Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Thanksgiving Surprise

We celebrated Thanksgiving Day here at the old jail. Two of my brothers were here with their families, plus my mom and my sister-in-law's sister, Amber. In addition to a wonderful salad, Amber brought with her a scrapbook of clippings and other mementos that had been assembled by a woman who lived here for eleven years in the 1940's and 50's when her husband was the sheriff. The scrapbook included a lot of things about our old building.

I spent several hours for a couple of days after Thanksgiving scanning the clippings and photos that pertained to our building into my computer and printing them out for my own scrapbook. In the process of doing so I learned a lot that I hadn’t known before. I was especially excited to see a photograph of the fireplace mantle and wood moldings on the first floor, all of which had been removed by the time DH and I bought the house. I was saddened by a story about a little 10-year-old boy who committed suicide in his cell in 1948, discovered by the sheriff's wife when she went to bring him his dinner. When I read about a couple of prisoners who had enlarged a hole in the southeast corner of the jail and used it to escape, DH and I went into the cell block to look for the place where the wall had been patched. There was a cute photograph of a bunch of kids celebrating a birthday party on the jail steps, just in front of the "Visiting Hours" sign.

As I removed the items from their plastic covers for copying, it occurred to me that the last person who had touched them was probably the sheriff's wife who had assembled them, maybe even sitting in this same room, which was most likely her bedroom. I felt close to her, this hard-working, underappreciated mother of six who toiled daily for no salary, feeding the prisoners and her own family, seeing things no woman ever wants to see. She obviously felt a special connection to the old place, because included in the collection are clippings pertaining to the sale of the building long after her residence here. Near the end of the book was an article announcing the death of her husband at an untimely early age; I thought about how shocked and grieving she would have been as she placed it into the book.

Old buildings are like that--for a time they are the center of our whole world, the place where holidays are celebrated and tragedies are mourned, where children grow up and leave and return with their own children. Then we move on and another family takes our place and the whole cycle starts all over again.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I'm not sure what your name is, but I was really moved by what you wrote about your home and the jailer's wife. You truly have an opportunity to place your own mark on this old building. I once lived in a very old huge home that was from the early 1800's. I was a child, and lived there for 8 years. Now I have many wonderful memories, and it also helped me appreciate old things, and buildings, and history of both people and houses. I also have a better understanding to 'feel' an old building when I read about one. God bless you and your DH...and enjoy your home and all it holds for you.