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
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.
“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.
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.