Category Archives: family

1943 Christmas Gifts, Corsairs and Corn Meal Mush: Family Letters

It is getting closer to Christmas, and while Grandma is still sad, she talks about Work and about Christmas gifts and news of the family and friends. Although she probably did not know what exact end product she was working on, she was making Corsair fighter planes and work and homey Corn Meal Mush at home for supper.

The last letter was written on a Saturday, December 10.  She said she would write the next day, but if she did, the letter did not survive.

The next letter dated December 14, 1943, and postmarked the next day. The 14th would have been a Wednesday, a work day. It is a longer letter, so I have numbered my notes to correspond with the reference in the letter and added the notes after the transcribed letter. As usual, I have added paragraphs to increase readability.

[You can find Grandma’s mush recipe by following this link]

corn meal mush frying

Corn meal mush frying in a cast iron skillet

Transcription of Letter

Dear Harriette Paul and Bunny: —

Dad and I are sitting in room on top of the radiator. It is awful cold tonight.  Sure hurts after such nice weather.

¹I came home from work got supper which was fried mush, ham & beans and got up from table and went to bed until 8 o clock. got up and Dad helped me with dishes and here we are now. I am going to write you go and mail it and go back to bed as 4:30 comes pretty quick.  I have some cold tonight so will try and not let it get me down as tomorrow is pay day.

³Sarah called me and wanted me to go to Gerald Bushs and play Bridge for her tonight but I just cant and get up so early.  Her mother was here for a week went home Mon.

Bob told me the cut off was frozen over and there was a bunch of girls and boys going down to skate tonight.  I told him to get me a pair of skates and I would show them how to skate.

¹I must tell you how I rate at shop.  They transferred me over to Pre Assembly.  and it is much nicer and cleaner.  We make parts on jigs and then they are drilled.  They told Mrs. Bell and me today that tomorrow we would build them and each of us would have a man to drill them so it will be nice.

I must get some new slacks. I only have one pair and they are getting pretty thin.  I wash them and dry them in evening.

³Irene just came in for a chat and then went over to Lou Kidds.  She is going to take my iron down and see if Truman can fix it.

We are so glad to know Bunny is getting to feel better. Sorry you both are still having to be stopped up

³Sarah had a letter from Wm saying he was sending clothes etc home as he thought he would go into Secure last Mon. nite.  Didn’t know where they was going but a lot of tents on boat so thought must be somewhere it would be warm.  I am so sorry I was so in hopes he would never leave the States. I feel awful bad about it.

² I opened the box and just peeped at the lovely silver box but could not take any of them out until Xmas.  They were just as you put them.  Don’t believe one of them has moved. I closed it back up and wrapped it up again. Only wish you could be here to open it up.  It won’t seem like Xmas without you as I don’t remember when you wasn’t home on Xmas.  I heard some say we would work on Sun. before Xmas so we could have Xmas off. I would rather work.

³Haven’t seen Herbert since last Sat. as he has changed shift again and goes to work at 1 P.M. and I am sure can’t wait up on him now.

³I must write Will and Jean also Maude a Xmas letter.  I guess I wont send any cards this year.

³Sonny plays wonderful B.B. Plays on first team a lot. 2nd team hasn’t lost a game.  First team has lost to Big Prariere (can’t spell it).  Mrs. Morris has the band play at games and it was very nice as I went up here when they played B.P.  Glad you heard from Frank and Dean.

¹I worked Thurs. Fri. Sat and Sun at show.  I do all the drawing now on Sat. night now as Howard boy quit.  Bot helped me one night but he didn’t like it.  I don’t get a bit nervous. I thought maybe I would drop the capsule when I tried to open it but I just get along fine. One night the loud speaker didn’t work so I really did go on the air as Dad says.

² Well kids I am gong to send you some money and I want you to get yourselves something or go to good show.  I don’t care what you do with it. I just can’t get any where to get anything and you know what you want.  Get Bunny some thing and if I can find something here that I can send her so she will get it from the mail man I will.  It won’t be much but just some little toy etc., I think Irene is making her a dress.  I will also give Herberts and Bob and Sarah money.  Think Wm. will enjoy your Xmas to him. he always gets a kick out of those things.

³Irene tells me Isabell and Delmar haven’t been very well.  I will give them the book for you.  I guess they are looking for Marilyn home now in a day or two.

Well, I guess I can’t think of anything else so will go mail this, get Dad cig. and go to bed.  Many thanks for lovely box and will write you again before Xmas.  Lots of Love for you and tell Bunny These XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX are for her.  Write.

