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Treasure Hunting

Posts tagged: souvenir

Object of Affection: A Silver Merrie-Woode Bracelet

   When Susannah Wessel reaches into her jewelry box, she can trace the happiest summer moments of her youth in the simple crescent of a sterling silver bracelet. The band, engraved with her initials on the inside and the letters M and W on the outside, is a loyalty bracelet from Camp Merrie-Woode, a girls camp in North Carolina that has been operating since 1919. 


    “My father’s company purchased a company condo in the small town of Sapphire Valley, North Carolina in 1981,” Wessel wrote.  “Shortly thereafter, my family started to spend our vacations there whenever possible.  There is a lake called Lake Fairfield. One day we decided to take a walk around the lake and we stumbled across a camp for girls: Camp Merrie-Woode.  It was in such a beautiful setting, nestled beneath Old Bald Mountain.”

    After talking to the director, Wessel’s parents enrolled her for the next summer. Wessel received her bracelet in 1988 after attending six summers. She spent a total of 10 summers at Camp Merrie-Woode, the last three as counselor.

    “The camp is still one of my favorite places on earth.  It was there that I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow and ride a horse.  I learned canoeing, kayaking, and sailing.  I slid down rocks and swam a mile to the dam in the Dam Swim.  I went on campouts, hikes, and river trips, and I even slept out in a canoe on the lake,” Wessel wrote. “I made life-long friends, and I cried like a baby on the last night each year when it was time to go back home.” 

    The idea of a silver bracelet given to loyal campers was conceived by Dammie Day, the founder of the camp. The bracelet is given at the campfire of the last night of each camp session and over the years, thousands of girls have received their Merrie-Woode bracelets. Wessel and her husband Sean eventually purchased the North Carolina condo from her father’s business and their daughter followed in her mother’s footsteps. She’ll receive her own bracelet this summer.

    “I wear my Merrie-Woode bracelet the whole time she is there.  In so many ways it connects me to her as she is enjoying so many of the same experiences I had there many years ago,” Wessel wrote. “ We will be connected by a bond that will never be broken and will always hold a special place in my heart.”

     “This simple, elegant, bracelet is a beautiful, tangible reminder of that.”    


Cheryl-Anne Millsap's audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at









Vintage Belgium

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)


We all have our own way of traveling. Some want to hop on a bus and then hop off at the next big attraction. Others like to explore on their own. Some prefer to watch the world at every new place from the comfort of a sidewalk cafe, cappuccino on the table in front of them.

I go for all of the above. But one way I visit any new place is to try to keep one eye open for a secondhand store. A place the locals go for odds and ends. And it always surprises me how often those quirky little places are right in the middle of things.

I was just in Belgium, spending a few days in Brussels, and one afternoon as I was making my way back to the hotel after having walked through the Gallery and across the Grand-Place, I noticed a little shop at the end of one of the narrow streets. It was full of students and young adults.

I walked in and discovered it was a vintage clothing store. There were the usual racks of 70s sweaters and glittery evening gowns but I spotted several wool jackets hanging near the front door. They were vintage military jackets made of heavy wool and they were beautifully tailored, nipped in at the waist and subtly ornamented with red-trimmed epaulets, looking more like a designer piece than surplus. I tried one on and it fit as though it had been made for me. Sold.

 At the back of the store there was a big pile of luggage, duffles and carry-on bags. Just what a student would need to get home after a long semester. Most were vinyl or fabric, but tucked under a big plaid bag I could see the edge of what turned out to be a buttery leather satchel. I pulled it out and took a closer look. It had obviously been used but it was in good condition. There were a few marks but no scratches or tears. There was a luggage tag and in it was the name and address of the physician who’d carried it. Sold again.

Treasure hunters know that there is a vibe that goes out when you find something really good. Suddenly, people were coming over to look over my shoulder, admiring the bag. A few followed me, waiting to see if I would put it down, ready to grab it if I did.

My last find was a beautiful silk scarf, my favorite travel souvenir. I have dozens of them and wear one every day.

I paid for my finds, 60 euros for a vintage wool jacket, gorgeous leather satchel and beautiful silk scarf, and walked back to the hotel.

I filled the satchel with all the Belgian chocolate I was bringing home to my family and carried it aboard each plane. It was heavier and not as easy to maneuver as my usual Swiss Gear rolling bag, but it had a certain style. And every time I look at it I’ll be reminded of one happy hour in a funky little shop in a grand old European city.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is a contributing editor at Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement, and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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