Monday, August 23, 2010

A letter from Mother 'Cile

For a change of pace I thought I would include a letter to Maj. Gillham from his mother-in-law, Lucile Kiser Holsenbeck, who was known to everyone in the family as Mother 'Cile.  We don't learn too much new or earth shattering in this letter, but it is interesting to hear about the family from a different perspective.

Atlanta, Ga.
April 8, 1946

Dear Bill,

I really am ashamed for not writing to you sooner and thank you for the lovely handkerchief you sent me for Christmas, and the beautiful scarf and the much-needed silk hose you sent me on my birthday.  I do appreciate them all very much, and I think you were wonderful to remember me on my birthday -- and Pop was quite thrilled over his pretty handkerchief and socks on his birthday.  Of course, it is always nice to be remembered, but especially from someone so far away, so accept our sincere thanks.

It is wonderful having our two daughters and four granddaughters with us.  We have lots of fun and good times together, but we are indeed a busy household, and there is a never a dull moment, something happening all the time.

The girls go to dancing twice a week, to the scout meeting and for the past several weeks Emily has been going to a class of instruction at the church, as she expects to join the church at Easter.

Bryant left Wednesday for Camp LeJeune to meet Carl.  She left Margaret with us, and when Carl gets his leave Bryant and Carl will come back for Margaret.  His negro soldiers will have to be processed and discharged before he gets his leave.  I do not know whether they will leave Margaret here with us until school is out or not.

The children have a great time together, and Margaret wants to do everything Monty does.  Frances has been wonderful about taking the children out to see different things around Atlanta.  Hurt Park is one of the show places in Atlanta now, with 15,000 tulip bulbs, and they are in bloom now.  There is to be a tulip show April 13th and 14th at the Auditorium and we plan to go and take the children.

The things you have sent Frances and the girls are certainly interesting, as well as handsome and beautiful.  The brass is handsome and Frances has been trying to study up on the art, etc.  The lacquer arrived Saturday and the whole family is excited to the 9th degree when a package arrives from Bill.  The linen you sent is another valuable item, for linen is sky high here.  I imagine the white cloth would cost about $75 or $100 here.

Mother was delighted with the attractive fan you sent her.  She has been quite ill, but Sunday I took her to ride, the first time she had been out in some time.  She enjoys the children so much.

Martha is the best baby I ever saw.  Anything is all right with her, and Emily and Monty are so sweet to her.

I think it would be grand when you get out of the army if you and your family could settle in Atlanta.

Friday Frances went to the History Club with me.  Mrs. Watters and Mrs. McNeil entertained at the Women's Club and I was so proud of my daughter.  Tomorrow night we are going to the Public Affairs Forum, and I am so glad to have the opportunity of going out with my daughter and knowing our grandchildren.

We think of you constantly, and I want to thank you for taking such good care of our daughter and grandchildren.

Much love from

Mother Cile

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Frances thinks about living in Fernbank

Today's letter from Frances is historically interesting in that she describes a bit about the early stages of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.  I remember as a child visiting Fernbank when it was what I thought was just a big bug collection in a small old building.  From what I can gather online, the house that Frances talks about below was owned by Col. Z.D. Harrison and was purchased in 1938 by a group wanting to set up a conservancy.  Frances drew a floor plan/property map of the house, which I have scanned below.

April 8, 1946

Dearest Angel,

The lacquer ware came .  Also the brocade bag with the green silk.  Margaret's doll (most gratefully received) and the Victrola records arrived in excellent condition.  The records are most interesting.  The children's record is darling, I think.  I guess I am not accustomed to such vocal renditions as the male voices gave, I think.  American sense of tone is much easier on the ear.  Anyway, I certainly enjoy playing the records.

The postcard holder is simply lovely.  As you said, it will be interesting to see how the new lacquer pieces wear.  I have been reading up on lacquer ware in the book I have on Japanese art.  It mentioned that the oldest pieces of Japanese lacquer ware were on exhibit at the museum at Nara.  Of course, the book was written before the war.  The pieces I refer to were made around 700 to 800 A.D.  Like everything else, lacquering was imported from China and Korea.

There are only black, red and green lacquer ware, as no vegetable dyes will mix with the lacquer.  The finest pieces are black or red encrusted with gold.  Also rare, elaborate pieces have been inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

I was interested in your account of the art exhibit and the tea connected with it.  We were all amazed at the size contrast in the pictures of you and the Japanese lady.  Emily said that she could understand why you sent such small things to us -- the people were small.

Today I took the girls out to Fernbank.  You turn off of Clifton Road, opposite the golf course of Druid Hills Golf Club.  The property extends from there to the to little road you and I went on to see the sun rise one morning after a Pan Hellenic dance.

It is the former estate of a wealthy land owner.  The house is still there.  The house is built in the style of the Snowden home in Memphis.  There is the former stable, servants home, gardens and woodland.  The Scouts, Campfire Girls, etc., us it in summer as a day camp.  Weisiger is president of the Fernbank association, which hopes to make it a children's recreation area.

