Trunk Music

22 Feb

Chipping paint. Faded liner. Smells of time and mothballs. Failing handles. The top compartment’s cardboard is falling out.


And yet I love this piece of furniture. Why?

It’s a family heirloom. It was painted a funky avocado color in the 1960s. It’s lightweight. I can store so many items inside of it. The years worn on the interior and exterior have seen a lifetime. Make that three lifetimes.

In the early 1940s, my grandmother met my grandfather through a pen-pal during World War II. In a classic and yet unique love story, a courtship via pen and paper led to an engagement a top the Empire State Building. According to the magazines of the day, everyone from McCall’s to Better Homes & Gardens recommended that the must-have for new brides were traveling trunks. Durable and large enough to contain wedding gifts, it was the ideal way to travel and build your home in a post-war-world.

My grandmother did just that, and used the trunk to travel from New York to Georgia for her wedding. That trunk followed her to Colorado, then to California. Many years later, she gifted the trunk to my father. The trunk yet again became a traveling companion, following my parents around California and the Central Coast as they built a home and life together.

When I graduated college, it was my turn. I had no idea this trunk existed, but my parents gave it to me to take to San Francisco. By then the trunk wore its years heavily and my grandmother told me its story.


I have only lived in homes in San Francisco and SLO that were wartime builds, where small touches were still employed (crown molding and sweet arched details) but necessity did prevail (the spiny structure of Murphy beds still in place).The trunk is as much a symbol of this same time, where it has the small touches of design but utility was the predominant requirement.

Now when I use the trunk, chips of 45 year old paint flake off, the left handle crumbles if you tug too hard, and the hinges groan and sigh when I open it. A musty and stale smell emits from the interior, where I hold games and photo albums. The liner inside is mostly in tact, in a vibrant stripe pattern of blue, cream, and green. Where the liner does peels away on the edges you can see the original olive and black paisley pattern. The leather straps to close the top compartment are still as soft and black as they were 65 years ago.


The trunk is now as much a part of my life adventure as it was my grandmother’s and then my father’s.

Sometimes it isn’t the design of the item that makes it a ‘must’ look in your home. Sometimes it’s what it holds inside.

4 Responses to “Trunk Music”

  1. Gram February 24, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Oh, what memories your blog on the trunk brought back to me! If only it could tell of all the travels and adventures it has been through – the story of the Bernard family in full. Love that you are caring for it and giving it a third generation home.

    Love always, Gram

  2. Heather February 22, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    I absolutely love this story. And I love that the trunk has been in your family so long, and will probably continue to be passed down. What an awesome piece to display!

  3. tealandtulle February 22, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    @Jackie – that’s a really good idea. And since it’s been in the family for so long, it would be worth the money to get it refinished. I’ll look into that!

  4. Jackie February 22, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    SUCH a cool and romantic story! I think the trunk has so much character and literally more than one lifetime of memories. Maybe you can take it somewhere to be refinished?

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