Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Preparing for the Journey to Japan

Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Dear Readers,

By means of introduction to the Japan letters and Diary, I would like to begin with an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript for children, written by Bonnie following the time in Japan, and intended as a summary of our stay as well as an introduction to post-war Japan.

Along with the letters, I will include other, but shorter excerpts as well as diary entries when relevant to the events, places or items mentioned in the letters.  

While diary entries were written daily, letters home were written about every 2 weeks.   I plan to post a letter each week if possible, with diary entries and photos in between. 

Unless otherwise noted,  the posted photos of Japan are scanned Kodachrome slides taken by B or occasionally by Bonnie from 1953-4. 

Thank you for joining us on the journey!

"Have you heard of the Dragon-fly land?  Have you been to the Land of Cherry Blossoms?  You may think they are fairytale lands, but Dragon-fly Land and Land of the Cherry Blossoms are old names for the country that is now called Japan.

If you could look down on all of Japan at one time, the four large islands and many small ones would appear to be a flying dragon-fly.  Of course, you could not see the islands all at once because they form a chain that is more than one thousand miles long.  

For many years the world did not know much about Japan and its people.  The country was closed to foreigners and the Japanese people were not permitted to leave Japan.  The rulers were afraid of losing their power if the people learned too much about foreign countries.

Other countries wanted and needed Japan's friendship because of its location in the world. Japan was needed as a refueling place for fishing boats and ships trading with China.  Finally, about one hundred years ago, the United States sent Commodore Matthew Perry to make an agreement with the Japanese which led to the opening of Japan's ports to foreign countries.

After the Japanese ports were opened Japan began to grow in importance.  Men were sent from Japan to learn about other countries.  The Japanese chose the best ideas from each country.  They learned about the English navy, the German army, German medicine, French law, and United States business. 

Then the Japanese set up a new government and new schools all over their country.  Industry developed.  In a few years Japan became one of the great powers in the world. 

The Japanese people enjoyed a cultured life which included art, poetry and music, but their country lacked raw materials to keep the industries going.  It was necessary to import oil, iron ore, coal, cotton and much more.

The desire to own lands which could produce such raw materials was so great that the Japanese rulers began to take other countries by military force. The outcome of this was total defeat for the Japanese at the end of World War II in 1945.  Japan was in complete ruin then.  The Japanese had few friends in the world.

Since Japan's strongest opponent in WWII had been the United States, it controlled Japan at the end of the war.  With the help of the Japanese the United States made plans and directed the building of a new Japan with laws and freedom much like that of the United States.  The plans were good and today Japan is once more an important and free country."

(Dragon-fly Land: Japan, by Bonnie Belshe, 1955) 

August 22, 1953 The First Lap, As Good as Gold, Beautiful Mountains and Tremendous Wastelands

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"The first lap of our trip is over and we're settled comfortably in a hotel until Monday.  As soon as we got here B called the steamship office again and he then had to go down with our tickets and check with the agent to be sure everything was straight.  We can board ship 1:00 Monday afternoon and the ship is scheduled to sail at 3:00.  They started loading the ship today so it should sail on time.  We'll probably go to a park tomorrow and the day will be gone before we know it.  We are awfully tired right now but hope to catch up with our rest once we get on the ship.  It is 8:00 now and the children are already asleep.  There is a three hour difference in time so our day has been that much longer than usual.  Actually there is only a 2 hr. difference but Seattle is on standard time & it adds an hour.

 Our plane trip was something I will never forget and something I cannot describe.  It was so easy and smooth and the children were as good as gold.  Toni and Watty drove us to Chicago in their car and we left Normal about 9:00 last night (Fri.).  We had plenty of time to walk around and eat before we got on the plane at 2:00 A.M. The children had taken long naps and were good and bright eyed when the plane took off.  They fell asleep before long and slept till far into the morning.  We made three stops--Minneapolis, Billings, Montana & Spokane.  There were about 30 minutes each stop and we could get out of the plane and walk or eat--always a nice cafe and waiting room.  The mountains were so beautiful and the wastelands so tremendous.  Farm houses were so far apart and what few cows or horses we saw looked like tiny ants.  We were way up in the clouds.

DC-4, 1953 image courtesy of

It was good to have your letter.  Take good care of yourselves and write us lots about yourselves.  We will write you as soon as we get to Tokyo but it will be quite a while."

                             Lots and lots of love,


NOTE:   Aside from Bonnie's high school flight in the small private plane that she and her friends "borrowed"( pictured on the blog's homepage),  I assume the trip to Seattle was my parents' first commercial flight and probably the one that began their life-long love of flying.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

August 18, 1953 Sort of Quiet, Cake for Breakfast, Missionary Row, Little Tantrums and The Diary

Ann, 3rd birthday
Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It is sort of quiet around here.  We have had Ann's birthday cake and the kids are happy.  I made a chiffon cake last night and had an awful time keeping her from eating it for breakfast.

Our ship tickets were here when we got home and the sailing date has been changed to the 24th--Monday, instead of Sunday.  We won't leave Normal now until Friday night.  It means flying at night but we'll get in Seattle mid-morning Saturday.

