Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Personal History: Post-War Penpals, pt1

This is an introductory post for a series about pen friend letters written after World War II. I will begin this in a few days and post about them one at a time.

When we sorted through our parents' belongings, after they had passed away, we found a collection of envelopes and letters postmarked from Yorkshire and Scotland from 1945 to 1947. They were in amazingly decent shape and reading them has been an extraordinary window into the life of young adults who had lived through the war. More than that it is a sketchy documentary (because not every letter survived and the counterparts are missing as well) about how they managed to recover and retain some semblance of childhood aspirations despite the hardships and privations to which they had been and continued to be subjected.

There are eight letters altogether but sent by three different correspondents. Five of the letters were sent from Dumbarton, Scotland between July 25, 1945 and January 21, 1946. Two of the letters were sent from Bradford in Yorkshire one on September 30, 1945 and the other on December 24, 1945. The last was postmarked February 15, 1947 also in Bradford, Yorkshire. All of the letters bear similar stamps varied only by denomination. However, the cancellation of the one from 1947 is imprinted "British Industries Fair, May 5th-16th 1947, London & Birmingham".

All of the letters were sent to sisters living in southwest Pennsylvania. There were official organizations connecting students in the States with those from the UK and other war-torn areas as pen friends or pen pals. That said, there are statements within these letters that imply that these particular connections were made by "word-of-mouth" so to speak. Statements along the lines of "my friend said their pen friend had a friend who also wanted a pen friend," etcetera leave open that, while some connections might have been made through a program, the letter-writing effort seems to have evolved to a self-referral mode at some point in time.

The writers included two young women from Yorkshire and a young man from Dumbarton. Estimating that they were roughly the ages of the sisters in Pennsylvania, the authors would likely be between the ages of 75 and 79. I have tried to locate these authors or someone in these parts of the UK who is familiar with these post-war pen friends. The official agencies do have "lost" search features but even then it takes a long time to reconnect or get information, if ever. So while I have not given up entirely on finding out more information I am resigned that what I have may have to suffice.

So from time to time I will post about one of these letters and any additional information the writer included in illustration. The primary purpose is to share the courage, beauty and resilience of these young people as representatives of their peers. Should the information lead to discovering additional information that will be an added blessing.

Links to posts in the series:

Dumbarton July 1945: Post-War Penpals, pt2
Bradford Sept. 1945: Post-War Penpals, pt3
Dumbarton October 1945: Post-War Penpals, pt4
Dumbarton Nov 1945: Post-War Penpals, pt 5
Bradford Dec 1945: Post-War Penpals, pt 6
Christmas Card from Scotland, 1945
Dumbarton Jan 1946 (I): Post-War Penpals, pt 7
Dumbarton Jan 1946 (II): Post-War Penpals, pt 7b
Dumbarton Jan 1946 (III): Post-War Penpals, pt 7c
Bradford Feb 1947: Post-War Penpals, pt 8

1 comment:

Laurel Wreath said...

Very interesting indeed!!!