Monday, July 28, 2014

November 24, 1963 The Weeping Heaven, The Greater Sorrow and The Shining Sun

 Dear Mother & Daddy,

"I don't know how to start this for I can't think of much except the terrible thing that happened yesterday.  It was an awful day--so gray and the rain poured all afternoon and evening as if heaven was weeping for President Kennedy.

How can a human being hate so much that it makes him do such a thing?  If Kennedy had been a cruel, wicked man maybe we could understand a little.  But he was such a good man and I believe he honestly tried, with all his heart, even if it would hurt him politically, to lead our U.S. to the greatness he mentioned in his inaugural address.

I can remember when Roosevelt died and how we needed him and how terrible I felt then.  But that time couldn't compare to today.  Kennedy was so young and brilliant and we need brilliant leaders. We have been cheated.  I feel great pity for the murderer but I feel greater pity for his wife and mother.  They have a greater sorrow to bear than even Mrs. Kennedy. She has the world to help her bear her grief.

The University will have a memorial service Monday but no classes.

We will have Thanksgiving by ourselves, I guess.  Things will probably be very quiet.

I'm glad Daddy feels better and hope he stays that way.  We are all fine.

I'm sorry this is such a gloomy letter. The sun always shines sometime after a cloudy day though, and maybe next week we will all feel better."

                      Lots of love,


This is the insert in the program, pictured at the top

NOTES:  We have all heard it said that for those who were old enough to remember, we know where we were and what we were doing on the day that JFK was assassinated.   While I remember the circumstances very clearly, what has stayed with me and made the biggest impact was the grief I observed in my parents.  It would be the first time I had ever seen them cry.

Our mom had a large collection of JFK memorabilia, part of which was given to her by friends who were active in democratic politics, and some collected from the time of the election, throughout his presidency and for the months following the assassination.  In the fall of 1992, she gave me part of the collection to share with students at the school where I was working.  I took the items to school on Friday, Nov. 20, planning to display them on Monday.  In the early morning hours on November 22, the school suffered a devastating fire and the items were all destroyed.  It felt like a terrible loss. Thankfully, she hadn't given me all of the collection.  Pictured in this post and some of the next posts are some of the saved items.

Many readers have asked if I have any of the letters my grandmother wrote in response to Mom's letters.  Mom saved only one, and it is the letter written on November 26, 1963.  (See tomorrow's post)

Cover of the program

Sunday, July 27, 2014

November 17, 1963 The Cold Wind, The Sad Week, The Troubling Hip and The Birthday Towels

Good Housekeeping,  November, 1963
Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It is cold and the wind is blowing hard tonight.  We had a few snow flurries this week but they were hard to see.

I didn't get very far with this for some reason and now it is Saturday night.  I've been going from one thing to another all week so I must have stopped to do something for the kids.  B had a meeting last night & had to have the car and Ann had a late dental appointment so we were rushing around.  All of us are home tonight for a change.

Everyone went to the football game this afternoon but me.  I had a lot of little errands to run and had to get them done.  Ann has her organ lesson at 4:00 and that comes sooner than you expect it to.

Ann did real well on the organ at church last Sunday night.  It was her first experience at playing for a church service and I was real proud of her.  We still don't have our big organ yet but all of us are getting anxious.

This has been a sad week.  Granny Watterson was buried Wednesday.  She had several heart attacks on Sunday & died a little after 10:00 that night.  We were all upset about it for it was so unexpected.  Toni said she looked awful Sat. & Sun. but she was in a Dixon, Ill. hospital, near her daughters, so I didn't see her, of course.  I had written to her though, a few days after she fell and she had had my letter.  She was 70.  The funeral was in Gibson City (32 miles from Bloomington) and she was buried in Strawn. That was her home when her husband was living and until she couldn't take care of her home anymore.
I was there years ago but nothing looked familiar.  We went to the funeral and on to the cemetery & it was such an awful day--wet snow & wind.  She looked so pretty but thin.  The heart attack was bad & the Dr. said there was brain damage so it was a blessing that she didn't have to live long.

Bob isn't using mice for his science project this year.  He's doing something with a certain kind of acid but it is something that hasn't been done so I don't know how far he'll be able to go.

I hope Daddy's hip is better.  Do you have any idea what caused the trouble?

I got Charlotte some towels for her birthday but haven't got them mailed.  Beulah didn't help me a bit with ideas.  I don't even know what kind of an apartment she has."

                    Lots of love,


Saturday, July 26, 2014

November 10, 1963 About Granny, The Paper, The Full House, The Fall and Broken Ribs

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Today is another beautiful, warm day.  We are so thankful for every one we have because our winters are so cold.

Horace called last night to tell us about Granny Gibson.  We won't try to come to the funeral and I know B's mother will be disappointed but it is such a hard trip and we'd have to do so much re-arranging of things all of us have to do the next few days.  B told Horace we wouldn't come.

