The (IMHO excellent) book is "Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart (1949), winner of the first International Fantasy Award (1951) and acknowledged by Stephen King as the inspiration for his The Stand. A review of a recent edition, and author biography is available here: http://www.sfsite.com/11a/ea92.htm
The talisman was a hammer.
> It was in the seventies that I read this book. I read a fiction book
> about an epidemic that wiped out most people in the country (USA).
> were pockets of people who survived and they were able to use the water
> system and even electricity at first, but soon these systems needed to
> repaired and there was nobody who knew how to repair them. So life
> more primitive. Also these people became fearful of travelers who might
> bring disease and wipe their little colony out again. The original
> narrator of the book lived a long life and had with him something from
> civilization. This "something"(I wish I remembered what) was now a
> talisman for the younger generations who believed it had magic power.
> made quite and impression on me and I was not keeping track of what I
> read at the time so I have totally lost it. It was probably the late
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