A little theater group had made a stable playhouse once, but things have been neglected during the war.  Emily and Monty were entranced with the old stable to roam through.  They enjoyed the woods and paths.  We found some sweet shrub.  Find one enclosed.  The woods were so full of memories for me.  The trees, violets, the hills, the earthy smells brought back visions of you.  Once, I started to run a bit to catch up with you and show you a sweet shrub bush just covered with blossoms.  Then with a little pang of remembrance I realized that you weren't just ahead in the path but thousands of miles away in Tokyo.  Anyway, I did pick off the blossoms to send you with all my love.

I think I could get the three-room servant's house if I agreed to be caretaker.  It would be a place for us to start in if you come home in June and start with the telephone company here.  I talked to Mr. Weisiger about it and he thought I might make a deal with it until September at least.

The house is in need of repair, but it has water and electricity and a good roof.  The ceilings are high and there's a fireplace in each room.  As soon as I saw it, I thought that it would be fun to fix it up and that I'd love to live in it, because it would afford the children such wonderful places to play.

There is the floor plan -- [see below]

I guess it would not be practical as there are no closets and we'd have to move to something larger, but I start wanting to make a home at the drop of a hat or something.

And the Scouts will be having day camp out there.  It would be company and nice companionship.  Anyway, I had to write it to you.

Tomorrow I shall write you in detail of the recent pigeon funeral we had around here.




Below is the floor plan and property map that Frances drew.  Unfortunately, the last part of her letter from the other side bled through, so it is difficult to see everything.  Be sure to click twice on this image.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Maj. Gillham secures a movie camera

This is an interesting letter for family members since it hints at the existence of movies that Maj. Gillham may have taken while in Japan.  His 8mm film collection is legendary in the family, but I don't recall ever seeing any film taken while he was in Tokyo.  It may be that, contrary to what he says in this letter, he never made duplicates of the films he is taking with the borrowed camera.  And we may yet hear about what actually happened in subsequent letters.

Maj. Gillham has also given up on the idea of traveling home via the Mediterranean, due mainly to the high tolls exacted by the British for use of the Suez Canal.  I am not sure what the tolls were in 1946, but today, with the canal owned jointly by a private company and the country of Egypt, the average toll per ship is $150,000.

There is a second letter added after this letter below which was mailed on the same day and which was used as a cover letter for some photographs.

8 April 1946

Dearest Darling,

We have been very busy for the last few days trying to meet an advanced deadline for the current summation.  I have received several letters from you recently, including the registered one.  It came a little slower than the others, but much faster than the old ship-borne mail.

A few minutes ago Marshall Brandon walked in.  I had tried to get in touch with him, but the address you sent me was Co. H.  He is really in Co. A.  He had just gotten word of my address.  He seemed to be a very nice young fellow -- reminded me somewhat of Father.

I am sorry to hear of Mother Ki's trouble.  Hope she is better now.  I don't think Mother is getting along too well either.

I got a letter today from Nellie Montague.  She said she was much better now but that John was ailing.

I recently sent a package to Ellen with one of those white table cloth sets for her and Earnest, a silk scarf for Terry and some Jap army insignias for Monte.

Your most recent letter is the note on the card with the cute little deer on it.

It is cherry blossom time here now.  I have been itching for your movie camera.  Recently I have worked out an arrangement which may help.  A newly arrived civilian employee assigned to my Section, a Miss Linzel, brought a camera just like ours.  She has some black and white film and two rolls of color.  She had never taken any movies, so I am helping her and I am going to get duplicate sets of the film.  We just went down  to the Ginza and took some B&W of the crowds.  Tomorrow we are going out and have lunch with Geo. Bull and take some shots of a parade taken from the roof of the Dai-Ichi Bldg.

My most recent Japanese children's song is one about spring.  It has a cute little tune and would be translated:

Spring has come, spring has come
Where has it come?
It has come in the mountains
It has come in the fields
It has come in all the countryside

Then there are other similar verses for buds, flowers, etc.  I haven't been able to get a record of it, but I have picked up several other records.

I love you, my darling, and I am counting the days until I can again hold you in my arms. 

I don't think there is much chance of my going by the Mediterranean because of the exorbitant British toll at Suez.  I think I told you that once.

I am anxious to see what kind of a suit you got.  I'll bet you look pretty in it.

I don't know what to say about the Bermuda trip.  Go ahead and investigate it so we will have the facts.  It would be lovely if we could do it.

Lots of love,



8 Apr 46

Dearest Love,

Here are a few more pictures.  They were mostly taken on my last weekend trip to Miyanoshita.

I love you.  I'll be seeing you again before long, and won't I be glad.

Lots of love,


Friday, August 20, 2010

Maj. Gillham learns the date of his departure

Today Maj. Gillham learns of his release date, and the slow process of his homecoming is now being put into motion.  He talks about receiving an Omnibook, which was a sort of Reader's Digest wannabe, with condensed versions of books.  In that way it was also very similar to Coronet magazine, which he discussed in the previous letter, having just gotten a gift subscription from Mother 'Cile.

