Collectors have recently begun to value the extremely long, framed pictures of various groups from around the 1910s to 1950s. They sell for a pretty good price now. I became interested in these when remembering that there was one like that of my father’s military unit rolled up in my parents’ attic, back home in Kentucky. My father had been in the National Guard when his unit was called up for the Korean War. He went through boot camp at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He called his parents to bring down his girl friend so he could marry her. My mother was a pretty young lady that my father had been dating and first met when he winked at her during a service at the local First Baptist Church. They were married and my father left for Korea shortly afterwards. Before leaving for war, there was a picture made of my father’s Fort Bragg Unit lined up on long bleachers. After my father’s safe return home from the war, I was born exactly nine months later.
During a trip home to stay with my parents, I climbed into their attic to see if I could find the picture of my father’s unit. I brought the old, long, rolled up picture down, discovering that the rubber band that had been around it had melted and stuck to the outside of the picture. After carefully removing the melted rubber, I slowly rolled the fragile picture out to see that it was a complete wreck, having been stored in the attic for almost 50 years. It was almost crumbling apart in my hands, very yellow with age and ripped in several places. I could not imagine how it could be saved, so, regretfully, I rolled it up again and placed it back in their attic.
I continued running across these old military units pictures at flea markets and antique shops. I enjoyed studying them, while wishing I had tried to save my father’s picture years before it had started to deteriorate. I have to admit that this kept eating at me. During the next visit at my parent’s house, I was taking a drive to a local state park. I went around their town square and then, passing the old Health Department building, I noticed quite an array of junk on its steps. I circled the block, so I could get a better view. The building appeared to have been turned into a junk shop. Slowly driving by, I decided it was not worth a stop, so I continued on to the park. Upon returning back to town, my car pulled into the junk shop and forced me inside. I toured the first three or so rooms filled with an array of junk without seeing anything of interest.
The back of the building was filled with used mattresses, clothing, and other discards. I was walking slowly back through to leave when I spotted a long, framed picture under a table in a room that I had previously been through. I walked in and pulled the picture out from under the table. It was a picture of a military unit, and I saw my father standing in the front row. The picture was the same as the one in my parents’ attic and was in perfect condition. With shaking hands, I asked the owner how much she wanted for it. “Give me five dollars,” was her answer. I would have gladly paid her many times that.
The picture in its old, dark oak frame proudly hangs in my entrance hall now. My father is a fine looking young man in his uniform. When I think about how few copies of this one picture were made and the odds of me ever finding one to purchase, it blows me away thinking that I almost didn’t spot it under the table. I knew it was meant to be when, during my next visit to my parents, I drove back to the junk shop in the old Health Department building and saw it had burned to the ground.
The above non-fiction story was published in 2009 in a state history book containing local history stories and folklore with contributions from descendants of that state's pioneers. I had this and another story published in it. I have been doing genealogy and local history research for approximately twenty-five years and it is an addiction that I will gladly have until my dying days.