I have spent a lot of this week working on a paper to give to the women's group at the church and am not finished yet.  The dining table is stacked with books I've been using but I think I'll just leave it until I'm done.

Ann is going to play the organ for a youth meeting at the church tomorrow night so we have been at the church to practice this morning.  We are still using a rented spinet & it isn't nearly as good as our own.  B wrote to see how our big church organ was coming along but he hasn't had time to hear about it.  The contract said Feb. but we had hoped to have it sooner.

Our dedication last Sunday was just lovely and I'll try to remember to put in a program.  We had a full house and our speaker was really good.

Bob stayed all night with Malcolm last night & hasn't come home yet.  That's the friend that took him to Wisconsin last summer.

The rest of us went to a church potluck supper.  It was the first time we'd gone in a long time.

Larsen's didn't stay long in Wisconsin.  Art's mother is better & will probably be all right now except she may never walk again & will have to live in a rest home.  His father will have to go too, so it will be hard on all of them.

Granny Watterson is with her daughter in Sterling, Ill. & she fell down some stairs the other day & broke some ribs.  So she is in the hospital now.  She seems to have a fall every year or so.

How is Daddy's hip feeling now?  I hope it is all o.k.

Ann says dress material would be fine for Xmas.  We tried to think of some other ideas too but couldn't think of anything except a billfold.  I guess the weather is just too nice to think of Xmas.

I hope you both are fine."

                      Lots of love,


The cabin where Granny Gibson spent her childhood, Richland, Missouri

Friday, July 25, 2014

November 2, 1963 Frost, Rain, Hard Work and Lunchtime

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Our Indian Summer is over and we've had frost almost every morning this week.  I never did get my geraniums in or the flowers beds cleaned.  B & I worked in the yard Sunday afternoon & he got the leaves raked.  I cleaned some of the flowerbeds but we filled every basket we had & then had to stop.

It poured rain Halloween night but the kids were all out anyway.  They came in droves.  Ann's room had a party at school & then a few of the girls went out trick or treating.  She borrowed a football uniform to wear.  Bob wasn't interested.

I'm glad Nobel feels better.  He'll probably be all right now.  Does Daddy seem to have arthritis or what?  I hope he feels better.

We had to send B's coat back to Sears.  It was just too big.  This is the time of the year when he needs it & I hope they aren't as slow as they were in sending the first one.  They had even lost our order for it & I had to send them our cancelled check to prove we'd ordered it.

I've made Ann a cotton dress this week & have been working on a talk for the church women.  It is really hard work & I'm not half done.

Yesterday I went to a luncheon.  It was supposed to be for Faith Larsen but Art's mother broke her hip & they were called to Wisconsin.  They didn't think the mother would live but Art hasn't called yet so she is still alive.

Bob fell in gym & skinned his knees up pretty bad so he's been limping around for several days.  He can't wait for me to finish his sweater and he does need it now that it's getting cold.

I keep thinking I'll get a letter written to Bessie.  We don't plan to go to their house for Thanksgiving.  I supposed we'll just stay at home & rest.

We dedicate the church tomorrow but won't have open house for awhile.  I haven't been in the basement lately but I think the men are still working down there.

Do you have Charlotte's address?  I'd like to have it before her birthday.

Polly stayed with Ann last night & they just had breakfast even though it is about lunchtime.

Take it easy, Daddy, so that back will have have a chance to get o.k."

                        Lots of love,


NOTES:  The cinder running tracks at school were responsible for chronic skinned knees and permanently embedded cinders in both my brother and me!

And as family readers are well aware, Mom's clearly stated opinion of Goldwater was something to the effect of, "Don't get me started!"  Life's editorial pointed out the thoughts of his critics--guts without depth and a man of one-sentence solutions.  Mom would wholeheartedly agree.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

October 27, 1963 Homecoming and Hamburgers, Track and Teeth, Pumpkins, Leaves, Nuts, Etc.

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"No one is up yet but I want to mail this on the way to church.  This weekend was homecoming & every minute has been full.  The weather was beautiful & warm.  There has never been such a warm homecoming day in all the years we've been here.  Last year it poured rain all day.  The kids each had a friend spend the day with them so we had hamburgers for lunch.

The Index. ISNU Yearbook

I was so glad to get your card & glad Nobel is home.  Will he have to stop work for awhile?  I can't see what an operation could do for an infection.

Bob is still enjoying the driver's training.  The class is small so he was the only one in a car with a student teacher the other day & got to drive a whole period.  He is counting the days till his birthday. They have a gravel track on school property where they practice and he had done that a few times & then got to go out onto the streets.  His grades for the first 6 weeks of school were real good.  He made 4 A's & 2 B's.

Ann's teeth and braces are doing fine but nothing has been said about them being close to finished.  She enjoys the art lessons but they haven't done much painting yet.  She seems to be doing a little more homework this year but they don't get grade cards so it is hard to tell how she's doing.

