Throwback Thursday: A Suitcase Mystery

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

If you’ve been to a number of library events this past year, this suitcase might look familiar to you.When it’s not in archival storage, it moonlights as the library’s Traveling Trunk, making appearances at the end of Summer Read, Time Travelers programs, and other events, where it houses local historical materials to be shared with the community.

don-lashs-suitcase

But first and foremost, this is a piece of local history itself: the very suitcase which Auburn resident and record-breaking athlete Don Lash took with him to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

For some time, however, there’s been a little bit of a mystery surrounding the trunk’s origin.

Local legend had it that the monogrammed suitcase was a gift from the city of Auburn for Lash’s upcoming trip to Berlin. After all, though he wasn’t originally from Auburn, Lash had graduated from Auburn High School and was an outstanding athlete during his time there. It made sense for the city to support its young Olympian.

However, there was one problem with the story: there’s no record of the city gifting Lash his luggage. And despite asking plenty of questions and poking around, we were not able to find an answer to the mystery until very recently.

The other day, while reading through Lee P. Sauer’s biography of Glenn Rieke, I came across this side-note about Don Lash:

glenn-rieke-biography

The club had held a meeting the evening of May 7, 1936, for the lettermen of Auburn High School, and to present the annual Hickory Club athletic award for athleticism, good sportsmanship, and “the proper mental attitude in practice and in games.” An Auburn High School alumnus, Don Lash was invited as a special guest of honor, and was presented with the suitcase “to use when you go to the Olympics next fall.”

(It should be noted that the men’s Olympic Trials for track and field would not be held until July of that year; apparently the Hickory Club’s members had no doubt Lash would make the team. He certainly proved them right.)

Below are clippings of the article about the meeting. To get a closer look, click on the thumbnails, and then click “View Full Size” toward the bottom-right corner of the page that comes up.

Though the mystery of the suitcase is now solved, so far we’ve been unable to learn much about the Hickory Club itself. If you know of any documents, photos, or other items connected to the history of this DeKalb County organization, we’d love to hear from you!

Want to see more local history? Feel free to search our online photo database, or head on over to the Genealogy Center’s official Facebook page.

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About Chelsea

I've been working at Willennar Genealogy Center for over two years now, and I've loved every minute of getting to learn more about the stories of DeKalb County and the surrounding area. I'm interested in all kinds of history, but I'm especially fond of the early film industry, old letters and journals, the DeKalb County Fair, and the Interurban line.
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