Collections: Thoughts and Things Celebrate, Create, Contemplate. Repeat.

Where Does All of This Come From? Meet The Trunk.

Where does all of this come from, this time capsule of World War II? Am I a collector?  No, I am an inheritor.  The only daughter of an only daughter.

This is what started my quest.  A trunk that had been in the closet since, hmmm, I’d guess around 1946-50.  Currently located  in the closet of my grandparents house, in my mothers room.  Those two generations are now  gone.  Time for it to move.  And it was time for me to open it.

This trunk is filled with letters. Filled. My instinct was to let the contents go, and use it for packing.  I did not want to invade my  parents privacy by reading their newlywed letters during WWII.  I asked my brother if he wanted to read them, and he said no, let it go too.  Throughout the process of cleaning out 100 years of things for my parents estate, I am lucky to have had the support of friends.  I send off a few text pictures to show the quantity of letters. (Plus the trunk is cute.) Two friends, in two different states each said “STOP, do NOT toss those letters, I will come help you if you need it. Do not disregard their value.”

There are 100’s of letters in her college trunk.  Most date from the Fall of 1939 – 1945. All of this correspondence represented just a small window of time, my mothers college years, and the 1st years of marriage.  Not their entire 20+ USN career as I initially thought. The letters were from neighborhood kids, high school friends, college friends, Dad and pen pals. Each bundle, that I for the most part have torn through, were wrapped together and tied with embroidery floss by friend/fiancé/penpal.   Also included were a few hundred copies of the slim hometown paper my grandmother had sent to her.  Most with mailing labels still attached.  I will say precisely refolded, or perhaps she was too busy studying and writing to read the hometown news. The ads from the newspapers calling for real Rosie the Riveters, and to communicate rations and conservation. The frequency of the letters was surprising too. This group around my mom really kept in touch, and given the times, and the distances. I hope it was a comfort.

First pass, I was a bit of a magpie.  I buzzed through one layer untying packets and looking for birthday cards, holiday cards and postcards. Quite amazing.  I love vintage graphics. Sassy birthday themes hold up for 70+ years.  Then I noticed that the some of the stationary was quite remarkable. Embossed, creative, heavy bond or tissue thin for airmail. Custom Christmas card from Annapolis. Logos and letterhead. So many unique examples, in addition to notebook, plain and typing paper.

My personal A-HA was realizing  that if you want your correspondence kept for posterity do not write in pencil.  It fades and becomes more difficult to read. And, illegible handwriting, like my own, does not improve with age. Most likely, no one will attempt to decipher. (I’m OK with that.)  On other visits,  I dipped into reading the letters with something included–articles, cards, ads. And typed letters. Many said thanks for the cookies. My mother was a very good cook, & I am glad that she was sending homebaked treats. Can’t imagine how difficult the unknowns were for her throughout the duration of the War. Days, weeks, months not knowing. Almost a year once.  Heartbreaking.

My first idea for this blog was to share one item a day, excerpt from a letter, stationary, postmark, card, postcard, newspaper.  To honor and share the history. I’m proceeding (yea!) but in a more roundabout way. Please do keep an eye out for Miss Ruie. One of mom’s high school friends is quite a hoot.

For the most part, I did not and do not plan to read my Dad’s.  Just some glances to see where he was (Recife Brazil, Africa, Corpus Christi). For many of his letters, the stamp is placed upside down. Hmmm, a message perhaps? He was very organized, so I think it is by design.  Or perhaps during a WAR one might be happy just to be able to write and send a letter.

I found brochures from their brief honeymoon in Maine, a simple invitation for their December 43 wedding, and a few mementos: A well worn letter blotter, the ring box, a dried corsage.   The gift of a moment.

From a Gorham Silver ad, here is a wistful wartime bride-to-be, hand on a globe,

sterlingad1 sterlingad2such an interesting peek into the past, “Buy. But . . . buy it unselfishly!”

I know there’s a story behind this letter.Ski Cantonment

Well, turns out that what I really inherited is a treasure box, isn’t it?

 PS, Yes, they did get Gorham Sterling, starting with the luncheon set I’m sure.

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