I had to help decorate tables Thursday for an As You Like It Club dinner.  We used fall things--pumpkins, leaves, nuts, etc. with orange candles.  The tables looked real pretty.

We still don't have our leaves raked and it is sprinkling rain.  People around us have raked a time or two and they probably wish we'd get busy, but we are usually the ones that rake several times.

Well, everyone is up & I haven't fixed any breakfast.  Hope you both are fine."

                       Lots of love,


P.S.  I ordered B & Bob a coat out of that Sear's sales catalog you had this summer & finally got them Friday.  I ordered Aug. 20 & had to write & write about them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

October 19, 1963 Terribly Dry & Real Hot, A Hard Trip, Short Stories & Baptism

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Everyone is at school except me.  Bob has gone to the weekly movie, Ann is having a committee meeting about a party & it is too early for B to be home.

It is sprinkling a little so the cat came in with me.  It likes to go outside now but so far, it hasn't gone out of the yard.  Ann is so afraid a car will hit it.

Everything is so terribly dry that we welcome even a sprinkle.  It has been real hot but today is cool & cloudy.  Maybe we'll get some rain before the weekend is over.

I had a nice letter from Beulah and she sent me 2 tablespoons like my stainless.  I was so thrilled with them but she never mentioned them in her letter so I don't know why she did.  I also had a nice letter from Bessie.  I finally got the scraps sent to her but was so long doing it I was afraid she wouldn't want them.  She is still making dolls, though, & said she was especially glad to get the pink.  She asked us to come for Thanksgiving.  I haven't answered her letter but I think we'll probably stay home this time.  It is a hard trip & all of us are always so tired we need a day to really rest.

University Christian Church, November, 1963

 Our church still has lots to do before the building is done but at least we are there.  We couldn't even get in the basement but the rest if fairly done.   Some of the plumbing still isn't finished.  The sanctuary (I can't spell it) is very pretty.  It is lots different but they kept the stained glass windows on one side & I like them.

The bird of paradise plant doesn't seem to grow at all.  I have it in the dining room where it gets lots of light but I don't know how to make it bloom.

Our book club has started to meet again but I haven't had time to read the books.  We have two new books on France that we got as a trial offer for $1.00 but I haven't read much in them.  I've been writing speeches instead of stories.  Tuesday night I had to make a committee report to the Faculty Women's Club & yesterday I gave a talk to the Bloomington High School Short Story Club.  Sunday I have to be on a church panel & my part is on baptism.  I've been doing a lot of reading for that.

I want to make a tuna loaf for supper so I'd better get it in the oven.  The kids are always so hungry at suppertime.

Hope you both are fine."

                      Lots of love,


NOTES:  The image at the top from the November issue (1963) of Good Housekeeping reminds me of a conversation I once had with Mom.  We were reading the police notes in the newspaper about some kids getting in trouble.  Her comment,  "Well, teenagers just do those things.  They'll be o.k."  I remember feeling encouraged by that attitude in case I ever experienced a normal lapse in judgement!

As for the tuna loaf, one would have to be very, very hungry indeed to eat it.  The tuna puff was slightly better.

Robert Brome, pictured above, was our high school English teacher.  He was widely published in the 60s.  Whether true or not, we always thought he wrote episodes for the Twilight Zone.  Among his writing was an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's The Cask Of Amontillado.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

October 12, 1963 Indian Summer, PTA, Paris and Dad's Day

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"We are still having wonderful Indian Summer but each day gets a little cooler.  The yard is full of leaves and they are always a problem but we haven't even started to rake.

This has been a busy week.  I worked real hard and finished my checked suit I cut out so long ago.  It turned out real pretty and I wore it to a club meeting Thursday afternoon.  I had wanted a red blouse but had a white one that I'd never worn.  When I tried the suit on with it, it looked so nice I'll just use the white one.

We went to High School PTA Tuesday night & it was like a day of school.  We spent a few minutes in each of Bob's classes & it was very interesting.  He is doing real well in school but has to work so hard.  He drove a real car in driver's training the other day & was thrilled.  It had a clutch, though, & he laughed about the car jumping.  I think he'll be more tolerant of my driving now.

I looked up Paris on the map & it looks like Charlotte will be as close to us as to Richland. Maybe she can come here some weekend.

I haven't heard from Beulah but I'm anxious to hear about Nobel's job.  It sounds interesting.

Ann goes to her first art class this morning.  I do hope she likes it and makes some new friends.  They are supposed to do oil painting & she's never done anything with oils.  It should be fun.

We go back to our church tomorrow.  It isn't all done but we're going anyway. The dedication will be later.  I'm not teaching this quarter because we are having a course in church history & I'm taking that.  We are using my room for that so my children are staying with the nursery teacher.  We had to double up since the fire so the children are used to being together.

We are invited out to dinner tonight & then will go to the football game.  It is Dad's Day on campus so we'll have lots of parents.

Hope you both are fine."

                           Lots of love,