4 Apr 46

Dearest Lovely Dovely,

You say you like that?  Well, I like you too.

Received the other carton of cigarettes and the Omnibook.  Many thanks.  I have been reading the biography of Eisenhower in it.

Yesterday I also got a letter from you dated 24 Mar and one of the enclosures included the letters from the Posts.  It does make me feel much closer to you when then mail doesn't take so long.  I got Monty's letter and thought her picture of "boy chasing girl" was fine.  She is catching on early.

Just now another letter from you came.  It was dated 27 Mar.  I am sorry you haven't been getting enough exercise.  Hope you can get out more now that spring is coming.

I have been pushing lately to get released soon, and today was informed that I would be declared surplus on 22 Apr.  That doesn't mean I would leave immediately, but on that date the wheels will start turning toward getting me home.  I will be able to leave by 1 May.  In that case, I should be home before 1 June, unless I go by the Mediterranean.  I don't know much about the possibilities of that yet.

Yesterday Paul Zumwalt walked in.  He was on his way home.  His ship had gotten part way across the Pacific and had mechanical trouble and had to be towed back here to be put in dry dock.  For five days after they returned they weren't allowed off the ship.  It didn't seem to be bothering Paul much, but Dick Johnson was on the same boat.  I haven't seen Johnson, but Zumwalt said he was about to burst a blood vessel, and wanted to start a revolution or something of the kind.  I can imagine, can't you?  I had Paul to dinner.

I also got a letter today from Addie, Mother's nurse.  She said Mother had had a heart attack recently.  She hadn't seen Elizabeth or Ruth in about two months.

Mr. Nagano, my Japanese businessman friend, came by the office yesterday to bring me an obi for you.  He had mentioned several months ago that he was going to give me one, but I had about forgotten about it.  It is a very nice one, but not exactly the colors I would choose to go with your kimono.  However, they don't seem to bother much here about the colors as long as they are bright.

I hope your fever blister is well now.

You are smart to be running a scout troop.

I wish I could see Emily joining the church.  I'll bet she looks sweet.

The black specks on the shrimps were eyes, I think -- excellent flavor.  I am certainly looking forward to that meal you promised me.  I'll go off my diet that day.

Lots of love,


Thursday, August 19, 2010

April Fools Day letter from Japan

This is an April Fools Day letter from Maj. Gillham, but there is no prank in it.  He tells of his visit to the mountains with his friend Wilson and a package he received from Frances.

He talks about Russell McPhail chocolates, which I wasn't able to find anything about on the Web.  Apparently, though, they shared some of it at one time during their courtship or married life, since it brought back memories for Maj. Gillham.  And also, we find out that the two of them met on April 6, but I would have to ask Monty, Emily or Martha about what year that would have been.

1 Apr 46

Dearest Lovely,

I wonder how my little darling is on this fine April Fools Day?  Did you get any jokes played on you?  I'll bet you did with all those children around.

Today the package mailed 11 Feb and marked "Special Delivery" came.  It contained the cigarettes, bittersweet chocolate drops, mints, the jellies in the pretty little bottles, the GW coffee, and the Russell McPhail Chocolates.  The last item brought more than just the chocolate itself -- it brought many happy memories also.  Thank you very much for it all.  The package came thru in good condition.  And thanks also for the Valentine.  Too bad we couldn't have been together and gone to all those places together.

This weekend Wilson and I went to Miyanoshita and spent the night at a Japanese hotel.  Miyanoshita is a resort down in the mountains near Fujiyama.  There is also a big western style hotel there, a very fine one, that has been taken over by the Army for a rest center.  We rode on a cable car and climbed around the mountains.  It is beautiful country.  The plum trees were in bloom and I think the cherries will be out in about another week.  There were some interesting shops there, but everything was so high that I got disgusted and wouldn't buy anything.  Sunday we didn't have a car but I ran into Barron and borrowed one from him and we drove back in the mountains to a beautiful lake with Fuji behind it.  I took some pictures and hope they turn out good.  Today I felt greatly rested and refreshed, as a result of the trip.

I just received a notice from Coronet that Mother 'Cile had given me a subscription.  I haven't received the magazine yet but don't know of any I had rather have.  I was certainly nice of her.

You write me such sweet letters that I am afraid mine sound prosaic and matter-of-fact.  I would like to make them ring with poetry, for the thought of you stirs a song in my heart.  I am sending you a little message via the bank at Charlottesville.  I hope it reaches you by 6 Apr, for the day that I met you was truly a great day in my life.

By the time this reaches you, I will have been away about six months.  I hope, and don't think it will be, much longer.

I will try to get the pearls for Bryant and the kimono for Margaret off tomorrow.  I think it is fine that Carl can get home.  Does he expect a stateside tour now?

