Thursday, May 17, 2018

Handwritten Letters

Letters have been on my mind lately. Recently I received a few handwritten letters in the mail. What a smile a surprise handwritten note brings, even if the same words were used in an email. Also lately I read a collection of letters found in my in-law's house. When I first started cleaning out their home I hoped to find letters from World War II, only to realize they met after World War II.

Instead I have letters from Honey Bunny's mom to Honey Bunny, and more letters between Honey Bunny and Pop pop from when she stayed in Ohio with her mom, and he stayed home. There are more letters from when the children went to college, but I did not read them.

The conclusion I came to, is these letters are the pre-cursor to email. Short snippets of their day mailed to each other for three to thirteen cents depending on the year. The ones I found were written in the 1950s, 1960, and 1970s. The ones in the 1970s talk about Honey Bunny's mom preparing for her move from Lancaster, OH to Meadow Lakes in East Windsor, NJ. She talks about furniture and other items I recently found homes for. Reading her letters I grew to feel she was a real person, something I was not exposed to before. She died after I met Don, but also after she was living in a vegetative state.

Here are a couple of examples of the charming ways people communicated forty years ago:

December 20, 1976
Dear Joyce,
This has been another beautiful day. I went to church by cab, had dinner at McBees, and walked home with Edith.
I'm not at all sure this will reach you before the weekend, but did want to tell you I again have an invitation to Deckard's for Christmas dinner, and I plan to go. Linda insists on coming for me the afternoon of Christmas day. However, if the weather is "mean" I'd much prefer to stay indoors -- at home. We'll see!
I'll drop this not off at the post office in the morning when I'm taking care of other errands down town. This includes the purchase of some of Mrs. Stover's choice boxed candy to take to Deckards, finally picking up Goslin's book and buying taxi-cab tokens at the Mayor's office.
For some time, I have been paying $1.25 to get anywhere I need to go, and $1.25 to get back home. Now due to a gov't grant, all people 65 or over can buy a 50 cent token for bus fare. This has been talked about for a long time. While most of us wondered if it would happen. The fare is 50 cents for most trips I'd need to take. For a trip into another "zone," the 50 cent token can be as as part of the larger fare.
Isn't that great?
I sure hope you will soon be relived of your swine flu "shot" troubles. 
My love and best wishes to all of you -- and may your holidays be very happy.


In these letters her mom referred to her as "Honey," considering we called her Honey Bunny it brought a smile to my face.

Just one more.

January 6, 1977
Dear Joyce,
I was pleased to receive Bob's nice letter. Please tell him so. 
I've just now come in from my weekly trip to Big Bear, and want to get a few lines off to you before the next blast of winter rolls in. When it does, I'll be hibernating.
I've surely made good use of the puzzle books lately. It hasn't been quite so cold, but snowy and icy for getting around.
Last Sunday Edith and I ate dinner the hotel with the V sisters. I think I told you that they have taken up living quarters at "Sherman House," so after eating they invited us upstairs to see their new quarters. They have lovely furnishing (their own) and seem very pleased with the move.
You have surely been doing some interesting things lately. I'm glad for you.
With love to you all,Mother

I do love the historic note about the bus fare in the first letter, and the reference to thanking Pop-pop for his letter -- why didn't she just write to him herself? It is not as if she didn't have his address. In most notes Don's grandmother wrote about the weather, going shopping, going out to dinner, updates on her friends and family members ... all the things I put in emails to my friends. Communication hasn't changed in the past 60+ years, only the means to communicate (paper and pen with neat penmanship vs. electronic missives).

The next question is what to do with these letters. My plan was to read the notes then throw them out. A historic re-enactor friend was horrified at that thought -- she suggested donating them to the local historical society. I emailed my contact at the historical society and await her reply. What would you do with two shoe boxes full of letters not involving you?

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