Just about every family has a weird heirloom. For the Hierls, it’s “Shelby.”
Shelby is what the family came to call a footlocker that Victor Hierl kept after World War II. The name derives from that of the original owner, Shelby Reynolds, a soldier who was issued the footlocker during the war.
“No one in our family is totally sure how the footlocker ended up with my father-in-law, a retired U.S. Army major in Connecticut,” Pat Hierl, Victor’s daughter-in-law, said. “The stories are nebulous at best, but what we think happened is that the footlocker was left somewhere and my father-in-law took possession. My father-in-law was in logistics, and traveled from Boston to as far south as Florida to deliver recruits to basic. It’s possible that the footlocker was left somewhere and my father-in-law somehow ended up with it.”
For decades, the Hierl family used the footlocker for what it was intended for — storage.
“Whenever we were looking for something, mom would tell us to go look in Shelby,” Dave Hierl, Pat’s husband, said.
Victor Hierl died in October 2017, and since then family members have been cleaning out his home in Connecticut. While cleaning, the family came across the old footlocker, which intrigued Pat Hierl, Dave’s wife. Pat began researching the footlocker, which had Reynolds’ name and service number printed on it.
Using that information, Pat, who resides with her husband in Whitefish, Montana, was able to determine that Reynolds was a draftee from South Alabama who reported for duty at Fort McClellan in 1942. Further online searches determined that Reynolds died in 1979 and is buried in the Lee Cemetery in Ozark.
“The Internet is a wonderful thing,” Pat said.
Today, the Hierls are seeking family members of Reynolds who may wish to have the footlocker as a memento. Or for storage.
“It’s in decent enough shape,” Dave said. “All those years it was used to hold for miscellaneous stuff.”
The Hierls are holding on to the footlocker until April. After then, it goes to a tag sale.