"War Is Hell"
On "trash night" in my neighborhood, I always see people driving around in vans and trucks, doing their trash-picking. And in a place like Snobville, let me tell you, I do my share as well. I've never bought porch furniture -- picked it all. I've gotten a couple of nice book cases that way too.
My daughter The Heir is an avid trash-picker. She'll root through anything that isn't clearly garbage.
Last week, Heir found herself in Chestnut Hill (a part of Philadelphia). She saw a sign for an estate sale at a house. And there were boxes at the curb.
Heir spied a box with a photo album on top. When she opened it up, she found it to be full of photographs ... of the Vietnam War. She looked around to see if there was anyone to talk to about it, but no one was about. So she brought it home. She's sure it wasn't overlooked and thrown out by mistake, because it was right on the top of the stuff in the box.
There are 40 snapshots, a couple of them in black and white and a couple of old-time polaroids. Most of them are the kind of color snapshot you see from that era. Some are dated. Some have names on the back, making them traceable through the National Archives.
Most of them are in country. Chinook helicopters, platoon on the march, base camp, soldier holding a machine gun. Others are from the city -- a tall man with a pretty Asian woman half his height. A few of little kids and signs.
There were two postcards in the album. The first was a picture of Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. On the back it said, "Remember this place? We're thinking about you."
The other one is a picture of the Sydney opera house in Australia. On the back it said, "I'm losing my mind, but at least the beer is good. War is hell." Postage was waived.
War is certainly hell. But I find myself wondering how much hell awaited this man when he returned. Did he have anyone who loved him, any family to whom he might give these historic photos? I guess not. Then again, someone organized the estate sale. Did that person just not care about the photos? Heir is a very cautious person. She would not pinch something she thought someone put out by mistake.
In any case, Heir now has a small cache of primary source documents on a much-maligned conflict. We might be able to find the commander whose name is on the back of the one photo, but I'm almost afraid to research it. I already know two people on The Wall.
Last year Heir found a stack of photographs that were mostly habit-clad nuns smiling in little clusters. Scattered amongst the nun photos were shots of naked women in erotic poses.
It boggles the mind to think of the photograph collection Heir might amass by the time she's in her prime. Makes you think. Who will want your photos when you're gone?