Loads of love,


P.S.  In the "valentine" I notice that "San Antonio" was on at the Fox.  I just went to see it downstairs.  It was good "shoot 'em up" Western in Technicolor.  The final rounds of the gun fight were in the ruins of the Alamo.  I wish I could have had you by my side, but at least I could "remember the Alamo."   WTG

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Seven letters arrive in Tokyo

Letters from home are now arriving with increased frequency in Japan, and Maj. Gillham writes this rather long letter responding to all the new correspondence he's received.  This letter came to me with no envelope, so the enclosures he mentions are no longer extant.

29 Mar 1946

Dearest Darling,

Today I hit the jackpot.  I got seven letters from you and two others.  I suffered from shock for about two hours.  Seriously, it really gave me all the symptoms of real shock, as though I had witnessed a terrible accident or something of the sort.  I guess it was just too much for my heart to get all that mail at once after so long.  The secondary reaction is now setting in and I feel wonderful.  Two of the letters were new, dated 19 and 20 Mar.  The others were old ones filling gaps in previous correspondence.  They were all very sweet and I was glad to get every one of them.

I am glad you have joined the Ft. McPherson Officers Club and hope you get some good out of it.  It makes a handy place to duck into when you go to the commissary.  The commissary privileges must be quite valuable now from what you say.  You had better get all you can out of the army while the getting is good.

Your letter telling of receiving the telephone call was one of those that came today.  I am glad you enjoyed it.  So did I.  It was rather strategically timed, right in the middle of the mail breakdown, and helped keep me from worrying about you for some time, even though I got no mail.  I knew you were O.K. up to that date.  I may be able to call again before I leave.  I think they are lifting the "emergency" restriction.

When you get through taking movies of the spring color it might be a good idea to take the camera to a reliable camera shop and see if they can fix the governor so it won't slow down in cold weather.  That has ruined a lot of pictures for us.  I am anxious to see those good shots at Robles.

I find that I, too, take quite an interest in Chicago now that I am far away from it.  We get an overseas edition of the Chicago Tribune here once in a while and I read it with great interest.  It was a great experience to have behind us.

I am glad you got to talk to Col. Unger.  It was nice of him to call you up.

I am proud that Emily is doing so well in arithmetic.  If she catches on at this stage, she won't have any more trouble with it.  It all depends on understanding what you are doing.  It is also an excellent idea to learn some beautiful poems at that age.  They stay with you throughout life -- much better than things that are memorized later.  It sounds like she has a wise teacher -- a rare jewel.  The children do have some nice "coins" to remember, don't they?

You certainly must have a busy day, from the sample schedule you sent me.  There are many cultural advantages around Atlanta and you are smart to have the children take them in while you are there.  Have fun but don't overdo yourself.

You wrote me a good joke, so I'll have to tell you one (Arnold should be near to hear you laugh):

A Mrs. O'Brien had four sons.  The first three were great fighters and later went to Notre Dame and became great football heroes.  But the fourth son was good for nothing and a disgrace to the family.  Several times at confession the priest asked her if this last boy was really an O'Brien, but she always insisted that he was.  Finally one day she was taken ill and was on her death bed.  The priest was called in for a last confession.  He questioned her again about the fourth son.  She replied, "He is an O'Brien all right, but the other three are McGillicuttys."

I don't think I wrote the article on silk that you sent.  I don't handle the regular press quotes from our reports.  We just got out last report back from "upstairs."  I had personally written the chapter on the general economic picture for the month.  I had worked it over carefully, and not one word was altered by all the colonels and generals, including MacArthur, who read it.  Other sections didn't fare so well.  The old man himself is a pretty close and exacting editor and apparently reads every word.  I am enclosing a clipping giving his statement on approving Homma's execution, which I believe he wrote himself.  I think it is a good composition.  What do you think?

Thanks for the little violet.  It brought a beautiful message of love and spring and new hope.  I wish we could get together in our dreams, if not in reality.  I'll meet you halfway over the Pacific next Tuesday night at 1 A.M. at the international date line.

I hope Tom Lemly gets all right.

I enjoyed reading the letter written from Macon.  We will have to get bare-footed in the sand at the first opportunity.  And I'll spank you if you don't watch out.

I don't have an obe for my kimono yet and I am trying to get one for you, too.  They are hard to locate.  I have seen a couple that I thought would e nice with your kimono, but they were just too expensive.  I will get them before I leave though.  My kimono is plain black, lined with purple.  Its only ornamentation is three family crests, about one inch in diameter and woven into the silk in white.

When I get home I can wear summer clothes for some time and that will help.  If  you have a chance you might get me a few shirts 16-1/2 by 33 or 34.  And if you see any good material for a fall suit go ahead and get it and I can have a suit made this summer.  I find that in a scarce market you have to look way ahead and get things when you can.

