The Glory of a Box

 This is a piece I wrote in  April 2004 to commemorate the restoration of my mother’s Glory Box. It is long, so I will post it  in two parts. My parents were married in 1948 so the Glory Box pre dates that year.

A hope chest, dowry chest, cedar chest, or glory box is a chest used to collect items such as clothing and household linen, by unmarried young women in anticipation of married life. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope_chest)

The box has been in my uncle’s garage for 20 years, or maybe it’s 30. No one is sure. No one can remember exactly how it came to be there. I remember it in the hallway at Grandad’s house at New Brighton. It was warm and golden like honey, A touch of honey yetand inside there was a pair of hand-knitted gloves, all sunshine-yellow mixed up with a touch of custard. It was once Mum’s glory box. Mum says she is sure there’s no glory in it now. She can’t even remember what’s in the box. My uncle says ‘blankets and coins’. Dad says ‘rubbish’.

My uncle is cleaning out his garage, so we tackle the box. It’s hidden under  cartons and suitcases. The lock is broken. The top is bent. There’s a hole in the side from my cousin’s skateboarding-in-the-garage days. But it has survived the flooding.

Inside the box, there are blankets and coins. My uncle says the coins are not worth a penny. Are they Mum’s? No one is sure, but we keep them anyway. Most of the blankets are moth-eaten, fit only for rubbish. As are Nana’s two, tiny, moth-reduced cardigans. Was she really so small?  The mohair rug from her house at Sumner is musty but there’s not a moth bite in it. The back says,” This rug will be replaced if attacked by moth”. Did they really intend a more than 60 year guarantee?

Brown mohair ageing in place

Brown mohair ageing in place

We find towels and tarnished silver-plated forks. They’re probably Nana’s. Who put them in the box, and when? We find Pop’s starched white collars, size 17, at least a dozen. His cigarette holder with the little gold rim is in the box too. I remember the cigarettes, but not the holder.  We find their passports, but, hey, I say, why is Nana, ‘Maude’, with an e? She was always Maud without an e. I remember that. My uncle goes upstairs and checks her birth certificate. The passport is wrong.  How did that happen? No one knows.

The box is musty. I have to wear a mask to avoid the smell. The photos are particularly musty. There are dozens of them. Some are from Fiji days, others are older. Most of them are unlabeled. Dad says, this is such and such, and my uncle says, this is so and so.  Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don’t. Fanny, the Harewood grandmother, and her dog, Rajar, are easily identified. Harewood Grandmother 1935They are not so sure about their Dunedin grandmother. Is that really her? She looks too young to be the mother of grown-up daughters. They’re undecided.  Dad says this is a portrait of Aunty Lily, Frank’s Lily, from Canada. My uncle says not. He says it’s one of their father’s sisters; maybe Sissy, maybe Mary.  She looks like my sister, so maybe my uncle is right. But Dad is sure it is Lily; the one with tales of sledding across the snows of Canada.

Is this Lily?

Is this Lily?

The brothers agree that this one is Teddy.

Teddy, of the silver pocket watch, who died at Gallipoli. There’s no label on the photo, just an address, but they know it’s Teddy. Teddy, who died years before either of them was born.

There is a photo of Dad as a baby. It’s the only one of the photos still in a frame. It isn’t labeled but there’s no mistaking Dad.

A bonny babe

A bonny babe

To be continued………

© silkannthreades

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51 thoughts on “The Glory of a Box

  1. shoreacres

    This truly was wonderful. I’ve never heard the expression “glory box.” Hope chest, yes, but our cedar chest wasn’t that, precisely. It was just a place to keep special family things. I’ve been thinking of other things I found that I didn’t mention in my post, like my mother’s hand-crocheted Christening gown, and some embroidered tea towels my grandmother made, with some of her favorite recipes embroidered right on them. She gave them to Mom when she and Dad married.

    I do regret not having more photos. The ones you’ve shown here are wonderful.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Glory Box or Hope Chest, by whatever name they are known, they seem eventually to end up as storage units for all sorts of strange and wonderful things. Did your mother’s hand-crocheted Christening gown find a new home? The embroidered tea towels must have been beautiful, but surely too lovely for anything but decorating a table or kitchen.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    a good way to get rid of the musty smell, put white vinegar in a plastic container with a lid on, and punch holes in it, and leave in the box, i am guessing with nothing in it of course, and this should take away the smell, or just a plain glass bowl, being careful when you place it in and get it out…..going to try this on a glory box i have………and i loved your story 🙂

