For Ron Norman, it began with “Buggs”
by Ron Norman
I was four years old in 1943 when my mother told me we were going across the street to my grandparent’s home to meet “Buggs.” He was in town to visit his brother Eddie, who was married to our cousin Ethyl. She brought Buggs over to see her mother, Aunt Emily, who was my grandmother’s sister and also lived with my grandparents.
“Buggs” (his nickname) was home on leave from the US Army and was in full uniform. He was the first soldier that I had actually met. I guess the fact that all I could do was ask what all the insignia, badges, and patches meant and why he had them impressed him. He could see that I was really was interested.
About three weeks later, Buggs sent me a package. It was about the size of a small shoe box. When I opened it up, I discoveredall kinds of insignia, including a couple of overseas caps and some patches that, according to the accompanying note, all of Buggs’ buddies had contributed some of their own things to share with an interested young boy.
I impressed and proud of my box of collectibles. It was the the beginning of a lifetime of collecting military relics and weapons.
A few years later, my grandmother thought it was time to sit me down and go through the boxes full of old family pictures. These completely mesmerized me because she had, over the years, written the identity of each picture along with as much information as she could muster up on them. The pictures included daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and old paper and cardboard images.
My grandfather, a WWI vet, was still alive. She showed me photos of others who had been in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Years later, I asked for a photo of my Grandfather Albright who was from Reading, Pennsylvania. He had served with the 176th Pennsylvania Drafted Militia from 1862-1863. She gave me a photograph taken in 1863 in Reading, Penn. Since I was born in New York, I was proud to have a relative in the Union Army.
As soon as I had the photo of Grandfather Albright, I started researching him and his unit. The 176th was a reserve unit at Gettysburg in 1863.
Some months later, my grandmother suggested that I write a note to cousin Bess. She visited Amy who had been married to one of the twin sons of Grandfather Albright. Amy was living in a nursing home. Bess could ask her if Amy had or knew of anything from Grandfather Albright relating to the Civil War.
I wrote to cousin Bess and receiveda reply after about a month. She wrote, “I am so glad someone in the family cares about this. I have had your Grandfather’s discharge and medal in my safe deposit box for years and wondered what I would do with it. I am putting in the mail, and you should have it in a week or so.”
So who would have guessed that a distant relative actually had these things rather than a grandmother who was married to his son? This is only one of many stories that I can tell you with the purpose of reminding collectors that it can really be worth the extra effort to follow up on possible leads and information. Why? I can honestly tell you it has paid dividends for me, because “You never know.”