It's amazing when you are young how simple life seems to be. Everything is
black and white. Yes or no. Front or back. Left or right. The cereal box is
full or empty. It's light out or dark out. You can or can't go. You may or
may not do that. As you grow older you notice that something strange occurs;
a cruel trick by a ruthless but elusive magician. Gradually your intellectual
graphics card which previously had only 2 colors, gets swapped for 256 shades
of gray, then 512, then 1024 and so on until infinite.
The change is subtle and goes largely unnoticed until one day during deep
introspection (usually around the obligatory mid life crisis) while weighing
the merits of buying a corvette, investigating a 401K, turning Republican, a
roll in the hay with a premenopausal corporate mercenary and what you want
your coffin made out of, you realize, "Hey!!! I never authorized this!!!!".
And you can't help to wonder, "How has this happened?". "How did I go from a
full box of Lucky Charms to the dusty gruel left in the bottom of the box
once the marshmallows are picked out". I digress...
I was once young too. And I, like other youngsters saw the world in a
remarkably simple spectrum of light. I decided very early on that there were
only two types of people in the world; those that collected baseball cards
and those that didn't. After all, they really seemed to be quite different
from one another. Needless to say but too irresistible not to, I was one of the
people who collected 'em. And everyone I hung out with collected them too.
Whether this phenomenon was a reaffirmation of the old adage that water
seeks its own level remains speculation but I am suspicious indeed.
As I grew older and those two marvelous colors of black and white faded to
the nebulous potpourri of grays as endless as the galaxies, I found there
were more than these two types of people. There were some that collected
football, basketball and hockey cards. Some collected only rookie cards. Some
only collected hall-of-famers. Some collected only their favorite teams. And
heaven forbid, there were some people who even collected things other than
trading cards. There were even some people that seemed to collect everything.
Looking back over the years awash in the paradox of life, that a long arduous
journey full of twists and turns, ups and downs can seem like yesterday, I
wonder how it is that some people can end up collectors and others not. I
struggle with this mystery and wonder is it not just a difference in genetic
code passed down through the eons of time; a simple function of the
remarkably constant regions of certain portions of our DNA? Or is it
something more tangible. An acquired trait passed down by the teachings of
our families. After all, didn't early man form different types of groups some
of which were hunters, some gatherers, and some even hunter-gatherers. I
decide I must be a hunter- gatherer. Loin cloth, spear, EBAY I.D. and Visa
card. Yup, that's me... Cave full of dino bones... Let's see, where was I
going with this... Oh yes, confessions of a homefront junkie.
Long after the baseball cards had been traded and my gray scale had
expanded, I was still collecting. But looking back, I never was a collector
that took a cerebral approach to deciding what to collect. I always collected
by feel. There was no telling what I'd start hoarding. I'd know only after
Sometime late in medical school I started frequenting antique stores. No
doubt it had something to do with a wild little thing that had gotten my
attention. I wasn't looking to collect anything, including her, but felt
comfortable walking amongst the stuff of people who did. And gradually I
began picking up things during our little walks. I never bought anything
probably because I had no place to put it; that being the only merciful part
of the medical education process. And after several months of walking through
swap meets and through antique shops, I noticed I picked up the same type of
items every time. They were always musty trinkets from the 1940's that tended
to be Red, White and Blue and had patriotic slogans strewn across them.
Again, I never bought anything but liked picking the same type of items up
Eventually medical school came and went as do all plagues since the
Carpathians and I got a house. Or, as George Carlin so eloquently put it, "a
place for my stuff". Patrols through the various antique stores continued and
one day I bought something. It was a Vicky Victory hair pin kit. What a cool
little item I thought. I scurried home and put it on my desk. Little did I
know what was to come. Ever heard of that term "Gateway Drug" ? That's that
ridiculous jargonesque buzz phrase that doctors call marijuana in an attempt
to explain addictive behavior and the supposed phenomenon of progression to
polydrug abuse. As much poppycock as that may be, little miss Vicky Victory
was my gateway to becoming a homefront junkie.
Soon Vicky had company; a few little items ranging from maps, salt and pepper
shakers and jewelry joined her on my desk. Heck, it was almost enough to call
a small pile. A few more items joined the ranks, matchbooks, postcards, a
poster and a tin and indeed I had a SMALL pile. A few months later I had a
PRETTY GOOD pile. A few months more and I had QUITE A pile and by the end of
the year I'd even venture to say I had a SERIOUS pile. What's the only
logical thing to do when your collection has reached the SERIOUS pile stage?
Make another pile! A year later with several SERIOUS piles, I merged them to
form ONE HONKIN' pile. Now once I reached the ONE HONKIN' pile stage I
realized that I had begun, heck, I had seriously begun to collect WWII
non-military stuff. What do ya call this stuff? Must have a name... So I hit
the bookstores and came up empty. Then I scoured the internet and indeed
found out others suffered from my affliction. It was called Homefront; things
made during WWII for use by civilians at home during the war. I felt better
already. At least the pile had a name. No longer was it the ONE HONKIN' pile.
It was the Homefront pile. Aahhhh. Relief.
A few years passed and these homefront piles conspired to aggregate into a
homefront room. A homefront room? My lord. It was not even a pile a few short
years ago. Now the collection was gobbling up real estate at a Pattonesque
pace . But more than the sheer square footage of the addiction are the daily
sacrifices it takes to support the habit. Sacrifices? Things like choosing
between paying the PG&E bill or bagging a poster. Cable TV or a topper.
Feeding the dog or a salt/pepper shaker. Gas money or walking and hoarding a
few more cinderellas. An evening at the movies and a nice meal or a
punchboard and a few postcards. So where exactly does this madness end?
Hopefully not in an alley curled up around a V vase covered by a War Worker
Resting poster for warmth, smacking my gums and muttering "Remember Pearl
Irresistible is the question, "What is so special about homefront" that leads
to such a pervasive, completely engrossing commitment to its study and
collection? If I had to venture a guess I would have to say the thing so
attractive to me about these items and about this era is that it embodies
morals and values that I find important and prize. The homefront was about
unity. Working together to achieve a common goal. It was about sacrifice.
Everybody sacrificing, conserving, rationing, working, saving to achieve a
common goal. About establishing our identity as a nation; a nation that
stands for liberty, opposes oppression, sacrifices to aid the cause of
liberty, and resists naked aggression. About power and the ability to
influence people and events around you. About winning and the exhilaration of
spending oneself at a worthy cause at great expense and ultimately
prevailing. About family and closeness of the family unit in time of great
triumph and tragedy. About courage and facing impossible odds and getting the
job done. But what really makes this period so stark and special is its
contrast to present day. I look around and see deterioration of the family
unit, wasting resources natural and manmade, graffiti, lack of respect and
consideration not only for your neighbor but for your employer and everyone
else and on and on and on. Lack of interest in governmental decisions. It all
makes the homefront era that much more special.
For me, immersing myself in the Victory Era allows me to remain
recreationally frozen in time. And despite all the work and the expense of
assembling artifacts from this period of history, its worth it. And you know
how I know? Because everytime I go into one of my homefront rooms I feel
like Wavy Gravy as he yelled out to the crowd at Woodstock in 1969, "We must
be in heaven man!".
See you next month!