    Reply
  3. Sheryl

    I love the way you wonderfully describe the discussion your father and his brother about who is in the pictures. I can almost picture them having a lively discussion while carefully pondering over each photo.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, it is fascinating that we have such different memories of events and people. Indeed, the brothers probably wouldn’t agree on my interpretation of their discussions! Your blog also grapples with these questions of not ‘knowing’ exactly what old documents and diaries and photos mean.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Isn’t she lovely? She died long before I was born but my father speaks very fondly of her, his grandmother. She lived on a small farm and had a great rapport with dogs apparently. Made good parsnip wine as well 🙂

      Reply
  4. lagottocattleya

    What wonders you found in that box! I have two such boxes in my house. One very old – it belonged to my husband’s great grandmother and it is made of heavy oak.The other one was made for me. But not for the same reason as the older one. When I was young this was merely a fun thing to have, but the box is modelled on the old ones. The really old box – some hundred years – is still in use here. I store linen and blankets in it. And pillows. it is very big and I do not know how we got it upstairs. In fact it’s so big you can lie down inside – in your full length.

    Wonderful post – thank you for sharing! Take good care of those treasures you found inside.

    Reply
  5. utesmile

    Isn’t it amazing how the women look always beautiful in those old photos, and I mean really beautiful. It is great to find old things , puzzle together and enjoy some family history!
    Tell us more!

    Reply
  6. Mrs. P

    What fun! An adventure with mystery connected to it. I hope, after almost ten years have passed, that you have been able to answer some of the questions you posed.

    Reply
  7. Clanmother

    I came back to read this twice, because it brought back many memories. When I was young, my family would go to estate auctions. I always wanted to find a wooden truck that held lost love letters or a diary that would come from the past. When I visited my grandparents, I would go through their attic. My grandmother would have a slip of paper that would describe each article. We now live in a throwaway or giveaway world which does not treasure accumulation. Even our photos are digitized. We need to establish new traditions in a technological age. I have a feeling that our grandchildren will be looking over our old “blog sites” A great post as always. Looking forward to Part II.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Your words take me back to your series on Pirates and how we are drawn to seek the treasure in the box. Our digital ‘boxes’ are getting smaller and smaller but we still love to keep our treasures in a box. Our fascination with a box begins very early; do you remember that wonderful, and still popular, children’s toy , the posting box with the different shaped slots cut in to it for the different shaped blocks. Part 2 coming soon. As always, so lovely to have your comments and thoughts.

      Reply
  8. tiny lessons blog

    Very interesting reading! Yes, you are right in that in Sweden, and in fact all the Nordic countries, had the tradition to prepare these boxes for brides-to-be, but as many other traditions this has died quite a while ago…

    Reply
  9. Sheryl @ Flowery Prose

    So wonderful to have a collection of family treasures like this. It’s funny how time and perspective changes things, isn’t it? – how some things are lost and forgotten and others still feel so vivid and important. Everyone remembers things differently.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, the vagaries of memories! I used to think it was very important to have accurate records and label photos etc but now I am leaning towards the idea that history is more fun with mysteries and unknowns.

      Reply
  10. Tracy Rhynas

    I love the old photos, there’s something special about black and white photos. I had a lovely time recently in England looking through pictires I had never seen before – including one of my great grandfather, who was a Punch and Judy entertainer of all things, it was the first photo I have ever seen of him. Fascinating!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I can imagine your pleasure looking through those old family pictures. A Punch and Judy entertainer in the family; amazing! I remember making my own papier mache Punch and Judy puppets when I was young. Is your holiday over?

      Reply
      1. Tracy Rhynas

        Yes, unfortunately my holiday is over – short and sweet! We still have some of my great grandfathers hand carved Punch and Judy puppet heads too – a rather scary Crocodile and Mr Punch I think. Next time I am back home we will be delving further into the dark cupboards and digging those out too!

        Reply
        1. Tracy Rhynas

          He did, and in that one photo I have of him, he actually is holding one of the heads – he has an apron on and it looks like he was busy working on it. He was also a qualified cobbler.

        2. Gallivanta Post author

          A very handy man! Perhaps you have inherited some of your skills from him; your love of working with tools and creating with your hands.

  11. Forest So Green

    My mother had one of these boxes. I never heard it called a Glory Box. When we were children we used it to store clothes and blankets. My mother passed on two years ago but the box is still at my fathers house. I wonder what my mother stored in it before she was married? Annie

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It’s curious how the boxes start out with one purpose and end up with quite another. I have heard them called blanket boxes, and, of course, used for that purpose. Glory Box is a term used in this part of the world. I am glad you have the pleasure of such a box in your family.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Heather in Arles (loved writing your name :)). I thought I had very little but it’s surprising how all the little pieces add up.

      Reply
  12. andrea

    Beautiful old pictures of the past.
    As much was still in black and white.
    I have a schönn Friday.
    Andrea sends warm greetings to friends

    Reply

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