The letters total 8 in all with two being cards and the rest handwritten letters. The stamps used on the envelopes are 5 cents. The price of postage has increased quite a lot since these were sent. Due to time, the envelopes are slightly tinged with an aging yellow color and they carry the scent of age and memories. The postmarks range in dates from June 1966 to November 1967.
The first two in the timeline are both cards which I would compare to a “Just Because” card today. It’s not necessarily for any special occasion other than to reach out; just because. The first two cards are addressed to my father using his rank of sergeant, his first name, middle initial and last name. The address is simply listed as East Coast Station Relay with the city and state of Frederick Maryland. In the area of return address is simply Mt. Airy. The postmark is Rockville MD. The handwriting is predominately in cursive. The first card is one that indicates the sender to fill in the blanks for various information on the front of the card. It says something to the effect of “My (fill in the blank) is… and lists the following: phone no., address no., zip code no., cell no. (and no they aren’t referring to cellular because that wasn’t around quite yet), social security no., lieberry card no. (and yes it is spelled like that), charge-a-plate no. (I’m not sure what that is), and laundry ticket no., and the sender added MD Tags no. So basically it lists all of that information filled out by the sender and then it says BUT with an arrow to open the card, and when you open the card, it reads “You’re Friend Number 1”. And written inside is the following, “To one special soldier: Here’s to the soldier who fights and loves – may he never lack for either! And it is signed “Just me.”
The second card has a colorful character on the front and when you open it, the card reads “I Like To Be Noticed”. Written inside are some innocent fun sentiments along with a very detailed map of directions to their home. Some of the landmarks and locations mentioned include Ridgeville Bridge, Route 40, Brown’s Diner, Sandra Lee Hotel, Texaco Station and other details. This is the first time I see her name because although she doesn’t sign it, she refers to her name when she mentions her home. Her name is Bonnie.
The next envelope is postmarked September 27 1967 from Rockville MD and is addressed to my father using Mr., first name, middle initial and last name and the return address is blank. It is evident from the address that my father must have moved because the new address is located on E. Tompkins St in Columbus OH. Since this is a time from my father’s life that he never shared with me, I don’t have an explanation for the move. Reading these cards and letters raises so many questions. I am a seeker of truth and facts and I like to be able to put all the pieces together but right now, I only can go on what I have in front of me.
The two letters are dated September 22 and September 27, 1967 but are enclosed in the same envelope. There is a gap of a year between the cards and these letters. I don’t know if there were other cards or letters, I only have what was given to me. Again, I have so many questions. What happened during that span of time? The letters provide me with a little insight but since I only have access to what was received and not what was written in return, it’s somewhat of an educated guessing game of sorts. The letters appear to be full of emotion and rightly so. The letters are addressed “Dear Glenn,” and signed “Always just, Bonnie”. From these two letters, there is discussion about being torn between a relationship with my father and another man. Her words seem to reflect fondly upon both and she talks about figuring out her life for herself and her son. It also appears that she felt my father was torn as well. There seems to be a roller coaster of emotions going on and one can almost feel the sentiments just by reading the words. She closes the letter by asking that my father send mail to her at her work address instead of home and requests that he not put his name on the return address due to concerns of privacy. The work address is listed as U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington D.C.
The next letter is dated October 2, my father’s birthday. In this letter she talks about her son Lee being around two weeks shy of being “8 spoiled months.” She talks about how she wants my father to see Lee. She goes on to say that when he was born, he looked so much like my father with his long fingers and his hair color. It’s heartwarming to read her words describing her baby boy. You can feel her love and pride in her words. As a mom, I can completely connect to her motherly sentiments. She writes about wanting to see my father but trying to figure out the logistics due to the circumstances seemed to prove difficult. She says something towards the end of this letter that resonates so strongly with me and I will relay that after I interject these thoughts.
When I pause to think of that period of time and what societal expectations were, it is vastly different than the world we live in today. As I read the emotionally charged letters, I can’t help but envision what that must have felt like. Today we live in such an instant gratification society especially in terms of communication and to read the letters and try to process the gravity of the situation, only to know that back then, the letter was sent and the sender had to wait…and wait. I don’t know how long it took for mail to travel to destinations in the late 1960’s, but today it can happen almost overnight depending on how it is sent. And that isn’t even taking into consideration our easy ability to email, call, or text today. There is a lot to be said about handwritten letters, but I can’t help but wonder how hard it must have been to have to wait for a reply to things that were emotional and time sensitive. I’ll state it for the record right now that I believe the best communication takes place face to face when you can observe body language, make eye contact, and experience the interpretation of voice inflection and tone. Granted this is my preferred avenue of communication because I am an avid lifelong learner of the psychology of body language, communication and human behavior.
Returning to her words toward the end of that letter, she stated what I just did and what I feel so strongly about in terms of communication. She says that “…there are some things that seeing a person in person can settle that letters and words can’t. Like feelings.” Very wise words indeed.
In the next blog post I will share the rest of the letters. There are four remaining…and much more to process.