From the Cigar Box

In amongst all the personal family items I've inherited over the years is a cigar box that had been packed, mostly by my grandmother, with various mementos. I thought I'd start scanning some of these item and sharing them as part of the column I write for the Haskell Family Association's family history publication, the Haskell Journal. Since printed copies of the journal have limitations on size, I am also placing the images here on the web in their full size.

Haskell Journal, Issue 94, November 2014
Final entry

I have mentioned my Aunt Gwendolyn Haskell before in this segment, but the topic has less to do with her this time and more to do with the historical references that can often be found in mundane places. One of the items that my Grandmother Carrie held onto from the time Gwendolyn passed away in 1965 until her own death in 1989 was Gwendolyn's diary. It remained unopened until well after it passed into my hands(around 2000). Sometime in the mid-2000s, as I was getting more involved in researching my family history, I made the decision to cut the leather strap that fed into the lock and see what was contained inside. The diary is of the multiyear type, where the days are printed and the author fills in the year as they make their entries. It appears that Gwendolyn received the diary sometime near the end of 1938, as the first entry in it is from January 1, 1939. Perhaps it was a Christmas gift for the Freshman college student? After all, the leather cover is dyed University of Maine blue. Most of the entries are what would be considered "typical entries" from a young woman away from home for the first time, concerns about classes, which professors were liked or disliked, going to the movies with friends, etc. But as I was reading through the diary one entry jumped out at me, on September 1, 1939 Gwendolyn had written above her typical entry about babysitting in the afternoon and going to the movies that night what seems to be a three word afterthought "Germany invaded Poland". the event which many regard as the beginning of World War II. It's the only mention of the war that I have found in the diary, which goes through 1942, although the entries start getting much more infrequent after the spring of 1941. I wish I could ask her why that event and no other, not even December 7, 1941, was something that struck her enough to be written down, but it's just going to have to remain a mystery.

Haskell Journal, Issue 93, June 2014
As I imagine many fathers and sons do, one of the topics that me and my father, Louis Gleason Haskell, talked about and bonded over was cars and in particular that first vehicle you bought for yourself. In my case it was a beat up 1967 Dodge Dart that I got in 1985 while still in high school so I could drive back and forth to my McDonald's job. Dad's first car was bought when he was a bit older but the vehicle was relatively quite a bit newer. He was 23 when he got himself a 1949 Ford and he was enamored of it enough that he kept the owners guide for it around long enough that it ended up in my grandmother memento box. The owners guide is a pamphlet designed like a foldout map that when unfolded measures 24" x 27" and contains information on everything from "Every Day Care" to "Emergency Service and Troubleshooting" and more. It also includes diagrams of both the motor and body along with instructions for some of the more common maintenance items. The "tip" I found the most amusing was to thaw a frozen door lock by using a match to heat the key, reheating and reinserting until the lock gave way. The entire brochure is in color and while I couldn't reproduce the entire thing here given space constraints I thought the cover and a little example of the content would be of interest. The accompanying photo of my father was taken in 1952, sitting in the drivers seat of his "pride & joy", unfortunately neither the car nor his fashionable duck sweater survived the years to be passed on to my hands.

Haskell Journal, Issue 92, February 2014
I've noticed that many of the items contained in the cigar box relate to my Aunt Gwendolyn. Some of the items are what you might typically expect to be kept over the decades, for example her baby book, which this image is scanned from. But, there are other items which seem a little less significant, perhaps even surprising, at first glance. Mementos like the other two items I've scanned for this issue's column: Gwendolyn's "Certificate of Membership", presented to her when she was 17 by the Lincoln Methodist Church, a church that her father Herbert was the treasurer for over the course of some 25 years, and the program from the University of Maine's 1942 Junior Day Assembly, which Gwendolyn was attending. Given some thought their preservation becomes less surprising, Gwendolywn was my grandmother Carrie's only daughter and I think her relatively early death, at the age of 44, made it especially important to Gram that she hold onto those little mementos that often get shuffled away over time. While these items on their own don't seem to have a huge significance, I think their preservation speaks volumes about the emotion that a mother feels for a child lost too soon.   

