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  • Treasure Trove

    Posted by Dan from Madison on May 29th, 2012 (All posts by )

    My wife took a recent visit to her grandmother and grandfather. They aren’t doing so well. We have had to have “the talk” with them about getting them out of their house and into some sort of assisted living facility. It isn’t pleasant, of course – it never is when dealing with situations such as this.

    While there, my wife was asked to go through some things and distribute them among the living family members. Most of these things hold only sentimental value. I ended up with a couple of guns, a sweet antique Marlin .22 and a beautiful bolt action Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun. I haven’t had time to research them as of yet.

    As we were cleaning up the van and getting some of the items ready for a garage sale to raise cash for them, my wife informed me she also got a box of letters. What’s that, I said? Well, here it is.

    I was told that these were letters from my wife’s grandfather to her grandmother. And they are. Hundreds and hundreds of them, neatly bundled and put away for nearly 70 years before my eyes gazed upon them. From an early look, the vast majority of them seem to be from when my wife’s grandfather was drafted to be in the big war – ww2, that is. They have that musty/old book smell.

    He was stationed in India and from what I can glean upon reading a letter or two is that he was a supply clerk of some sort. There are also a lot of letters that he wrote to her from basic training. Most of the addresses use grandma’s maiden name. They were still courting.

    Oh yea – I haven’t told my wife this yet – there are letters from other guys to grandma too. Well then.

    I plan on sharing some of these letters with our readers here. They are an invaluable source of information to a historian such as myself to get a feel what it was like back then – not only from a military history standpoint, but they will be a look into the social lives of folks back then as well.

    I shall change the names as these folks are still alive, but I will leave all of the language intact. I hope you enjoy these letters that I will publish as I find time to transcribe them. The first thing I need to do is figure out everything chronologically.

    I am absolutely giddy with anticipation.

     

    10 Responses to “Treasure Trove”

    1. Lexington Green Says:

      Suggestion: Scan them as .pdf files, as you read them, so you only need to handle the originals once. Start each file name with the date in format YYYYMMDD so they automatically sort into chron order.

      That is a truly great find.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

      Letters between one set of my grandparents exist, but they are written in old-fashioned German gothic script and no one in the family can read them. Getting them translated would be analogous to sending one’s floppy diskettes to a data recovery service. Probably not difficult with the Internet.

      An acquaintance of mine has an album of photos made mostly by her grandfather, who was an aerial observer in the US Army during the first world war. He was clearly a talented photographer and as an observer must have had access to cameras and darkrooms. There are pictures of his comrades, of battlefields, of aircraft in flight taken from the air, cities, landscapes, etc. I suspect that some of these photos have substantial historical value but most institutions wouldn’t be interested (my friend said that her family tried unsuccessfully to interest a museum). But with the Internet publishing such things is doable as a personal project.

      There are many genealogical websites, but are there any websites that facilitate publication and organization of historical documents by individuals?

    3. Bill Brandt Says:

      Like photographs so many would be considered uninteresting at the time but 60-70 years later fascinating time capsules.

    4. knirirr Says:

      Excellent stuff. I’d love to find something similar, but my family seem not to have kept anything useful.

    5. Bill Brandt Says:

      My paternal grandfather, who I never knew – kept awar diary in the Pacific. Diaries really offer a “snapshot of time”

    6. John J Says:

      I have a smaller set of letters from my father to my mother from 1945. I, too, am moving slowly through the letters which I try to date from the headers, (Monday, Tuesday, etc) coupled with the (now faded) post marks.

      There is a letter from August, 1945 where Daddy tells Mama that he just heard a radio broadcast about the bomb (Atom Bomb). The word was that this might be the end of the war.

      BTW, one of the envelopes has my uncle’s rank, serial number and station (Moore Field, Texas) written in my Mother’s very fine handwriting. Another nugget from the past.

      Regards,

      JJ

    7. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Our family had a treasure-trove somewhat like this; the letters that my Uncle Jimmy Menaul wrote to his family during his year of basic and flight-school. I sat down and transcribed them all in 1992, as well as the condolence letters recieved by the family after his B-17 was shot down on their first mission over Germany. Doing scans of them all wasn’t something I could have done, although I wish the technology had been available.
      It was a good thing that I did at least that much – the originals were all burnt in a brushfire that took out my parents’ house in 2003. All that is left of them are my transcriptions.

    8. John Burgess Says:

      Wow… does this make me feel old. My grandfather was too old to fight in WWI; my father was already 22 at the start of WWII.

    9. Carl from Chicago Says:

      Wow that is very cool. Looking forward to hearing about it.

    10. elf Says:

      My Mother had letters from her Father stationed in India [railroad unit] in WW2 written on Unit Stationary. I was able to find both blogs and a website with pictures of the unit. I’d suggest it to others, it was a treat for Mom.