Behind the letters

About 8 years ago my mom passed away. Shortly after my mom died, her sister, my aunt Nancy, followed… All told, it was a tough few years; we lost my Grandfather, Uncle, Mom, and Aunt in fairly rapid succession. Those of us left behind hardly had time to grieve each loss before another one happened.

Nancy was the keeper of what little family history we had, and shortly after she passed away my uncle gifted me two Rubbermaid bins of photos, knickknacks, personal items…two Rubbermaid bins of memories. I suppose as the only girl in the immediate family, I was the natural, or the only, choice to care for what was left of these lives. I did a quick inventory of the bins shortly after I got them, but I couldn’t bring myself to really dig in. It was too soon. I packed them back up, along with a bunch of my mom’s things, and tucked them away for later.

Always having them in the back of  my mind, I never really knew what to do with the bins. On the cusp of a recent move and downsize, I decided that it was finally time to try to make some sense of these memories. On a sunny summer afternoon, 7 years after I became their keeper, I sat down on my back deck and started to unpack the boxes of memories. Immediately, I remembered just how special the contents of these plastic containers were. In the bottom of one of the bins was an old metal tin, inside the tin was what seemed like a lifetime of yellowed newspaper clippings and obituaries. There was an old chocolate box filled with old war memorabilia; Soldiers Handbooks, what looked like wooden dog tags, and other random papers. Lastly, there were stacks of old letters. STACKS. The envelopes worn,  stamped with phrases like “Save Metal Rags and Waste Paper”, with dates ranging from 1943 to 1945. Everything smelled faintly of cigarette smoke…it reminded me of my mom. Upon closer investigation, I discovered the letters were written by my Great Uncle Gord to his Mom, my great-grandmother, Amy. They seem to cover his time in basic training and possibly service in World War II. I opened one letter randomly, from 1945, and scrawled messily in capital letters at the top of the page were the words “VICTORY LETTER”. Victory letter. I read it again, and again. I was hooked.

I’ve decided that I can’t just sit on these letters. They are far too special a time capsule to be left in a Rubbermaid bin. This blog will chronicle my documentation of the letters, and offer one man’s first hand glimpse into history.  I have no idea what the letters will bring, no idea what I will uncover, or what tales Gord will tell, but I’m looking forward to finding out.  I hope you’ll join me on this journey through history.

-Shannan

 

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Necessary Disclaimer:

I have edited the letters for some spelling and grammar (only when it’s really necessary, extreme run on sentences, paragraph splits, etc.). Although last names have been withheld for privacy reasons, I have not imposed any edits on the content of the letters. Please remember that these letters were written in a very different time and place, and as such, some content and language may be offensive to some. To stay true to the history of the project, I have chosen to leave these instances intact, but I feel that it is important that I say that the views expressed in Gord’s letters are his, and do not reflect my personal opinion. 

Lastly, all written and photographic content of this blog belongs solely to me, its author, and may not be reproduced without my permission.

Questions? Please reach out to lettersfromtheoakwoodkid@gmail.com

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