It seems a shame that you all don't have any butter.  We have had an ample supply ever since I got here.  I was taking it for granted.  I am now conducting a self-imposed diet.  I keep the little Scripps Hospital book in my pocket at all times and make a record of the calories I eat.  I feel much better when I don't overeat.  It is hard to do for they give us about 3500 calories a day and in addition we have candy, nuts, cakes, beer and whiskey.  I am holding to about 1500 per day now.

I am glad you have a new treatment for Mont's impetigo.  I hope it is effective.  If you had had to give her Emily's old treatment I think I could have heard it over here.

I would like to see you in your new shoes and hat.  That would be all that would be necessary as far as I am concerned.  Did you get the brocade handbag containing the green silk that I sent some time ago?  Also, did you get the big book on the Nikko temples?

I have just read 11 letters from you dating from 25 Feb to 20 Mar.  I think most of my missing mail is in now.  It was fun to put them in the right order and read them as things really happened.  They tell a better story that way.

The pictures are some I took last weekend.  I didn't get one of Mr. Haiyoshi, the opera singer, but Mr. Wilson is going to give me one of his.  This was Jap film and is a little grey, but you can get the idea.

I love you more than I can tell you, my little sweetheart.  You are always in my thoughts and I long for you constantly.  I don't think I could ever get used to doing without you.  Spring is about to break out here and I am going to want you more than ever.  Time is passing and we will be together before long.

Loads of love,



Masaharu Homma was a general in the Japanese army during the war in the Pacific and played a key role in the capture and occupation of the Philippines in the early part of the war.  He is most famous for being the mastermind of the notorious Bataan Death March, in which over 10,000 Allied prisoners were killed during their transfer from the Bataan Peninsula to prison camps in 1942.  Although he retired before the end of the war, he was extradited to the Philippines in 1946 and tried before an Allied war tribunal.  He was found guilty of war atrocities and was ordered by Gen. MacArthur to be executed by firing squad on April 3, 1946, six days after today's letter was written.

General Homma

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Carl is finally stateside, and Bryant prepares to meet him

Today's letter from Frances is actually written in pencil, and at the end of the letter you will find out why.  The big news is that Carl is back in the U.S. and that he and Bryant will be reunited in a matter of days.

March 27, 1946

Dearest Lovely,

I hope you are getting my letters.  I have been writing regularly.  I have sent them all air mail, too.  It distresses me terribly when you don't get the mail.  I have been doing a lot of lobbying around as well as letter-writing to see what I can do to help the situation.

It will be a pleasure to house hunt with you, darling, even if things are hard to find.

If you start in Atlanta, you have a place already.  Bryant will be gone and we can have the big front room here.  If we go to Memphis, we have the place in Kerrville.  Really, I think we are fortunate to have two places available immediately.

Last night Carl called Bryant from Oceanside at Camp Pendleton.  He is stateside at least.  He has to process and discharge troops that live west of the Mississippi before he comes to Le Jeune.  It will be about 10 days.

Bryant is going to drive up to meet him at Le Jeune and leave Margaret here.  She has made herself some lovely clothes.

Today Bryant asked me to take her out to Fort McPherson to have her two wisdom teeth extracted.  The dentist couldn't take her until Friday.  She and I went to the Officers Club for lunch.  They serve very nice meals there.  The grounds are lovely and they adjoin the golf course.  I've used the club just as a place to eat out once or twice, but it is lovely for that.

Elizabeth would like to have me introduce her to some young officers out there, but I don't know anyone to start introducing me to any, much less some to her.  It is a like eating in a public place as far as meeting anyone is concerned.  I like that about it because the only one I'd like to meet there is you.

Martha is over here by me and is at the table with a pencil and paper, too.  She is scribbling on the back of an old envelope and having a gleeful time being big like Mother!

Much love,


Saturday, August 7, 2010

The cherry blossoms will be blooming soon

Spring is in the air in Tokyo as well as Atlanta, and Maj. Gillham gives a report about the famed cherry blossoms of Japan.  This is a very brief letter, but, interestingly, he wrote it on GHQ-SCAP stationery, which gave me an opportunity to let you see it via a scan. 

26 Mar 1946

Dearest Darling,

I got a letter today from Walter Oates' boy, Buddy.  He says he is in the ninth grade.  I can't realize it.  I must be getting to be an old man.

I got a pair of Japanese Army binoculars today.  I will send them along before long as all such trophies have to be mailed before 1 May.

The weather is a little better now and the Japs are forecasting that the cherries will bloom within a week.  I am anxious to see that -- then I will be ready to come home.

There really isn't much to write about tonight, but I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I still love you.  Every day that passes now is one less that we will have to be separated.  They can't go by too quickly to suit me.  I'll bet that all of the children will have grown so much I will scarcely recognize them.

I certainly hope you are all well now and will stay that way.  I am taking the vitamin pills that you sent me regularly.

Loads of love,



Here is the first paragraph of the above letter, showing the letterhead of SCAP:

Incidentally, Walter Oates was a childhood friend of Maj. Gillam's, from Kerrville, Tennessee.  I visited him in 1974 with Frances and Maj. Gillham, and again in 1989 on my own while I was driving through Memphis.  On the second trip I got to meet Buddy's son, as well. 

