Does Anybody Still Collect Matchbooks?

October 1, 2016 at 5:24 pm 3 comments

matchbooks_sampleSome years ago, I came home from a yard sale with four large Ziploc bags filled with matchbooks which then sat in my garage, untouched ever since, except for the occasional forage when someone needed a light or the power went out.

And all those times I made flambé.

This past week, working on a layout for a client who doesn’t have budget for stock art, I thought of the matches for a graphic idea. I squirmed the bags out of a dark corner of the garage and dumped them out on the floor of my office for a little in-house photo shoot.

I hoped to be able to create an interesting, colorful, free image. But I got a bit more out of those bags than just that. I got to see some vintage design, and I got a lovely rush of nostalgia—that quirky cool you can sense in old things.

And I got a glimpse.

I ended up sprawled on the floor for a lot longer than expected, captivated by a completely unexpected feeling that I was flipping through another person’s scrapbook.

I don’t know exactly who these matchbooks belonged to, but he was from the Pittsburgh area, served in the military, traveled a bit. He was a grown-up in the 50s and 60s and still alive in the 80s.

I imagine he was a good-natured, occasionally gruff old bird who served in the Navy, WWII or maybe Korea. He visited Tokyo, Waikiki, and many other cities, came home, got a job, quietly raised a family. Maybe he was in sales. His wife worked at a department store when the kids were older. They went out to dinner on special occasions and loaded the family into a station wagon to go on driving vacations. Friends would bring him a matchbook when they traveled, too. He had a big laugh and a paneled den. His granddaughter went against current custom and had matches at her wedding reception, just for him. He got a big kick out of that. It was one of the last matchbooks he added to his collection.

One day, these little square signs of a friendlier era and markers of a lifetime of moments were deemed politically incorrect and unwanted. Somebody scooped the collection into Ziploc bags and sent them off to a thrift shop or flea market. I hope this occurred after he died and not while he was aware and forced to acquiesce.

I hope this quite fervently.

Ah, yes, I’m a little weird. But I’ve a brain that creates characters and tells tales. And I am overly susceptible to sentiment. (I get a similar pang when I see people’s family photos at antique stores. Or a single shoe on the highway.)

Truth is, I will never know exactly what his story was. But I do know that I was pleasantly surprised to get something beyond practicality in this yard sale flotsam. I discovered pocket Americana. I rescued these colorful little books that tell the tale of an un-famous, fascinating life.

Does anyone collect matchbooks anymore? (If so, let me know if you’d like to have them. I’m keeping a few just for fun, but there are so many. I’d be very happy to share with someone who collects them.)

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Entry filed under: Other People's Stuff. Tags: , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ken  |  October 3, 2016 at 9:28 am

    For a minute there, I flashed back to “Stand By Me” and the kid telling the story about “Lard Ass”. Then it occurred to me that the real story teller was Steven King. So for a minute there, you reminded me of Steven King.

    Like

    Reply
  • 2. Barb Berk  |  October 14, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Beth!
    I have a matchbook collection.
    I will post it on my FB page.
    If you still have them, I’d love to take them off your hands. Check out my FB page.

    Like

    Reply

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