For the last 42 years, this little piece of (I suppose) 1950s luggage has been without work. It's been an outbuilding or attic accessory. But of course that's not why I've kept it. It's stayed with me because every time I see it, it reminds me of good times for the 20 years prior to these past 42.
This was the little traveling case into which I used to pack my nightie, toothbrush, hair brush and later makeup, along with a simple change of clothes for the next day. It was my overnighter to friends' or relatives' houses.
What it really was, I do believe, was the cosmetics' case in a luggage set. My folks had one or maybe two larger pieces that matched and I have no idea where they are now. I don't even know if they purchased the set or if was handed down from relatives who bought it for, say, a trip to Florida, or for some destination I'll never know about.
I was always a kid who liked to go, to have plans! I can't count the Friday-night sleepovers at my friend Cheryl's house. In elementary school we watched The Brady Bunch, then played with our Barbies until we couldn't change another outfit, and were about to drop over ourselves.
Everywhere I went in those golden days of youth, if I was staying, so was this travel bag. Tells you something about traveling light--one thing you'll never catch me doing now. Even if Brian and I are heading down to Indy or Carmel to see one of the kids, nine times out of 10, he's waiting for me to round up a stack of paperwork, a book I'm reading, a lesson I'm working on, a magazine, a Tervis full of iced water and maybe some other oddball object.
The travel case used to have a very distinct scent; the smell of fun! It no longer carries that; only memories. And that's why it's time to say goodbye. Now don't go and make this harder on me by saying what I could use it for, or store in it, or Pinterest it up, or learn to travel light and use it again.
You see, what I'm doing here is cleaning out our attic, one tub or box at a time, week by week. Brian and I found the idea of a one-day clean sweep of the place far too overwhelming. So instead, I told him about my idea to do it one container a week.
Today is week four. Last week my old prom dresses went. A friend wondered if I would give them to her for fabric to make doll clothes. Nope! They are far too faded and unfashionable. I parted with an old pair of my dad's work coveralls and another dear friend suggested I rescue them and use the fabric to craft a stuffed bear as an heirloom. Nope! I'd just fold the things back up, attach the idea to them mentally and --never do it.
I just need to say farewell to this sweet little memory companion. Now I've got the picture, and even the blog post. I still save many things. I just no longer want to save it all! I've reached a tipping point where there's more joy in the getting rid of than in the saving (and stacking, and putting away, and caring for or not caring for ...).
I'll carry it away one last time to the Goodwill.
For reasons that remain obvious, this COVID year has meant a good deal of time at home. I should be keeping a list of all the oddball jobs we've gotten done around here but the thing about having a house, or for that matter, a residence of any kind, means it's a never-ending battle to keep up with what needs done, let alone hit that list of wants.
So yes, some of our closets are tidier; some things have been gone through and donated such as a vintage sewing machine, or in the case of 40-something-year-old homemade prom dresses, trashed. Much remains to go through, especially in the attic, where such treasures such as those prom dresses (yes, sarcasm) lived for so long.
But because attacking the attic is overwhelming and there are all manner of sentimental, as well as practical, decisions to make, I have a new goal. Attics tend to be either hot or cold. Ours is not the easiest to access and even though I tell myself to beware of those beams, I still boink my head on one every time I'm up there.
I decided to approach the attack in a new way. Once a week, I will select one tub or box, bring it downstairs and decide what to do with the contents. This is week three. Brian even took part this week by bringing his childhood accordion downstairs. Don't ask me what will become of it. Figuring that out is on his list for this week and I will say, he's good about checking off the list.
You do find surprises when you tackle this sort of thing? I actually don't mind the chore because hey, what's one box? Even one full box?--in the scheme of things.
I solved a minor mystery. At my bridal shower 42 years ago, one of the sweet older ladies in the church congregation gifted us with a small painting. Her name was Gladys Rude, and she was well known in our community for her landscape paintings. We didn't have the funds or priorities back then to have such a gift professionally framed so I placed it in an inexpensive picture frame and somewhere along this 42-year journey, misplaced Gladys' handiwork.
