Letters written by your relatives can be an amazing way to connect to the past, your roots, and family. The written word can truly capture moments in time. One can really delve into the personality, culture, and interests of a person by what they wrote in correspondence to others.
My mother is very close to her living aunts in Napa, California. They are descendants of my Borchers' line. While I say descendants, I do mean my direct line. Not only are they my family but they are a bridge to my past. They are Borchers/Vienop family, both. They are my grandma's sisters. They also knew some of the Flanagan's. Napa was a small place way back when. In fact, they knew lots of old time Napa families just as my mother does. That's what happens when you are from a small town. Everyone knows everyone.
With that in mind, a few months ago my aunt told my mom of a "discovery". It might as well have been gold. That's how I see letters and other historical documents about my relatives when they first come to light and then I hold onto them as prize possessions.
My aunt's neighbor is also from a long time line of Napa families. While she lives in town, her cousins still live out on their ranch just a few short miles away on Old Sonoma Road. Her parents, aunt and uncle, ran a dairy farm on their land for many years in the 1900s. Recently, they were apparently cleaning out the buildings and houses on the property in order to complete renovations. They came across two postcards and four letters from their former employee who had gone off to WWII.
Imagine that, a Flanagan worked on a diary farm in Napa. For my family, the fact that any Flanagan worked on a dairy farm should probably come as no surprise to the family. Dairy farming is a bit of a tradition for the Flanagan's. That's quite literally what they still do in Ireland today.
These letters were found on that ranch, brought to my aunt (not a Flanagan), and handed over to my mom (who is a Flanagan). In fact, these letters were written by her father, my grandfather, Richard Joseph Flanagan. How often does that happen? Well, it seems to be the luck of the Irish in the case of my Flanagan's, in more that one case.
While my grandfather was an employee, he was also great friends of this family. When Richard volunteered for WWII, he wrote a few letters to this family.....letters that until this past summer, my mother didn't even know existed. What an amazing find! Also, what an amazing gift.
The above is the first piece of correspondence that Richard sent to his friends in September 1942. It was a postcard that reflects a sign of the times. The printed quote on this postcard on the back states, "To look at this young lady you'd never think that "TATTOO" in the Army means it's time to get ready for bed!"
So, my first reaction to this card was that it is "interesting", in a rather sarcastic sense. I suppose the joke about the tattoo says it all. Ironically, the message on the back of the postcard talks about the fact that the U.S. Army doesn't give Richard (my grandfather) time to duck hunt along Lake Erie.
I am still in shock that these correspondence exist. I need to finish reading the other letters and will write about them in my second post.
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. - Phyllis Theroux