Interestingly, the date of this letter is almost exactly 34 years after the planting of the first two cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, on March 27, 1912.  The trees were a gift of the mayor of Tokyo and were planted by the First Lady, Helen Taft, and the wife of the Japanese ambassador, Viscountess Chinda.  The first National Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935, but festivals during the war were suspended and the tradition began again in the spring of 1947, a year after Maj. Gillham's letter.

In 1968 Lady Bird Johnson accepted a gift from the Japanese government of 3,800 new cherry trees, which were planted around the Tidal Basin.  I distinctly remember hearing about this when I was growing up, and for a long time I was under the false impression that these were the very first trees gifted to the U.S.  Below is a photo of the trees in bloom with the Jefferson Memorial


Friday, August 6, 2010

Frances resolves to stay fit

Frances is starting to feel the sloth of winter in her body and resolves to do more exercise in the spring.  We are now at the end of March, right when Atlanta is at its prettiest, so she is feeling the need to get out and use the car less.  She is taking the girls to Stone Mountain, which has since become a tradition in our family.  I remember quite well my first climb, in the 1970s, with my grandfather (Maj. Gillham) leading the way up the side of the mountain with his walking stick and canteen.

In this letter, Frances makes a distinction between a laxative and a cathartic, which according to Webster's are practically synonyms.  I suppose in the general usage of the day a cathartic was the stronger of the two.

March 26, 1946

Dearest Angel,

Tonight Elizabeth and I walked up to Ponce de Leon and Highland.  We watched the people bowling up there.  In fact we tried to ourselves, but we couldn't get an alley.  We sat and enjoyed watching.  It is the first exercise I've taken since I've been here.

Every time I go out, I drive in the car.  I am getting sedentary and flabby.  I have a terrible fever blister on my lip (glad you can't see it!) and the family are starting to put the pressure on me to take -- not laxatives -- but cathartics.  I will take one tonight because I have reached this stage, but I surely will watch out and not get to this stage again!

What I need is a climb up Fujiyama in the snow.  Mt. Le Conte would do in a pinch.  I shall try Stone Mountain with the children Sunday.  I guess I'll have to take Martha, too.  Sunday is a hard day to leave her here.  Everyone wants to get up and do on that day.

Mother Kai is better.  She gets up and sits in a chair now.

No, you had not told us about the nose painting custom of the Japanese.  We think that is certainly unusual.

Darling, I realized I had polished several of the pieces that were supposed to be bronzed, but they look nice and bright.

I had the second meeting of the Girl Scouts today.  I hope Emily appreciates my efforts for her.  She and Monty are most anxious to go to camp this summer.  Monty uses Emily's Brownie suit for her meeting and Emily is looking forward to a scout suit.

Emily is going to join the church at Easter.  She is going to a little class at the church in preparation for it.

How do you feel after your shots?  I hope you are better now.  I wish I could be with you, darling.  You are such a dear.

I love you mucho heapo.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Maj. Gillham goes to a "new" theater

In this letter Maj. Gillham tells of his visit to a newly renovated theater in the Ginza district.  It's interesting to note that vaudeville is still in fashion and that he uses the word "camp," which was coined in the 1910s and probably had the same meaning then that it has now.

25 Mar 46

Dearest Lovely,

Have just returned from the Ernie Pyle Theatre which is about two blocks from here.  They took over one of the best Japanese theatres and renovated it.  It is now a first-class place.  They have a vaudeville and picture, just like up town, no camp theatre stuff.  Everything here is always free -- trains, shows, refreshments, etc.  It is going to startle me when I have to pay for something again.

You have been very sweet and faithful about writing to me ever since I left.  When I don't get mail, I know it isn't because you haven't written, but just because the mail hasn't come thru.  This last batch of mail I received certainly did me a lot of good.

Hammers are ringing everywhere around here.  The tempo of reconstruction is increasing.  It is interesting to watch a city come back to life after such devastation.  I can see a great difference since I got here.

 I love you, my darling.  I can't write it as well as you do, but I love you just the same.


P.S.  The radio is playing "Goodnight Sweetheart"


The Ernie Pyle Theater was originally called the Takarazuka Theater, which was built in 1934 and was the premiere movie theater and showplace in the Ginza.  It was renamed after the Allies occupied Japan and was named for Ernie Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent who had been killed in action during the war in the Pacific.  The theater reverted to the old name when the Occupation ended in 1955, and the structure was torn down in 1998 and replaced by another theater in ground floors of a new office building.

Ernie Pyle Theater in 1946

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Frances goes shopping again

In this letter we realize that Frances has yet to hear about the arrival of mail in Japan.  We also hear that Mother Ki is not doing so well.  For those of you who don't know, Mother Ki will eventually succumb in the coming September, about seven months hence.

