When you climb the stairs, this marble-topped Victorian table that belonged to Grandma Jobe welcomes you. At right on the floor is a vase Brian bought his mother Mary long ago. He wanted to keep it and placed it here. I think it's the perfect spot. What's up with the rocking chair in Sam's photo? It's a reflection. The camera sees all, even when the photographer does not.
We replaced our sagging white bookcases (they're now garage shelving) with these black beauties from IKEA, at the suggestion of our daughter-in-law Allison. Part of our task in late winter and early spring was to edit our book collection. We donated more than 100 volumes; moved a lifetime collection of personal and Brian's career yearbooks downstairs to a doored cabinet, along with some text books he couldn't part with (although he did a great job of letting go of many). Special-edition books, such as signed author copies, those gifted to us by loved ones, and special ones for one reason or another, also went downstairs to our glass-front antique plantation-desk bookcase. It's full! But there's always room for one more. This bookcase also holds Brian's vinyl-record collection, lower left, and bunches of photo albums and scrapbooks. I'm in the process of covering and numbering in order the albums. I wanted to add some personality to the shelves so added career keepsakes for both of us. Brian said he always liked diplomas in their original folders so they went up too. The vintage fire extinguisher, right, is a unique gift from Brian's staff. Staffers signed it. The idea is that Brian "put out fires." It's been in his closet for several years and we thought it should come on out!
We needed the space to function more than only an office, but we needed that component too. Everything up here is a mixture of function, comfort, and heirlooms. Brian wanted to keep the desk. He and both our sons did their homework right there! Yes, it's pretty beat up, but it's in the "what we keep" department. The old chair gave out, and for now, we're using a dining room chair. Will likely buy another down the road with a spare to go where this little antique chair is now. The framed newspaper is a gift from one of Brian's building teachers who so thoughtfully found and framed a British newspaper from when Brian's dad landed there in World War II! He also included a picture of Brian's dad, Ray, from that time. What a gift! The little red chair was handed down in my family. I used to watch my favorite shows sitting in it, including the once-a-year showing of "The Wizard of Oz," and the weekly viewing of the original "Batman." I loved them both.
What I dig about this project is that it was Brian's idea! The space had been a repository for miscellaneous heirlooms, droopy overstocked bookcases, second-string sofa and loveseat for many years. We hadn't used it at all, basically, since the boys left home. It was their hangout for homework, entertaining, and video games. It took us quite a while this winter and spring to re-imagine. We wanted to make it our own personal space, editing out all the clutter, and filling it with comfortable seating, fully-loaded TV (cable, NetFlix, etc.), office area, Brian's vintage stereo equipment, and albums and important to me was a place to enjoy 150 years' worth of our families' paper trail of photos, special papers, and small heirlooms, tucked away neatly. I call the area Archives: Family Basket Cases. (Laugh! Even if you're family! It's suppose to be funny!) I also keep vacation keepsakes and photos in those baskets. We each picked out our own new recliners and had one recovered to match the coal-colored fabric in the other. The rocking chair is from Brian's family; the lamp tables from mine. The mirror spent all my growing-up years over a sofa in our home. It is reflecting a fan and drapes in the window on the opposite wall.
On the wall shared by the bookcases are Brian's 1976 stereo and turntable. The albums are out of view next to the turntable. Again, heirlooms are used. The cedar chest was my mother's "hope chest," refinished by Brian early in our marriage. The tiny table was made by Brian in "shop" class back in the day. The music stand comes in more handy than you know! Now I have room to leave it up and practice programs I write and give to women's groups. This spring I am debuting a new program for mother-daughter-banquets. It's about how we women are keepers -- of secrets, dreams, memories, mementos and of faith. Editing and re-imagining this room inspired the program.
Brian says we have "Ma and Pa chairs." We went for total comfort. The chairs and the carpet were our biggest expenses. The carpet is called "stone" and the chairs "coal." The previous carpet was a mess, and was also wrinkled. It had been through two teenage boys, their friends, and 14 years. It was time. But it was quite an effort to move everything downstairs, and the edited version of everything back up again.
Our "basket cases" are filled with 150 or more years' worth of various branches of our families' paper trails, old photos, vacation photos, and keepsakes, and more. I enjoy many trips down Memory Lane from these memory-filled baskets. Come visit our study and take in a movie with me. Or, we'll put up my folding table from behind the door and work on a project. I'm grateful for the space. Thanks for dropping by!