We also had a letter about our house in Japan and a welcome letter from the president of the Japanese university.  He said their campus is supposed to be the most beautiful in Japan--located on a quiet mountain side and overlooking Osaka Bay.  The letter about the house was from the Canadian missionary-teacher who lives in it and whose furniture we'll be using.  He is coming home on furlough.  The house sounds wonderful--three stories, four bedrooms, a garden with a pool and lilies and fish.  There is an electric stove, a Servel refrigerator and the house is heated with pot-bellied stoves and portable heaters.  From the list of furniture in the house I can imagine it as being a mixture of everything but we won't care about that.  Our neighbors are missionary-teachers and the street is tagged "Missionary Row".  He listed the neighbors' names but made no mention of children in the neighborhood.

Kwansei Gakuin University, photo taken by B, Sept., 1953

Toni gave me a permanent today but it hasn't been combed out yet so I don't know how it did.  It seems like we've been so busy since we got back but I can't really see that we've done much.  B put a coat of wax on the car to help protect it this winter.  That took a day.  We've had lots of company coming in and out too which kills so much time.

Bobby was tired out when we got home.  He had a fever the day after we got back so we kept him in bed and when he got rested it left.  I think the bites on his back bothered him too.  Both he and Ann are fine.

I changed my mind about cutting Ann's hair.  I was afraid she might object after it was done and I want to keep her happy on the trip.  Her little tantrums aren't good for her or me either.

I won't write again now until we get in Seattle and it will probably be just a card, then.  It will seem so long until we can hear from you but when you can write to us be sure and tell us how you all are and what the doctor is doing for you.  I hope by the time we get back to Normal that you and Daddy can both come to visit us.

Sorensens gave us a diary so I'll try to keep it every day.

      Lots and lots of love to you both,

              Bonnie, B, Bobby & Ann

Give the bread recipe to Maxine.  I never did get a chance to make it."

NOTE:  Bonnie wrote an entry in the diary each day during the stay in Japan.  The letters, about one every 2 weeks, elaborate on the brief diary entries. 

August 1, 1953 Looks Like A Lot, Leaves A Lot, Lots of Shots, Passports, The Traveling Turtles and The Midnight Piano

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It is so hot here we can hardly move but we're getting a lot done anyway.  At least it looks like a lot but still leaves a lot to do.  B took a carload of things to Sorensen's attic and there will be more to go.  I've tried to do most of my shopping from catalogs which has helped a lot.  We finished with the dentist today and have only one more visit to the doctor for shots.  That will be next Wed. and will finish the 10 shots for B and me and 9 for the children.  Bobby hasn't cried a single time and Ann has cried just since she had to have the penicillin shots.  It took two of them to get rid of her sore throat but she's fine now and we were lucky the doctor caught it before she was really sick.  The doctor checked them more carefully than I ever saw him and I always thought he was thorough.  Then he took over an hour and talked to us about medicine to take with us and how to treat various ailments for both the children and us.  He has really been wonderful to us and we really appreciate all he has done.  It has saved us a lot of time and trouble by giving all of us the shots. 

Our passports came today.  B went to Chicago on the train Tues. and applied for them and then went to the Japanese Consulate about our visas.  We should appear in person for the visas but they told him to send all the papers registered and they'd waive that regulation and mail us the visas.  We could have bought only one but decided to get two.  B has one and I have one with the children.  They are used for identification and Woody thought it a good idea for us to each have one since B would be gone to school part of the day or maybe need to make side trips.

Our house isn't rented yet but we've had some inquiries and hope to rent it before long.  We took my machine to Edna and will just leave the washer and dryer in the basement.

I finally convinced Bobby that the turtles would be happier if he turned them out.  The boys had built a good big pen for them but had lost their keen interest.  After they turned them out one of them came back every night.  Three of them have been found in the neighborhood so I know they are still around.  The kids all are thrilled when they discover where one it. 

Bobby and Ann are both so thrilled about our trip.  It means a lot to Bobby.  He is really saving pennies but says he won't spend a bit of it for the boat tickets.

If we can find a book we can borrow we'll bring it home when we come.  B has been reading some library books on Japan but we can't bring them.  Woody may have one we can borrow.

I don't think I could get a dress made for Ann.  I have no idea how long we'll get to be home and there is too much to do between now and then.  She has two nylons and maybe can make out with those.  She could use some nylon underwear though (size 2) or just give her a little money.  One pair of pants would be plenty.  Don't get any more.

Our piano came at midnight last Friday night.  A crazy time to deliver a piano!  It is a beautiful piano though and I like it more and more.  The wood is real light and it is in good shape.  A music teacher has inquired about our house.  I hope he takes it for he'd take care of the piano.

I'll write you as soon as we know when we'll be home."

