Artifacts of one era or another. As a writer/historian I turn things like this over in my hands all the time. Farm implements. Old radios. Lace and dresses and hats long gone out of style.
Smiling faces in photographs taken at banquets of clubs and amateur sports leagues organized in Kenmore and Tonawanda factories during World War II. The Curtiss-Wright baseball and bowling teams.
In a way, these things are as valuable as the ability to churn butter or control a plow horse. In a less tangible way, they are like diamonds. You likely need not be reminded how fast the future becomes the past, and how little or how much items such as these mean. (There is currently a television commercial airing which involves checking the age of a car by searching for a cassette player in the dashboard — jeez, was it that long ago?).
The Town of Castile, near Letchworth State Park, recently lost a load of stuff like this in a fire in its municipal building. Government records and dealings were backed up, fortunately, but some of the little treasures emblematic of life out there are now ash.
It’s the city of Aleppo, in Syria, that’s on my mind these days, when I think about the Middle East. It’s got 2 million people, but fewer every day; its citizens are fast becoming refugees, escaping a messy government-vs.-rebels civil war.
I’ve never been there but it is considered by many to be the longest inhabited place on earth, going back to the sixth century B.C. (I always thought the record was held by nearby Damascus.) It was a crossroads, with Europeans meeting Indians and Asians to trade goods of one sort or another. People lived there but many more passed through, welcomed. It was the Chicago of the Middle East.