Each weekend, I try to visit a fleamarket near my apartment called "The Garage."  On weekdays, it's a parking garage.  On weekends, it is transformed into a multi-tiered fleamarket with vendors who never fail to amaze me at what different things they can bring each week.

I have two huge (as in book-like) research projects that have been keeping me really busy.  One is generally about the homefront during World War II, and the other focuses on NYC history during the 1800s.  Not much overlap.  But, anyway, I've been using my visits to the Garage to look for source material or stuff (I try to be open-minded since you never know what you might see) that might be useful to better understand each of these time periods.

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite vendors promised to bring a box of letters from WWII that he had found at an estate sale in upstate New York.  As soon as I saw the heaping box of documents and letters, I knew I had to buy it.  After several hours of organizing and cataloging them by date, I can now read through them in the order that they were written.  

It seems a little sad to me that I, a stranger, now have the personal letters of this couple.  I can't help but wonder if they had children who didn't care to keep the letters, or perhaps it was their grandchildren who were willing to part with them?  As I organized the box, I felt even sadder, since I discovered that there are photographs, and even Mr. Allan W. Ames's Navy id card mixed in.
A photo of Mr. Ames--I assume with his wife and mother--either as he was about to leave for service, or perhaps while on a furlough:
And these just scratch the surface....  I have an entire envelope of photographs (here are just a few):

As well as notepads that Mr. Ames carried with him during the war, jotting down notes along the way...
I've decided that this treasure trove of letters is too good to keep to myself.  My plan is to share parts of the story behind Mr. Ames' war service on this blog, and also what his wife was up to with her War Bond work and adjusting to the homefront as wartime measures (such as rationing) were taken and made life very different from what it had been before the war.

This whole experience leaves me to wonder what happens to other boxes of old letters--whether some are just thrown away and lost forever.  Wouldn't it be incredible if there were a Museum of Abandoned Letters, a repository for boxes like the one I just bought, where letters too precious to throw away (and perhaps too precious to even sell) could be stored and read by curious visitors wondering what life was like at some other point in time?  I'd happily volunteer to be the curator.

For now, I am off to the Garage, to see what wonders might be lying in wait for me.  


 


Comments

Holly Symonds
02/12/2013 11:56am

Love this blog . . . I want to go to the "Garage" . . . fascinating!!!!

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05/31/2015 6:47pm

I have always been interested in anything connected with WW2, not so much about the war per se but more of the side stories. It is sad that a box of old letters would end up in a flea market. I hope that it ended there accidentally and not because it was sold to someone or just thrown away. On the other hand, these letters could help us to have a clearer picture of what happened during that period. But it would also be better if these letters would be given to the relatives.

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06/22/2015 5:04am

Thats a really cool and old photos. Want to see more about good old times!

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This whole experience leaves me to wonder what happens to other boxes of old letters whether some are just thrown away and lost forever.

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How many letters did you got for the last year?

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I love old things because of the stories it has and how intriguing they can be just like the letters that you have. There are a lot of vintage shops here in my area so I always check them during Saturdays because that is my day off. They have creepy things there like old dolls, pictures, and jewelries which always fascinate me. Those letters are lovely and just by looking at them makes me think about the lives they have. Please continue on writing post about the letters, especially about Mr. Ames and his war stories I am looking forward to hear more about them.

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