Good night

Mother

Never got your card until today the 14th. Where was it all that time? You mailed it on the 9th.

³Here are some gasoline stamps. They were Herberts to get gasoline for plane and he has more than he needs.  He said Paul would know if you could use them out there.  You would have to get it in a can and put it in your car.  Just like Sarah does for her stove.  He said if you thought you could use them O.K. if not you could send them back.  Don’t use them if they would get you into trouble.

Mother

They are worth 5 gal. each.

Weather

Like most letter writers, Grandma starts with the weather. She makes it more vivid with her description of Daddy Guy and she huddling over the radiator.  According to historic weather records, the temperature that day in nearby Wooster was 9° high and 0 low with a trace of snow falling.

¹Work

Vera Anderson was a hard worker. Always.  With her husband unable to work because of heart problems she worked more than one job. With the war job she had taken in a nearby town, her days were long.

In this letter she refers to work several times.

Describing her day, she tells us that she was so tired when she came home from work, she could only get supper on the table and eat and then had to to take a nap until 8:00. After she washed the dishes, she will finish the letter and will walk (In temperature approaching zero!) to the post office, a couple blocks away, and then finally get home to sleep.  Her nights were short, since she had to get up at 4:30 in the morning.

Later in the letter we learn that she has another chore before bed–she will wash the slacks and blouse she wears to work the next day and probably lay them near a register to dry.  She can only afford one set of work clothes, and washes them every day. As a side note, she apparently had never worn slacks before (not counting the baseball pants seen here) and Daddy Guy was not at all pleased with the idea of a lady wearing slacks.  This is one of those far-reaching effects of World War II–a change in people’s view of what is permissible for a woman to wear.

Building Airplanes

Vera is competitive and very pleased with the progress she is making in her job. She and another woman have been singled out for a promotion of sorts.  During World War I, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron Ohio had branched out into constructing blimps. During World War II they named a separate branch the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. One of their branches was in Millersburg, Ohio, the county seat of Holmes County, and that is where Grandma worked. By 1942, Goodyear Aircraft employed 35,000 people. Besides the familiar “airships”, they built the Navy FG Corsair fighter planes.  That means that grandma was probably turning out parts for a Corsair plane like the ones in this video. (The video is 11 minutes, but you can see the plane in the first minute.)

The “Show”

Her description of doing the drawing at the Duncan Movie Theater is close to my heart, because that was my first paid job.  Every Saturday, when many farmers and their families came to town, the movie theater was busy.  As people went into the theater, they would stop at a small niche in the lobby behind a Dutch door, and sign their names on a raffle ticket.  At the end of the movie that night, a person (Grandma in this case–me about ten years later) would turn the handle on a large wire barrel and draw out the winning name. I enjoyed being in the spotlight. Apparently my cousin Bob Anderson did not. The winners might get cash or might get pieces of dinner ware.

Like the wearing of slacks, Daddy Guy did not approve of this business of his wife getting up on stage in public and speaking to all those people and teased her about going “on the air”–in other words thinking she was a radio star.

Note that she works there on Thursday through Sunday.  That means that at least two days of the week, she is getting up at 4:30 a.m., working all day, coming home to make supper and then going to the theater (practically next door to her house) until at least nine p.m.

²Christmas

In case you had not figured it out, 4-year-old me had the nickname Bunny.  Irene (My aunt Irene Kaser Bucklew) was making me a dress.  We saw some of her talented needlework in an earlier article here.

‘Herberts’ refers to her younger son Herbert Anderson and his family of five children.

How I wish I knew what it was that mother had found to send to Uncle Bill out there in the Pacific! Something he would “get a kick out of”.

³Friends and Family

Names mentioned regularly in these letters include:

Irene (Irene Kaser Bucklew, my father’s sister)

Truman (Irene’s husband)

William (William J. Anderson, Vera’s son and my Uncle Bill)

Sarah (Sarah Anderson, wife of my Uncle Bill who was sailing into the Pacific.)  Sarah and their son Bob (a high school student in 1943) lived on the farm that once belonged to my great-grandfather, but later she moved in to town and lived in Grandma’s house.

Herbert (Herbert Guy Anderson, Vera’s son and my uncle.) His wife was Pauline, and his children who are sometimes mentioned are Sonny  (Herbert Guy Anderson Jr. a high school student in 1943), Romona, JoAnn, Larry and Jimmy.

