Polio Place

A service of Post-Polio Health International


Swiss Army Knife

Gary Presley; Bolivar, Missouri

I looked for this knife when I came home from the March of Dimes rehabilitation center in Omaha, Nebraska in the summer of 1960. I hung it on part of the leg support assembly of the ugly green E&J wheelchair sent home with me. The knife was given to me for my birthday in 1952, which I celebrated in Verdun, France. It is one of the original Swiss Army knives, spare and solid. It was a talisman, a reminder of the places we'd lived and the places I would probably never see again, both a connection to all that had been and a reminder of how much had changed. The knife dangled from the chair as I rolled through anger, frustration, and self-pity.

One day, after I began working at an office job, I noticed I had broken the circle clasp from which the knife hung when I ran into a file cabinet. I took it home that night and put it away in a box of keepsakes. Whenever I hold it now, I think of all it represents in my life -- a gift from a parent, a reminder of visits to exotic places as an Army brat, the useless weight of carrying resentment over what cannot be changed. It is a only a knife, but I hold it, and I remember the iron lung, the rehabilitation center, the years of resentment, and now at last, all that polio took away from me. And eventually gave back.


View All Artifacts

Back to Top