                    Lots of love,


Monday, October 29, 2012

July 24, 1953 Not Much News in a Very Long Paragraph, Coming Home and Waiting for the Piano

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"There really isn't much news but I thought I'd go ahead and write while I had a few minutes.  The college board o.k.'d B's leave of absence so now we are really down to business with preparations.  There are so many details to attend to besides routine packing and renting our house.  Our landlord told us to arrange anything we pleased about renting our house.  I have sewed most of the week and finally finished my suit.  Maybe I didn't even tell you I was making one.  Last spring I bought a piece of blue wool tweed when it went on sale and put it away for fall.  It made a lovely suit but it isn't as neat as I'd made it if I'd had more time.  I want to make myself a house dress that won't have to be ironed or Ann a nylon pucker dress and that will be all besides a little mending.  We get shots twice a week and that takes a lot of time because we always have to wait in the doctor's office.  Ann has a sore throat and has been cross today but had penicillin yesterday and we hope that will nip it.  B had a letter from Dr. Wise at Springfield wanting some information about the award.  We haven't any idea how he knew it.  If it comes out in the paper there will you save it?  We had an information booklet this week telling us what to expect and what to bring.  I can't tell you much about it now but we'll bring the materials home when we come and you can read it.

School is out Aug. 7 but we don't know when we can come home.  It will depend upon what we can get done between now and then.  I'll let you know as soon as we know.  We can't very well be in Richland for Ann's birthday because we'll have to come back here before we go to Seattle.  We will fly out of Chicago.

We're still waiting for our piano.  We'll just leave it here but wish it would come.  Sorensen's have a big attic so we'll store things there and not have to bring them home.

I wrote to Buddy and to Beulah.

How have you been feeling, Mother?  You haven't mentioned it in a long time.  Hope you are better."

                  Lots of love,


July 14, 1953 Some Very Exciting News, Too Wonderful to be True and So Jumbled Up

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Aren't you surprised to have a letter so early this week?  We have some exciting news and wanted you to know about it.  On Monday, B had a letter from the State Dept. saying that he had been awarded a Fulbright award in Japan for ten months which begins in October.  That means B will lecture in Japan at three universities next year and we will all go along.  We will have to leave the United States in late Aug. or sometime in Sept.  If we go by boat we'll have to leave sooner but it takes only a day or so to fly there.  The State Dept. arranges the transportation and we don't know what they will do.  We haven't sent our papers back yet because the governing board of the college here has to agree to it and they won't meet until next Mon.  It is just a formality but has to be considered.  B will get about $6000 in Japanese money over there and the U.S. gov't. is granting $1000. in cash here to help defray expenses here like income tax.

Perhaps you have forgotten about it but long ago we explained the Fulbright Act to you.  It is a way of foreign countries paying off war debts.  B applied for this last Oct. but all we heard about it was that he was selected among a group and one would be selected from that.  It was a complete surprise and we had almost forgotten it.  We are so excited about it that we hardly know which way to turn.  There is so much to do in such a little time.  We had our first shots today--will be 7 or 8--and got blanks for passports.  We will rent our house furnished and pack away only silver, china, our record player and a few things like that.  We plan to come home sometime in Aug. but won't know just when until we get more definite details on when we leave, etc. 

Our piano hasn't come yet.  Our excitement over it just sort of got lost after this all came up but the children are still anxious for it to come.  We aren't sorry we bought it but wouldn't have of course, if we'd known this was coming up.

This is all so jumbled up you may not be able to make anything out of it.  B wrote his folks too so maybe if you read their letter you can make it out.  We will write more when we know more.  I'll try to write Beulah and Buddy about it as soon as everything is clear.

I hope you will be as happy about it as we are.  It is too wonderful to be true.

I won't write again this week unless something important comes up."

                      Lots of love,


NOTE:   A little more news from July, 1953 and Time magazine below:

Oh boy!  Chicken Pot Pies and TV dinners!
For the St. Louis readers:

Time, July 27, 1953
And last but not least, here's a look at what people were listening to in the summer of '53:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

July 10, 1953 The New Camera, The New Piano, The Scarce Gamma Globulin and The Blue Nylon

B's new camera, July, 1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,

"News is pretty scarce around here.  We did go to school two evenings this week and that's about all.  Woody Sorensen gave a lecture and showed some slides one night and then there was a play one night.

B took a roll of pictures this week but we don't know how they'll turn out.  We have a new camera and plan to take lots of pictures now.  Woody got it for B in New York.  Our old camera just didn't work right and we ruined some good film with it even after it was supposedly fixed.

B took a train to St. Louis this afternoon to see about a piano.  The store that had the piano we planned buy on our way home from your house had some advertised in Sunday's paper.  We wrote about them and got an encouraging answer so B went to take a look.  Of course, he may come back without buying a thing.  He is coming right back tonight.   Poor guy will be sleepy tomorrow but it was easier than driving alone and we didn't think we ought to take the children on such a hard trip.

They say that Gamma Globulin is scarce around here and I don't know of anyone who has had it.  I think they plan to give it only to exposed cases like members of a family where someone takes polio.  There has been only one light case here in Normal and Bloomington.

My light blue nylon is all finished but sewing on the buttons.  I've really been enjoying my navy nylon.

I think I'll go to bed so good-night.

