When a ship sinks, the first person to bring up an object from a wreck can claim legal ownership of the wreck under international maritime law. That gives that person the control of the wreck and control over salvage rights. Robert Ballard, one of the men who discovered the Titanic in 1985, had mixed feelings about disturbing the graves of those victims who are still there…a very noble man, if you ask me. Ballard’s partner, Jean-Lous Michel, agreed. They made the decision not to disturb the wreck, but rather to leave it in the pristine (for a wreck) condition that it was in. They didn’t bring up anything from the wreck.
Unfortunately, their act of decency and kindness, left a legal door open, and that has been the greatest source of regret for the two men. Because they chose to bring nothing up from the wreck, they could not claim legal ownership of Titanic. Unfortunately, that left the ship vulnerable, because anyone and everyone now had a legal right for salvage the contents, and even parts of the ship…and they did. The artifacts and ship parts were free for the taking…and they were big business, especially after the movies came out, and interest grew. Soon, Titanic Ventures went in to claim salvage rights, and began bringing up artifacts to sell for exhibits and souvenirs. Since then, they have made a fortune on exhibits all over the world.
Following the find, and subsequent decision not to remove an artifact, anyone with the ability to explore the ocean floor that deep, went in and raided the ship. I’m sure that many of us have seen the Titanic exhibits, me included, and even purchased one of the artifacts, me included, but in my defense, I did not know the thoughts and wishes of Ballard and Michel, or the thoughts and feelings of the families of the deceased, at that time. I looked at the exhibit as a learning tool. I love learning, and I love history, and in fact, one of my own ancestors died on the Titanic, which I suppose gave me as much right to see the exhibit as anyone, but I’m still not sure it is right to make money off of the horrific way others lost their lives.
I remember as I went through the exhibit, walking through the recreation of the steerage rooms, with the eerie sounds of the water on the outside, thinking of the people who had been trapped there on that fateful night. I remember looking at the piece of the hull, thinking that I was standing almost close enough to reach out and touch part of a ship that had been so far under the ocean. I have seen both versions of the Titanic movies, but while looking at the exhibit, it was the original movie that came to my mind. Titanic wasn’t really a love story. It was a loss story. It was a story of bravery, courage, and yes, love…the kind of love that made a wife refuse to leave her husband and parents to comfort their children, when all hope of survival was lost…holding in the tears of knowing that their children would never get to live their life to adulthood. When I think about all the lives that were lost on that fateful day, I can see how Ballard and Michel would want to leave the Titanic as it was, thereby preserving the graves of all those poor souls. While their idea was noble, it is sad that they didn’t bring at least one thing us so that their ownership and control could remain the gift they had planned to give the families.
When I was a little kid, we sometimes got to take our vacations with my Uncle Bill’s family. My dad and his brother were close, and while they unfortunately lived a long way from each other, they really enjoyed spending time together, and getting the families together too. It was always a wonderful treat for us to get to see Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris and the kids. Uncle Bill was always such a kidder, so between him and my dad, the vacations were filled with laughter. I think I would have loved to see the two of them as boys, pulling their little…or as was usually the case with those boys, big antics.
On this particular trip, we had stopped at Wall Drug in South Dakota. Now for those of you who have never been there, this is not your everyday drug store. It is practically an amusement park without the rides. There were all kinds of talking displays, dinosaurs, Indian artifacts, pottery, rocks, souvenirs, and it’s free, except the souvenirs and food. How much of that do you see these days?
We were pretty much free to browse around, and of course, like most kids, we looked for things we might like to talk our parents into buying for us. I’m sure to the adults, we must have looked quite funny. Running around from this item to that…finding each item more interesting than the last one. I guess the good news is that we were all occupied, and there was no fighting going on. And believe me, my sisters and I were pretty much professional souvenir shoppers. It could take hours to decide, unless our parents said to hurry up so we could go.
On this particular trip, Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris wanted to buy something special for their nieces, my sisters and me. We did not know this, however, so while we were making up our minds on a souvenir, they were watching us. I don’t recall if our parents just told us we could get something somewhere else, or just got us some little thing, but whatever it was, we didn’t leave there with the items we would have treasured most, because there was a bit of a conspiracy going on. And here I thought a person was supposed to be able to trust their parents, aunts, and uncles, but now, I know better!!
Later that night, my aunt and uncle surprised each of us with a gift…the very thing we had wanted the most. They secretly bought us those things, and my uncle took pictures of each of us opening the gift, so they could see what we thought of them. It was a wonderful surprise. Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris were always so good to us. They made us feel special whenever we were with them…and not just because they bought us something either. They were just always very sweet to us, and we loved them very much. These days we don’t get to see as much of them as we used to, but I want them both to know that we love both them very much!!
When I was a young girl, our family took a vacation every year. By the time I was 12 years old, I had every possible worthless souvenir there was. It was at that point that I decided to change the plan some. I told my mom that instead of the silly souvenirs, I was going to start buying something that would have meaning for the rest of my life. She thought that was a great idea. So I looked around the souvenir store that we were in at Grand Coulee Dam, and found my first spoon. The decision…made by a 12 year old girl…began a lifelong collection for me.
At first I kept my collection in a box, but later on that was going to be problematic. The spoons would be hard to enjoy, because they could only be looked at when I had time to go through the box, and no one else could really enjoy my collection. It was at that time that I came across the only souvenir I would buy during those years that was not a spoon. It was my first spoon rack, and it was beautiful as you can see.
When I first bought the spoon rack, it didn’t have very many spoons on it, but the years have changed that. I have added many spoons from places that are very special to me. I have also been given spoons from all over the world, as friends and family members traveled to those places and were kind enough to spend their time to look for a spoon for me. I have spoons from places like the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle, and the Grand Canyon, all of which I have had the privilege of seeing. I collected spoons from every state that I have been in. I have also collected many memories with each of those spoons.
Then, as more of the people I knew began to travel out of the country, me spoon collection grew in ways I never expected. My ex-brother-in-law, Warren, who has remained a friend of the family since my sister’s divorce, contributed a great many of those out of the country spoons. Warren was in the Navy, and was required to go on cruises for long periods of times to many places around the world. Warren brought back spoons from Thailand, Hong Kong, Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome. My grandmother brought me one from Ireland when she got got go there…it was the trip of a lifetime for her, and that spoon reminds me of how much fun she had. My boss, Jim brought me a spoon from Israel when he and his wife Julie went there for their 25th wedding anniversary. These gifted spoons have a memory all their own for me, because while they are from places I have never been, I have the joy of knowing what each trip meant to the person who took it. Some were so special that they were the highlight of the travelers life. And they took time to do something nice for me.
My collection will continue to grow as I travel and others do. In fact, the collection as grown so much that I have had to add a second spoon rack, just to hold them all. It is almost like having a scrapbook that hangs on my wall. My spoons have their own stories to tell.