Treasures of a Different Sort

Recently, I was cleaning out my desk when I found a hardback book buried in the bottom of a drawer. It’s a special book, given to me when I was a teenager by an old friend’s mother. Even as a kid I loved to read, and my friend’s mom had an extensive library—a full wall in her basement taken up by custom-built bookcases. I loved looking at all the titles, and she was more than happy to let me borrow whatever I chose.

I was first attracted to The Gregory Hill because of its cover. I thought it looked like a good, spooky mystery. Turns out it wasn’t spooky, but was a good mystery. After reading it twice (several months apart), I looked for a copy of my own. But it was an old book and I didn’t have any luck.

When my friend’s mom got wind of my hunt, she gave me her copy. The book was in nice shape for an older title. She came into possession of The Gregory Hill in 1960 (noted on the inside cover), and passed it to me in 1976 or 1977. I’ve read it multiple times, and the constant wear eventually took its toll. This book is 57 years old. Don’t ask me why I used masking tape to hold it together back in the day. That’s probably all I had at the time, and since it has been taped up for decades, I’ve left it that way. It may look a mess, but I guarantee this is a favored book I would never part with.

The second book is an indie book—published waaaaay before indie books existed. My dad was in the Army Signal Corps, stationed in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He experienced Burma, India and the Orient. When he was twenty-four, he wrote The Yanks Came, a short fifty page recollection of events during his time there. From the preface (below) he says he published it so that the other soldiers in his company would have a record of what took place. My dad always liked dabbling with words (which is where I inherited my love of writing), but his true passion was art—oil paints, pastels and charcoal. Even so, he published this book and saw that everyone in his company received a copy.

Typeset author's preface page of an old journal from 1946

The Preface of The Yanks Came

My father passed away from cancer when I was thirteen. He was in his fifties then (I was a “late in life” baby), but I treasure the fact that I still have a battered copy of The Yanks Came—one of only two copies in my family. Maybe, somewhere “out there” others copies still exist, tucked away in attic trunks or drawers. Fortunately, the pages inside my copy are in great condition. Only the cover has become worn. Not too shabby considering this book is 71 years old! Take a look…

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And you know what’s even better? I have the original draft of the The Yanks Came. Yep. Talk about a treasure! The pages are tucked away in an old binder. The inside cover page came to me damaged, but otherwise the draft is well preserved. Take a look. The two inside shots are especially interesting.

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Did you note the date on that piece of loose-leaf? September 28th, 1945!! This is something I really treasure. I had goose bumps writing this post.

History. Family. Memories.

—and a love of the written word that echoes through time.

53 thoughts on “Treasures of a Different Sort

    • Thanks for such a great comment, Jacquie. I’ve never actually done anything other than store the binder in a box along with a bunch of old photos and whatnot, but now that they’re getting older, maybe I should start thinking about placing the pages in some type of protector!

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  1. Mae, these are priceless treasures. I’ve learned we have something else in common. My father passed away when I was 21 and I was also a late in life baby. He was 51 when I was born. Thanks for sharing your treasure with us today.

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    • I remember a post when you talked about your father and him passing away when you were young, but I didn’t realize you were a late in life baby too. It’s wonderful we have such great memories and treasures to remind us of them. And 51? That was definitely a life changer. My dad was 40 when I was born.

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      • My parents were married ten years before their first child (my older brother and only sibling) was born. Dad was 39. Twelve years later, I came along. They didn’t plan it that way, but it happened. The story goes that Daddy said he’d never live long enough to see my brother grow up. When I came along he was sure he wouldn’t live to see me grown. But he did. Wished I’d had more years with him, but I treasure the ones I do have.

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      • Joan, that’s beautiful. I was unplanned too with three siblings before me . My oldest sister is ten years older. I think ( as late in life babies) we had a different relationship with our parents than our younger siblings but it was no less special.

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    • Thanks for visiting, Julie. The Gregory Hill is so special it’s never even been on my bookcase but always in my desk. And I’ve got several pieces of my dad’s writing he did in his twenties. Most are unfinished pieces but there are 1 or 2 short stories, all on the original bond.

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  2. I wonder if you realise the true value of your father’s book, Mae. The fathers of my contemporaries fought in WWII and were extremely reticent to talk about their war experiences. I remember feeling cheated because I didn’t understand that they did not want to relive those painful memories. I’d say your dad was the exception and has passed along a treasure. Thanks for sharing this family history.

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    • I’ve heard that a lot about the men who fought in WWII, John, and my dad was the same way. He wrote the book as a journal during his time there, and published it years before he met my mother. He never spoke about it afterward no matter how much my sisters, brother and I asked about what he did. To this we still don’t know. All we have is what is recorded in the book and that is mostly general accounts….not much about him or his experiences. Not even my mother knew. I think it is something inherent with that generation.Even so, I do treasure what I have. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

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      • Ok, I see now. Even so, you have some information. My parents rarely talked about their childhood or high school years – but Anne and I spoke freely about our early years to our kids. You’re right – it might be generational. But soldiers of any nation are close-lipped about their combat experiences.

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      • So true, John. And so nice that you and your wife shared your years with your children. I know a lot about my mom’s younger years, but my dad’s (even before the service) are a bit of a mystery!