                      Lots of love,


Sat. morning--B got home about 2:00 a.m. this morning.  He bought the piano.  It is a blond baby grand.  May be delivered next week.  We are all thrilled and I'll tell you about it after I see it."

NOTE:  B had a life long love of photography, and as you will soon observe, an artistic eye as well.  His Leica was used for over 20 years, and each of us, both kids and grandkids,  had an opportunity to use it as well.  It is still in excellent shape, including all of its original documentation.

Exciting mail this week which will be explained soon!

July 4, 1953 Working in the Yard, Going on a Picnic, Dusting the Trike and Catching Butterflies

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It seems like Sunday--so quiet around.  I spend the morning working in the yard.  We've had so much wind lately with the rain that the yard was full of sticks.  The wind broke ten trees down in the park area and a boy scout from Normal was killed by lightning at the scout camp.  It seems like we've had a lot of really bad storms this spring.

Bob is going on a picnic with Button this afternoon so he's resting.  We will wait until they come home to have our sparklers.  That's about the extent of our fireworks.

I've been sewing this week and finally finished my navy nylon.  It is nice and I like it.  There was enough left over to make Ann a plain dress and I got it done too.  Yesterday I cut the light blue one for myself but haven't done anything else on it.

We went to Peoria Mon. afternoon to follow up some piano ads but everything was so high.  There was a real small upright that was several years old that we would have bought it if hadn't been so high.  They wanted $450. for it.  Isn't that silly?

Since Ann went barefooted in Richland we can't keep her shoes on.  She was sitting in the middle of a Peoria sidewalk the other day and had one shoe and one sock off before we could stop her.  She doesn't stop with her shoes, either.  Someone saw her pull of her pants and use them to dust off her tricycle the other day.   Our yard is full of kids most of the time--many of them we don't even know.  B counted 13 last night.

Bob still catches butterflies and he found one of the escaped turtles after being gone two weeks.  It had just gone across the alley.  There are still three of them.

Hope Daddy enjoys his free Saturday.  It must be a real treat to stay home on Sat."

                     Lots of love,


NOTE:   July, 1953 brought a slew of car ads to the magazines.  The first few pages of one issue of Time alone included these among others.  Take your pick; Studebaker, Lincoln, Ford, Cadillac or Willys.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

June 27, 1953 Up and Down the Stairs, Loads of Good Food, The Open Space, The Turtles and The Hot Time in Chicago

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"At last I have started with my sewing.  I made Ann a dotted swiss pinafore this week and have sewed a little on my navy nylon that I cut so long ago.  B helped me carry the machine downstairs so I could sew while Ann played out mornings so it isn't so hard now since I don't have to run up and down the stairs.  When I get my sewing caught up we can take it upstairs again.

Our big department picnic is over and was a great success.  We planned for 85 and had loads of good food.  I was exhausted it was over but got a nap today so feel better now.

Bobby has his first tooth out and another one is loose.   He is so proud of the open space.  We can barely see the new tooth but the baby tooth came out while he was playing and we don't know when or where he lost it.  You never saw such a happy kid when he discovered it was gone.

Two of the turtles are still doing fine.  The kids dig worms for them and keep them watered.

I hunted up the bread recipe for Maxine ages ago but can't find time to copy it off.  I will get it done one of these days but she couldn't make bread now anyway.  It is too big a job--especially when it is so hot.

We've had a wonderful rain so it is cool again.  Wish you had some of it.

Yes, I know Marjorie & Francis had new cars.  Marjorie's anyway was new.  I didn't ask Francis about his.

Chicago was the hottest place I've seen in a long time but we had a real nice time.  The children were so good.  We took them to a big dime store for their treat.  I bought some paints in an art store.  Then B went to Allied Radio for a few minutes.  He traded his old camera which wouldn't work for some other camera equipment that he wanted and then we spent the rest of the time hunting a piano but couldn't find a thing.  I never saw such awful pianos and such terrible prices.  We'll just keep looking for a little longer.  I've run out of news and paper too so bye for now."

                         Lots of love,


NOTE:  The annual summer visits to Richland were not complete until we had gathered several box turtles to bring home.  They were easy to care for, fun to watch, lived happily inside or out, and were relatively clean.  Their diet consisted of worms, lettuce and an occasional cricket.

May 31, 1953 Staying Home Tomorrow, Coming Home Monday, Digging a Sprout, Going to a Luncheon, Having People In and Listening to Records

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"B and the children have gone to the park and will probably come in for supper just as I start this.  It is hot today but we've had some cold days this week too.  Classes are all over and next week will be exams and graduation on Saturday.  We still plan to come home on Mon. but if we stop in St. Louis it will probably be late afternoon before we get there. 

We're going to stay home tomorrow and do a few odds and ends around the house. 

I just finished digging you a redbud sprout.  It may not live but I have it in a pot and will try to keep it alive for you.  The flowers Toni and I put out look real nice and everyone comments on how much better they look than the bare spots.

I'm going to a luncheon with Edna next week and model her Pakistani clothes for her.  We are having some people in Mon. night just for dessert and coffee.  A group of students was here Wed. night and we had such a nice time listening to records and talking.

