Foggy train station platforms swarmed with scampering travelers and misty-eyed loved ones saying goodbye dressed in hats and traveling gloves, toting sturdy, hard-shelled luggage and trunks. . .
This is what I envision every time I come upon a vintage suitcase while antique meandering. I am so enamored of these pieces, I will often gaze upon them longingly, getting lost in the moment only to be startled back to reality by a fellow antique shopper passing by. My mind wanders, so many questions pop up begging for answers. Who were the owners? To where did they travel? What exploits have these suitcases seen? Were they taken on a train, a plane, perhaps a boat? Were they lovingly packed with elegant dresses fit for galas and parties or were they stuffed with beach wear for an island adventure?
Then the imagination takes over, and a complete story is created using just the single piece of luggage. The only clues to build from are the color, the size, and if lucky, initials branded on the outside. Sometimes the inside and the liner may hold clues, as well. A discolored stain? A smell? Was perfume spilled inside?
I am not a suitcase expert, nor am I an appraiser, so I have no idea how to distinguish between a suitcase that may have been from, let’s say the 1970s and one from the 1940s. I think I know, but really I could have stumbled upon a suitcase that I filled with floor-length gowns Katharine Hepburn would have donned when in reality it held bell-bottoms and platform shoes from a disco-loving club goer.
My parents for a long time (maybe still) had light blue hard suitcases under their bed. When they bought this, I don’t know (Note to self: ask about luggage) but my best guess would be in the 1980s. Even it always fascinated me. It’s just so different than the bags we have today. In its present day, it probably looked like every other piece of luggage. I would expect that from the 1980s, but also wonder about the 1940s and so on. Was all luggage
generic in its time? Has it always been as cookie-cutter as we have now? I especially love the round suitcases and the vanity cases, neither you see much of anymore.
Though I do love my luggage, and it is quite easy to tell it apart from other bags on the conveyor belt, I fantasize about carrying vintage bags. Of course, on today’s airlines they would probably exceed the weight limits and have some sort of special fees attached to them, because they can’t be squished and beaten into a flattened mess like most of the pliable suitcases that are currently made. Not to mention the fact that they may actually protect the contents they hold and my personal belongings would have their rights intact after said journey. I’m sure the airlines would really poo-poo on that.
Then again, I don’t really fantasize about carrying one of those vintage bags aboard a cramped Southwest flight while Grandma Betty regales me with stories of her 16 grandchildren (seriously though, I love sitting next to interesting grandma-types on flights, no hate comments, please). Where I would most certainly be forced to give up a bag and check it, because I’m pretty sure any of these bags are not fitting in the over head compartment, nor at my feet. No, these bags require a more personal and free way of traveling. A travel experience where they are carried aboard by me, and most often at my side or in my own personal compartment.
My visions are of me boarding a train, my one lonely suitcase clutched firmly, hanging onto the handle while I stand in the open doorway looking out over the crowds, heart dropping because the one I had longed for is nowhere to be seen. The train lurches forward while I am left to sulk for the loss of what might have been, maybe even a small tear glistens on my cheek. . . Oh, wait, maybe that was Humphrey Bogart.
Maybe I’m rushing on the tarmac to board one of those rumbling old planes because I just got word of my loved one being alive, who I thought dead. My hastily packed suitcase in tow as I trip over the flight ramp. Nope, that’s Veronica Lake.
These suitcases would be a good companion while trying to hitch a ride. They are usually larger and very sturdy, a handy combination when needing to take a break and rest, making a good seat. They also might be a good anchor weight when trying to cross a shallow river, ensuring getting swept away is not an option. Wait, that doesn’t sound right either. Right, that was Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
Who am I kidding, in my sappy, romanticize-everything-world any of the above scenarios make my heart flutter and my hand twitch in fevered anticipation of my fingers laced around a worn handle, feeling the bulk of my belongings safely tucked away inside. Whether I’m to board that train (by the way, that’s my favorite), plane or a boat, hitch that ride or cross that river (okay, maybe not that one, that’s kind of silly), I would love to have a vintage piece to take on an adventure of my own, making fantasies into experiences and memories.