For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what happened to it but in this week's edition of What We Keep, I found it tucked away in a box of miscellaneous keepsakes, half of which I tossed. But the painting? No way. I don't know that I'll frame it, but it looks pretty nifty propped inside our glass-front bookcase of my most treasured book titles.
I remember another handmade gift from that shower. There was a beautiful round braided rug made by the late Vivian Clevenger. We used it as a throw rug with little thought to it being a keepsake. It wasn't treated as such. It was made with rags from no doubt repurposed clothing. Truth is, if I'd kept it and washed it right, it would likely still be in service today.
There are other gifts from our wedding that are still used today. I think of the ultra practical yellow speckled plastic mixing bowl from the late Cleo Winters; an elegantly scalloped-edge aluminum tray with wooden handles from the shower committee (Pat Buell was on that committee and is still very much alive and well.) The late Dorothy Boggs gave us a set of place mats, napkins and napkin holders. The plac emats and napkins are gone but the wooden napkin holders remain. I still use the aluminum measuring cups and spoons from the late Barb Kaufman and the mixer from my SIL Linda Cronk remains in use when I need a hand-mixer for a boxed cake or muffins.
The surprises keep me going! Who knows what I'll find next week? A box a week, until it's done.
And now, an original Gladys Rude on display.
Member of The Greatest Generation hits the century mark
Reprinted from New Castle Courier-Times, by Donna Cronk. What better day to honor one of these amazing soldiers than today? It is my distinct honor to share these veterans' stories. Let us not forget how they saved the free world.
MIDDLETOWN — World War II veteran George H. Dunnington has a special birthday coming up, one that few experience. The Middletown resident will become 100 years old on Wednesday, July 8.
While unable to be interviewed by the newspaper, his family members Cheryl Spessert, Emily Spessert, Molly Spessert and Don Dunnington have documented his life and times in interviews through the years and provided their information to the newspaper.
Born in Slat near Monticello, Kentucky, Dunnington attended public school, finishing eighth-grade in 1935. He told daughter Cheryl Spessert in a written interview in 2001, “I quit school, that was the worst thing that happened to me ... I’d rather plow than go to school.”
His first job was farming sun-up to sun-down at $1 a day. Farm work continued, including a year in Iowa – for no pay.
“My biggest regret was that I never got a good education,” he told family.
In his teens, Dunnington moved with his family to New Castle. He worked in agriculture before getting on at Perfect Circle in Hagerstown. He lived in the New Castle area for years with all four of his children born in Henry County.
In the Army now – finally
Dunnington joined the Army in September 1942. He had tried to enlist several times but a crooked right arm from a factory accident kept him from acceptance.
Yet he wanted to go and kept begging officials to take him. Finally, he and another fellow said they should try again. This time, a doctor checked him and declared that his arm was “just right for an MI rifle.”
Dunnington told family, “I got the same arm shot up again when I got in there. I been shot a lot a places, a lot of times. Oh mercy. I got blowed up once with a bomb. It blowed my stomach apart. I been blown up from head to toe.”
Assigned to A Company of the 448 Anti-Aircraft Battalion, the soldier was trained as a gunner and became a company cook. His unit arrived in England in spring 1944.
His battalion arrived at Normandy on D-Day plus one where they supported the 35th Infantry Division. His gun crew served near the front line where they repulsed counterattacks and the liberation of Saint-Lo.
Also, the soldier was injured in the Battle of the Bulge and was evacuated to an English hospital. His injuries prevented his return to the U.S. with the 35th in September 1945, according to family.
He told family, “Being in the Army, that’s fun. When you’re in the war, that’s a different story. Man, I’ve had great big strong men lay down on the ground and cry. I said ‘Boy, get up out of the dirt.’ I said ‘We’re fighting a war.’ I never remember being scared ... I wasn’t smart enough to get scared ...”