There isn't any news and we'll see you soon.  I hope you both are fine."

                  Lots of love,


NOTES:  In the world headline news of June 2, 1953 was the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  I have a coronation souvenir book, so take a look at the end of the post.

That event would not have interested Bonnie in the least bit.  However, when I was 10 years old and learned that Princess Anne's birthday was a couple of days before mine, I thought I should send a card.  Not knowing the address, I mailed it to Q.E. requesting that she pass it on to her daughter.  Whether she did or not, I'll never know, however I did receive the response pictured below, and promptly taped it to my wall where it remained for many years.  It's now kept in a protective frame.

Friday, October 26, 2012

May 23, 1953 A Wonderful Time, A Huge Picnic, Yellow as a Canary and Potato Salad for 24

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It's bedtime actually but we have been to a Sunday School picnic and just got the kids in bed.  We were supposed to go to the park but it poured rain most of the day so we had it in the church basement.  After we ate we all played games together--little kids and all.  Then they showed a short movie of a circus.  We all had a wonderful time.  I have been asked to teach a Sunday School class next fall but haven't decided yet whether I should or not.  I guess it would be one way of getting the kids in Sunday School regularly.

Tuesday night we went to a picnic at school for the whole grade school and families.  There were about 1100 there.  It was a huge picnic but went off in fine shape.  Each grade had its own table and brought its own food.  I took potato salad for 24 servings. 

I am chairman of a picnic for the whole Education department and families which will be the last of June.  That will be a lot of work but I couldn't very well refuse when I was asked.  No matter how much you want to say "no", sometimes you can't.

Bob's room is all painted--yellow as a canary.  It looks real pretty and he is so thrilled with it.  I got him a new brown bedspread and that made the room look neater, too.  I hope to get the chipped spots on the woodwork touched up soon and then I won't care if I don't get the other little things, like furniture waxed, done or not.

We've been working in the yard and have quite a few flowers out.  Maybe they'll look better than the bare spots where the grass wouldn't grow.  Bob even let me use some of his Missouri rocks to put around the edge of the flower beds.

Take care of yourselves.  Our vacation is not long off so we'll see you before long."

                Lots of love,


NOTE:  I couldn't resist the ad above from the U.S. Brewer's Foundation, Feb. 1953 McCall's.  The caption reads, "Mother's Night Off".   A family story (which I have no idea is fact or fiction) is that Grandmother (Bonnie's mother) wrote to the Ladies Home Journal complaining of a full-page alcohol ad. and believes that she was responsible for its removal the next month.  Apparently she didn't subscribe to McCall's.

Bonnie's Potato Salad for 24

Gently boil about 10 lbs. potatoes in salted water until fork tender, but not mushy.  Peel and cut into 1" cubes.  Add the following, in any quantity desired:  Sweet or dill pickle relish, finely chopped yellow onion, sliced celery, celery seed and onion powder.  Prepare a dressing of mustard, mayo, salt and pepper and pour over potato mixture.  Stir gently.  Add several chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped fresh parsley and salt to taste.  Refrigerate overnight and stir before serving.  Sprinkle with crisp, crumbled bacon just before serving.

May 16, 1953 A Bushel of Ironing, A Taste of Spring, A Pot of Pompoms, A Lovely Mothers' Day and A Walk in the Woods

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"I just finished a bushel of ironing.  I have a bad little habit of leaving it until I simply have to do it, but ironing is one job I detest.

Today has been nice but we've had furnace fires again this week.  It is so disgusting.  I was all ready to pack away the snowsuits and the kids had to wear them this week again.  It was down to 34 and that's pretty cold after we've had a taste of spring.  Toni and I took the kids to the lake yesterday for a little while.  We found loads of wild flowers and we have them everywhere in the house.  Edna sent me a huge pot of yellow pompoms--the big mums and they are just beautiful--for helping her with her program.  Her program was real nice.  We had a lot of fun with it.  I have been wanting to have them here for dinner but simply can't find time. 

Bob's eye was well in a few days.  He is growing so fast that he's pretty clumsy now and is always in a hurry to get somewhere. 

I had a lovely Mothers' Day too.  B and the children had breakfast all ready before they woke me up and that was a real treat.  They had a box of candy and some new shoes for me.  I had seen the shoes advertised in the N.Y. paper and said I'd like to have them but I had no idea that B had ordered them.  They are pigskin "Walkovers" with low heels.  We all got ready and went to Sunday School and out for dinner.  After a short rest for the children we went for a ride and walk in the woods, which the kids just love.

News is scarce so I'll just say bye for now."

                Lots of love,


Thursday, October 25, 2012

May 8, 1953 The Mothers' Day Watercolors, The Talk, Scared to Pieces, Chicken Palao and Carrot Pudding

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Maybe I'll be a little more on time this week.  I had hoped to get your package off early enough so you'd be sure and have it before Sunday but didn't get it mailed until this morning.  Will you see that B's mother gets hers?  They were so hard to wrap so the corners wouldn't get hurt that I just put them together.  Maybe you have a frame that will fit the pictures.  If you have, paint it with a flat green to match the dark green in the picture but if you don't have a frame we'll see if we can't get one made at Thompson's when we come home in June.  I hope you like the picture.  I got world's of pleasure in doing it.  I hope you and Daddy both have a lovely Mothers' Day.

