“Burn that letter I sent”—83 years later, I’m glad she disobeyed

I’ve spent today delving into the letters in the attic. After reading a few from 1917 (and doing my normal note-taking and free-writing about them), I sorted through other stacks of letters. Separated a bunch (1921-1925) into piles by year. Found some written in spring of 1925– a few months before my grandparents got married. Jackpot! Motherlode! Mother’s Mother’s Mother’s weary load, it was. Mama’s (Fannie’s) reaction to news of her daughter’s engagement. Which take different forms over five or so letters as the unwelcome news settles in. But the Jackpot letter was the one in which my great-grandmother describes to her daughter her own marriage to Ben.

She said, I thought I might write this story in a letter for you to read after I am dead. But then she thinks the better of it, in light of young women who make mistakes and say, If I only knew! If only my mother told me. So she wrote that letter. And today I read it.

Dear web reader, what a tease I am! I’m not going to dish all the dirt. But there’s dirt. It’s juicy. It’s filled with a recounting of disappointments, mostly of the checkered path of my great-grandfather’s so-called career. He went from job to job, and not in a good way. There’s some moral failing, too. Over two generations. And near moral failures. It’s frank. As Fannie said, I want to wipe the slate clean.

There’s ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 20, 2008 in • Letters in the AtticPersonal History
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Recommended reading for hard times… Hard Times

Hard Times Studs Terkel Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression, the book, by Studs Terkel. It’s a compilation of oral history interviews he held with people about their experience of The Great Depression.

imageThe breadth of his interviewees and their experiences is what makes the book so good. The reader gets a good snapshot of life from many different perspectives from all strata of American society. No one is excluded. Wall Street barons and the great crash of 1929—those who got out of the market in time and those who did not. The adman who got rich during the Great Depression. People who helped to set up the Public Works program, including the Public Works Administration guy who hired Dorothea Lange, photographer, and what he did to ensure the survival of those amazing photographs. People who were profoundly grateful for the assistance programs during the 30s, and people who said ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 16, 2008 in • BooksOral History Projects
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