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Jack Zaleski, Published April 28 2012

Zaleski: I know: Trains, records, books must go

Last week’s column about parting with a lifetime’s worth of stuff, junk and memories resonated with baby boomers of my generation. Here’s a sample:

• An old friend (gosh, it seems as though they’re all old these days) said my reference to my 1950s vintage Lionel train stirred memories of his 1950-something American Flyer train set. The Flyer was built by the A.C. Gilbert Co. of New Haven. Conn., so a lot of Connecticut kids had them instead of the Lionel. Gilbert was in competition for many years with Lionel trains, but I was one of those Connecticut kids who liked the Lionel better.

My friend still has his Flyer and, in weak moments, really wants to pull it out of the box, set up the oval of track and send the locomotive choo-chooing on its way. I’m a Lionel guy, but I know just how he feels. Problem is, my sections of track disappeared years ago.

• A reader from Fergus Falls, Minn., also was an American Flyer owner, but (horrors!) he sold off his train a few years ago. “Still have some metal toys from the 1950s,” he wrote, “and vinyl records and ’50s and ’60s baseball cards.” He’s done some downsizing but is holding on to some of the good stuff. Like so many of us, he’s not ready to let it all go.

• One reader, a former Fargo resident and retired university professor, sent no-nonsense advice: “It is my experience,” he said, “that it is hard to get rid of stuff, but once you get started, you can build momentum. So get after it.”

Kind of harsh, but I get it.

• And this from a woman who has been through the experience of handing down family heirlooms and other treasures to children and grandchildren:

“Get them together. Go through everything you’re willing to part with. Make lists. Find out who wants this or that and stick to it. Makes for less headaches when the time comes. It’s even better to let them take whatever they want right away. The things are gone and family trouble is avoided – mostly.”

All good ideas, I guess. But in the end it comes down to this: Eventually I’ll have to give up books, model trains, old records, fishing gear, wildlife prints, an obsolete microscope and other things that mean more to me than they can ever mean to anyone else. Anyone who says that’s easy to do is being less than truthful.


Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5521.