Don't Root Through Grandma's Attic
Welcome to Katzenhaus Books, where we tell - the stories behind the history.
RSS Follow Become a Fan

Delivered by FeedBurner


Recent Posts

My December
One More Before the Excitement Fades
Trumpets! Confetti! Funny Hats! Screaming Crowds!
Getting On with the Writing
Turning an Idea into a Business

Categories

A new contest
Abolition
absurdity
academic myopia
Almost Free
Amazon
ancestors
Announcement
apocalypse
Applications and software
Appomattox
Arnulf of Lisieux
art of speaking
attracting readers
audience
audio books
Author Central
Author Gifts
author's Plea
awards
baseball
basketball
Battle of Port Royal
Battles
biographical
blind artists
blockade
blog chain
Book Club Guides
Book Design
Book Launch
book stores
book trailer
bookstores
Boxed Set
bright ideas
Building a platform
business
Business plan
Busy-ness
butterflies
Career choices
cats
celebrations
cemetery research
Census
challenges
characterization
Characters
Charleston
children
children's books
choosing a publisher
Choosing a Title
Christmas
Christmas Past
Civil War
commercials
Computer Hacks
Confederates
Conferences
Connections
constitutional amendments
construction
Contract labor
cotton
Countdown Sale
Countdown to Launch
Cover Designs
Cover images
cutting and pasting
Cyber Monday
daily drama
daily events
Dead Mules
Deal of the Day
decisions
depression
diversions
dogs
Do-Overs
DRM
earthquake
e-book pricing
e-books
editing
elevator speech
elmore leonard
Elves and Holidays
Emancipation
England
English class
evidence
Excerpt
exclusivity
Exercise
Expertise
Facebook
fact and fiction
failures
fame and fortune
family affairs
Favorites
Fear of Failure
Fish
flood waters
flowers
food delights
Formatting
Fort Pulaski
free chapter
Free Days
freebies
Friendship
Frogmore
garden
gardens
genealogy
Getting organized
ghost stories
Giveaway
Goals
good business
good news
grammar cops
gratitude
gray horses
gripes
grocery shopping
guest blogs
Gullah
handicaps
Harriet Tubman
Hiatus
Historical background
Historical Fiction
historical puzzlers
historical thinking
history lessons
Holidays
home office
hope and kindness
horse races
horses
hurricanes
identifying your audience
illustrations
imagination
indie authors
Inspiration
inspirations
internet
internet history
intruders
ISBN
Kalamazoo
karma
Kindle
Kindle links
Kindle rankings
Kindle Serials
kings
Klout
Ku Klux Klan
Lack of co-ordination
landmarks
language
Laughs
launch dates
Laura Towne
Layouts
legal matters
lending library
Lessons learned
lessons unlearned
libraries
literary genres
local news
love story
making choices
Marketing
Matchbooks
medicine
medieval-isms
Meet the Characters
Memorial Day
memories
Milestones
military matters
mind-mapping
Misfis
Monthly Musings
name recognition
NaNoWriMo
Nellie Chase
New Blog
New Book
New England
New Research
New Year
newsletters
nonfiction
non-profits
nostalgia
Nurses
oddities
odds and ends
olympics
omens
opening lines
outrage
Oxford
Papacy
parties
Penn Center
photographs
picture book
Pinterest
Pinterest and copyrights
Pirates
planning ahead
plot
point of view
polite society
politics
portraits
powerful women
Predictions
pre-orders
press release
previews
pricing
Principles
procrastination
productivity
Profiles
Progress Report
Promotions
proofs
pros and cons
publishing
publishing companies
publishing ploys
publishing rights
pure sentimentality
puzzlements
quiz
rain
random thoughts
RBOC
read an ebook
readership
recipes
Reconstruction
Relaxation
research
Resolutions
reviews
road trip
rough draft
Roundhead Reports
royalties
rules
SALE
Sales
scams
schedules
Scoop It
ScoopIt
seasons
Secessionville
second edition
Second Mouse
self-publishing
settings
Shiloh
Short Stories
Silliness
slander
Slavery
small world
Smile of the Day
snow, living in the south
social media
software
software disasters
South Carolina
Speechless!
sports
Spring
story arc
Substitutes
Success
summer
Synopsis
Taking a Break
Taxes
Thank You
the difficulties of blogging
The Gideonites
Theme
Tongue-in-cheek
Traditions
trailer
Travelog
trilogies
trolls
Tweet
Twitter
Upcoming Events
using commas
Vacation
vacation photos
Valentine
video
Visitor
vocabulary
Volunteering
voting
warnings
weather
weather trauma
website
word counts
Word-of-Mouth
Words
Words of Warning
Writer Beware!
Writer's Block
Writing Advice
Writing as Career
writing process