Haskell Journal, Issue 91, November 2013
Given the rush to winter we seem to currently be experiencing up here, I thought this month's Cigar Box would be a good opportunity to take one last look at a Maine summer, 1930s style. This postcard was sent to my Aunt Gwendolyn Haskell by her parents, Herbert & Carrie, in October of 1938. That would have been Gwendolyn first year at the University of Maine, which she graduated from with a B.S. in English in 1942, Herbert had graduated UMaine with a Law Degree in 1917. Despite its oceanfront view of Old Orchard Beach in southern Maine, the card was sent from my grandparents home in the northern Maine town of Lincoln and isn't a report of some idyllic vacation. But, rather the mundane business of a mother letting her daughter know that a lamp globe has been purchased to replace Gwendolyn's broken one, but the bulb will need to purchased in Orono and brought back when she returns home for October break. A final observation that I made is that Gwendolyn's Orono address, 32 College Road(now Avenue) is one that I have driven past countless times since my own matriculation at UMaine began in 1986, followed by some 25 years of various contracted work assignments on campus.

Haskell Journal, Issue 90, July 2013
For this visit to the cigar box I've gone back in time to World War I. This 1918 "Torch of Liberty" thrift card belonged to my Great Aunt Ida Mae Haskell, then a 16-year old girl attending Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, Maine while her brother Donald, born in 1898,
was in Europe fighting in "The Great War". Two of Donald's letters home from France to his mother Margaret, written in March of 1918, were published in issue 53 of the "Haskell Journal", Spring 2000. This thrift card is an especially interesting item to me, mostly because while I was familiar with the concept of War Bonds, this was the first time I had encountered what seems, from both the smaller amounts of money required and the motivational sayings in each stamp square, to be a program designed specifically for younger people to contribute to the war effort. And speaking of those sayings, if anybody knows what "many a little make a mickle" means, please explain it to me! Ida Mae only managed to purchase two stamps for this book, but for a sixteen year old in 1918 rural Maine, that 50 cents would represent a sizable amount of money.

Haskell Journal, Issue 89, February 2013
I realize I run the risk of being repetitive, as my last "Cigar Box" entry was also a holiday card, but this item was brought to the forefront of my mind by our family trip to Washington, D.C. this past December. One of our many stops was at the Museum of American History and they had a display of three-dimensional, "pop-up" style of greeting cards from the early to mid 1900's very similar to this one. This one was sent to my Aunt Gwendolyn Haskell from "Aunt Peggy", her maternal aunt whose full name was Addie Mae (Pinkham) Chambers. The card was made in Germany and given that Gwendolyn was born in 1921, I would imagine the card dates from the late 1920's to the mid 1930's. The scan doesn't really do it justice, but the detail is quite impressive. It stands about 8.5 inches tall, is 5 inches wide and when unfolded has a depth of nearly 3 inches, comprised of four layers. In one of those quirks of family history, I never got to meet Aunt Gwendolyn, as she passed away young, dying of cancer in 1965 three years before I was born. But, I did enjoy many visits with my great Aunt Peggy as she lived until 1985, passing away just two weeks short of her 89th birthday.

Haskell Journal, Issue 88, November 2012
I don’t mean to rush into the holiday season, but since this is the final Journal for 2012, I wanted to share this Christmas card that my Grandfather Herbert Vaughn Haskell gave to my Grandmother Carrie. To be honest, this item is one that didn’t “jump out” at me like some of the other mementos did the first time I rifled through the cigar box years ago, that changed for me when my father explained the significance of this simple little card.
It turns out that this was the last Christmas card that Herbert gave Gram before he passed away at the age of fifty-one in 1947, nearly twenty-one years before I was born. As you can see, the card is not overly sentimental, signed simply “Herbert” but I suspect that my grandparents had a deep love for each other, as she never remarried and spent the next forty-two years living in the house that she & Herbert had started their family in on Lee Street in Lincoln.

Haskell Journal, Issue 87, July 2012
There may be a few HFA members that remember using this column’s scan, a World War II Fuel Oil ration book that belonged to my Great Aunt Ida Mae Haskell(1902-1992). Ida must have followed the “8 Easy Ways to Save Oil” tips pretty closely, because along with the 18 gallons of stamps you can see in the scan there are stamps for another 144 gallons still left in the book. The tips seem pretty useful even today, excepting number 3 that suggests only leaving your windows open “only an inch or so” in the winter, that might be frowned upon these days.