This past Friday night my husband, daughter and soon to be son-in-law began the holiday weekend with shopping at Hunt & Gather. It is one of my favorite quarterly pop-up markets in our area featuring over 150 vintage/antique curators. I have gone to all but one of the thirteen scheduled markets since it originated a few years ago and every time I find something unique. This time what attracted my attention was a perfect fit for the holiday weekend.
My daughter and I stopped at the last table that we saw because the curator had a 1940 vintage suitcase that my daughter wanted to purchase and use at her wedding reception for wedding cards. While she was purchasing it, I noticed something else from the 1940’s. What attracted my attention were the stacks of personal letters written in 1943 and 1944 between a World War II sailor and his wife which the curator purchased at an estate sale. What better time to purchase them than Memorial Day weekend.
It really tugged at my heart and spirit when I saw these personal letters with intimate thoughts that were shared between two young people who were in love with each other. When these letters were written 73 years ago, did they ever imagine they would be sold at a market and a stranger would purchase them to read? There were multiple stacks, and I would have loved to have purchased them all but only purchased two stacks which totaled twenty letters.
In between my activities over the weekend, I read the letters and felt close to this World War II veteran and his wife. It appears he was stationed in the states in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and New York. His wife lived approximately twenty minutes from where I live. They had occasional phone calls but it appears their main communication was writing letters. And because of that, their experience and emotions have been preserved for history.
Below are a few excerpts from the letters sharing first-hand emotions of how a sailor and his wife felt during this time.
The wife in Crown Point, Indiana shared her loneliness to the husband, “I’m awfully anxious to see you again – every time I see a sailor around town. I get so lonesome for you. It’s a good thing you’ll be there to see me in Norfolk. I’d be lonesome so much, seeing so many sailors if you weren’t around. I love you and hurry up and write even if it’s only a little bit.” (postmarked Crown Point, Indiana on September 4, 1943 at 5:30 p.m.)
The sailor sent instructions to the wife, “I have a little news for you. I am going to start this schooling the 27th of September. When you get here, I will be able to spend the evenings with you so when you are figuring your trip, figure three to four dollars a day for meals. And also try to get a train that gets here early in the evening so I will be able to meet you. Whatever day you want to come down is ok. As I understand, we have Sundays off when we are going to school. I will tell you more about school when I get in there so don’t ask too many questions now. (postmarked Norfolk, Virginia on September 7, 1943 at 6:30 p.m.)
The unsettled sailor shared with the wife, “I don’t know what to do. I just can’t make up my mind the more I am in this life the more disgusted I get. If I knew where I would be shipped to it would be OK. I am working until 2 o’clock tonight so have this time to write you…
About going back to Norfolk, I am not really crazy about it. But I would get off the streets and that would be something. I don’t know if I would save more money. I guess I stay here until they ask me to move. They have some talk about the S.P. relieving the M.P. in this delivering prisoners to these prison camps. I don’t know much about it. It may be all talk like everything else.” (postmarked Virginia Beach, Virginia on May 27, 1944 at 8:30 a.m.)
More excerpts will later be posted from this sailor. But for now if you have love letters exchanged between your parents or grandparents, now is the time to pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and begin Keeping Your Memories of the letters and preserving them for future generations to read.
Letters are a first-hand record of the culture and lifestyle they were living at the time. Combine the letters with pictures of the people mentioned in the correspondence and the images in the picture will come to life when you understand what those folks were experiencing.