Are you a souvenir gatherer? At the time when we had “gathered” enough wherewithal to travel outside the boundaries of Logan County, bringing home a souvenir from every place we visited was a must. We hit the drugstores and dime stores as we passed through towns. Nearly always a rack of picture postcards of local sites twirling on a rack was near the front door. The cards made a perfect keepsake to tape in our scrapbook when we got home.
After I recovered from being awestruck at the vastness of the ocean the first time I saw it, I scurried along the sand and picked up shells for keepsakes. They have since become intermingled with shells from other coasts, but I handle them all with pleasure. A tiny bundle of Spanish moss and a twig of tumbleweed, each wrapped in cellophane and taped in a scrapbook, tie my memories to diverse places in this wonderful country.
Our family had a few old souvenirs that they treasured, and I suppose they influenced me to appreciate tangible things to serve as reminders. On my grandmother’s parlor table was a beautiful glass bowl with a cranberry band around the top. Engraved was “World’s Fair 1893” and the name of my grandfather’s mother. He was not yet married to have a wife in 1893, and that was the souvenir that he brought back from that faraway city, Chicago, for her. I tried to imagine the stories he must have told about the experience.
On the sideboard at my grandparents’ house lay a demitasse sterling silver spoon. Engraved on the handle was an impression of the Woolworth Building and NEW YORK. If I ever knew its source, I have forgotten, but I clearly remember holding the spoon and trying to imagine what it would be like to stand at the base of that skyscraper.
Mammoth Cave did not officially become a National Park until 1941, but somebody had been there and brought back a stone (supposedly from the cave) shaped like a big acorn and inscribed “Mammoth Cave 1910.”
When our sophomore class took an end-of-school trip to the cave in the spring of 1946, I felt a kind of kinship with whoever bought that stone.
Events generate souvenirs. Stuck away in different places at my house are paper napkins that I have kept. On a corner, printed in gold, are names and the date of a 50th wedding anniversary that a couple were celebrating. Printed programs from a school production represent hard work and pride. A torn ticket stub brings back memories of that big-time major league ballgame we got to see.
Almost anything can be a souvenir, but there are souvenir fads that make the scene. Mugs are one example of this. The whole top shelf in a section of my kitchen cabinets is filled with specialty mugs. Every so often I mount the step stool with the intention of reducing the number. Most of the time when I handle them and reconsider the circumstance of the inscription, I wipe off the dust and put them right back.
T-shirts are printed for all kinds of observances, from family reunions to historical milestones of a city. Most are not appropriate to wear forever, so they are turned into pillow tops or quilts, extending the life of each as a souvenir. They hold too much meaning to become dust cloths.