Not every family has a cache of mementos, ephemera, and other memorabilia that are a physical reminder of the past. There is also no doubt that such items can be a great way to jump start someone’s memories. A picture of the county courthouse, an old restaurant, the town square, etc. are reminders of times past that can help start a conversation about the “old times.” Pictures or items the person can hold can open the memory floodgates.
Ebay is one way to obtain such items–sometimes for a cheap price if you avoid the pricier items. You don’t need anything fancy or expensive. A post card picture, a matchbook from a restaurant, a cheap political button, etc. are all ways to help start the conversation.
Reading digital newspapers for the time period in question and making notes about local historical events, movies showing in the theatre, contemporary political candidates, etc. can be a great way to get a list of things to ask about.
Just be careful with using political candidates as a way to get a family member remembering. You might have difficulty getting them off that topic.