Almburg alluded to Ivans service in World War
II and how he was part of the American forces that fought at
Iwo Jima. He also mentioned that Ivan took a bullet
in the knee in that battle, which remained there the rest of
his life. Among the military artifacts being sold that day was
a tattered Japanese flag that brought $300. His son Rhys filled
me in on the story behind it. While battling the Japanese, many
who were occupying caves, Ivan was able to retrieve a flag from
one of the caves, then displayed it outside for a photo. Rhys
still has that photo. But Ivan never told him how he was able
to capture it.
Malta historian Ivan Prall died in 2016 at age 94. His
wife, Betty, died last year at age 95. Their two sons, Rhys and
David, and their families spent months sorting through their
possessions before holding an auction last Saturday at their
I found it fascinating, being a collector of sorts myself,
to see how much a couple can accumulate over 65 years in the
same house. I knew Ivan for the 11 years since we moved back
here and he was a wealth of knowledge pertaining to local area
history, not only about Malta.
Auctioneer Steve Almburg began the sale by paying tribute
to Ivan, a World War II veteran, and told how Ivan had helped
his son with a paper he was assigned in junior high on Malta
history. I can relate to that, as Ivan was always willing to
provide information when I called to ask about something I was
composing but unsure of the facts.
One of the auctioneers Adam Almburg holds up two WW
II helmets that brought brisk bidding from military memorabilia
collectors in the crowd. Inset shows the late Ivan Prall
(photo courtesy of Marcia Wilson).
Ivan spent the war years in the Pacific Ocean theater,
much of the time providing support for the bombing runs over
Japan by printing photos from the cameras mounted in the planes
that recorded the extent of damage from each mission. His experience
in the darkroom generated a lifelong interest in photography.
Although his career at Wurlitzer and then 37 years at General
Electric did not center on photography, he took many photos around
the county, including freelancing for the Daily Chronicle. His
two 1940s-era large format Speed Graphics are keepsakes for David
Wandering among the flatbed wagons that filled the front
yard, plus tables full of household items, including a room with
stacks of hundreds of magazines and books, I had trouble keeping
my bidding number in my pocket. I did manage to score one modest
artifact (a world globe), which I plan to display at the antiques
and collectibles show being held at Oak Crest later this summer.
DeKalb historian Steve Bigolin bought a box of old dishes, which
included a 1956 Malta centennial plate.
I left there with mixed feelings, admiring all the artifacts
Ivan must have enjoyed over the years, but realizing that those
left behind to sort through the mountain of materials must have
been overwhelmed. It gave me pause to think what our sons will
have to contend with down the road. But I still find it difficult
to bypass signs to estate sales and auctions...