Edna is giving a talk on Pakistan at a banquet tonight so I am going to project her colored slides for her.  We are both dressing in a Pakistani costume.  It should be fun.

B's mother has called off the reunion and I'm so glad.  It would have been too much for her and I was dreading it.  We'll plan to come in June anyway and will stay out there since we stayed with you Christmas.  Save your dresses and I'll help you with them.  Time goes so fast when we are home but maybe I could do the hard part.

I'm still cleaning and scrubbing but don't get much done at a time and would just give up if I thought I could get by.

Bob fell down the steps this morning and almost scared me to pieces but it all right--just blacked an eye.  He really tumbled.

I finally spent my birthday money--got some salt shakers like my crystal.

I keep having to stop so I guess I've told everything anyway."

                       Lots of love,


NOTE:  The slide of Bonnie isn't dated, so I'm uncertain as to whether this was taken on the night of the banquet or not.  She and Edna participated in a variety of internationally-themed programs for many years.

May 3, 1953 The Cleaning Continues, The Screaming Continues, Flowers in Bloom, Freshly Plowed Fields and Watching the Ads

Bonnie & the Night-owl
Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Here it is supper time and I haven't written my weekly letter.  Yesterday was so hectic that I never did get it written and I've cleaned in the living room all day.  B took the children to the park this morning and watched after them this afternoon so now the living room & dining room are all done except the floors and rug and getting the curtains up.  I'll wash and wax the floor and clean the rugs with Glamourene.  My venetian blinds look nice in the dining room but the drapes in there shrank about 10 inches so be sure and make big hems in yours.  I was lucky that I had big hems.

Yesterday I took Ann to the doctor for a check-up so I didn't get much else done.  She is still awake so much at night.  He said she is in perfect condition but he thinks it is her emotions some way that wake her.  She will probably grow out of it or we may be lucky and hit upon something that will stop her wakefulness.  Ann has had shots of some kind the last few times we've seen the doctor so she screamed an hour before he even looked at her.  Finally she went to sleep and he examined her then and talked to me.  I was pretty tired when I got home but we went up to Sorensen's for supper and had a nice time.  There are three (2 men & a woman) people from Pakistan going to school here and they cooked the supper.  It was all good and so different.

Last Saturday we went on our picnic and all had a wonderful time.  We went to a state park down by Decatur and although it was cool and so windy we were protected in the woods and weren't cold.  Flowers were in bloom everywhere and we walked over some of the trails.  It was wonderful.  We stopped in Decatur on the way home and looked at some pianos but there wasn't anything I wanted.  The dirt was blowing off the freshly plowed fields in such heavy clouds that we couldn't see to drive in spots.  We had to turn on our lights and just creep.  A real dust storm must be awful.

We are still watching ads for pianos.  We had thought we might drive to St. Louis some Saturday just for the day and follow up some of the ads but there hasn't been any time yet to do that.

School is out June 6th and it looks like we may come home for a few days.  B's mother is planning a reunion for Granny Gibson so we will probably come for that.

I'll try and get this mailed so bye for now."

                   Lots of love,


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

April 25, 1953 Planning to Picnic, Still Cleaning, Prescribing Drugs and Planning to Write

Bonnie picnicking in 1943
Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It seems so strange that we could have so much snow one day and have real warm weather the next day.  I guess our weather has been about like yours.  We had hard rain this morning and it is to be colder tomorrow.  We plan to take the children on a picnic tomorrow and they will be terribly disappointed if it rains.

I'm still cleaning house and not making much progress.  When it got so cold again I had to change my plans for I'd hoped to paint Bob's room next and of course have to wait now until I can open the windows.  I finished cleaning the upstairs hall and have started on the dining room.  Wards had a sale on Venetian blinds so I got them for the dining room and want to get them up soon.  I have one wall and the ceiling cleaned but there's a lot of woodwork to wash before I can put up the blinds.  My drapes have so much soot on them that I'm going to wash them.  They have about a ten inch hem so I'll take it out first for I know they'll shrink a lot.

My watercolor class met for the last time last night.  It has been so much fun and I hope I can find the time to keep on working at it a little now that I have the paint and brushes.

Thanks for the green stamps.  We save every one.

I'm so sorry you can't find any relief, Mother.  Watty's mother has arthritis of the spine and looked terrible this winter and had so much pain.  Toni took her to a doctor here that Dr. Ball suggested and he gave her some medicine which he called a muscle relaxer.  She is a different woman--looks and feels so much better.  The medicine is called Tolserol, tablets.  Ask McGinty about it.  Maybe he hasn't thought of them and maybe it would help you.

We don't know yet what we'll do in June.  Eve insists we come to Alabama but we don't know yet.

