Friday, July 6, 2012

Sepia Saturday: What's in your trunk?


Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.





This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt features an elephant.  At first I thought I’d have to go off-theme, but then ta-da! I remembered seeing this picture:


Velma in India 1959

That is my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring (wearing dark socks) sitting in the middle of the howdah on the second elephant.  She had traveled to India with fellow teachers in 1959.  As a teacher and principal in the American military base school in Korea, she was allowed quite a bit of free travel, and she took advantage of that privilege with trips throughout Korea, Japan, Thailand, India, and maybe other places I don’t know about.

As a child, I looked forward to Velma’s visits with her stories of exotic places.  The fact that she always brought gifts was a bonus.  


Velma's trunk now belongs to my younger daughter.
Did you know an elephant trunk can lift 660 pounds and carry as much as 1100 pounds? Velma could have used an elephant to help carry all those souvenirs from her travels.  However, she did have her limitations and so selected a steamer trunk instead.





Velma brought us some beautiful art work.  Some of it was on silk and some on paper.  She brought several gorgeous screens that were decorated on both sides.












We have rice dishes, enamel dessert sets and Saki sets, decorative plates and bowls.



When you hold the rice dish up to the light, you can see right through it.




Velma brought us kimonos, dolls, brass hibachi, brassware, and jewelry. 


A visit from Velma promised to be more fantastic than a subscription to National Geographic.  She brought us the world. 










Besides having such beautiful gifts to admire, my sister and I for YEARS had unique Halloween costumes and something to wear for any international theme day during Spirit Week at school; we had objects for geography displays (ensuring good grades, don’tchaknow).  


Never for a minute did we doubt we were the luckiest people on earth.


So it came as bit of a shock upon dividing up my parents’ THINGS that my daughters and my sister’s sons announced they didn’t want “any of that Asian crap.” 

Asian Crap!?!?

How can they say that?  Who else has kimonos and dolls and artwork from the other side of the world?

It’s taken awhile to get over their lack of appreciation.  But I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve come to these conclusions:
1.    Asian is not their taste.  Come to think of it, it’s not particularly my taste either.  These things are more than house d├ęcor – they’re memories. But they're not their memories.
2.   They didn’t know Velma.  I myself was just a teenager when she died. 

To my sister’s and my children, Velma is merely a name in the family tree, not a real person who showered her family with souvenirs of her adventures and rode an elephant.


More tales of elephant proportions await you at Sepia Saturday.


36 comments:

  1. It's a shame when others don't appreciate the history these 'artefacts' can bring but perhaps they are not old enough yet. More importantly maybe they will keep some treasured things to remind them of you!!

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    1. That's what I'm hoping! But I do accept that these things don't hold the same fascination as they do for me.

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  2. You have inspired me. In the mid 1970's my husband and I lived in Korea, he was working there. I think today, since it is too hot to go outside, I will go through my pictures and scan some of them.

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    1. Sounds like a good idea. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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  3. Wendy, this is the coolest post. Aunt Velma to you reminds me of Uncle John to me, if that makes since. I am happy that you got it all!

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  4. Wonderful family treasures. How blessed you are to have thems items of your aunt Velma.

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    1. I agree. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. A superb post Wendy. God Bless Aunt Velma I say, if not for all the lovely presents she bought, then for providing you with a sepia picture that’s bang on theme. I think you are right about the sentimental value of Velma’s gifts. We get so excited with our discoveries about personal histories we sometimes can’t understand why our own offspring don’t share our enthusiasm. Let’s hope they will come to appreciate them in the future, and if not, never mind, you’re doing your bit by posting about them here. It’s what Sepia Saturday is all about.

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    1. Thanks! My sister and I really do laugh about how our kids have reduced their inheritance to "crap." Wait till they see what other crap they'll be wading through.

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    2. Yes, my attic awaits two fine boys. Can't wait for them to go through my china cabinet. They might have stuff worth 15.00. hahahahaha!

