Not everything saved in Bill Bean’s box was a photograph. There were other items—old letters, membership records, identification cards. For whatever reason, Bill had chosen to save odds and ends like these. Each one becomes a token for me of what was important to him in life.
The card included a watermark from the United States Coast Guard. The reverse of the card showed Bill's age to be 46, his height at five feet eleven inches, with hazel eyes and “grey” hair. The card confirmed that he was a natural born citizen by the initials, “N. B.,” and listed his place of birth as Redwood City in California. Under the entry for his serial number were the stern words, “Federal Fingerprints Taken.” A sample of the proof was entered just to the right of that, with the print from Bill’s own index finger squarely planted in the designated box.
The card was issued to Bill during the war years. It was no surprise, during that time, to see the government duly cautious about identifying those with business in and around the ports of the Bay area. Of course, Bill had been working in the automobile business for years; perhaps he was required to go to the ports to accept shipments for his business.
Whether saving the picture of himself from those earlier working years in and around the Bay, or this token from his more successful later years in his car dealership, Bill’s choice in what he tossed in that box for safekeeping becomes in itself a spyglass for those like me who, at a distance, try to piece together the lives of our long-gone relatives.