Finishing up my “To Do” list: A Historical Relic Homesick for Home

This afternoon, I headed off to Plainfield, Indiana (near the airport), for my hotel overnight before flying out from Indianapolis to begin my journey tomorrow, back to China.  My brother chauffeured me the 1 1/2 hours on I-70 to the hotel, after which I treated him to dinner.  Off he went, leaving me to have this evening free.

Getting Things Done

Sorry to say, my mom and I didn’t get the 500-piece puzzle finished we’d been working on.  I had to leave that for her to continue on her own.

But other things managed to get taken care of.

The “To-do” List

As you can imagine, these past few days I’ve been marking things off my “to do” list: setting up my mom’s new android phone, along with a tutorial on how to use it, changing all the burned-out lightbulbs in the upstairs’, high-ceilinged bedrooms (a hazzardous task as a bulky stepladder is needed), last-minute strolls through the Walmart to pick up soup mixes and gifts for my Chinese friends, stop-offs at my favorite Marshall homes to say goodbye, mailing a box of new clothes to myself and packing my suitcases.

One of these “to do” list scribbles involves something I’ve often thought about doing over the years and never got around to it.  It involves returning a unique item to a rightful owner. Read the story below

A Gift from My Grandmother’s Friend

Growing up, I had a passion for antiques.  My mom and I would spend weekends scouring local flea markets and antique shops, looking for something that caught our eyes.  My mom collected goblets and pretty plates; I was into antique clothing, hatpins and jewelry.

When I was around 17, my mom and I took a summer trip to see her mom, who lived in  Rockford, Illinois.  Connie Maris, my grandmother, invited us to give a singing program for her senior citizen’s group in the elderly high-rise building she’d advocated for as the city’s first female councilwoman.  She was a strong, representative voice for the elderly and was extremely involved in city politics at that time.

For our program, we needed an accomplished accompanist and that person was Esther.  Esther was my grandmother’s good friend who’d been in the USO during World War 2.  She’d traveled all over Europe, entertaining the troops during that time period, and had made many friends overseas who gave her presents to take back with her.

I remember going to Esther’s home to practice and while there, my grandmother mentioned my interest in antiques.  Esther, whose home was stuffed full of fascinating things, began rooting around in her piles and pulled out two objects to give to me.

The first was a black-and-white checkered headscarf her mother had worn over from Europe as an immigrant to America.  She told me that her mom wrapped this around her hair as she entered Ellis Island and viewed the Statue of Liberty from the deck of the ship that carried her overseas.

Such a precious treasure!  I felt so honored that Esther deemed me worth of appreciating such a gift, which I absolutely did.

The second item was quite unusual.  It was an old, dented pewter beer stein with an etched, yellow-tinted, sunburst glass bottom.  I’m not sure how Esther attained it, most likely on her USO journeys, but there it was being placed into my hands.

I was too enamored with the stein to pay too much attention to what was written on it.  I just grabbed it up in awe,  quite excited that she was presenting it to me.  I thanked her profusely, then off my mom and I went to meet up with her the next day for the program.

It wasn’t until the 7-hour drive downstate, back to my hometown of Marshall, that I truly inspected what Esther had bestowed upon me.

This wasn’t a mere drinking stein at all but an engraved trophy for the National Rifle Contest, held on July 1st, 1862, between two rival rifle clubs:   Middlesex and Lancashire.

Names of participants on both sides were listed, along with their scores, placement in the shootings and the tally for both clubs with Lancashire coming out as the winner by 8 points.

Sergeant Thornbury, Corporal Smart, Private Lathbury, Ensign Sprott, Captain Field….  All these names of long-ago riflemen who joined together in the British sport of shooting. It was fascinating!

Following Through

Over the years, my mom and I often thought of this stein and how we could contact someone for its return.  But without Internet some 35-years ago, we just placed it on a shelf and forgot about it.  During my visits back and forth from China, we’d often come across this antique and say, “You know, we should do some research on this!  Surely someone wants it back.”

And every visit to Marshall, I’d forget to put it on my “to do” list.  Thus such actions on our part to send it back home across the waters remained pending until my next visit, when I would once again wait until it was too late to follow through.

This has been going on for nearly 25 years, a ridiculous amount of time, especially in this day and age when the Internet is now at our fingertips.  We are able to look up anything and everything, connecting so easily with the world and having instant communication via emailing or even international calling on cell phones.

Remedying the Situation

This time, I made sure to put “Trophy Beer Stein” on my to-do list, including a little Internet digging.

I found the event itself recorded in London newspapers dating July 1st and 2nd, 1862, including descriptions of the weather conditions and the clubs participating.  I learned the National Rifle Association, founded in 1859, held the competition.

According to the organization’s history, a commentator wrote:  “These annual gatherings are attended by the élite of fashion, and always include a large number of ladies, who generally evince the greatest interest in the target practice of the various competitors.”

Armed with a little background, I found the website for the National Rifle Association of the UK and sent the following email:

Dear National Rifle Association of the UK:

My name is Connie Wieck, an American who currently teaches and works in China.

An elderly friend of mine, who was in Europe as a pianist with the USO during World War 2, acquired a trophy beer stein which she passed along to me.  This is an award presented to the winners of  the Middlesex vs Lancashire National Rifle Contest held on July 1st, 1862.  I did a little research and it seems this is, indeed, the original trophy from that era, the event having been described in several London newspapers during that time period.

I am enclosing a few pictures as visuals.

I truly believe this little fellow deserves to be in his UK home, among those who would appreciate, value and treasure his contribution to your association’s history.

If you would like this trophy returned, please email me and let me know.  I am very happy to send it your way.  Just give me instructions on who to address it to and where to send it.

Yours Sincerely,

Connie Wieck

Waiting for a Response

It’s only been 4 days but I do hope someone will take notice of the email and write back.  My mom and I are anxious to see if anyone claims it or wants it.  Such an item should receive a place of honor in a prestigious trophy case where it can be admired and prized for it’s historical significance.  At present, it is positioned in one of our upstairs’ bedrooms, gathering dust in a dark corner of on a bookshelf in our family library.

Not at all a very triumphant or worthy throne for such a magnificent artifact.

I’ll be sure to let you know if I get a response.  Until the next entry, most likely from China, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your week.

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
This entry was posted in A Visit Home to America, From Along the Yangtze, Illinois, Return to China, Smalltown American Life, Travel, Visit To The States. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Finishing up my “To Do” list: A Historical Relic Homesick for Home

  1. Teresa says:

    How was your return to China ? Hope you are well ( :

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