Friday, April 20, 2018

the letters

    In my last post, I wrote about 30 letters that I had found at a used bookshop.  Many people whom I've told about the letters have asked about the content of the letters. Here are some of the things that were written about in these letters:

      Bob seems to be the youngest son. He wrote 1 letter in this bundle. I know that he graduated from Annapolis in 1945, so I think that's why. His letter is a sweet letter written to his dad on his dad's 50th birthday. This letter was on stationery from the USS Lexington.
     Rick is the oldest, I think. He wrote a lot about rank in the Navy and his advancement plans. He was transferred a few times so there is information about multiple ships (and the pros and cons of each of them). I smiled everytime I read that he was taking some time to "cut you in on the straight dope" about what was going on in life. I enjoyed reading about what his bunks/ bunkmates were like, how he enjoyed the ship's library and that he felt a connection to their ship's mascot, a cute cocker spaniel named Squeegie. He wrote a lot about missing home and regretting not watching his little sister grow up in person. He was concerned about missing Bob's graduation and wedding and very concerned about how he was goign to obtain graduation and wedding gifts, despite the fact that he was looking everywhere he went for something that would be suitable. One letter told about a dream he had where his parents had sold their farm in New Hampshire. In the letter, he begged them to promise that they would not sell the farm until he and Bill were home from war because, even though both brothers tried not to say how much they truly missed their family, not only did they miss the people, but they also missed "home." One of the favorite things I read in his letters was that they had sailed very close to Catalina Island, which apparently had a bird sanctuary on it at the time. He mentioned that birds kept flying into the ship and were quite content there. They invaded the mess hall and the crews quarters. Many of the sailors would try to capture them to force the birds out but then they would fly right back in.  Rick mostly used plain, thin airmail paper, but used some cool USO stationery and YMCA stationery too.

   Bill is my favorite. He mostly used plain paper, but had one nice Navy stationery letter.
        I learned a lot from how the mail worked from Bill's letters. He wrote home almost daily. All of his letters were numbered and he seemed to ask his family to do the same for him.Almost all of his letters had been stamped by the censors and signed with his name and branch at the bottom of the page. He mentioned one time were it had been 6 weeks since they had received mail (and how he was one of the few sailors who had received ANYthing at all) and another time where the mail had come after a 50 day wait. So, he was often sitting and reading piles of mail. He cherished news from his family, especially news about home. The more news from home, the better and the faster he "devours" it. He was also sent some magazines from home. He did mention that the ships radiomen listened to the news sent over the wire and transcribed a short version of it. They "mimeographed" a few copies of the "Dots 'n Dashes" every morning for the sailors to read at breakfast. He seemed to send his pay home and was concerned about whether they received each check.
      He talked about his experiences with "the natives."  He mentioned houses (shacks) built on stilts to prevent them from sinking into the mud. He said that people and animals lived under the same roof and that people ran shops out of their homes. He mentioned that the children in these villages had little to no toys and he was curious as to how they play. One day, the sailors had a picnic on an island. He explored the jungle and saw some beautiful white birds (but no parrots or monkeys). The sailors ate and then stripped down for a swim in a lagoon. They met some natives who were "scantily clad, except for two boys who had sailor's hats like ours."  The natives were polygamous and they "looked healthy."  They mostly ate fish and coconut. The sailors gave them a hotdog.
     He liked to sleep above deck on the ship because it was too hot below deck. He had different systems for different weather. He spoke of not having Christmas Eve because they had crossed the international date line so they basically skipped a day.  Life on the ship was sometimes slow and he sometimes struggled to find news when he hadn't heard any news from home beforehand. He mentioned that if he was writing to a woman he could fill the page with mush, but that it wasn't really appropriate for his parents and sister. :) He wrote one really touching letter to his sister telling her how much he missed her and how he "met" a monkey on a beach one day and played with it for a few hours before it fell asleep on his shoulder. If he could've brought it for her as a pet, he would've. He also told her that he couldn't wait to hear her play "Starlight Waltz" on the piano when he got home. He promised to teach her to dance and to bring her out to a show and a soda.
       Bill was very expressive of his love and concern for his family. He mentioned all of his siblings, his grandparents, some friends and his parents. I'll close this with a bit of one of his letters. I love his writing. (It has inspired me to pull out my fountain pen for my next letter. (to Linn)

    I hope you can read it. It thanks his family for a branch that they sent him in a Christmas package. It says that it might seem silly, but the branch has become one of his most prized possessions. He mentioned that the smell of the branch reminds him of home (and describes home). He said that when he gets home, he would be happy with being able to explore the outdoors and that if he just had a good fly rod, sturdy shoes, a canoe and a camera, he'd be happy.
        Reading all of these letters, I kept thinking that it was a shame that these memories are not with their families. I have done some research and I think I found their families! Just last night I wrote a letter to Anne, the youngest sister, to ask if she would like these letters. I sent her my contact information so hopefully she will call or e-mail me.  I will update if the story continues.


  1. Oh I just loved reading this. No doubt these letters are in good hands of you are unable to find the family. You're treasuring them as they should be treasured. I'm excited and hopeful that you'll hear back from this sister. I can't imagine how she will feel, wow! Definitely keep me updated. The handwriting is besutbeau, and I love the simplicity of the things they found happiness/comfort in. Thanks for sharing. It made me happy to read this today. 😊💌💞

    1. Sorry for my typos. I'm using my phone 😑

    2. Besutbeau, what?! I totally meant beautiful!!! 😂