Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Letter from the Past...a day in the life of a woman in 1927

My family is a tremendous group of preservers. I don’t mean packrats---although I’m sure there are plenty---I mean preservers. Of information. History.

We have family records, letters, journals, papers, wills, and so forth going back ages and ages. I know who my people were to a degree that extends beyond simply seeing a name on a page with years of birth and death.

Maybe I just mean I come from a long line of wordy and writing-oriented folks. Errr, that is to say, gifted with gab.

My people were frequently rabble rousers, such as the Scots who fought against the King and were offered the choice between "death" or "transport to the American colonies." The English, I suppose, figured death was preferable to ever stepping foot off one's native soil---even if one was a Scottish barbarian---and must have been surprised by the number who opted for transport.

They were often tremendously brave (or stupid, depending) and each time and opportunity for adventure came along, my ancestors tended to seize it with both hands. There are the stories and letters we still have as they pioneered across the largely unknown territory that is now the United States.

Knowing my people---who they were, what they did, how they thought---makes me understand that some traits I have I come by very honestly.

And I love the anthropology of it all.

So I guess it wasn't much surprise that I was one person in my generation that the genealogy and family records were passed down to.

I thought it might be interesting to share snippets of the life these people lived.

Following is a letter from my great-grandmother to her sister. She wrote it in 1927. It's a thank you note for Christmas gifts, which is one reason why it appealed to me. It makes me think about what Christmas was, and what it has become. She is also dispensing kind but unsolicited advice as an elder sister often does to a younger sibling, even after both are grown.

Jan 3, 1927

My dear Sydda,

My, you just can't imagine how proud we all are of our Christmas. The children were so tickled over their shoes. And oh my, the handkerchief is so pretty! I don't know when I can ever use it unless it would be to your wedding. But there you are---I haven't even had an invite yet. You know two just getting married in the family is enough and I think you and David should wait 'til Spring and have a sure enough wedding with all the frills. How about it? I'm just crazy to help fix for it but if you go ahead now we can't. We haven't had near enough time since the warning. Maybe we could persuade Oscar to come. I believe he would and could all be to-gether again. He surely wouldn't miss such an important affair. And you know you are not planning to marry but once and I believe David would want you to have the best wedding you could have, and that's not so long.

Well Chism started back to school to-day. He's trying to comb his hair like Walter Morgan (one of the singers). We sure had some fine singing yesterday evening. You know Brother Killian was here. I looked for you all Saturday as Papa got a holiday. Was real disappointed.

I want to write some more letters. I don't get started writing very often so have to make some time when I'm in the notion.

Sure would love to have a letter from you telling me to start for the Spring. How about it?

Lots of love and greatest wishes for your happiness, Katie.


She wrote in cursive. Not the careful, neat, precise and measured handwriting so common the past when penmanship was a cornerstone of education. Instead she used a unique and clearly rushed hand, such as a mother of several small children might.

I never met this woman. She died two years later in 1929, after nursing people who had tuberculosis. Other than her letters, and stories from her friends and relatives, even her own children don’t really recall her.

I think it’s cool, though, that these pieces of her do survive, and bring her into the future, and give me a glimpse into the past.

What do you know of your history? How does it matter to you?

By Julie Pippert

© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced. R.E.S.P.E.C.T that. Please. If you want to use something, write me.

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1 comment:

Mad Hatter said...

What a treasure to have. And to think, a hankie for Christmas? Now that was simple gift giving.

I don't have a lot of my history in the written record but perhaps I will post a few of the really memorable pieces someday. I have a couple of doozies from my parents' generation.

I remember when my mom died and we (my siblings and I) sorted through everything, I found a receipt dating back to 1933. It was for $3 (I think; I can't quite remember the exact amount) and it was what my grandmother paid in the Depression to have her husband's grave dug. She kept the receipt all those years--she died in 1997. Imagine.