Archives

December 2017
November 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010

powered by

"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Don't Root Through Grandma's Attic

Actually, my real advice here is "Don't go rooting around in Grandma's attic until you know enough about what you might find to recognize it when it falls into your lap." 

My own  encounter with the treasures my Grandmother preserved was a horrible disaster, although I did not realize it at the time.  Flash back to a by-gone century: I was about 19 or 20, home from college for the summer and bored silly. My mother happened to mention that she needed to clean out the attic, and I thought I'd take a look around before she did so.

In a trunk of things she had kept after my grandmother died, I found some amazing old clothes, a beaded evening bag worthy of a Charleston flapper, a couple of Kewpie dolls, and a mysterious white box tied with string.   Inside the box, carefully protected from the rest of the objects in the trunk, were items for which I could see no obvious value.  (Remember, I was young, stupid, and not yet a history buff.) Three yellow and crumbling newspapers lay on top. All were from Beaver, Pennsylvania -- one dated November 23, 1827; one dated December 15, 1841; the other dated January 21, 1846.  None seemed to contain anything other than local news, and I didn't spot any familiar names, although each had a handwritten name at the top.

Among the other unexplainable objects were an undated obituary, a red ribbon tied to a blackened medal of some sort, with no discernible legend, a piece of tattered and unraveling gold fringe, a newspaper clipping about a WWI soldier in France, and a single daguerreotype of another soldier. All the other items in the box were letters from people I had never heard of.  Each had its own envelope, although the stamps of each had been cut out.  

"Odd," I thought, shaking my head at the foibles of old folks who saved such trivial items. I carelessly dropped the whole lot back into the trunk and went downstairs.  "Nothing important that I might want," I reported.  

Now we fast-forward some twenty years.  After my mother's death, I was left to clean out her house.  Many of the items I had seen in the attic were gone by then, but I did find the little white box and stuffed it into the parcel of photos I was keeping.  The medal, the piece of fringe, and the daguerreotype were not to be found.  By then I was a history graduate student, and I began to sift Grandma's treasures with a more educated eye.  

I was most excited about a  bundle of eight letters, all written during the Civil War. I had been looking for a research project for my American history seminar, and they seemed to hold great promise.  And so they were.  It took years of reading and researching, but they eventually provided the structure for my book, A Scratch with the Rebels, which tells the story of my great uncle, Sgt. James McCaskey, a Union soldier who longed to see military action and died during his first battle.  You can read about the book elsewhere on this website. 

But what about the rest of the items in Grandma's attic?  Well, a few of them helped me with some genealogical research in building Grandma's family tree.  I still have not figured out the importance of the newspapers, and their condition continues to deteriorate.  There were a few other items that I did not even remember from my first exploration -- a poem, the front of a greeting card, a couple of pages from a child's book. But most of all, I regret the loss of the items I did not recognize and preserve.  

These are the items that fell into my lap and then slipped through my fingers into oblivion because I did not know what I was looking at. The medal?  I think it came from WWI and had been awarded to my mother's cousin, the subject of the newspaper clipping.  The fringe?  Probably, although I cannot say for certain, a remnant of one of the battle flags of the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment.  And the daguerreotype? Almost certainly the only photograph ever taken of James McCaskey in his Civil War uniform.  

History doesn't come to you neatly packed and labeled with its level of importance. It may be dirty, wrinkled, or crumbling from age.  What about you?  Have trivial items you found turned out to be among the most important for your research?