A drawer to my past 2015.07.17


My wife told me there was stuff that would be of interest to me in the top drawer of an old file cabinet on the back porch. I recognized the cabinet and I thought I knew what was within.

I expected a particular set of cultural artifacts—my phrase for old junk that can't be thrown away. I figured it was the 1980s collection.

When I finished writing the Fayette council story, I went to the porch, opened the drawer and was astounded. This was much older than anticipated. 1950s and 1960s. This was really quite a find. Alert the antiquarians.

Right on top were pages from Smeagol, the newspaper that John Bryner and I made in high school, the one that was confiscated and burned by Harold Hall in the furnace room of the old high school. Smeagol includes the prescient slogan on the top of the front page: "Today the Bulldogs Bark; Tomorrow the Morenci Observer."

A wadded up piece of felt unfolded into a wall pennant from Boblo Island. I never went to Boblo. My parents brought it home for me after their visit. There are a pair of large M letters earned for athletic prowess. Those are my father's. I don't know what became of my own.

There are a pair of suspenders that I'm sure belonged to Earl Reppert. A little white case contains a pair of silver cufflinks and a silver dollar mounted on a clip. My Wolverine Boys State badge from June 1967 indicates I was a member of Monroe City.

An essay written for American Literature class (Sept. 30, 1966) is an observation of my brother Tom feeding the dog his dinner of Alpo and getting dog food all over his hands. I only received a B grade. Inside a piece of Saran Wrap is a broken sand dollar and the tiny skeleton of a sea horse.

I reach in and bring out a ticket stub for the Michigan State vs. North Carolina State football game from 1965. Only $5. More tickets: Empire State Observation Tower; Rockefeller Center Observation Roof; the "Fantasy in Frost" Senior Prom from 1967 and the Morenci J-Hop from May 20, 1967, in the fashionable Stair Gymnasium. I think that was the year Jerry Slyker and I planned to take our dates to the Tourist Camp and grill burgers rather than go to a fancy restaurant. It rained.

There are a collection of brightly colored 45 rpm Disney records, with 1950 hits including "Westward Ho, the Wagons," "Scruff, the Tugboat" and, of course, the classic "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man."

There's about three feet of a gum wrapper chain, several small pieces of driftwood from the shores of Lake Michigan, a bag of confetti from the Observer office hole puncher, matches from the Bank of Lenawee County and a very busted up Mickey Mouse Ingersoll wristwatch. I never wore a Mickey Mouse watch. Maybe my father's.

Another prescient object: a toy Volkswagen bug. It's the same color as the one I owned several years later. 

I have a perfect attendance certificate from the 1961-62 school year, signed by principal Leslie Reynolds and teacher Ila Anderson. Old Mrs. Anderbags. I'm surprised I never missed a day in sixth grade because she was not one of favorite teachers.

Two artifacts from 1950s Sunday School: An adjustable plastic desk calendar that I have reset to today's date. There's also a little statuette of a long-haired boy that Harold Hall would never have allowed in school. The boy is saying, "Teach me thy way."

A blue piece of paper reads "License to Fly the Bird"—a permit to “give someone the finger.” I remember printing those when my father went away one Saturday morning. There are also a few certificates that read "Good for one $2.00 Dump, City of Morenci." Those are authentic.

If anyone needs to borrow a sex ed booklet from the 1960s, let me know. "You may wonder how the sperm cell found its way to the egg cell from which you grew."

A set of volleygrapes. I'll bet it's the same set that was used when we played a game inside the little railroad shed at Bimo northeast of town. Wow! There's my class ring. I guess Cindy Dickens returned it that sad day along with my letterman's jacket.

There's lots more, some objects recognizable in sort of a hazy way, others completely mysterious. I think I better sit down for a while. I've done a lot of traveling this morning.