Maude (Vera’ sister, my great-aunt, who lived in Buffalo, New York)

Will and Jean (William Morgan Stout, Vera’s brother, my great-uncle, and his wife Jean. They lived in New York City)

I don’t know many of the other people, but I have mentioned Delmar Alderman is a couple of earlier posts. Delmar owned the town hardware store where my father worked at one point. He and his wife Isabel were good friends of my mother and father, and my dad wrote to Delmar trying to convince them to join us during our summer at Mt. Weather in Virginia.

Miscellaneous

The town she can’t spell is Big Prairie, a Holmes County School that was a main rival of Killbuck High School in basketball. Basketball was THE sport in these small towns and the whole town turned out for games.

I love Grandma’s comment about how she’d show the young people how to skate!  My mother remembered her in younger days as the best skater in town. The “Cut-Off” that froze, was part of the Killbuck Creek that bordered the town, and had been used for ice skating since Vera was a girl.

William says his Navy Sea Bee unit is going someplace warm–indeed they did, as we learned in my profile of him as a Seabee. When she says they are going into Secure she means the term used in the last letter…the sailors are incommunicado for a time before sailing so they can’t tell someone where they are headed.

Bill Anderson, WWII

Seabee Bill Anderson on Pacific Island, WWII (Someplace warm!)

Grandma’s Got the Holiday Blues: Family Letters,1943

Many people get the holiday blues.  My usually stoic grandmother had more reason that most to feel sad in December 1943.

In a previous post, I wrote about Hattie Morgan Stout writing to her daughter, Maude Stout Bartlett.  Now I am going to launch a series about Hattie’s other daughter, Vera Stout Anderson and her letters to HER daughter.

Vera Anderson wrote frequently to her daughter Harriette Anderson Kaser (my mother), during the months that we lived in Iowa in 1943.  The job my father accepted there  did not last long since the man who was to head the project changed his mind and never went to Iowa. But when Grandma wrote the letters, she (and my parents) assumed the move would last for years.  I was four years old at the time.

A world at war haunts every one of these letters.  We hear about the men in town who have signed up to fight, the restrictions of rations, the effect the war has on occupations and businesses. When Grandma goes to work in a factory in a nearby town, we learn what it was like to be a “Rosie the Riveter” and you can see how the jobs that opened up for women began to affected societal attitudes.

Every letter mentions my Uncle Bill, Grandma’s oldest son. I did not realize until I read these letters that she always called him William, since he was “Bill” to everyone else.

I will circle back and share all of Grandmother’s letters later, but I am starting with a short one one about the holiday blues. Vera Anderson wrote about this time of the year on Saturday, December 10, in 1943–almost exactly seventy-four years ago.  I believe that we had seen my grandmother and grandfather at the end of November, 1943, because I can vividly remember meeting the new husband of my cousin, Evelyn Kaser. Their wedding took place on November 25. A gap in the letters between early November and early December presents another clue that my family probably visited Ohio in November.

The wedding took place on Thanksgiving Day, so we were “home” in Ohio for Thanksgiving, but but Grandma got the holiday blues thinking that her son William and daughter Harriette would not be home for Christmas. To make matters worse, the war in the Pacific was getting more heated, and William was head straight into that unknown part of the world.

Notes on the Letter

Postal Service

Grandma Vera refers to going to the Post Office Box.  Killbuck did not have house to house delivery.  A centrally located post office had boxes even when I was in high school in the 1950s. In fact, we shared Grandma’s post office box, number 103–which was in the family for decades. She also mentions sending the letter to be on the Star Route so it will arrive “first of the week.”  The Star Routes were postal delivery routes that were handled by private delivery companies, and presumably were faster.  Federal money had to priortize spending on the war and postal facilities and trucks limped along and broke down, lacking needed repairs.

Grandma’s War Work

Grandma writes that she just came home from work, and that means that she worked on Saturdays.  The job at a factory in a nearby town meant adding drive time to a long day.  However she says she would rather work on Christmas Day than stay at home to worry and be sad about her children who were scattered rather than home for Christmas. Her solution for the holiday blues–work harder.

Uncle Bill, the SeaBee

She says she thinks that “William has sailed.”  That refers to my uncle Bill, William J Anderson, a SeaBee. While at times in earlier letters she puts a positive spin on his military service, she spent sleepless nights worrying. The situation was terrifying–information came slowly if at all.  She had no idea where he would be going or what he would be doing.  She had already seen many local boys head to Europe and many did not come home. Now he son would be in this truly foreign area and she did not even know what he would be doing.

