What’s in Your Treasure Chest?

I’ve started to do the deep dive. You know the one. Decluttering. I pull a box from the basement shelf to go through things that haven’t seen the light of day since I put it there – 12 years ago.

This process began a week ago and I’m now on box two. At this rate I may be done with this organization/decluttering project by the time I’m 106. I don’t know about you, but I find it utterly impossible to simply peruse and purge. I have to sit on the floor and make piles – and read and read and read: Notes from friends and family who held space for me and helped me through a difficult divorce … handmade Mother’s Day cards from my young children who are now grown … photos of me with those children when I looked like I was about 15 years old for crying out loud … handwritten notes from my late mother … books that published a poem (“When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking”) I wrote for my mother … a certificate that authenticates that I actually crossed the finish line at the Chicago Marathon on October 9, 2005 … and more.

Let’s face it, treasures take time to organize. But here is the real issue: Although I don’t consider myself a hoarder, I don’t want to discard any of it.  

Tucked among these treasures, I discovered a narrative written by my grandaunt Ruth in 1928. It’s unclear to me how I ended up with this story, but I’m thrilled to have stumbled on such a nugget. 

Born August, 25, 1902, Ruth was a stately, no-nonsense, BINGO-playing, church-going, family-loving aunt who always showed up for important events. According to family historian David Schlachter, she was a brilliant student and graduated first in her class from Norwalk (Ohio) High School. After high school, she became a stenographer and later Secretary of the Director — the top secretary of the Welfare Office of the Huron County Health Department and worked there until the ripe young age of 78 when, it is noted, she reluctantly retired. For reasons lost to history, she never married, but was an essential and beloved member of our family.

Not one to be reticent, family folklore has it that Aunt Ruth frequently wrote letters to Eleanor Roosevelt hoping to convert the First Lady to Catholicism. Reportedly, the First Lady only responded once, to firmly – but politely — tell Ruth to cease any further solicitation. 

1928 was the era of Amelia Earhart, the discovery of penicillin (courtesy of Alexander Fleming), the debut of Mickey Mouse, the presidential victory of Hoover, and the boom of radio.

The following essay, dated May 29, 1928 is a page – or two — from Aunt Ruth’s family life; a simpler time though arguably more difficult. A period that began with a roar and ended with a crash. It was a period of time before listening, without distraction, became a lost art. It was a time when the written word was a daily ritual, imperative to connectivity.  It was the debut of the radio which provided a major shift in the way Americans communicated. It’s with pleasure I share this glimpse from my treasure chest – my aunt Ruth’s essay – One Full-Time Radio:

A radio is one of those things (there are others) you have to own to get the most out of it. Our neighbors have had their radio for two or three years and while I have spent countless Saturday evenings over there listening to it, it wasn’t until this winter when we purchased one that I, and the rest of the family, could listen and enjoy it every night and all day if we liked – during our leisure or while busy with something else.

My father was not especially in favor of buying a radio, but he has been completely converted since its purchase. He has been home more or less all winter and has found it very interesting and has appreciated particularly the programs with stories of the ‘War of ‘76’ and the Civil War, the receptions for various notables and the old-fashioned music programs. He usually remarks after a very attractive program, “I can’t understand it – I can’t understand it.”

Mother, too, was rather dubious of it, but now she has it on every noon to get the new and tested recipes, and it is only a day or so until we have the “results” on the table. Sometimes they reappear and again not! And then Mother had never taken much interest in politics, but she has listened to and enjoyed the programs sponsored by various Women’s Clubs and feels now that she understands many things better and can vote more intelligently. But, I think, Mother enjoys the radio most on the nights she is waiting for my sister and I to come home, as she has never overcome her habit of waiting until everyone is in to lock the door herself.

My sister and I, of course, expected to enjoy it and have not been disappointed. Catherine has the words of all the latest songs at her tongue’s end, and any time in the evening you can find at least one station broadcasting dance music. I never feel alone when I stay at home to study or read as long as the radio is “on,” and while I have heard it said, “One can’t do two things at once,” and that may be true of some things, yet there are others that might be enjoyed more when not done alone. A radio may not be an addition to a serious Bridge Club, but it is enjoyable when just a few people drop in for a little “gossip” and a friendly game or two.

Then we have two sisters married and living in Norwalk, neither of whom have radios; so when there is any special program on the air they come home and the children plan to come down to “Grandmother’s” every Friday night – and as many other nights during the week as possible for the Story Hour. There are four just at the age to enjoy the stories, but both families have “baby sisters” and when they have to bring Charlotte or Mary Rose along – Grandad must amuse her so they don’t miss the “story”.

Naturally, we think the “Bosch Cruiser” is about the best radio on the market, but I have heard other people praise the one they purchased and I suppose everyone selects the best in their opinion. Sometimes it is “noisy” and once in a while a tube blows out, and then we all wonder how in the world we ever got along before. If an object’s value is determined by the pleasure derived from it, I don’t believe our radio could be described in dollars and cents.

Dollars and cents. 

Perhaps you, too, believe there is much that cannot be measured by such a rubric. 

What’s in your treasure chest?

 I better get back to mine if I hope to finish before the second coming. If not decluttered, at least everything may be better organized. 😊