Mar 15, 1946

Dearest, My Love,

I received another letter from you today mailed March 16.  Still you hadn't received any mail from me since Feb. 8.  I have written and written letters to you, darling.  I hope that old slow freight bring you a lot of them.  It makes me sad to think of you way out there all by yourself, and you go days and days (and weeks and weeks) with no word from us.

Your mail is coming in better at the present.  I hope yours improves too.

I think Wilson was lovely to loan you a radio.  Now if I could just recite some poetry to you over it or tell you a nice sleepy bedtime story.  Margaret has the nicest sleepy-time story book.  I've tried to find one for you but the stores have sold out.

Uncle Gartrell took Elizabeth and me to lunch today at the Iris Garden, a coffee shop in the Atlanta Hotel.  The proprietor is the Jap who wrote the Japanese letters to you for Uncle Gartrell.  I took Gartrell one of the silk handkerchiefs you sent.

While I was up town, I looked at suits again to cover between my hat and shoes.  I found a luscious one in melon.  That is a shade of red that has some yellow in it and it is a nice soft pastel.  My chartreuse green gloves and hat make me feel like an Easter egg because the colors blend as nicely as the colors on Easter eggs.  Emily thinks it is just the thing.  It is a woolen suit but I can wear it as often as I wore my yellow jacket.

How would you like to go to Bermuda, or wouldn't it be fun to go to a nice resort around Georgia -- say, Savannah.

I hope you can come home early, but I won't even get excited until I get your cablegram.  Then I'll wait as patiently as possible until I can actually see you and feel you.  Then I guess I'll just about eat you up.

Mother Ki has been very sick.  She was in a coma Sunday with fever of 103.  The doctor gave her a shot of penicillin -- enough for 24 hours.  She snapped out of it and is all right now.  She still has a little fever, but she is rational, takes nourishment and sleeps normally.

I mailed the insurance money for the car.  I never have heard from them, but I sent it ahead anyway.

Darling, I love you little, I love you big, I love you like a little pig.



Here is a letter that Monty wrote to Maj. Gillham which came under separate cover, postmarked March 25.

And here is a drawing Monty enclosed, showing a woman being pursued by a man.  I imagine the woman is also dropping her handkerchief in the classic style.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A free day to visit Tokyo

Maj. Gillham finally has a free day and decides to take a trip around town with an army friend.  He describes a tea-making ritual, which is still carried on today and is still as ritualistic.  I heard a report about this on the NPR show The World, and I remember the reporter specifically mentioning 3-1/2 swallows.  At time (and still now, even) I wondered what the difference was between a swallow and a half swallow.

After the letter I have attached some scans of items he enclosed in this letter.  As always, remember to click on an image twice to see the largest size.

24 Mar 46

Dearest Darling,

Last night I got out all your letters postmarked from the 6th to the 13th of March and read them in proper sequence.  That gave me a good chronological picture of your activities for that week.

I am sorry you didn't get to see skiing at Nikko.  The news reporters took some pictures of us when I was there, but no movies.  They took my name and home town and I thought it might get in an Atlanta paper as I gave that address.

I have been running around with Dick Wilson a good deal lately.  He is an energetic fellow with a lot of interest in life and he has been a very good friend to me and helped me out in many ways.  He wa far from the best Japanese student at Chicago, but he has kept at it and now is better than most.  He loaned me a radio some time ago and today he helped me rig an aerial on the hotel roof so that now it is working fine.  The Japanese radios don't work well without an aerial.

Today was Sunday and I had the first day off thatI have spent in Tokyo in some time.  It was a very interesting day.  He and I got a sedan this morning and started out.  First we called on a friend of his who is a leading Japanese opera star.  He has played the lead in many classical operas such as Lohengrin.  We looked at some of his scrapbooks showing him in scenes of the operas.  He is a handsome, likable, relatively young fellow.  He is from Formosa, probably part Chinese, and has a pretty Japanese wife.  They live in a modernistic Western-style house which the fire just missed.  They served us tea and we took some pictures which I will send when they are developed.

Then we went to look at some houses that are being built in one of the devastated areas.  The head of the contracting firm doing the building had us in for tea by the members of a tea cult.  The tea ritual has been developed almost to the point of religion.  We went to a Japanese-style house outside of the main building for this.  We removed our shoes, which has almost become a habit now, and went in and sat on the floor.  There a number of beautifully kimonoed high-class Japanese women served us.  Every single movement of the whole procedure is rigidly fixed in the ritual.  No movement, no matter how small, is casual.  The tea is made from powdered green tea.  It is drunk in exactly three and one half swallows.  The first half swallow is for a taste.  The last swallow is made with a loud slurping noise.

The art exhibit was very good.  I think the Stars and Stripes overemphasized the nudes and baited a lot of G.I.'s out there.  Naturally I couldn't thoroughly enjoy an art exhibit without you.  It was very interesting and would have been a great pleasure with you by my side to comment, and to listen to my ideas.

