The real treasures are not the things

“All things come to those who wait.” 

— From an early 20th Century poem by Lady Mary Montgomerie Currie writing under the pseudonym Violet Fane.

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I used to run across the old black-and-white photo and dime store autograph book every so often. When I did, my thought was always the same. Why didn’t I save just a snippet of information as to their origin all those years ago? “No problem, you’ll remember,” said the deceptive little voice in my head.

But every time they popped up in a search for something else hidden in my interesting junk archive, all I could remember was “a lady in Joaquin.” So the last time I saw them, I smiled with resignation that the story of how they came to reside with me would always be lost to time.

That is until I read a column in the May 1985 bound volume of The Light and Champion archives last weekend.

“Want to buy old records, juke boxes, service station and auto garage signs,” I had written about the simple classified ad I often ran back then. “From day one, my phone rang. On the first few calls alone, my collection of interesting junk grew by one album of 78 r.p.m. records, a Mobilgas flying red horse sign, and an autographed 8×10 black-and-white photo of country music legend Ernest Tubb.”

I noted how the best part of the calls and subsequent conversations were the people and their stories. I smiled when I read, “That included the conversation with Carol Racey in Joaquin.” At last, I finally had a name.

The column continued with details about how the trip to see what she had and what she was willing to sell netted me the items that had remained a mystery. I quoted her saying, “That autograph in the corner of the picture is Jim McCoy’s. He was a promoter who started out hosting small programs and performing himself around Winchester, Virginia. Later, he went to work for WHPL in Winchester and was responsible for many great packages of stars in the country music field coming to the area.”

In my column, I had also written about her recollection of those performing with Tubb the night she acquired the autographed photo. “It was a New Year’s Eve bash in Virginia about 1969, or maybe it was 1968,” she said. “There was a heavy snow, and only a few people could the make show. Many names were on the billing, but I remember Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn. Jay Lee Webb (Loretta’s brother), Stan Hitchcock, the Osborne Brothers, and Charlie Louvin.

“I spent most of my time with Loretta Lynn,” Racey recalled. “She charged me with the honor of babysitting her guitar for a few minutes then disappeared. During that time, Louvin came by and wanted me to find him a New Year’s date. I called all the unmarried girlfriends I had with no luck,” she said. “I was glad. I was tired of juggling dimes, a guitar and phone booth doors.”

Commenting on Tubb, she said, “Although I spoke only briefly with him, I could tell what a gentleman he was. He was definitely the reason people came.”

“Carols’ real treasures were Jim Reeves photos and memorabilia,” I had written. “And no amount of talking was going to separate her from them. ‘Maybe if you have any Jim Reeves records,’ she indicated. We might do some trading.’” According to the column, however, I left without many things with which she would rather talk about than part with—definitely my kind of soul.

“The real treasures are not the things,” was my concluding statement to her. “It’s the people and stories we get with them.”

I had to wait more than 35 years, but I no longer have to try and recall the story about where I acquired the photos and the autograph book. Now, I just have to remember the last place I saw them. I’m pretty sure I won’t have another 35 years to wait again.  

And that voice in my head that says, “you’ll remember?” It’s still there.

—Leon Aldridge

. . . . . . . . . . .

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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