Letters From The Past

By Keith Gibson

While doing some history on my family, I ran across some letters that my Mother had saved over the years.  They were very interesting to read and contained a lot of information about the past.

One letter was from my Uncle Carter Anderson, who was stationed in Germany during WWII.

He described the day to day life of an American G.I. and how they lived.  His favorite dinner meal was ham hocks and beans.  The reason was, that a lot of the guys didn’t like it and so there was plenty left over and Carter said it was the only time he got enough to really feel full.  The same thing happened with breakfast and that meal, of course, was the dreaded S.O.S..  For the non-military, that is the famous chipped beef and gravy.

He told of the Quonset huts and the constant fog and rain.  The letters were censored and any reference to his location, like the name of a town was blacked out, especially when they were forming up for the D-Day invasion.

There were a few photos of him standing in front of hi hut.  There were some letters from my brother Paul, when he was with the Air Force in Chitose, Japan.  That is on the northern island of Hokkaido, just across a small slip of ocean from Russia.

He had some photos of his Quonset  huts also. He describes how he and his fellow Airmen celebrated Christmas with the tiny pine tree Mom sent them.  She had included a few decorations.  The daily life there was interesting, especially when he toured some of the fishing villages, with all the fish hanging under the eaves of the houses.  It reminded him of the deer hanging from the eaves of some houses in McGill after the annual deer hunt.

There were some letters from me while I was at Fort Ord, Calif. for basic and from San Antonio, Texas at Fort Sam Houston for medic training and also more training at Madigan Hospital at Ft. Lewis, Wa.  It brought back a lot of memories that had been forgotten, but now revived.

These letters set me to thinking that what a great treasure had written letters really are.

I had discussed this many times with my kids in regard to the modern day emails.  These emails are not kept and are just not much of a personal description of day to day living as compared to letters.

What if George Washington and Lincoln had used emails, or any other famous people? So much of history is found in the letters of those that lived in different countries and at different times.  We pride ourselves on all the information at our fingertips, but at the same time don’t think about the future.  Without personal letters, the historians of the far future would be able to fabricate what ever they felt like.

Many times the historians have been corrected and/or rebuked by someone finding some old letters from the past tucked away in an old trunk in their grandparent’s  attic.

The old letters written with quill pens and ink are especially interesting.