Yesterday, I did my normal Sunday routine. I traveled from Denver CO down to Colorado Springs where I met my folks at church, then after church watched football with my dad. Since the Bronco’s aren’t playing, neither of us had a vested interest in the game other than wanting to see Payton Manning do well.
As such, my dad began sorting through the vast numbers of pictures and letters from my grandparents (my mom’s folks) for preservation. So in addition to watching the game, I got to see family history. One item my dad handed me was one of the most interesting thing I’ve ever read. It was a 19-page hand-written letter from my great, great grandfather to my grandma when she was a teenager. He wrote this for her birthday in the winter of 1940.
I don’t know very much about my great, great grandfather. At the time of this letter, he was retired from ranching (we believe he was a rancher) and as such had some time to reflect on the world. I can’t publish the letter because it isn’t in my possession, but I thought I would share my thoughts on the matter.
At the time of 1940, America was not yet at war. The attack at Pearl Harbor was still nearly two-years away. Yet Hitler was on the move and had recently conquered Poland. Yet the war wasn’t the only thing on folk’s mind. They carried on their lives as normal and did the things they had to do in order to carry one.
One thing that really grabbed me about my great, great grandfather was how educated this retired rancher was. Further, even though he was in the final years of his life, he still had a great thirst for knowledge. Often, he would attend lectures by judges, scientists, or other well-educated people. These people would often give lectures at churches, so my great, great grandfather would go to these various churches. He’d also attend their church services to see how the gospel was preached.
So, what interested my great, great grandfather? Many things.
For starters, he loved languages. He apparently could speak Spanish, Dutch, German, and appeared to know some Latin as well. He wrote a silly ditty in Dutch in the letter. He showed where the term “aster” was the same in several languages and what words are used from “aster”. I was amazed at his grasp of languages and wondered if my own fueled interest in learning Japanese somehow descended from him..
From there, I learned of his interest in astronomy and meteorology. I was stunned to read about the notion promoted by some scientist at the time of “global cooling”, namely a coming ice age. Apparently, this talk was fueled by the super-cold winter that year. It just goes to prove how science has to constantly change its beliefs because they actually don’t know what the smeg is going on, despite their claims to the contrary.
He went on to discuss various the coming spring and the robins and other birds that would soon come. He discussed other items in nature, continuing to show just how much he knew without being arrogant about it.
He then listed a series of questions to my grandma, stating the answers would be provided at the end of the letter in case she wasn’t interested in those topics.
My great great grandfather’s letter wasn’t just about education. He did talk about some personal things. He mentioned his long walks and that he now had to carry a cane. He mentioned writing poetry and even had a few of his own verses (along with quoted passages from other literary works in his discussion of poetry). He talked of a planned trip to his boyhood stomping grounds for a trip down memory lane.
So, why did my great, great grandfather write this letter to my grandma?
Simple, it was her birthday. Such a lengthy letter was something he did for his grandchildren on their birthdays since buying a gift would have been more than he and my great, great grandmother could afford. As he stated, he would only write such a letter on their birthdays and wouldn’t trouble them with such a long letter otherwise.
I am glad he did this. Because my great, great grandfather took several days to compose such a lengthy letter, I now have an insight into my own personal family history as well as a tiny window on the world of 1940 as seen through the eyes of an older man in Colorado at the time.
My dad says there may be more of such letters in the stacks of stuff, and if so, he will certainly set them aside for me to read. I sure hope there more because I would love to learn more, thus carrying on the legacy of my great, great grandfather.