About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Gift of Letters

(Our host for this week's Fun Monday is Mariposa and she wants to know about our collections. What do we collect? What are the reasons that we collect a particular thing? This may have been a challenge for me until just recently because I don't collect except for books, writing supplies, music, photos and--in past years--garden plants. Recently, however, my older sister gave me a precious collection, a box of letters, that I'd like to tell you about.)

Fortunately every family has at least one person who is the collector of family mementos. In my family my older sister, Margaret, keeps the old photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, and memorabilia that tells our family story.

My sister is nine years older than I and lives in the eastern part of Kentucky, about a four hour drive from me. Except for a brother who lives in another state, Margaret is the only immediate family member still living. She never married and lives alone. And, at 72 years old, is beginning to need some care giving assistance. I am happy to make the trip east on a regular basis to help her.

On my most recent trip to see her she gave me an old blue box filled with letters that I had written her. And, what a gift this turned out to be. The letters were written, quite regularly, from 1964-66, and captured a significant period in my life. In the fall of 1964 I left my family home in the Appalachian Mountains to earn a college degree at Morehead State University, about 120 miles from home. I was the first in my family to go after a college education. These letters gave me a precious glimpse into my freshman and sophomore years on a college campus--descriptions of new interests, friends, challenges, and still close ties to home. Reading through the letters, I was surprised with how much I confided in my older sister because our family had the true mountain reserve about showing any emotion or even talking about anything more serious than day to day living.

I have written about this in recent posts, but for any new readers I'll do a quick background of my college days because it explains the content of these letters. During my freshman year I met, and began living with, a young family as a mother's helper to help pay for college expenses. Steve Hamilton was the baseball coach at Morehead State during off season, but for most of the year he was a pitcher for the New York Yankees. He and his wife Shirley had three small children. I lived with the Hamiltons all the time--I went to my college classes, the children attended the university elementary school. Steve left home in March for spring training, followed by the baseball season play. In the summer Steve rented a house for us near Yankee Stadium and Shirl and I packed up the station wagon and kids and drove to New Jersey for the summer.

Many of the letters I wrote my sister described the unique experiences of living with a professional baseball family. This was an incredible leap for a young person whose previous life had been one of isolation on a mountain farm in eastern Kentucky. And now I had tales to tell of life in New York City:

--Steve and Shirl take me to first Broadway play July '66 "Last night we went to Broadway in New York and saw Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand. It was great and I enjoyed every minute of it. We had great seats--first row center. Sure were some cute guys in the orchestra. On the way to the play we saw some ships on the river as big as that field below Wanda and Bill's. I don't think I'd care to live in New York. It's impossible to count the kids who play on the streets because apartments are too small. . ."

--Date with Gil Blanco, NY Yankee rookie player August '65 "Had a very nice time with Gil last Saturday night. When he came he had on a tie and coat even though it was awfully hot. . .he was very polite--you know, opened the car door--drives a red and black 1965 Grand Prix, if that's important--and a lot of other things boys back home don't do. We couldn't figure out how to get on the right road to get to the theater in the shopping center. . .first showing half over so we went shopping 'til the movie started again! Guess what we looked at? Yep! Gil Blanco's clothes. Sure was glad I knew something about men's clothes from being around Steve who has really good taste because he (Gil) kept asking me whether I liked this or that. . ."

--First time to see an ocean, August '65 "This afternoon. . .we're going to Southhampton, Long Island for the weekend. Dave Swanson and his wife invited us to their summer house which sits right on the Atlantic Ocean. He runs or rather owns a bread business (Thomas English Muffins) and is supposedly quite wealthy. Must be because they keep a maid, housekeeper, cook, and lifeguard just at this summer place. . ."

--Ballgames at Yankee Stadium July '65 "Friday night when Shirl and I went to the ballgame we went over the great big George Washington Bridge that crosses the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York City. All those tall, tall twenty story apartment buildings are really something. . .Shirl says, 'Fades, how would you like to live on the top of one of those buildings?' I said 'Sure would.' She says, "Fades, Fades, . . .what if you go shopping and forget your pop bottles on the top floor!'. . ."

