sewing machine and her good silver among other things.
    My brother has most of the family photos. He has been working on the family genealogy.
    And yes, you do look like your grandmother.
    I kept my school and childhood moments. When I went overseas, I packed them into 3 small boxes. Unfortunately, my family threw all but one box out. I have our children's things sorted and in folders for them. When they are settled, I will give them to them.

  25. I am. Went with my sister to visit family ties. Am working on family tree.
    Patty B