She had been expecting to hear that he had sailed away from the safe base in California soon.  He had earlier told her that he would soon be sailing.  In the twenty-four hours before sailing, personnel entered a state called “secure” meaning they could not communicate with anyone.

Daddy Guy

“Dad about the same” refers to my Grandfather, Guy Anderson, who had suffered a heart attack in February of that year. Guy and Vera had to give up the restaurant they had run in their house after Guy’s heart attack, and her letters reflect his impatience at not being able to work. My Grandfather’s weakened condition no doubt also kept her awake at night worrying. This worry was not just holiday blues.  She mentions Dr. Stauffer, the family doctor who had delivered me at the Millersburg Hospital four years earlier.  Dr. Stauffer later rented the small building on my Grandmother’s property for his practice.

Grandma’s Letter

Sat. Dec. 10-43

Dear Harriette, Paul & Bunny,

Just came home from work and went to P.O. Box and got your box.  It came through fine.  Haven’t opened it yet.  But knew you would want to know we got it O.K.  I am sorry you can’t come home [for Christmas]. It won’t seem much like Xmas.  I hope we will work.  We couldn’t all be together anyway so we will all be sad.  I think William has sailed as he thought he would go into Secure last Sun or Mon.  I am all broke up about it.  He mailed his Xmas cards last week.

I will have to hurry and mail this so it will go on Star Route and you will get it first of week.  we’ll play Santa Clause for you and many thanks for what ever it is.  I am going to write you again in a day or two.

Dad about the same.  I paid Stauffer $10.00 on Dr. bill last night.

Many thanks again until we see what it is.  Wish you could be here when we open it.  Must mail this. Lots of love to you all and give Bunny a big Kiss.  Will write more tomorrow. Love,

Mother

My Grandmother was not one to let life get the better of her. Her answer to bad things that happened in life, was to keep busy and things would turn around.  I have many letters that she wrote, but rarely does she reveal getting as sad as she does in this December letter with the holiday blues.

 

The Stout Sisters in Pictures

I may actually have more pictures of the Stout sisters, “Aunt Mattie“, “Aunt Lib“, “Aunt Sade“, but if I do they are not identified (or wrongly identified) and I have not struggled through to try to pin  the down.

I have written about each of the Stout sisters (links above)–at least what I know about them. My mother called the oldest, Aunt Mattie (Martha Stout Hayes) “the prettiest one.” She said that the children (meaning my mother and brothers when they were little) and my grandmother Vera Stout Anderson liked “Aunt Lib” (Elizabeth Stout Cunningham) the best.  Sade (Sarah Stout Scott) and her husband Pastor Ed Scott (both in the Stout family picture below) had a daughter, Edna who corresponded with my mother for several years after my grandmother died in 1964, but unfortunately, those letters are lost. Edna lived in West Virginia, married a man named Jefford and had two sons who mother said owned a radio station.

Finding the Stout Family picture at the bottom of the page helps a lot because I’m certain of the identification of the two sisters in that picture since my Grandmother, who knew them well, wrote on the back of the photo.

So do you agree with the matchups of individual Stout sisters that I’ve done below?

Martha Stout

Studio photograph of one of the Stout sisters–Probably Mattie (Martha). Circa 1870

Stout daughters

Perhaps Sarah (Sade)and Elizabeth (Lib) Stout. Misidentified by Harriette Kaser as Myrle and Mary Cunningham, (Daughters of Elizabeth) but I believe dress style is too old for those girls. (Circa late 1870s)

Emeline Stout Family late 1890s

Stout Family late 1890s. Labeled by Vera Stout Anderson: “1st Row, Uncle Tom Stout, Grandma Stout and W. C. Stout (Dad) 2nd Row. Uncle Frank Stout, Aunt Lib Cunningham, Aunt Sade Scott and Uncle Edd Scott.

Stout Sisters

“Aunt Lib, Aunt Sade, Aunt Mattie,” labeled by Vera Anderson “Dad’s sisters” 1910s

Elizabeth (Lib) Stout Cunningham, Sarah (Sade) Stout Scott, Martha (Mattie) Stout Hayes.

Aunt Lib Stout can be seen sitting to the left of the porch post in this picture taken on the porch of Hattie Morgan Stout (to Lib’s left). One of Lib’s daughters is on the far right in back. 1923

I’m hoping that perhaps a relative who has more pictures and more information on the Stout girls will get in touch.  Fingers crossed!