The veteran says he escaped being killed many times. “I was pretty lucky I got out of the war as good as I was,” he says. “That old war, the funny thing to me, we went over there and we won the war. We was in the last battle, called the Battle of the Bulge, one of the worst battles there was …that’s when I was hurt and they rushed me to the hospital. The war was over when I was in the hospital. I didn’t get to come home with my boys…”
So many memories abound and paint a picture of varied experiences. He remembers surviving when his helmet was shot and he fell to the ground without injury. He also speaks of providing food to hungry French kids.
Dunnington shared with his family about a Christmas Eve in Paris during the war when the soldiers were put up in a hotel and enjoyed a massive feast. But during the night, they were spotted by Germans who blew up the hotel.
On Dec. 26 that year, he and other soldiers were taken to Bastone for two months of heavy fighting. That March, he fell on his elbow, which swelled and froze in position. At the hospital, he met a man from New Castle.
Dunnington went on to have surgery. During that time, he befriended a nurse who let him slip out and go gamble.
“They drank but I didn’t, so I really cleaned them out. I never wanted for money in London,” Dunnington told family.
After the cast was removed, he started cooking again for troops until November even though the war had ended in April.
Other memories include a terrible battle in the Argon Forest. The enemy heavily bombed their ammunition depot which fell on the soldiers. The force blew soldiers from their foxholes.
A war buddy, calling him by his nickname said, “Hack, we’ll never see New Castle again.”
But both escaped without injury. He recalls that he later learned his sister Ora prayed for him that same night.
“She knew I was in trouble and woke up her husband to join her in prayer. She busted a blood vessel in her head, and they found her in a pile of blood.”
Dunnington said if not for Ora, his brother Lloyd and his wife, “I always believed I wouldn’t have made it through the war.”
But he did make it, and he believed in the cause.
“That’s the reason I went. I don’t think any of the boys wanted to fight, but what are you going to do? Either we went there or they came here, and they were pretty close a time or two.”
Despite his injuries, he is yet to receive a Purple Heart. Paperwork had been destroyed and family is working on trying to secure the award for their hero.
After the war
Dunnington returned to New Castle in 1945, returning to Perfect Circle where he completed 23 years before transitioning to full-time Christian ministry in 1963. He became an evangelist and then pastor for congregations in Shirley, Muncie and Corydon.
He met Lucille after the war, marrying her on Aug. 29, 1947. They were married for over 53 years.
“She was a sweetheart, oh mercy she was a sweetheart,” he says of his bride. “She loved her family and oh dear, she loved her kids. She loved everybody. She couldn’t see no harm in nobody, never could …”
She passed away with Alzheimers in 2001.
The couple parented four children: Don (wife Jane) Dunnington of Oklahoma City; Gary (wife Kim) Dunnington of Indianapolis; Joy (husband Steve) Broad of Middletown and Cheryl (husband Robert) Spessert of Augusta, Georgia.
There are 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Dunnington retired in New Castle in 1987 where he remained until moving in with his daughter Joy in 2016.
Son Don Dunnington says of his father, “Dad has modeled a deep faith and strong sense of personal integrity throughout my life. He emerged from a difficult background as a young man, was injured during the war and suffered other major setbacks along the way—yet built a strong and loving family and has lived a long life of service to God and others. I am grateful to be his son.”
The veteran became a Christ follower during a revival. “A lot of things changed in my life, it just turned around completely,” he said of his conversion. “But some of the hardest, hard men in the factory became some of my best friends. That’s all I want to do, see people get right with God. I’ve never lost that desire to this day, that’s what kept me going.”
For his birthday, family is asking for cards and photos from anyone who would like to send them. They will go into an album.
All four children will be there for his birthday and are making a memory blanket with all their family’s photos “so he can be covered in love when he sits in his chair,” says daughter Cheryl.
Greetings may be sent to George Dunnington, 4424 E. County Road 400 S., Middletown, IN 47356.