memories in leather

memories in leather

A Story by Marc Mccune

a stream of consciousness spills out, moving my mind from one thing to the next



stamped into the old leather in gold letters

a twelve by seventeen inch leather portfolio.

the reddish brown leather worn with age on the edges. The heavy metal zipper attached to canvas a little more light in color than the leather, starting to pull away as the dry rotted threads fail in places.

Unzipped, there are pouches on both sides of the portflio, as you lay it out flat on the table. The fabric of the fan-fold on one of the pouches had rotted, but had been cut away on the left and right sides, so that what remains is the leather covered card, that now acts more like a separater.

On the pouch is a sticker. A calendar actually. Showing all twelve months of the year 1973. That was two years after I had graduated high school. During that year, I was hitchhiking around the country, following Jesus. Funny, I never really saw Jesus as I was following him. Only his spokesman who led me and my brethren on a merry chase towards heaven. I never got there.

A smaller leather wallet, about four by eight inches when closed. A title imprinted on the front within a rectangle, embossed with gold script letters.

"Service Discharge Wallet

Inside, my father's World War II discharge papers. It has his enlistment record, training record, officers' names, record of furloughs, decorations, and other notes. I see that he lived at 7025-1/2 Fleury Way in Pittsburgh. He entered the Army Airforce on March 3, 1941. He spent time in Scotland, England, Morrocco, Algeria, Tunsia, Sardinia, Italy, Cosica, France, Germany and Austria. I read through the other papers, his honourable discharge. The subsistence allowance authorization notice, allowing him to receive vets benefits for four years. Ten dollars a month in assistance. I reason to myself that ten bucks went a lot further back in 1948, the year before my oldest sister was born.

There is the letter he received from the government in response to a request for a loan on the G.I. bill. A disappointing letter telling him that he was now on the waiting list.  1,885 ex G.I.s were ahead of him. The sad letter tells him that when more direct loan funds become available and when his number is reached, then they will send him an application form on how to apply for a direct loan. "Unfortunately, it is not possible to state when your name will be reached on the waiting list, blah, blah, blah". Dated Oct 1960.

I was in first grade then. We lived in the left side of a duplex on Broadway Avenue in Wellsville, Ohio. A white wood frame house on a superb tree lined avenue, with a park with fountains running down the middle, twin one-way roadways running in opposite directions on each side of the park. I recall the shade of the huge maple and buckeye trees. I've only seen buckeye trees in Ohio. Long broad leaves with nuts that are not edible. But I recall reading that deer eat them. Every kid in Wellsville has surely tasted a buckeye, quickly spewing out the bitter tasting nut. Bitter, like an acorn. But Indians ate acorns. They had a way of water curing the acorn, and then made acorn flour.

It was a few years later that we moved for the last time. My father had received his loan through the G.I. bill. He bought the old Wells home on Main street. It was a wonderland house for we five kids. Room to explore, lots of closets, four bedrooms, wonderful bathroom with an large, deep enameled cast iron bath tub with claw feet. I always thought they were turtle's feet.

The home had been built by John Wells, next to the old large Wells mansion next door. Our house was a brick two story, white washed, with a foundation of dark black stone. The stone was the original stone fence that surrounded the original Wellsville cemetery. That cemetery had been moved up to Spring hill, a couple of miles outside of town. Now the old walls remained and the house was built on that spot, using the walls as the foundation.

The first time I went into the back yard of our new house, I was hit with a realization "I know this place!" I remembered. It had been a few years before when we lived on Broadway, which was a few blocks away. My friends and I would play army, running through the ally ways, killing imaginary nazis. I remember sneaking up a short driveway in the ally and peering into a strange place. The lawn was overgrown, the grass looked to be a foot high, neglected. An old garage stood at the back of the yard, adjacent to the ally. On the far side of the yard, and up past the tall grass, stood an old, old house. I looked, wondered...and then turned back, chasing the other boys back down the ally, shooting pretend bullets from my cocked finger of my imaginary machine gun. At the time, little did I know...

We grew up. Mom and Dad divorced. My mom's boyfriend moved in and they got married, and we inherited his huge console stereo. Every night the parents went to the F.O.E. and we had dance parties, wearing the finish off of the hundred year old hardwood floor, smoking Kools out in the yard with crushed aspirin powder stuffed in the tips of the cigarettes.

A lifetime happened. In and out of my father's life. Mostly out. Seeing him on the fringes. Slo Gin at cast parties. Him, absentee from high school graduations. Being introduced to a succession of wives. Remembrances of him by the stuff that he'd left behind when the divorce had come and he was gone.

I cannot remember when I picked up this leather portfolio and the discharge wallet. I cannot recall the exact moment and circumstances. It must have been after my father's death. At the time when the funeral was over, and we siblings had to sift through his wreck of an apartment. Thick layers of dust over everything, in every room. Newspapers, empty scotch bottles and porno magazines strewn about. I knew I should stay and help with the sifting and tossing. I was pulled in two directions. A wife pulling one way, without the full realization of what was hidden under this dusty surface. And pulling the other way, the duty I knew I should be fulfilling as a son and brother.

And I left the ones whom all of this s**t would affect the most, to clean up after our dead father. To clean up much more than what you could see in that place of death where my father drank his life away. My siblings whose memories that were stirred up by this last act, much more instense, and so different than my light musings.

I sip my coffee, growing cold as I write. Thoughts of what I should have done, now too late. Looking back on this, with knowledge gleaned years after the fact. And now, too hard to pinpoint the thoughts that now run free in my mind. Too much of an effort to make them orderly.

© 2008 Marc McCune

© 2008 Marc Mccune

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My dad was also a WWII dad and I am glad I red this. Cherrie

Posted 14 Years Ago

OH!!! I am enchanted..... Thank you so much for the memories.



Posted 14 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on December 30, 2008


Marc Mccune
Marc Mccune

Hickory Hills, IL

writer/poet, musician/music aggregator, genealogist/historian, fossil hunter/vinyl record collector, reader/collector of ideas I Changed My Mind (blog) Instagram Tumblr facebook.. more..

old town old town

A Poem by Marc Mccune

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A Poem by Marc Mccune