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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Week 6 of Abundant Genealogy

Week 6 – Family Heirlooms: For which family heirloom are you most thankful?  How did you acquire this treasure and what does it mean to you and your family?

I racked my brain on this one.  Trying to go through my head all the different antiques and such that are in my parents’ home, and which one I would choose.  There are trinkets and do-dad’s from all over Europe, when my mother was there as a child and then an Army Officer herself.  Items left to my parents from when their parents died.  No matter how much I thought about it, my mind kept returning to one item. 
Anyone who knows me long at all will have heard me talk about it, because as a kid it was the coolest piece of history that I was allowed to see and touch.  As an adult I treasure it for the story it tells, and the comfort it gave.  One of the first family posts I wrote was about my Grandfather Arvin.  In that post I wrote of a dictionary, and that book is our family’s most treasured heirloom. 

Recently I talked to my mom more in depth about this book, and found out that it is actually a one volume encyclopedia.  I knew the basics of the story but I pressed my mom for more details on it.  Sometime after he was captured by the Japanese he acquired this book.  If they couldn’t carry it they couldn’t take it from camp to camp, and my grandfather carried this book to at least 3 different ones.  Inside it is a caricature that was drawn of him by another POW.  It shows him carrying the book, strapped to his back, marching up a large hill to the last camp they were imprisoned in. 

Most amazing of all are the 6 rows of signatures, 30-40 in each row, of the men he was with in camp.  My mom has seen several of the names listed there in documentaries, and many have written books about their experience.  Several of the names listed were also labeled MIA by the military, and until she showed the book to a military historian they had no idea what had happened to these men.  At least now there is a bit more known about where they were seen at one point in the war.  It is fragile, the signatures are fading, and my mom keeps it safe and out of the light to preserve it.  She would love to know more about it, about who these men were, how my grandfather came to possess it, and so much more.
As a child I would hear my grandmother talk about it, and she would point to it on the top shelf of her closet.  It was always a happy story; I truly didn’t understand what it meant to be a POW.  She would talk about how they would solve disputes in camp over facts with it, play word games, and in general how it was a tool to pass the time in dire circumstances.  Now I look on it as an item that got my grandfather home, and I wish even more than ever that I could have met this remarkable man.

*Image:  newspaper clipping from The Wayne Dispatch, 1944.  The photo of my grandfather was the one the Japanese took of him to send to the US as confirmation/identification of his capture. 

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