Local vintage art model seeks to solve the mystery surrounding a bracelet. Who was Shirley? And who was ‘Norman Miller, United States Army Air Force’?
The past is brought to the present by photographs featuring Ruby Randall, with her latest series of photos she hopes to provide a happy ending to a love story that spans over 60 years. The bracelet featured in the photos has helped inspire Randall to experience a fairytale romance and now she’s ready to return the prized possession to its rightful owners. If only the right set of eyes see’s the photographs, a heart can be restored.
All of Randall’s photos tell a story, often fairytales, which she uses her collection of vintage clothing to create. “I love fairy tales, romance and folk lore. I love to take a piece of clothing and build a story around it,” she said.
A true-life fairytale was formed about twenty years ago when Randall was going through an olden wooden box that her parents purchased at an auction, believed to have been in Preble County. The box was mostly filled with old bottles, a few odds and ends, lots of dirt, and a special discovery. “I saw what looked like a chain and pulled it out. I wasn’t able to tell what it was, it was so filthy. So I went to the house for an old toothbrush and scrubbed at what I hoped might be a treasure until it began to take shape. I could tell after a few minutes that it was a bracelet. Then I started to see words inscribed and scrubbed harder until the bracelet gleamed and I could finally read what was etched into the silver,” said Randall.
On the front it read, ‘Norman Miller United States Army Air Force’ and on the back was, ‘To The One I Love – Shirley Oct 21, 1943.’
For the next ten years Randall wore the bracelet, without ever taking it off and daydream the World War II lovers who wore the bracelet. Did they make it through the war? Who are they? Did they end up together?
The bracelet took on an even stronger meaning a few years later when Randall met her eventual husband, when they were 15 and 16 years old, while on an old church camp bus. “He looked at me after a ‘deep’ conversation, and said, ‘We are going to get married someday, aren’t we?’ I agreed with a somewhat frozen nod and the butterflies flew right up and got stuck in my throat for what seemed like years to come,” she said.
From that experience, Randall learned of the power of love, and while looking at the bracelet would wonder what Norman and Shirley went through on their journey. She hoped that one day she’d be a part of a love so strong that she’d have it engraved in something she wore every day.
Some ups and downs followed, as after high school, he traveled the country playing in bands. For a while Randall would send letters, but eventually the distance took its toll, and all hope was lost. Randall believed that her fairytale romance would not be made true. Then after three years, their paths were again connected and old feelings restored. “He told me how my letters and pictures had gone everywhere with him and that he was going to marry me if it took him the rest of his life,” said Randall.
Through the hardships and their own personal wars, the message on the bracelet served as an inspiration. “He finished his travels then, this time with a purpose – while wearing my bracelet, Norman’s bracelet. And when we were married we had engraved inside our rings simply, ‘My One.’ We both knew then just what Shirley and Norman meant and felt when they had chosen those words years ago, in all caps, on the inside of that bracelet,” she said.
Now after twenty years and with a love story of her own to cherish, Randall is ready to return the bracelet to the family in which it belongs. A happy ending to Norman and Shirley’s fairytale can be given, if the rightful owners can claim the bracelet.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.