The other day, my dad brought home an unassuming box Norma Jean had let him borrow for awhile. I firmly believe each home has a tattered, weather box somewhere in a closet or attic that holds family photos and trinkets. They aren’t worth much on the free market, but they hold priceless memories and stories along with family history.
Inside this old stationary box were postcards, photographs and old tin pictures. My favorite contents were the postcards ranging in date from the 1920s to World War II.
In fact, some of the postcards’ brevity cracked me up. One postcard from Las Vegas, postmarked July 24, 1944, was sent to my great-grandparents from a Bob and Ruth Graham. “It’s really nice out here and there is lots to see and we are seeing it all. There’s a rodeo we hope to see next week. I hope it’s as good as it is talked up to be, See you all soon.”
Yet, my favorite postcards were from relatives during World War II. Most of the postcards were from family members Ralph, Harold and Elmer. They were relatives on my late grandfather’s mother’s side with the last name Link. It’s been a great lesson in genealogy and family history.
One postcard from Ralph Link to my grandfather was dated Sept. 20, 1941, and postmarked in Cincinnati. It said, “Am in a good state now, but not for long. Will be in Norfolk by morning to board the U.S.S. Loramie. Write often, Ralph.”
A postcard to my great-grandfather Omar from Corporal Harold Link, 864th Bombardier Training Squadron, was dated Nov. 1942. It noted, “I see in the papers they may defer farmers” before closing about his pending furlough the following month.
A postcard dated Oct. 3, 1944, from Doris in Florida, wrote to my great-grandparents contained the following news: “I thought I better let you know that I got a telegram from the War Dept. that Bill is missing in action. It was an awful shock but there’s still hope until they declare him dead. I’ll let you know if I hear any more. I just will have to wait. Sept. 11th is when they listed him as missing. Doris”
As a generation that blurts out any and all feelings on Twitter and social media, this particular postcard was heartbreaking to read. Yet, we know thousands of postcards just like this were sent around the country during this bleak time in our nation’s history.
My late grandfather was in the Army at the tail end of the war. He never talked about his year and a half of service in the Army when he was alive — at least not with us grandkids.
There were two postcards to his parents included in this small, unassuming box. They were dated in February 1945 when he was stationed at Camp Atterbury, Ind. at an Army reception center.
“Dear Folks, How are you all. I am fine. Got pretty good food. Expect to get shipped out tomorrow. Rained this morning. Got pretty muddy and the wind was pretty cold. There was no snow, a little ice. I haven’t had much time to write very much. Have a kid next to me, can’t read or write. Wrote a couple pages for him. Feel sorry for him, Love Dick.”
The next postcard was sent two days later on Feb. 17, 1945: “Dear folks, I am to be shipped out today. Don’t know where I am going. Some say South or west. I have been a leader for two days … taking them to different buildings. Big snow today. Will close now. With lots of love. How are you all. Dick.”
My generation can’t even imagine waiting an hour for a text message, let alone the thought of waiting each day for one of these precious postcards to know how their loved one is doing.
By the time my grandfather reached Okinawa, Japan, the war was over and he returned back to his farm in Miami County.
I’d like to commend both Piqua and West Milton for their “Hometown Hero” banners, which feature military veterans young and old that line their city streets. What a beautiful tribute to those who left their homes to serve their country with hopes to returning to their run-of-the-mill hometowns one day. Those same streets were lined with homes filled with people waiting on these postcards each and every day.
I hope you reach out to your relatives to dig out these unassuming boxes of memories and share your family history — no matter how mundane it may be and keep memories like this alive for generations to come.
Melanie Yingst writes for the Troy Daily News, a division of AIM Midwest Media.