A couple of years ago, I made a trip to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Tours of the old neighborhood are automatically part of my visits. My cousin Arlene wanted to tag along, so I picked her up one afternoon, and off we went for our nostalgia trip.
When Arlene was growing up, she lived with her family in the upstairs suite of a duplex on Galewood Drive, and our grandparents lived in the downstairs flat. We were taking photos of the house when someone came to the front door — and before we knew it, we were inside, giggling about the pocket doors in the master bedroom and the pushbutton light switches in the kitchen, and how the place hadn’t changed.
We asked the present occupant if he’d seen my uncle’s old Army Eisenhower jacket, and he remembered there were some old clothes hanging in the basement. After my cousin and I bumped into each other heading downstairs, we leafed through the clothes, but didn’t find the jacket. I happened to look around, and there in the corner was the back of an old kitchen stove. I walked over, looked at the front of it and called to Arlene, “I think I just found Grandma’s old stove!”
Arlene Walkusky helped rediscover her grandmother’s old stove.
We were astonished that it was still there. My grandparents moved from the house in the late 1940s or early ’50s. The stove had been in that little corner of the world for 50 years, and I wasn’t going to let it get away.
I returned the next day with my uncle, who said yes, the stove was his mother’s old Grand range. My brother-in-law arrived with his van, and after getting the occupant’s permission to take the stove, we managed to carry it up the steps and slide it into the back of the van. Today the stove sits in my niece’s home, which has the biggest basement I’ve ever seen. The icing on the cake was the fork we found under a burner, where it had been hiding all those years.
Digging for Relatives
In August 1992, I decided to visit a cemetery in Oxford, Mass. Several years earlier, my mother had brought me there to see relatives’ graves. So on this hot, rainy Saturday afternoon, I went to the cemetery to see what I could find. I brought a family tree chart for reference, but I couldn’t remember where the graves were. Two men were cutting grass, and 1 asked one of them if he knew where the Willey plot was. He didn’t answer, so I asked the second man. He came over, and I showed him my chart. Then, much to my surprise, he pointed to a name and said, “That’s me!” We reminisced for the next half-hour.
After my granddad passed away, my grandmother was left alone and, alas, with no insurance money. She searched and searched, but couldn’t find the papers that she was sure existed. Within a few months, she had to move in with her sister-in-law’s family. My grandmother had no money, but she did have a freezer full of meat that she could contribute to her host’s family dinners.
As time went by, the freezer was unloaded little by little. Meanwhile, my grandmother, a beautiful and generous woman in the most trying of times, prayed and worried about what she was going to do. But true to all happy endings, in the bottom of the freezer, wrapped securely against the elements of water and frost, were the insurance papers! Evidently, my granddad had worried about fire and theft — what better hiding place?