The following feature was recently published in the New Castle Courier-Times. It is my honor to share another story from our Greatest Generation.
by Donna Cronk
As one of the 16 million American veterans who returned from World War II, ready to restart their lives with jobs, marriages, families, and find a post-war normalcy, Forrest Owens resumed his life after serving with the U.S. Marines.
He became an electrician, married Mary, and started a family.
For 30-and-a-half years, he worked at Chrysler Corp. in New Castle, retiring in 1999. The Kentucky
native returned to his home state in 2017, and today, he and daughter Beverly reside together in
Grayson where they lead a quiet life.
Inside his storage bin are artifacts from a time that was anything but quiet. Among his honorable discharge and letters of commendation papers are two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, a Blue Enamel Star, Asiatic Pacific Combat Ribbon with two gold stars, and the American Defense Metal.
Owens’ service included first-wave invasion of the brutal island battle of Iwo Jima, located 660 miles
south of Tokyo. He was a part of it for the first nine days, there when one of the most iconic moments
in U.S. military history was recorded as the American flag was raised on the island’s highest point.
During this intense five-week battle, 7,000 Marines lost their lives and another 20,000 were wounded. One of the wounded was Owens, who was sent home to recover.
When Owens, who will be 94 on April 26, was asked what it was like to be at Iwo Jima, the Marine
says that he “never thought a lot about it until recently.” He adds that in the last few years he realizes
“how happy I was (that) I was there and did this and saw this.”
Excitement over the flag
On day five of the battle, U.S. Marines took the highest point, Mount Suribachi, and raised the
American flag. Owens recalls someone saying, “Look at Old Glory on Hot Rock.” He says everyone
started yelling and carrying on with happiness over the sight. He didn’t see the Marines place the flag
but he said the flag was “just starting to wave” when he spotted it.
The battle continued, and on the ninth day, the Marines were in the process of taking the second
highest point. It was then that Owens was wounded when a grenade exploded and hit his mouth,
injuring it and taking out two teeth. But instead of being treated and sent back into battle as Owens
expected, he was shipped back to the U.S. to heal.
“I was wanting to stay,” Owens recalls. “I was hoping to get through that without (being) wounded.” He
also wanted to remain with his buddies, and had been promised a promotion following his effort at Iwo Jima. Yet at the same time, he was happy to survive and go home.
After all, this was his third war wound. Prior to Iwo Jima, he fought in Guam scouting out Japanese
positions. He had been trained for the job by learning how to fight in thick jungles with mud, heavy rain and 100-degree heat. One sergeant told him that his background as a Kentucky country boy would serve him well, adding, “It’s like squirrel hunting, except the squirrels shoot back.”
In Guam, he was wounded in the right shoulder by shrapnel, then when leaving the hospital following
treatment, wounded again, that time in the left hip. He recovered at Pearl Harbor, and months later,
was sent in with the first wave to Imo Jima.
Owens said landing on the island was rough because the amphibious tracked landing vehicles
carrying soldiers came under immediate fire. The landing vehicle next to his own exploded and men
inside it were killed and wounded.
“Hell on earth, the first day,” Owens describes. That day alone, his outfit lost five of eight officers –
including the captain. Of the 220 soldiers, 111 lost their lives.
On that day, he did a lot of praying and imagines that most of the soldiers did likewise. Owens
describes his nine days on the island as a time of intense fighting and death.
“I was scared all the time I was there,” says Owens. “All day and all night you expected to get hit.
People getting killed all the time. I was happy to make it through.”
But make it he did, and he remembers so much about the period that he could fill a book, not just a
Taking the island was significant, according to information from The National WWII Museum in New
Orleans, because securing it meant the island would provide emergency landing space for 2,200 B-29
bombers and save the lives of 24,000 U.S. airmen. It was important in the war effort to fight the largest
Pacific battle of World War II – the invasion of Okinawa.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz is quoted as saying, “Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon
valor was a common virtue.”