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  6. What a great post. Love it that you managed to find the photo of Aunt Velma. It's the absolute perfect photo for this week's post. And the story of all the things she brought back. How exciting for you as a child. As to your children's lack of enthusiasm - that's just so typical. My daughter could care less about my collection of antique children's books, old quilts, vintage game boxes. I'm sure they'll all end up on Ebay someday!
    Nancy

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    1. Oh I know! When my sister and I were cleaning out our parents' house, we were totally puzzled by one item after another. What is it? Why do we have it? Should we keep it? Now we're compiling an heirloom booklet with pictures and explanations of all our "Asian crap" and "American crap" so our kids will be able to figure out if something is worth keeping.

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  7. Pretty interesting life you aunt had, traveling around like that. She's lucky you appreciated it. All you need is one in the next generation...

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  8. To me the photo is the best part. I would have loved having an aunt who brought things like that when I was a child, but I probably wouldn't want the things now.

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    1. I hear ya. I look at some of those things and wonder why I still have them -- like the brass ashtrays in the shape of shoes.

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  9. WoW! How cool to have traveled as a teacher...those perks are long gone. And how lucky you were to have her tales and gifts from faraway places.

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    1. I'm sure the free travel was because of working on the military base. I never got any free travel when I was teaching.

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  10. I really enjoyed your post.

    Did Velma's travels, stories and mementos make you want to travel to faraway lands?

    I always looked forward to my grandmothers postcards and stories from her travels.

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    1. Between Velma and my 5th grade teacher who traveled throughout Europe and brought all the girls a pin cushion from Switzerland, I dreamed of traveling but always thought that was for OTHER people. I finally got to Italy about 8 years ago. That's been my only BIG trip.

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  11. An Aunt like Velma must have been inspiring. It's interesting to see that as we get older my daughter is already 'eyeing' some of our things that see must have when we have passed on. The boys on the other had do not appear at all concerned.

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    1. That is probably the difference in boys and girls, I guess. I have girls, and I'm sure they must be eyeing something from around here, just not sure what.

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  12. Wow! what a fantastic lady, and so great that you had those things around when you were little. I love it when you said that she brought you the world!
    Thanks so much for sharing - great post.

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  13. This is such a great post Wendy! Your great-aunt Velma sounds like a fascinating lady. Through her travels and stories she was able to "open doors you never even knew existed." (Auntie Mame reference...one of my favorite movies)

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    1. That's the line I had in mind but it wouldn't come to me. Thanks for supplying it!

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  14. Such a surprising family photo. Aunt Velma sounds like one of those intrepid travelers whose curiosity of the world inspired others. Every family should have someone like her.

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  15. Wendy that was a marvelous story. What little traveling I have done to other countries I always bring back fabrics and other cultural things. I have only been to countries in Central and South America but have some wonderful keepsakes. My grands have already asked for their favorites.
    QMM

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    1. Then put their names on their favorites. That's wonderful.

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  16. Velma sounds like a kind of Auntie Mame and so thoughtful and generous. And that trunk...back when traveling was such a different experience! Your daughter was smart to assume possession of such a treasure chest.

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    1. Auntie Mame -- perfect comparison!

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  17. I suspect my sons have the same reactions to our family treasures. they don't appreciate the family stories behind many of them, but I imagine that they will, in time .

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  18. That rice dish is gorgeous!

    I'm the opposite when it comes to family treasures: I hold on to everything. I have my grandma's dresser and vanity, which had been passed down to my mom before they came to me, and even though my mom keeps telling me to get rid of them because I don't have room, I just can't bring myself to do it. I'd feel like I was getting rid of my history...

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    1. I'm the same way. I have no room for my great-grandmother's tredle sewing machine, but something belonging to a GREAT-grandmother is pretty special. My daughters will have something of their GREAT-GREAT grandmother. If I have something from a great-great, I don't know it.

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