My Father's Wallet
Happy Father's Day
What I inherited from my father: a pair of World War Two infantryman’s boots, and a wallet. And cowbells.
The contents of the wallet:
A union membership card/monthly stamp book. Hand written on the third page: Reinstated/Initiated: 3/461, Local 1, NYC.
A business card from Dr. Frederick O. Mueller, Chiropractor.
A scrap of paper with a handwritten daily menu.
A check-cashing card from the restaurant he worked for, which expired December 31, 1973.
A tiny handbook from an outfit called Sarna Bells.
City of New York Reduced Fare Program For The Elderly (Abraham D. Beame, Mayor) card.
Dining Room Employees Union, Local 1, Welfare & Pension Funds ID card.
A one pound note from the Central Bank of Egypt. I can’t read the date.
A one dollar note from the Bank of Canada. Her Majesty is on the face.
Selective Service Registration Certificate card, dated 16 October 1940. “The Law Requires You To Have This Card In Your Personal Possession At All Times.” He carried that in his wallet to his death.
Business card of Bernard Elbaum, a diamond merchant. (A mystery, my father didn’t buy jewelry.)
Matchbook cover from the theater district restaurant where he worked from 1938 to 1978 with time out to work for Uncle Sam (see “Selective Service" above).
Baronet Fine Leather goods card.
Driver’s License issued 1985. Expiration date 1989. He died two years before that.
Laminated business card from a gent named Muggsy Smith of Atlanta, GA, with a “genuine” four-leaf cover embedded in it. (Mr. Smith actually did exist. I’m guessing he was a customer who liked my father’s service.)
Happy Father’s Day!
About those cowbells.
I remember vaguely from childhood asking my mother why we had them. She said that my father bought them. I don’t remember how I got them after he died. I must have taken them from my mother’s home when she died.
As to why my father bought a set of cowbells… he was actually born on a farm in upstate New York, in Woodridge. Yep, two Litvaks (my father’s parents came from Kovno/Kaunas and Vilnius) started a farm. It failed, and they moved to the Bronx when my father was six or so. I would ask my father what kind of farm it was and he’d say, “a nice farm.” I’d insist, “but what kind of farm?” and he’d repeat, “a nice farm.” It was a game.
My dad was urban through and through, Mr. City Slicker himself. Well, maybe not. Maybe he was always country boy and the cowbells brought back the green world of the nice farm, the sweet smell of hay, alfalfa, and the lowing of cows. I’ve read several books about people who moved from farms to urban areas and the thing they missed most was the cows.