Wanted to be a Marine
Owens volunteered for service on his 18th birthday and joined the Marine Corps. He enlisted because
the war was going on. “Everybody was patriotic and all the young men wanted to go.” He wanted to
be a Marine due to the heroic strides they were making. “They were heroes and I wanted to be part of
Following his service, Owens married Mary, and the couple had five children: Allen Owens (wife Teresa) of New Castle; Terry (wife Beverly A.) Owens of Noblesville; Beverly S. Owens of Grayson, Kentucky; the late Darryel Owens, formerly of Houston, Texas; and the late Rickie Owens, previously of Shirley.
Both Darryel and Rickie are buried in Knightstown. During Forrest Owens’ years at Chrysler, the family
lived in Wilkinson. Mary passed in 1998.
Says Owens, the two-time World War II Purple Heart recipient, “I’m very proud of our veterans today,
our service people. I have a great honor for them.”
His daughter Beverly, a former Wilkinson resident, says her dad still drives, needs no home assistance,
gardens and until last year, kept bees. He still has three living brothers of five original, and two living
sisters of three.
His involvements include membership in the Shirley Masonic Lodge No. 531; Shriner’s Club in Shirley;
life member of the New Castle VFW; member of the Scottish Rite in Indianapolis, and member of the
Willard, Kentucky American Legion Post 342.
His daughter said he often speaks of the boys from all over the country whom he served with in the
service, including those who were lost in battle. She said he would enjoy hearing from old friends who
probably have lost track of him. Cards may be sent to Owens at 204 W. 2nd St., Grayson, Kentucky
“I’m very proud of him and I’m honored that he’s my dad,” says Beverly.
Did you ever wrap your school books in paper to make dust jackets? I never did. But daughter-in-law Allison did back in the day, and she came up with an inexpensive solution to organize our photo albums.
She suggested craft paper and numbers. So far today, with one done before church and two after church and lunch this afternoon (it's not even 2:30 p.m. yet), three are finished.
Through the decades I have taken lots of photos. We have about a dozen random photo albums. It's been a long time since I added albums but I do have envelopes full of photos from many different vacations, occasions and a whole lot more hiding in The Cloud from my cell phone.
But my dilemma at hand is: How to attractively organize and display the existing photo albums that display snapshots from our family's life -- literally -- from the 1970s through about 2010 when I stopped buying these.
I told Allison that I don't plan on scrapbooking these. You'll note the several scrapbooks I created for the boys in time for display at their high school graduations (at left). These are nicely done, as are some other specialty scrapbooks, including a This is Your Life for Brian's 50th and scrapbooks I created for Brian and his brother Steve of their father's World War II history.
But scrapbooking done "by the book" is labor intensive, expensive, and frankly, no longer anywhere on my to-do list. I also didn't want to buy new albums.
Allison's idea is ideal. I already have a big roll of the craft paper, cheap and plentiful if I need more, rolls of excellent-quality postal tape, and I picked up some numbers. Starting with the first album of photos from high school (number 1), and going through the years in order, I'll number the photo albums and place them back on the bottom of our new bookcases.
Our progress in completing the space I think of as our new study is on hold at the moment as we need to buy two more bookcases, move our vinyl records upstairs for placement on the bottom row of one new bookcase, wait for our new chairs to arrive, select a lamp and throw rug to hide the cord, and then--I'll show you the end result.
I have a little patch of free time this afternoon so I'll get two or three more of these albums covered and numbered, and work on the rest as I can.
I searched Pinterest for ideas on storing and organizing family photos and nothing much resonated. Allison's idea is the best solution by far that works for our situation.
And, I've had a chance to walk down memory lane as I've worked on these. Right now, I'm in the 1980s. Here's one of me while managing editor at the Attica newspaper, now the county-wide Fountain County Neighbor.
Next are a couple photos I took when I had the opportunity to accompany some kids from Attica Elementray School go see President Ronald Reagan arrive at the Purdue University Airport, and give a speech.
It was exciting for this small-town reporter. Welcome to my 1980s...
Along with the President, center, do you recognize the white-haired gentleman? That is Indiana Gov. Robert Orr. I had the opportunity to attend a meeting accompanying two community activists make their case for prohibiting an explosives detonation company from locating in the county. I got to sit inside Gov. Orr's office with them and write about the meeting for an exclusive. X-plo-Tech was defeated by the community's will. Sue Barnhizer Anderson and I won a second-place state journalism award for our coverage.
Back to 2019. (Is that even possible?)
What I would like to know is how YOU store and display your family photos and in particular, what about all your random family photos stashed in albums like mine?