But upon opening the box we found ourselves stepping back in time to an era that we only saw in faded photographs and Super 8 film strips. The collection spanned over 50 years and each little book held a story--stories we would never learn of, but could only imagine.
This picture only holds a few dozen matchbooks. The box contains several hundred.
So today I finally pulled them out and poured them into some glass containers to serve as book ends on our new book shelf. (One day I'd like to line them all up side by side and frame them in a large piece to hang on my wall.)
When I scan the many names of places my father-in-law has visited over the last 60 years I smile at how accurately they reflect who he is and was:
- obviously a smoker...during a generation when smoking was just the social thing you did and everyone thought it profitable to spend a little money on matchbook advertising.
- a lover of a good porterhouse steak served up in a bustling food joint where the service was excellent and the waitress automatically brought you a strong cup of coffee.
- a frequent visitor to Nevada...to the south side of Lake Tahoe and also to Reno...where the Nugget and Harrahs welcomed folk to cheap rooms, all night gambling, and endless food buffets. (Where you could stuff a roll of quarters into your kid's hands and leave them at the basement arcade--and not even worry once of the possibilities that they might not be there when you got back.)
As I comb through the hundreds of places he has been (places that are no longer standing) I think back to an era that is long gone yet somehow still lives on in my father-in-law. (If you knew him, you'd definitely agree with me.) I know if he could, he would eagerly go back to a time where middle class Americans stopped at Pop's Oasis Motel for a good meal, clean bed, and the kids could swim in the shallow pool without an ounce of sun screen on. A time when you remembered the steak you had at the Famous Pioneer Club, or the poker hand you won at the Rainbow Club. A time when you met your friends every weekend at the local food joint, smoked a cigarette together, offered a match to a stranger. A time when family and friends got a long just fine without cell phones and Twitter, Facebook and My Space.
I am glad I did not toss the matchbook collection. The nostalgia I feel when I look at them is enough to make me want to go back in time...for a little while...until I had enough of choking on the cigarette smoke. :)