Your dress material is very pretty.  I've really worn my suit hard.  Eve gave Ann a nice snow suit (coat and leggings) which will be perfect next fall.  It is really too big for her now but she could wear it if I hemmed up the sleeves.  She really needs a light coat, I guess but the weather has been too cold for just a coat or too hot for one.

B had a real nice birthday and the card you sent was beautiful.  We all appreciate the Mirror.

What happened at the Stoutland school board election?  We read a little about it in the Post.

I've been planning to write to Buddy & Bessie and ask them to come for a weekend but wanted to finish cleaning first.  Seems like once you start, the house is torn up until you're thru.  I wish you and Daddy could come."

                            Lots of love,


NOTE:  Anyone who has been to a flea market has likely seen many of these picnic baskets.   They were manufactured by the Redmon Co. of Peru, Indiana as "Red-man" Quality Baskets, sporting an Indian logo on the inside.   We still use it but I really wish we had the metal one seen in the photo above.

The family picnic basket, 1950

April 18, 1953 Snow, Rain and Hail, The Purple Satin Costume, Almost Supper Time and I'll Just Stop

April snow, B's slide, 1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,

"I thought it was spring and started cleaning house but it has snowed, rained and hailed since I started.  Ann's room is all finished now and the only thing left to do in the bathroom is to wash the curtains.  We had decided not to do any painting for another year even though the children's rooms looked pretty bad.  So I washed Ann's walls and ceiling and they were so terrible that I ended up by painting them which didn't take long.  I found some cream semi-gloss and a tube of rose pigment in the basement so I mixed a beautiful pale rose.  It matches the flowers in her curtains perfectly and the room looks entirely different.  Ann says it is so "putty".  Now I have to paint Bob's room to keep peace in the family but I don't think I'll have to buy paint for it either.

Last night was the faculty women's dinner and it was nice.  Edna's talk was so good and she showed colored slides.  She had a table full of jewelry and different types of craft work the Pakistan people had given them or that they had bought.  She wore a costume of purple satin trimmed in gold thread which she had a native tailor make for her.  It was like one his own wife wore.  It consists of a tunic like blouse that comes almost to the knees and big loose trousers.  Then the cloak part is a tent-like affair with peep holes which the women wear when they are out on the street. 

It is snowing again and Bob has been planning to go out to pick violets.  That's the nearest thing to spring that we have around here.

It is almost supper time now but maybe I can finish this.  It has snowed all day long and is so cold.

Your letter didn't come this morning and there isn't much news to write so I'll just stop."

                Lots of love,


NOTE:  On April 17, 1953, a bit of baseball history was made when Mickey Mantle hit the run home that become known as the tape measure home run.  Use the link for the full story:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

April 11, 1953 The Children in the Basement, Finish or Ravel, Cleaning House When the Sun Shines and A Hard Day in Carbondale

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"After weeks of rain we got desperate and B made a sand table for the children in the basement.  They are down there now and I can write until they get in a fight, at least.  If the sun doesn't start shining soon we're all going to be goofy.  Yesterday was grand but it turned cold again last night.

McCall's, Feb., 1953
Did the pearls really fit right?  I hunted and hunted before I found something which I thought would fit your neck.  I hope they do.  I'll send you the bit about nylon from the catalog and a scrap of mine if I think of it.  It think it is nice.  The nylon is certainly wonderful since it doesn't have to be ironed.  You do have to finish the seams or they ravel badly.  I plan to French seam the navy that I have cut.

How are you now, Mother?  You still can't go to church?  Do you think you are better?

I plan to start cleaning house next week if the sun shines.   It is going to be a real job but Phyllis will help me.  It looks like next week is going to be a busy one, too.  B has several meetings and the Mothers' Club meets Wed. night.  Then Thurs. night is the Faculty Women's annual spring dinner.  Edna Sorensen is going to talk so I feel that should I go even if I do have to miss my painting class that night.

B is taking a carload of students to an all-day meeting in Carbondale, Ill. tomorrow.  They are leaving about 4:00 in the morning.  It is about 250 miles so it is going to be a hard day."

                       Lots of love,



NOTE:  All images from McCall's, 1953, chock full of tips for the busy homemaker!

April 4, 1953 The Sun, The Confusion and It Doesn't Look Much Like Spring


Dear Mother & Daddy,

"The sun is so bright but it is cold after a miserable week of rain, rain, rain.  Eve and I had a good time visiting but the children had to stay in all of the time except for two days and it sounded like the house was falling down from dawn to dusk.  The children did real well though and had a good time.  They came Saturday afternoon and left early Friday morning.  We got up at four so they could get home before dark.  Kathy (their baby) was sick with a sore throat the whole time and finally had to have penicillin.  She wasn't real sick but had a fever to hang on so long.  Ann developed a high fever one night but was fine and next morning and now has a sniffling cold.

A little tip from McCall's, 1953

B and Jim had a good meeting in South Bend and felt the long trip was worth the trouble.

I do hope your sore throat didn't amount to anything.  About all you can do for the things is to go to bed and that's hard to do.

We aren't planning anything for Easter but will probably just stay home.  We are all so tired after all our company.  It's not the work that makes you tired but just the confusion.