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  3. How beautiful! Having such awesome legacies, Mae!
    Can’t you reprint somehow your dad’s book?
    And I think you should give a copy, from the new reprint, to one of the military museums you have in the States.

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    • Wow, that’s an excellent idea, Carmen. I never thought of that before, but I could redo it and publish it. It would take a lot of work but it’s something I might have to consider. I really like that idea. Thank you! 🙂

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  4. They have a value beyond price, these old things, don’t they? Imagine the fingers that have clasped that cover, the hours spent enraptured by the prose, the joys and heartbreaks they have seen? Incidentally, your Dad definitely had a film star look about him. Alan Ladd, only higher!

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    • Ok, now don’t laugh, but I had to look up Alan Ladd. 😀 Love that compliment about my dad. I can see a resemblance.
      And how well you put into words the value held in old treasures like these. Poetry, Frederick!

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  5. Wow, your dad was a hottie! Mine wasn’t too shabby either:) My mom had a love for poetry and wrote out all of her favorites and put them in a notebook. I have that on my bookshelf, along with two of her favorite books: Betty Zane by Zane Grey and The Nine Brides and Granny Hite by Neill C. Wilson. When I look at them, I think of her.

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    • That is a great story, Judi! I’m sure you treasure that notebook and those books. My dad had a love for the written word and it’s clear your mom did too. He loved to read, though he read mostly nonfiction. My mom was the novel guru. We were constantly trading books right up until when she passed away. And I had to smile about the hottie comment, LOL!

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    • So true, Lauralynn. I hope someone in the family still has your grandma’s poems. There’s such a sense of history in all of these things too.
      Lovely to see you here and hope all is going well! 🙂

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  6. Oh! These ARE treasures. You’re so very fortunate. My cousin has a book published by our church that has our family history in it from way back in the late 1800s-early 1900s. Wish I could get my hands on a copy.

    Thanks for sharing about your dad. I got goosebumps, too.

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    • That copy of that book would be wonderful to have, Susan. I hope you can get a copy from your cousin. And how interesting that your church published it. I’m guessing your family history must have factored strongly in connection with them. I love hearing things like this. We’re sharing goosebumps!

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      • It’s funny to think about those connections. My grandmother’s family donated land for the Methodist Church and my grandfather’s family donated land for the Baptist Church. There was a longstanding feud between the families as to who was right and who was wrong. I went to church with both my grandparents on different days. Grandfather died first, so he’s buried at the Methodist Church. There are books on both the churches histories, and the churches were on opposite ends of my grandparent’s property. Beach Springs Baptist and Hopewell Methodist. I’ll probably be cremated and have my ashes spread at both and a plaque installed that has all my married names on it just to make it confusing and embarrassing: Susan Carol Koone Hutto Schultz Nicholls

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      • Wow, now that is some history, girlfriend! How cool that your family factored so strongly into the foundation and growth of these churches. And may I just say that you have a singularly amazing name 😀

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  7. What awesome treasures these are indeed! And how wonderful of you to recognize them as such. Too often, I see people who have had family treasures handed down to them, only to see if they can sell them for some temporary monetary gain. Do keep these close to your heart and choose carefully when you pass them on.

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    • So true, Stanalei. It’s very sad when people sell treasures like these. I’m kind of the “historian” and “keeper of the past” in my family so I have a huge collection of old documents, photos and keepsakes. Fortunately, there is someone in the next generation who has a strong appreciation of family and history as well. I would hate to think of these treasures as lost or discarded.

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  8. I agree that books are treasures. It’s wonderful that you have two copies of your dad’s book and that you both shared a love of the written word. Those books must be so precious!

    I’m sure your dad would be really proud about how accomplished you are at writing your own novels.

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    • Thank you for those lovely thoughts, Lizzie. My dad and my mom were so supportive of my writing and encouraging me to follow that dream. I do like to think they’re both smiling down happy with what I’ve achieved. 🙂

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  9. Oh my goodness, Mae! What amazing treasures – especially the book your dad wrote and published along with the original manuscript. What a family legacy to preserve! Your post gave me goosebumps.

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  10. Wow, what a beautiful story Mae and such a treasured memory from your father. I lost my mum two years ago to cancer and I can empathise although I am much older than your thirteen year old self. As you know I’m currently studying the military history of a local military hospital that stood for 100 years and saw many wars. It’s amazing what these men went through and the things they just accepted in order that we can have our freedom. It’s something that should never be forgotten.

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  11. I have goosebumps too! Such a cherished piece of family history. Your dad was quite a man, apparently. A cutie, too, in his day. 😉 I have something similar from my mother. Not a book, but a school paper, several pages long, from when she was first diagnosed with cancer. The paper is entitled, Death and Dying. When my mother was 50 she went back to finish college. I, too, was a late-in-life baby, which is why I lost my parents so young. You’re so lucky to have your father’s memories bound in a book. {{{{hugs}}}}

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    • Sue, you’re mom must have been very special to go back to college at 50. That is fantastic! And cancer is such a wretched disease. I didn’t realize you were a late in life baby, too. For me, I lost my father earlier but my mother lived a long healthy life and passed away at 89. Cherish those treasures you have and many thanks for visiting. Sending {{{hugs}}} back your way!! 🙂

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