Thursday, August 11, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday -- Beginning an inventory, Part 4

What's in a Wallet? What's in a name?

Debra Ann Newton
I once heard that a wallet tells a story about the person who carries it. Mine is a small, black, zippered wallet which came with my purse, containing only a few coins, some "plastic", a library card, a Barnes and Nobel Membership card, and various other  member services cards, some business cards and the phone numbers of my employees, several scripture cards, and my State ID (I don't drive). It serves as an illustration of a Christian manager with an affinity for books and discounts.

Within the file box of my Dad's belongings from his dresser drawers was his wallet. When I showed it to my husband, he said, "Yeah. It's a wallet." He had little interest in what was inside the wallet. Perhaps he felt it was too personal to look through it . . . or perhaps it was just too mundane. But with my underlying belief that by the contents of a person's wallet a story can be told, I began to examine it thoughtfully.
Doris (Silverman) & Richard Newton
(my parents)

Measuring 4 1/4" x 7 1/4" folded, the brown leather Prince Gardner bi-fold opens to a place on the left side where a driver's license would be placed. No driver's license . . . just a folded, yellow card: 
Visit our website on the Internet at at (sic)

On the right side of the wallet are empty pockets for "MEMOS" and bills.

Inside there are larger pockets on each side, containing thick piles of cards on the left side, and a tattered and yellowed envelope with my mother's handwriting:
Dick's Cards
David Francis Newton
(my paternal uncle)
The first item in the pile on the left side was my Dad's Social Security card. What interested me was not only how the cards have changed over the years, but that this card had my Dad's name as: Richard Allyn Newton. There is an interesting controversy over the spelling of his middle name in our family. It seems that the middle name derived from Deacon Allen Newton, the son of Nahum Jr. and Damaris (Brigham) Newton, born in Paxton, Worcester, MA on April 3, 1791. My Aunt Helen (Newton) Beers' typewritten notes state:
. . . . The mother of Damaris Brigham was Miriam Allen and this could have been the origin of the name Allen in connection with the Newton family. (Have been told Grandmother Newton used the spelling ALLYN because she liked it but that was not the spelling used by the namesake who was known and (sic) Deacon Allen Newton and Grandmother hoped he might become as good a man as the namesake." [in reference to my grandfather, Francis Allyn Newton; p. 4]
Harriet (Jones) Newton
(my paternal grandmother)
Farther down the page, my aunt writes:
Clippings from Dr. Gore's grandmother's Bible:
one reads:
"In Greene, N. Y., Feb. 27--Deacon Allen Newton, aged 79 years.
Feb. 28--His wife, Marcia Newton--77 yrs."
It speaks of their being very devout and faithful members of the Baptist church in Greene, and adds they were "buried in one grave."
I remember as a child, my mother telling me that my Grandma Newton [Harriet (Jones) Newton] had changed the spelling back to Allen when my Dad was born; but there seemed to be some confusion in my Dad's mind as to whether she had maintained the spelling of my grandfather's name [Francis Allyn Newton], or had changed it back. Every other document, including my Dad's military service records, list his middle name as Allen.

Doris & Abby (King) Silverman
(my Mom & maternal grandmother)
Just as every wallet contains the story of a man's life, so does his Social Security card.
  1. Underneath lie a duplicate of his Selective Service System Registration Certificate with his Johnson City, NY address where he grew up;
  2. his VA (Veteran's Administration) identification card, recording his address in Washington, D.C.;
  3. library cards to three Western MA city libraries; 
  4. a photo of our daughter, Vanessa, at age 2 years 7 months; 
  5. some medical insurance cards; 
  6. a  business card holder containing his professional cards, one with his handwritten note across the back: "Handy Man" with phone number; 
  7. a Lenten Prayer card;
  8. and his Commonwealth of Massachusetts Transportation Access Pass, tucked inside a burgundy, vinyl holder. . . and his appointment card for FRANKLIN - HAMPSHIRE EYE CARE. "Next scheduled appointment: 8-98." Note: my Dad died of metastatic optic melanoma on August 30, 2004.
David Allen Silverman
(my maternal uncle)
Inside the envelope on the right side of the wallet was:
  1.  his library card for UMASS/Amherst;
  2. Amherst Council on Aging Official Identification Card;
  3. his card for NYSUT 1885-1997 (New York State United Teachers);
  4. and, an assortment of photos, some shown throughout.
So, what does this say about my Dad's life?
To me it illustrates a man with close family ties, whose in-laws were as close to him as his own . . . a man who served his country and his God . . . who passed on his love of books and libraries to his daughter . . . and who strove to develop his craft as well as his profession . . . a man who aged, became ill and died . . . a man who lived a good life.


  1. I love your post! I have to look into my dad's wallet too...LOL You made your father come alive through the contents of his wallet. Very creative and oh so true!

  2. This is a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, the story my wallet would tell is that this is a person who doesn't clean her wallet out often enough!