Priceless treasure revealed by the box load

Published 5:33 pm Tuesday, August 25, 2020

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It was a treasure hunt, only without confusing clues, no map, and minus any dirt under my fingernails.

But yet the treasure was still priceless.

For those who tuned in last week, I shared the story of my next-door neighbor/nephew Patrick Bryant loading up the wagon (ok, it was really a U-Haul truck) and taking his family “westward ho”!

Patrick scored a promotion with Nucor and is now the new IT Director at that company’s plant in Utah. He formerly worked in the IT department at Nucor-Hertford County.

As an update on his move, Patrick and his family have settled in their new home. He started his new job on Monday of this week and his two daughters – my great nieces Mackenzie and Laura – start school on Aug. 26.

Now….back to the treasure hunt.

Last week, my brother (Tommy…Patrick’s dad) and I tackled the task of cleaning out the garage attic of Patrick’s former home. He had taken his stuff, but there were numerous boxes left that Tommy assumed belonged to our late sister, Cindy, who lived there for roughly 10 years.

Tommy was right….there were 50-or-so boxes that were Cindy’s, plus several chairs and other odds-and-ends. I’ve made contact with Cindy’s daughter – my niece, Betsy, who lives in the Richmond, VA area – to come home and go through those boxes.

However, there were several other boxes – about seven or eight – that needed further investigation. It was inside those boxes where the real treasure was hidden from sight. Not monetary treasure, but rather emotional family trinkets from decades gone by.

It took me most of Saturday afternoon and a good chunk of Sunday to sort through those boxes. I carefully handled every piece, unfolded each sheet of paper, and peered within countless notebooks containing all sorts of information that only I and my family members would care about.

What I uncovered was a treasure trove of items kept over the years by my late parents – Ray and Blanche Bryant. They died a shade over three months apart in 2004. Upon cleaning out their home later that year, my sister had stored those boxes away in her attic.

I found my 4th grade report card from Woodland-Olney School; my diploma from Chowan College (now University); several old columns that I wrote and either mom or dad snipped from the newspaper; and my birth certificate and first Social Security Card. All those items verified that I was born, educated, and was able to construct entire sentences that made sense.

I even stumbled across the Motor Vehicle Title to a 1934 Chevrolet that my grandmother, Thelma Johnson Joyner, had purchased for $337 and financed through the bank. There was also a personal check, through Farmer’s Bank in Murfreesboro, signed by her in 1957 for $2.26 to Vann’s Red and White (a former grocery store in Murfreesboro).

And then there were the photos….hundreds of them. They covered life in my family from well before I was born in 1953 all the way up until a few years prior to the death of my parents.

I uncovered photos I had never seen before, including an oval portrait of my grandmother in her younger years standing alongside her brother, Luther Johnson. There were photos of my grandfather, Harvey Thomas Joyner, who died when I was four years old.

There were photos of my sister when she was young….ditto for myself and Tommy. There was one of me as a baby laying on a mattress outside in the shade. There was one of Tommy, at about four months old, being held by our mother as she sat in a rocking chair in the living room.

Then there were family vacation photos; trips to see my mom’s sister, Dare, in Florida; and trips taken by my parents up and down the eastern third of the United States to attend my dad’s annual reunions of the Army’s 87th Infantry Division, in which he served with honor during World War II. I even found a photo of all the men within his Company (347-F). It sent shivers down my spine when my eyes found his face in that photo of 100 brave men.

There was another photo, snapped at one of those reunions, that showed dad with six of his comrades posing with a Nazi flag. I recall dad’s story about that flag….he and several members of his platoon had overtaken a German stronghold and took down the flag. Each signed it (by name and hometown) and the platoon’s Lieutenant kept it.

The list of family treasure goes on and on….and so do all those fond memories.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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