--Shirl and I study the New York Times fashion pages. I become a fashionista. August and September '66 "I got a real sharp haircut yesterday in Teaneck. It's very, very short in the back but hangs well below my ears in front. that sounds tough doesn't it?. . ." "Today I went over to Alexander's and picked up my new winter coat. . .it's dull green, fitted, double-breasted with plaid lining. . .I figure it's a pretty good coat for what I gave for it--$35.00. . ." "The other day I almost paid five dollars for a yard of wool. It was blue and grey and would make the sharpest looking A line skirt. In the upper part of Teaneck there's a fabric shop that is a hole in the wall--looks about like the second hand stores in Pikeville--but they have tables and tables of very expensive fabrics if you want to hunt for them. . ." "Guess what I'm getting? New glasses. . .square frames, color black. . .they have slightly pink tinted lenses. . .Dr. Wentz said that they would make all those rings in mine I have now less noticeable. . ."

The remaining letters were written during the school year. I shared everything with my sister--boy friend troubles, accounts of family life with the Hamiltons, school activities, my school friends and their activities, plans for visiting home. In her letters she told me about her work and life at home. I am still amazed that she kept these letters from the '60s. And what a great gift to share them with me after all these years.

Now be sure to check out other Fun Monday collections at Mariposa's place .

23 comments:

Aoj & The Lurchers said...

Oh! How lovely to be able to read back on those letters, it must have been a real trip down memory lane!

Sauntering Soul said...

Faye, that is so awesome! I loved reading your impressions of NYC at a young age. I wish so much that I was a letter writer so that I could look back on my life in words someday.

mjd said...

What a wonderful and precious collection that sister has saved for you.

My older sister is named Margaret too.

Kaycie said...

What wonderful little snippets of your young life! I must say, I'm quite jealous of you seeing Streisand in "Funny Girl" . . . what I wouldn't give. Of course, that's impossible; I wasn't born until '67. I'm still jealous, though. How magical that must have been for you.

jennifer said...

I love the last one. Black square rimmed glasses tinted pink and grey A lined skirts!

Very cool collection.

Jennifer

Mariposa said...

It's always lovely to read old letters we've written...I always make love letters to IT Guy...and every time we get into a really huge conflict...he would pick one and let me read and would tell me...see, you love me that much! LOL SO I just know how awesome that feeling of having a glimpse of what we feel on certain moments in our lives...Thank for playing!

Have a Fun Monday!

Celeste said...

That is a very precious collection. I would think that it would be fun to having a gift like that appear in your life suddenly.

Sayre said...

Absolutely marvelous!!! I have letters from my grandmother dating from my own childhood. She was my first pen pal and we continue writing to this day. Letters are true treasures.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Wow that is so amazing. That's one of the sad things about email I suppose. No boxes full of memories to look through in years to come.

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Amazing. So far this is my favorite of all of today's posts.

My Husband Calls Me Weird said...

What a lovely collection!

nikki

ellen b. said...

What an amazing collection that is to cherish. Yikes I'd love to see letters I wrote in the mid sixties! All the history, the trends, quite an archive! Enjoy...

IamwhoIam said...

What a lovely story, so good of your sister too keep the memoto for you, almost like a journal, those old letters.

ChrisB said...

Faye I remember reading that wonderful post. How lovely that your sister kept all the letters and you are able to enjoy taking a trip back in time :)

Lane said...

That's a wonderful piece of history - not only your history but America in the 60's. It's really fascinating and I've said before, if you're not already, you should be writing a book.
What a truly wonderful gift.

Alison said...

what an amazing gift and a priceless treasure....

Ari_1965 said...

I'm glad she kept your letters.

Pamela said...

I can't think of a better gift then what she gave you.

I found some interesting stuff after my mom passed away.

Now I wish I'd saved everything my kids wrote. But I didn't.

Letters are truly a lost art.

Patience-please said...

Oh SUCH a treasure! I have a box of old letters my mother wrote to her parents when she was a newlywed living in Berlin during the reconstruction after WWII. And they continue until I was about six. Our kids won't have boxes of letters ... just long erased email.

Melanie said...

That is wonderful! I have letters I saved from a friend of mine from high school and college. When I read her letters it brings back so many memories. Must be a nice little trip down memory lane for you!!

Our Happy Happenings

lisa marie said...

That is so great that your sister has kept so much memorablia. :) I wish I had access to some of my old letters. I wonder if I was interesting enough back then. :)

KAREN said...

That's really fascinating Faye :o) I have kept some letters from friends and family over the years that make me smile looking back, but overall I'm not much of a collector. Oh, except magazines. I have LOADS of those!

Justin DuPree said...

Faye...I so happened to be searching for information on Louise Russell Swanson. This amazing woman was the matriarch of the Swanson family (we all called her "mum-mum") and her son David was a close friend to my father. I think the place you referred to in your letter was the Swanson Estate which is where I grew up. I enjoyed reading your letters here but this one obviously had significant meaning to me. Thank you for sharing. Justin DuPree