The Power of Things

By Harry Hallman

I was rummaging around some items I had in storage, looking for an old 1996 Olympic pin to show my granddaughter. Instead, I found my ancient dog tags from my Air Force Days. When I picked them up, it was like an electric shock ran through my system. I was taken back to November 1962, and I was in line with fifty other young men reciting my military pledge. At 18 years old, I was both excited and a bit nervous about the four-year tour in the Air Force for which I just signed up.

We were all loaded on a bus and driven to the Philadelphia Airport, where we packed onto a propellered driven Aircraft. It was my first flight. We flew to Washington, DC, changed to a Jet Plane and stopped in Atlanta for a short while. Then it was off to Lackland, Air Force base in San Antonio, TX., where all prospective airmen must be trained. It felt so real. The simple act of seeing and feeling my dog tags brought back my entire basic training adventure.

Memory is amazing, and inanimate “things” work just as well as photos, foods, sounds, smells, and places to evoke long-lost events. I believe that’s why we keep trinkets. I still have a small bible I received at a Sunday School in 1953 when I was about nine years old. To be honest, I am not the most religious person, but this book has a special way of evoking sweet memories. The couple who presided over the Sunday School would give candy to those who could remember passages from the bible. I really liked candy, so I was good at reciting the proverbs.

In my top desk drawer, I have a medical clamp that is over 55 years old. I was working for the University of PA’s Vet School at the time. My job was Head Medical Photographer. It was an excellent job, but the pay was pretty bad. I had many fine experiences on the job. I worked to help understand Leukemia, took photos that helped Vets save horses with broken legs and learned the ins and outs of management. That job got me ready to own my own firm. Every time I see that clamp, I remember.

We tend to through away “things” we gather, but sometimes those things have a hidden nostalgic value of remembrance.

Do you have items that do that for you?

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