Russel Ferguson was the youngest son and one of five surviving children of Tom and Lola (Pope) Ferguson. Russ didn’t care much for school. While the rest of his siblings finished high school and some went to college, Russ dropped out of high school during or after his sophomore year. Russ got a job as a clerk in a local drug store, despite the U.S. economy entering into a depression in 1929.
He married Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Ferguson in 1936. Their marriage resulted in the birth of two sons, one of which is my husband, David. Through the years, Russ held a variety of jobs. He seemed to have found his ideal job when he was able to purchase a tile flooring business. Somehow the business transaction went wrong, and the company was “sold out from under him.” He took his case to court and was able to recoup his investment. However, the resulting loss of the business took a toll on him. For some time, he became severely depressed and unable to work.
Eventually, he obtained employment as a Deputy Constable in the 3rd district in the County of St. Louis in Missouri. Constables were tasked with keeping order in the court room and serving summons for people to appear in court, among other duties. The constable’s office merged with the St. Louis County sheriff’s department and employed Russ from 1962-1979. He had found his niche in life.
At each station of his employment, the county issued a badge to Russ. The first badge signified his position as a Deputy Constable and the second as a Deputy Sheriff. The final badge indicated the time he served in the sheriff’s department . . . seventeen years in a lifetime, serving with pride, and carrying out the business of law enforcement for the county he had lived in his entire life. After he retired, the badges went into the bottom drawer of his dresser.
Fast forward to many years later. The sons get married, and grandchildren are born. Often our families would meet for dinner at the Ferguson two-story resident. We visited downstairs while the six grandkids played upstairs. Occasionally, the kids got loud, resulting in one of us hollering up the stairs for them to settle down. We never questioned what the kids did upstairs. We assumed they behaved themselves and respected their grandparents’ belongings.
Darin admitted years later that he would sneak a peek at the badges in the bottom of the dresser drawer each time the kids played in the bedroom. Unlike the wool “Micky Walker” swimsuit from the 1930s that Russ showed us one time, he never brought out his badges for us to see.
Russ died at seventy-seven. After his death, we never had another visit to the family home. I suspect it was too painful for Betty to go on with family activities without Russ at her side. About a year later, Betty sold the home. When she asked if there were things we wanted, we asked for the badges and other things. To preserve the badges, we had them framed. They hung on our family room wall for many years.
Today, Darin owns the badges. He loved his grandpa. To him, the badges were a connection to Russ and fond memories of the Ferguson home. If only his grandpa knew how much they meant to him.
Each of us has heirlooms that evoke memories of a time and place or a loved one. Mine is my father’s Hohner harmonica. I can still see him playing and then knocking the spit out of the harmonica when he finished. Who knew you had to do that?
These are items we will lovingly preserve for future generations. If we are lucky, we will have keepsakes our grandchildren will keep that remind them of fond times spent with us.