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A closet — a treasure trove of history

March 4, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

It was a yellow manila envelope marked "Janice," something I wasn't really expecting to uncover in a recent effort to help my mother tackle a few long overdue cleaning projects.

But there it was, tucked in a closet, a place that can be a treasure trove of history.

Here I thought the afternoon was going to be nothing more than a search-and-destroy, dust-and-sweep, get-'er-done old bedroom cleaning project, but I was wrong.

Before I made very much progress at all, there was the yellow manilla envelope marked "Janice," just waiting to be opened and appreciated.

So I put "progress" on hold.

Satisfying my curiosity took priority.

True to my mother's frugality as one who lived through the Depression, the envelope was not a new envelope, of course. It was a recycled one, an envelope that had once brought her American Legion auxiliary news a couple decades ago.

It was stuffed with stuff.

I had to laugh at the first thing I pulled out of the envelope - my baby picture from Ohio Valley Hospital, 1958. Girl Hout. Seven pounds, 11 ounces. The look on my face speaks volumes - I don't like this world. It reaffirmed my contentment in being on the other side of the lens these days.

The picture was in a little cardboard frame inside a Cypress Twig, Ohio Valley Hospital, envelope. To reorder, it suggests contacting a member of the Cypress Twig or a nurse or call "AT 2-1061." Interesting phone number.

There also was the bill for my mother's one-week luxury stay in the hospital, apparently a normal time for a new mother to be kept. A roll of the drum, please - $190. Wow.

There were several "welcome baby" cards of congratulations in this envelope, including an especially cute one my maternal grandparents had sent. And there was a card from a bouquet of flowers from Mingo Flower Shop, phone KE 5-1052, courtesy of the shop owners, my Uncle Red and Aunt Maxine.

A postcard sent from Jacksonville, Fla., in January 1961 came from my mother to me as a 3-year-old - the address a simple RD 1, Richmond, Ohio.

"Dear Janice," it started. "I couldn't forget you even if you can't read this. We'll stick it in your scrapbook. Hope you're not leading Aunt Betty on too merry a chase. Love, Mother."

My first thought was how could she have left me behind for a trip to Florida? My next thought was "duh." I was the youngest of five kids. I would call that a save-her-sanity, self-preservation mission.

The envelope contained many examples of childhood artwork, evidence that I would have to pursue other avenues in order to support myself.

I did not color within the lines - does that make me a radical, one refusing to conform to the norm? - and I had no real flair for drawing cats, monkeys and witches.

There are envelopes with locks of my hair, report cards and homemade Mother's Day cards.

Some things about me haven't changed, I decided.

There's a letter I wrote to my mother when she was in a Pittsburgh hospital for a nasty arm break during the early 1960s. The letter reaffirms how food is central to happiness.

"Dear Mommy,

How are you feeling? The 15th Jody and Nita had a birthday and my class had a birthday party and Nita brought carker Jacks (my way of spelling Cracker Jacks, I guess) and bubble gum and Jody brought peanut butter cupcakes. Boy we sure had a ball!!"

And there's a letter to Santa - "please bring slippers, gloves, a stick horse and a cowboy hat."

Yee-haw to yellow manilla envelopes filled with history.

And happy trails to future closet cleaners.

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at

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