The sturdy green metal trunk has been stashed away in the primitive basement of dad’s oldest house for at least a few decades. Before that, it was in the basement of my childhood home for as long as I can remember. There was not enough room at the auction to sell it, so the trunk remained neglected until this month.
I struggled to carry it up the old stairwell and then to a work bench in the garage. Out of breath, I pondered the unopened trunk while my sister patiently waited to find out what was inside the relic.
Amazingly, the hinges and props were in good condition, so lifting the lid and keeping it open were simple. The interior and the lift-out tray are finished in an attractive fabric pattern. Aside from torn out leather handles, the trunk is in fairly good condition. The main problem is the very strong stench of mildew.
The lift-out tray held family memorabilia like my siblings’ old report cards, some baby books, a few infant and children’s articles of clothing, and some amature sketched portraits dad had attempted when we were still young kids.
After skimming through the items in the tray, we finally lifted it up and away. Inside were more mildewed family items like letters and birthday cards. On the right was a stack of folded newspapers. I was so excited that I nearly fainted. The papers had been placed inside the trunk from most recent on top to oldest. I snapped photos of the most interesting pages as we removed them.
If there had only been one newspaper, the first one would have been plenty. The Omaha World Herald pages were published on the day after the Apollo Eleven Moon landing. I took a picture to preserve the image, just in case the paper had become brittle from age and fungus. I have delayed opening the newspapers beyond the fold until there is more time to carefully examine them under better conditions.
Beneath the first paper was a copy of the Norfolk (NE) Daily News sporting a banner headline of the same event.
Next was a copy of the Omaha paper that covered the John F. Kennedy funeral in great detail.
The edition that was published on February 21, 1962, featured the earliest event I can personally remember. Astronaut John Glenn has the prime front page spot. There are numerous stories about his successful orbits in Outer Space.
The next newspaper took my breath away as I read the huge banner headline. The August 6, 1945 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal was saved because dad was stationed in Oregon waiting to be deployed to the Pacific Theater. The atomic bombing of Japan ended the war, so dad never saw action overseas.
There are only a few war time newspapers in the stack. They include the Omaha paper’s April 7, 1942 edition with details about action in the Philippines.
The oldest event is recorded on just a fragment of newsprint. For some unknown reason, my paternal grandfather only saved the upper portion of the front page of the Omaha paper’s December 8, 1941 edition. Due to the immense historical significance of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I would love to have seen the rest of the newspaper that was printed the day after the attack.
Now, I have a new project. I need to learn how to clean and preserve these old mildewed newspapers and what is necessary to preserve them. I’ll probably have to work on them in the garage because the stink is much too strong to take them inside of a house.
That project may need to be placed on hold, because there is one more trunk in storage down in that old basement.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Thomas Jefferson. “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”