Read, transcribe, share. Thoughts behind the project.

It’s January. The snow has melted, the holidays have passed. In the closet a box of letters, stained and sorted, wait. The letters have set in their boxes since WWII. Its 2017. Time to carefully unfold each one. Read, transcribe, share.

The letters were written by my grandparents, beginning in the spring of 1943 and ending in 1946, when the war was over. They came to me in several installments. First the letters written by my grandma: My uncle mailed them to me and I read each one and began to transcribe. I put them in order according to the date. They were stained and hard to read. (Bad handwriting must run in the family.)

My grandpa’s letters were missing and only one side of the story was heard.  A year later, my uncle found his letters in a stuck dresser drawer and sent those too. The story was instantly in stereo. 

There are several hundred letters in all. Some are handwritten, some are post cards, some are Victory Mail (V-Mail) and need a magnifying glass to read. I am currently beginning to read the letters written in December 1943. Letters from 1944, 1945, and 1946 to go. At this rate it is going to take about as many years to complete the project. Then, edit, edit, edit, and publish this in some sort of format that can be shared with my family.

Some times I read these letters with disconnect, as if I’m reading about characters in a book. Other times I hear and know exactly how a line would have sounded in their voices and it hits me how dearly I loved these people. A few times I have cried. The nostalgic kind of tears, filled with warmth and emptiness at the same time.

There is no modern analog to this story. Letter writing seems like a lost art. The only reason that I am here today is that my grandma, a single woman living in St. Louis, on a whim, wrote to her friend’s brother who was stationed “somewhere in Africa”. And he wrote back. And that’s how it all started. He got one furlough home the whole war, and that’s the only time they actually talked in person. The war ends and they get married at the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, and the rest is history. American history. St. Louis history. My history. And my duty to preserve it.

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