Sharing Family Memories

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Photo by Isiah REYES
From left, Foothill Retirement resident Rhea Wiemer with her assistant/helper Nelli Gevorgyan and Toni Williamson, Marketing director, wearing hats from the collection.

By Isiah REYES

Foothill Retirement Marketing Director Toni Williamson shared her unique collection of turn-of-the-century items with residents of Foothill Retirement that included a velvet and silk beaded opera cape, hats, purses, a sterling silver seven-piece dresser set and various pieces of jewelry. All items from the collection spanned the years from the 1880s to 1940s and belonged to Williamson’s family.

“I’m the only one left,” said Williamson. “My parents are both gone and I’m an only child, so all these items will be donated to a museum at some point.”

Williamson’s great uncle Howard was a volunteer at the Brooklyn NY Fire Dept. way back before it had motorized fire trucks. Back then, the firewagons had to be pulled by horses. Williamson’s collection contains an ornate leather emblem and crest from the bridle and harness of the Brooklyn Fire Dept.

In addition to the emblem, Howard had a dog that was a part of the volunteer fire department. Williamson not only still owns the dog’s studded leather collar with the FD emblem, but she also has a photo of the dog wearing the collar that dates back to the 1890s. Williamson said she will be donating these fire department-related items directly to the Brooklyn Fire Dept.

Williamson had a hard time picking a favorite item from the collection. From the hats to purses, each item held sentimental value for her.

“I do love the jewelry because I have photos of my family wearing some of the pieces from 70 years ago,” Williamson said.

A small heart-shield Bible was also part of the collection. It was carried by Williamson’s father and cousin through World War II and the Vietnam War. It has a metal cover with the words “May this keep you safe from harm” and was worn inside the left pocket to protect the heart from bullets.

Other items in the collection were a paper dollar silver certificate, mother of pearl opera glasses, a hand painted silk fan with feather trim, a 1900 walking cane with a carved ivory claw handle and 24K gold details engraved “TT 1900” and a book of Disneyland tickets when the entrance fee was a mere $6.75.

“I think the residents really loved it,” said Williamson of her display. “There was a connection to their own families’ past … things that they could really relate to.”

Foothill Retirement is located at 6720 St. Estaban St. in Tujunga. For more information, call (818) 353-3350.