Surprising Find! Mame Kaser Writes a Letter

Sometimes doing family research can get rather routine. But sometimes an unexpected find has me dancing and grinning with joy.

I have been working my way through a shoebox of letters between my mother and father, Paul and Harriette Anderson Kaser. Their courtship lasted several years, so there are many letters to transcribe. But a few stray bits and pieces showed up in that shoebox where my mother saved the letters.

As I sorted envelopes by the early 1930s dates, I came across a postmark from Oct 15, 1926. What was that about? Addressed to Paul Kaser, Takoma Park Sta., Washington D.C., c/o W. M. C., the return address reads Box 403, Millersburg, O.

Okay, a letter to my father when he was 17 years old, but who was it from and why was he in Washington D. C.? I knew the answer to the 2nd question, as I had written about my father’s attempt to attend college, and how that dream was interrupted. The c/o W. M. C. Stands for Washington Missionary College, a Seventh Day Adventist institution that his father decreed was the only school he could attend.

When I see the signature, I know this is the first thing I have seen that belonged to my grandmother, Mary Isadore Butts (Mamie) Kaser.

Clifford Kaser Family
Kaser Family: Paul, Irene, Milton, Keith, Clifford, Mary I (Mamie) About 1926

The letter, written in pencil, covers front and back of a page from a small, lined notebook. I am puzzled by the fact that the letter is dated Sept. 17 -26. That is nearly a month before the Oct. 15 postmark. Did she forget to mail the letter? Did she get the date wrong? Is there a missing letter sent in October? Was she waiting to get the promised package assembled? (We learn in a letter from Paul’s brother Milton that a blanket and overcoat are just being sent on 24 October.)

Mame’s Letter

Dear Paul

Got your letter yesterday glad to know you are settled & like it so far. I am going down to get your Bag this after noon. You would have had it to take along but the catalog said they had them down there. you didn’t tell me who your room mate is & how long are you paid up for Did some one meet you or did you go out on the car[streetcar?]
be sure all your things are stamped be fore you send them to the wash. It would be a good plan for you to list the things you send. Don’t send any socks or handkerchiefs they won’t amount to much to send home. Irene [Paul’s older sister] & I canned 22 qts of Peaches to day. Keith [Paul’s older brother]is hauling coal to day. Harold C. Has quit the rubber plant & Verne has quit driving the truck. They can live with out work maybe & get their gass[sic] out of the machines that comes to the shops. Milton [Paul’s younger brother] got a 100 in algebra to day. Say when you write one sheet will do you had two yesterday. You writ [sic] as often & you can address some to Milton.

Momma

Getting to Know My Grandmother

I have transcribed this as Mame wrote it, except for adding periods at ends of sentences and capital letters at the beginnings. She only capitalized proper names, and did not use punctuation. Her lack of formal education shows, but her content reveals her personality.

After suggesting her son should not use more than one sheet of paper for a letter, Mame sets a good example of frugality by squeezing her last words onto the top of the first page, and squeezing her signature into the remaining corner. I see her thinking that her admonition might discourage him from writing, and she quickly encourages Paul to write often.

Although the letter is filled with hints of a common sense housewife—don’t send handkerchiefs and socks to the laundry because it’s cheap to send them home—I can see how much she is missing her boy. She wants to know every detail of his life at school. Perhaps she is a bit envious, too, as according to my father, she read the Bible every day, and loved to read the poet Milton. My father gave her credit for instilling his love of learning.

I can’t help being amused as her strict moral sense comes to the fore over the way she imagines “Harold” and “Verne” are going to get gas when they don’t have a job. Apparently they are going to siphon gas from cars (machines) that they encounter at someone’s shop.

While I am excited to finally have something actually touched by my paternal grandmother, whom I never had a chance to know, it is sad as well. She was three months shy of her 58th birthday when she wrote this letter. but she did not live to see her son Paul again, or taste any of those peaches she had canned with Irene.

The timetable tells the story.

December 22, 1925: Mame turns 57

February 13, 1926: Paul turns 17

June 1926: Paul graduates from Millersburg, Ohio High School

September 1926: Milton turn 14 and starts his Freshman year in High School

September 1926 :Paul takes train to Washington D.c. to start college
September 17, 1926: Date Mame puts on letter she writes to Paul

October 15, 1926: Postmark on envelope with Paul’s letter from Mame (This letter or a later one.)

October 24,1926: Date on Milton’s letter to Paul, in which he says, “Everyone fine here.”

October 28, 1926: Mame has a stroke but Paul is not informed.

October 31, 1926: Mame’s death, and Paul is informed and returns to Ohio, never to return to college.

You can read more about Mame and her first daughter; Mame sews for a First Lady; and in the two articles linked above.

How I Am Related

Mary Isadore (Mame) Butts Kaser Is the mother of

Paul Kaser, my father

NOTES ON RESEARCH

The original letters from Mame Kaser and from Milton Kaser to Paul Kaser are in my possession.

Other information is drawn from earlier research noted in linked articles above.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.