Speigels has their nylon advertised again in their sale catalog for 1.19.  That's what I got last fall and it's nice.  Maybe you can order some of it.  I want to start cleaning house as soon as I can.  My house is so dirty I can't stand to look at the walls.  Then I simply must do some sewing.
It doesn't look much like spring here.  The grass is getting a little green and the trees are budded but tulips and jonquils are just coming up.

Hope you have a lovely birthday, Mother.  Your package should be there on time for once."

                     Lots of love,


Monday, October 22, 2012

March 28, 1953 The Wheelers are Coming, The News is Scarce, The Weather is Beautiful and Salmon Cakes, Macaroni Goulash and Zesty Meat Loaf Keep Me Jumping

Gifts to B and Bonnie from the Sorensens, 1953

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"News is scarce and this is the only sheet of paper I can find anyway so I guess it will have to be a short letter.  We're expecting the Wheelers around supper time tomorrow.  Eve didn't know what time they'd get here so I'm just going to give them sandwiches and potato salad and pie when they get here.  I have worked in the kitchen most of the day fixing things ahead of time so I won't have much to do tomorrow.  I have meat for the week and some pies frozen in Toni's freezer.  I'd certainly like to have one for times like this.

We're having beautiful weather but it is cold.  The weatherman promises warmer weather, though so we're hoping he keeps his promise.

Bobby & Ann are both going to need spring coats but since it has stayed cold and we haven't gone anywhere I thought I'd wait until the sales after Easter.  Eve is going to bring Ann a few of Kathy's things so maybe there will be a coat.  She mentioned one once.  I gave up on my coat and had my old navy one cleaned.  I've got it home but haven't had time to take it out of the cleaner's bag or don't know how it looks.

I still like my dishes and they set a real pretty table.  We got 8 place settings.  I actually bought two starter sets which are priced cheaper that way than if you but the separate pieces.  It is open stock so I got cereal bowls too and then B went back and got breakfast plates.  The dinner plates are entirely too big for an egg and a strip of bacon or for our kind of lunch with just a sandwich and not much else.  I didn't get any extra vegetable bowls for I have some odd ones I can use.  This all came to about $18.00, I think, but there was only one set cheaper and I didn't like it.

I hunted thru the Post for something about the wedding Marjorie was in but couldn't find it.  I would like to have read about it.

It keeps me jumping to think up things to eat but my weekly menus are pretty much the same.  We usually have salmon cakes once a week with fried potatoes.  The kids like that.  We eat lots of meat loaf and I make that macaroni-hamburger casserole a lot.  You may remember I made that at home once.  Last Saturday I made a batch of those raised potato doughnuts and froze half of them.  That is a really good recipe.  

We haven't done anything extra this week.  Sorensens were here for pie and coffee Monday night.  They have gone to Florida for their Easter vacation.  He is really not vacationing though for he's going to spend the time studying an orange growing community.  He's writing another book and is going to use this material in it.  Did I tell you about the pictures they gave us?  They had about a dozen woodcuts which they bought from an artist in Barcelona, Spain.  They are prize winners and signed by the artist.  We took our pick of the bunch and selected two to hang in the dining room.  A woodcut is a picture cut into a block of wood and then stamped on paper.  They are usually done only in black (the color of the ink used) and white (the color of the paper).  These have been tinted, though and are very lovely.

Don't worry if our letter is late next week.  I haven't any idea how long Wheelers will stay, but they don't have to be back until the Wed. after Easter so they'll probably stay until next Sun. or Mon."

                     Lots of love,


NOTES:  For the Potato Doughnut recipe:

It wasn't until I first read this letter that I learned the origin of these block prints.  I never paid too much attention to them growing up; first in our dining room, then in the study, then in the living room.  

 Baked Salmon Cakes

Bring to a boil, 2/3 c. water, 1 T butter and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Add 3/4 c. instant potato flakes and 1/4 c. milk.  Stir well and set aside to cool.  Add 1 egg, slightly beaten, 1/4 c. chopped celery, 1 T minced onion (more, if desired) and 1 7oz. can salmon.  If desired, can add a small amount of horseradish or mustard as well.  Grease a 6 muffin tin well and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Fill with mixture and bake for 30 min. or a bit more at 400.  Serve with cheese sauce.

Macaroni & Beef Goulash

Brown 2 lbs. ground sirloin with 1/2 onion, chopped.  Add 1 c. ketchup, 2 T mustard, 1/8 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder and 1 15oz. can tomato sauce.  Add 1-1/2 c. uncooked macaroni and 3 c. boiling water.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring frequently until the macaroni is tender.  Top with grated cheese and brown in oven briefly.  

Zesty Meat Loaf

Mix and refrigerate overnight:  1 chopped onion, 1/2 c. pitted olives, drained & chopped, 1 tsp. celery seed, 1 4oz. can green chili peppers, 1 c. dried bread crumbs, 1-1/2 c. spicy chili sauce or picante and 2 lbs. lean ground beef.  Shape into 2 loaves.  Bake @ 375 for 40-45 minutes.