Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Blast from the Past

Several years ago, my Mother decided to organize some of the "stuff" that she'd kept in boxes and hadn't looked at for many years. (I guess I come by that naturally as I've got some boxes in the garage that haven't been unpacked since my move back in 1987, and I've moved twice since then! They are on my to-do list...). Anyway, amongst her boxes of pictures and papers were several stacks of letters - letters that my brothers and I had written to Mom when we were in the Navy. Bless her heart, she saved nearly every letter that we wrote! (No, sorry to say, I didn't save hardly any of those that she or anyone else wrote to me.)

Thanks be to whatever 'archive gods' there may be, she didn't tape or glue the letters onto scrapbook pages. Instead she put them into the "old style" plastic sheet protectors - the ones with the top and bottom open and black construction paper inside. Not the best choice, but certainly not the worst either. This morning I finally convinced her to let me borrow the letters so I could make copies of them while I still had access to the copy machine at work. So, I spent about 5 hours this afternoon copying letters. Ideally, I'd like to scan them, but there are other things I want to do too... I took the letters out of the plastic pages she had them in so decent copies could be made. This week I'll get the archival sheet protectors for future storage.

I haven't had a chance yet to do more than glance at the letters so I don't know how much personal stuff is in them. I know that most of the letters I wrote were pretty "generic" as far as my personal life was concerned, especially when I was in Iceland and Japan. Those letters dealt mostly with the places I was seeing, my "adventures", and my duties. I'd like to go through my pictures and the ones that Mom has and put the pictures with the letters. I think that would be more interesting to other family members. I'm not sure it would be interesting to someone outside the family though. Actually, I'm not even sure other family members would be interested.

These letters have already triggered a lot of memories for me and I'm sure they will bring back some things I had completely forgotten, some good, some not so good. It will be another adventure, in some respects rather like reliving it all over again. I may not get much done in the next few weeks, certainly not what I had planned on doing, but I think I'm going to enjoy myself.

I thought I'd go ahead and share the first two letters that I wrote from Boot Camp. . .

16 November 1969

Hi Mom,

Well I'm here. Things are a little hectic and I don't have much time to write. It is seven a.m. and we are getting ready to go to the mess then mass. I was sworn in Indianapolis at 8:30 a.m. and arrived at Bainbridge at 8:30 p.m. I have been assigned to Company 14 and I went in on the 14th of November. Some "weird" coincidences. I know I won't have much time in the next week to do much writing so tell everyone I said Hi and everything is going just fine. Well, I have to go. Call to muster has just been issued so bye for now. Tell everyone to write even if I can't.

Love, Becky

19 November 1969

Hi Mom (and Terry),

Yea it's really me. This is the first chance I've had to write any letters at all. I have 1 1/2 hours until taps. So much has been happening that I couldn't possibly write it all. We have spent most of our time in uniforming. Of course I have been the last person to do everything - just because of my name. But I don't really mind. We have two Company Advisors (CA) in the afternoon and one in the morning. They stay with a company for approximately ten days and then they drop us and we are on our own. We've had three classes on Tuesday. Bunk making, personal hygiene, and fire instruction. They also give us a recruit guide for us to read in our spare time.

Each company has it's own petty officers. They try some out for the first week then they appoint them. They are RCPO - recruit chief petty officer, ARCPO - assistant recruit chief petty officer, MAA - master at arms, AMAA - assistant master at arms, MPO - muster petty officer, AMPO - assistant muster petty officer, MO - mail orderly, and AMO - assistant mail orderly. There are more but these are all we have had as yet. We had a meeting with our CC (Company Commander). We have R.M. Contini as our CC. After our meeting with her they asked for eight volunteers for RCPO. The company was seated on two sides of a room and six persons stood up on one side. I was on the other side and no one stood up so I did and then another person did. I was made AMAA for Sunday, AMPO on Monday, and MPO on Tuesday. Today I wasn't anything. The first three days they had the same eight persons as petty officers but they switched them around. I would like to be a petty officer but I don't know if I'll get one or not. It is a lot of responsibility because they run the company after the CA's drop us. I think I could do it.

We had 63 in our company to start with. One group got here early in the afternoon and then some of us in the evening. We went to bed at nine. Some came in after taps but I didn't hear them because I was dead. Anyway we finally had 63 in the company then one joined us on Tuesday from another company because she had been in the hospital. Two have already requested a discharge and two more are allergic to wool. And there are some others that I don't think will make it much longer.

Our CA's are really great. SA Kaiser is the one we have in the morning, SA Arsenault is for in the evening, and we are her first company, we are the last company for SA Wetherell. Anyway they are real nice.

How are things going for you in general? We don't have any television but we do have a radio in our lounge but it isn't on much so we don't hear any news at all. If you could, would send a paper or something once in a while so I could keep up on it a little bit? Tell everyone I said Hi and also tell them to write. I gave you my address before. Well I have to go now. See you later.

Love, Becky


Miriam Robbins said...

Interesting...looking forward to reading more!

Jasia said...

Oh Becky, I loved reading your letters! If you're wondering if anyone would be interested in reading more of them, put me on the top of the list. I'm hoping you'll share more!

Sally J. said...

Wonderful post, Becky! Thanks for sharing. Your line about the 'archive gods' made me laugh out loud! It's true, tape and glue are my sworn enemies...

As for storing the letters, there's no need to sleeve each letter unless you expect them to be handled all the time.

Leave them unfolded (creases lead to weakness and eventual tearing) and put them in archival folders and boxes. You can put more than one letter in each folder. Just make sure it's not bulging too much.

Store them away from fluctuating temperatures and humidity and you'll be in great shape.

Let me know if you have any other storage questions, Becky -- I'm always delighted to help out a family archivist!

-Sally J.
(The Practical Archivist)

Tim Agazio said...

Becky, I loved this post! You are lucky your mom saved all of your letters. Like you, I've saved no letters and nothing personal from my Army career...and I didn't write regularly to anyone. You have an incredible little resource there! The neat thing about the post is I bet you were remembering every little detail as you read. I found these two very interesting...and if you post more, I'll read them!


Anonymous said...

Hi Becky,
I enjoyed reading your post. I was also in the Navy. I was at Bainbridge in April of 1970. Company 29. Reading your letters, brought back some memories and the pictures you have did too. I didn't keep hardly anything from my Navy days, which I now regret.
Did you get a yearbook called the Portal?