Not much is known about my early days. I’m a suitcase, after all, and don’t have the best memory. I think I was manufactured in the late 1940s. The company that made me was called Bon Nalda. I know this because there’s a small metal medallion by my handle that says it in big bold letters. The company’s name is right over our motto, “The Standard of Quality.” I’ve always been proud of our motto and have tried to live up to it whenever I’ve been out traveling with my various owners and their belongings.
Speaking of owners, I’ve had a few. My first owner bought me at a department store in a city I can’t seem to remember. It might’ve been Chicago. I remember the store, though. There was an entire department full of suitcases, valises, and trunks. (Notice I don’t use the word “luggage”. I’ve always considered it a derogatory term.) We were all excited sitting there on display just waiting for our chance to get out of the store and start carrying things around. I remember there was a smaller matching version of me for shoes. We got to be friends on display, but I’m sorry to say that she didn’t get purchased with me. I left the store alone that day. I sometimes wonder what happened to her. I hope she carried a lot of shoes for a lot of years.
I’ve forgotten my first owner’s name. I know his initials, though, as I’ve got them tattooed in silver beneath my medallion. G.C.W. Ahh, good old G.C.W. We traveled all around. I mostly remember a waterfall, a lot of black socks, and so many train stations and airports and hotels that they’ve sort of become a blur. It seems like we went everywhere. G.C.W. and I had a lot of good years.
He eventually stopped taking me places. It wasn’t long before I realized that I’d been replaced by a matching set of Samsonite suitcases. They were bright red and looked like Tupperware. We were in the same closet for awhile and I’ve got to admit they rubbed me the wrong way. They were always bragging about how tough they were. They’d go on and on about the gorillas. I later learned that they were taking credit for another brand’s durability. The gorilla was in the commercials for American Tourister, not Samsonite. I got that straight from a round blue American Tourister Tri-Taper model at a garage sale in 1976.
Yes, it’s hard to talk about, but there were some dark years. G.C.W. didn’t want me anymore and gave me to his daughter when she left home. That’s when I carried women’s underwear for the first time. I can’t remember her full initials, but I remember the last one was a W when I started carrying things for her. It wasn’t long before her initials changed and I found myself replaced for a second time. Samsonite again! This set was even worse than the red one. They had the audacity to mock my purple lining. They were little more than luggage and I told them so.
It wasn’t long before I was sold at my first garage sale. There were two or three more after that in quick succession. My new owners were fine people, I guess, but they didn’t take me out nearly as much as I would’ve liked. On the rare trips we did take, I was sad to find that there were hardly any other Bon Nalda models still out and about. I think I saw my last one in 1978.
Mostly I sat in closets. One man kept papers in me for much of the 1980s and 90s. They weren’t even important papers. They were newspapers. Old newspapers. I know it sounds mean to admit it, but I wasn’t sad when that guy died. I knew it was the only way I’d ever get out of that dang closet.
But then I found myself on the curb with a bunch of my recently deceased owner’s other things. The newspapers were still inside me! It was my darkest hour.
Fortunately, a truck pulled up in the middle of the night and rescued me and some Revere Ware pots. They had copper bottoms. It’s funny what you remember.
The next thing I know the newspapers are gone and I’m being vacuumed. With a vacuum cleaner. One of my purple tying straps got sucked up in there. I’d never felt anything like that before. The vacuumer (maybe the same person from the truck?) got my strap out and then sat me next to a bunch of other old suitcases. I was happy to see that my keys hadn’t been lost. They were taped to my side. We went to a store. The sign on the front said Duck Creek Antiques Mall. I was particularly proud when I got to sit in the store’s front window. It reminded me of being on display back in my first store.
Let’s forget about the fact that a nearby piece of folded cardboard said “Perfect For Display or Prop Purposes”. What’s important here is that my price tag said $45. I couldn’t believe it. I think I cost about $12 brand new. I was really moving up in the world.
That’s where my current owner purchased me back in 2002. He’s a private man and would rather not be named here. I’ll just call him by his initials: M.E.F.
M.E.F. knew I still had a lot of good years left in me. I wasn’t a “prop” yet. He took me all over the country. It turned out I fit perfectly in the overhead bins of the current era’s airplanes. Bon Nalda was a forward-thinking company in that regard. They got the dimensions just right. M.E.F. and I went to Boston, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a place called Seattle about two dozen times. It was great fun.
I got a lot of attention too. By the time M.E.F. rescued me and put me back in service, there were almost no suitcases from the 1940s still left on the traveling circuit. It was all monstrous black rectangles with extendable handles and wheels. Wheels! They roll around like they own the place. No subtlety. No style. No grace. I’m green and I’ve got yellow racing stripes. Talk about classy. There’s a reason they call me “The Jimmy Stewart Suitcase”. People often gave M.E.F. positive comments about my appearance and ability to carry things. It makes a suitcase proud. I’ll tell you that.
Sadly, the last time I took a trip was actually the last time I’ll take a trip. I flew from Seattle to Cincinnati and got crushed in transit by some particularly cruel Delta baggage handlers. My wooden frame split at the corners and both of my locks buckled from the trauma of being thrown and crushed by those soulless black rectangles I mentioned earlier. Still, I’m proud that I managed to stay shut and didn’t spill M.E.F.’s clothes and records all over the terminal. I held tight until he could claim me. Nothing inside me was damaged. I’m very proud of that. I feel like I lived up to the Bon Nalda motto.
M.E.F. took me home and tried to repair me, but I was too far gone. All the duct tape in the world wouldn’t be able to cure what ails me now. Yes, I’m sorry to say that my traveling days are over. I immediately thought back to that dark night by the curb, but M.E.F. has assured me that I’m not garbage. He’s going to keep me and put things inside me. It’s what I was made for, after all. Even if I can’t go to the airport anymore, I can still hold things. It’s not going to be old newspapers either. I assure of you that.