WWII shoehorn finds its way home

From our May 2017 issue

By Barb Gonie – Pierceland, Sask.

The cold wind howled at the window and I decided to work indoors as the hall closet needed cleaning. I pulled a dusty shoebox from the top shelf and removed the lid.

I rummaged through the box and was amazed I’d kept a ragged scarf, an old birthday card, and other odd items from the past. It took a while to recall where a brass shoehorn came from. I remembered buying it at the neighbour’s auction sale many years before.

Dad, grandpa, and our neighbours moved from the south in the 1930s when drought and grasshoppers hit that area. Our two families found northern Saskatchewan had berries, lakes for fishing, and animals for food. This new area was a good place to raise their families and they each built a house and settled in.

In 1939, the Second World War broke out. Dad had health issues and didn’t serve, however, my friend’s dad went to Italy.

She and I went to school, became teenagers, married, and eventually went our separate ways. She’d moved down east with her husband and we eventually lost contact. For over 20 years, we had not been in touch.

Shared treasure find on Facebook

I found a newspaper clipping stored close to the shoehorn. The article told about how soldiers had enjoyed a day in Italy. On the back of the shoehorn it said: “Made in Italy.”

It must have been bought in Italy I thought. Maybe as a gift. I examined it closer and saw that one end had some pitted marks in it. Were these some marks left behind from opening a few bottles when there was no bottle opener? I could only guess.

I knew I’d bought a valuable box of “junk” at that auction sale. After all, it had an artifact from the war. I was thrilled as I carefully placed the contents and my treasure back in the box where I could preserve its value.

I soon shared my find on Facebook and told of the special item that I had “acquired from Italy”. The following morning when I opened my Facebook page, I was surprised to find a new friend request. I accepted and chatted with my newly-made friend. I soon learned her maiden name.

“Hung in grandma’s kitchen”

My new friend was from the family that had moved to the north country with my dad. She commended me for keeping the brass shoehorn and seeing it as a treasure. I listened to my friend’s passion about my big find.

She said: “I remember when that shoehorn hung in grandma’s kitchen. She’d said it was a gift.”

I loved that shoehorn, but as I went about my day, I found myself feeling a bit guilty for wanting to keep something that belonged to another family. As I walked past the closet, I said: “This treasure belongs with the original family.”

I went to my computer and sent a message asking my friend if she would like the shoehorn. She was ecstatic!

I was happy to pass this treasure to the family where it would always be valued. The shoehorn was back where it was meant to be – in a family with a tale filled with love and a connection to their grandfather’s heroic past!

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