Last night I met a Mr. Rowe in the bar.  He is here on a textile mission.  He recognized a Lt. Cmdr. and spoke to him.  After the Lt. Cmdr. left he told me he had been a weaver in Mr. Rowe's mill.  Really a small world.

I have a kimono for Margaret.  I was planning to bring it with me, but I will send it in the next package.

Recently saw a Japanese sign:  Underhole.  Finally figured out it meant basement.

Lots of love,


P.S.  A Korean gave me the 100 yuan note.  It is Chinese money.


Here is the article from Stars and Stripes about the art exhibit that Maj. Gillham attended.

Here is another article from the Stars and Stripes that he enclosed as well.  His note at the bottom is a reference to the book and movie A Bell for Adano, which he had spoken about in a previous letter.  The spelling, alas, cannot be changed.

Here is the 100 Yuan note that he mentions in the postcript of the letter, which a Korean had given to him.



Here is something interesting that Maj. Gillham included in this letter but did not mention:  it is a toll ticket from the Hiroshima long-distance office.  I am assuming it was the office that he visited downtown which had fared relatively well in the bombing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A letter to Emily

On the same day as our last letter, Maj. Gillham penned a quick letter to his daughter Emily.  Word had made it to him about the notorious kissing party, but he seems to be quite proud that his daughter is growing up.

23 Mar 46

Dear Emily,

I have received several letters from you in the last few days, one dated 19 Feb, one 5 Mar and the post card of Uncle Remus.  You write very good and interesting letters.  Your handwriting is fine.  Don't worry about it being big.  That way you can learn to make more perfect letters.  Later on it will naturally get smaller.

I am glad you like your arithmetic book.  It isn't necessary for learning to be painful.  It should be fun.

So you went to a party and wore an evening dress!  And danced with boys!  And kissed them!!  My, what a grown daughter I will have when I get home.  Don't forget -- we are going to have a date when I get home.  Will you let me have a kiss, too?

Do you have a scout troop yet?  It is very pretty in the country around Atlanta at this time of year.  Get Mother to show you some of the nice places.

Lots of love,


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The letters keep coming in to Tokyo

More letters arrived in Tokyo, as the logjam seems to be giving way and the flow of mail is becoming constant.  He even receives some mail while he is writing this letter and is able to respond to it almost immediately.

If anyone knows of the whereabouts of the gong Maj. Gillham talks about in this letter, please leave a comment.  I remember my mother (Monty) talking about it, but I don't remember ever seeing it at 18 Camden Road.

23 Mar 46

Dearest Darling,

Letters from you of 9 and 13 Mar received today -- also one from Monty.  Monty told me Martha had had the measles.  Your latest letter said she was well, so I guess everything is all right.

I am at the office now.  The Sgt. just brought me two more letters from you dated 7 and 11 Mar.  So I will now take time out and read them.

Well, now I can piece things together pretty well.  I am glad Martha got well and hope Monty won't have any trouble with her ear.  Getting wisdom teeth pulled is a rather rugged experience.  I hope you have recovered by now.  Why did you have to have them pulled?

In the same mail, just now, I got a letter from Maj. Evans in Korea.  He came over on the boat with me.  He said I should give thanks to Buddha that I wasn't sent to Korea.  I have never regretted not being sent there.  I guess I was one of the fortunate few after all.

I am glad that my package s have been getting through O.K.  They seem to make about as good time as the mail.  I think the mail will be better from now on.

I don't remember all the pieces of brass that I sent.  Hang that gong up by the chains and hit it with your fist or some padded object and listen to the tone.  Tie a knot in the end of a cord and put it through the cymbal.  Suspended by the cord the cymbal gives a fine oriental sound -- wonderful for playing "Terry and the Pirates."  I hope I don't cause you to be driven out of house and home.

I don't blame you for not caring for that obi you have.  It was never intended to go with your kimono.  In fact, I didn't select it in the first place, but took it off of another officer's hands that couldn't get it in a box he was packing.  I sent it along in that first box because I didn't have anything else to send then.  You may be able to use it to cover a chair or something like that.  I have been on the lookout for an obi to go with the kimono for some time and will get one before I leave.  It takes a lot of accessories and skill to put on a obi.  I sent one of them in the last package and will try to get the complete set.

Your letters are certainly a ray of sunlight to me.  I am so glad they are coming through again.

The girls must have had quite a time at their formal kissing party.  They start out young in Atlanta, don't they?

Loads of love,



Terry and the Pirates was a comic strip that was started by Milton Caniff in 1936.  It involved the title character, an all-American boy, who was on a ship in China with a reporter, Pat Ryan.  It was never really made clear who the pirates were, but it was an action adventure comic strip that involved several villains and shady characters.  Maj, Gillham made the reference, I am assuming, because of the strip's Chinese locale.  Caniff drew the strip until a few months after today's letter was written, in December, 1946, when it was taken over by another artist who drew it until it finally ended in 1973.  Milton Caniff went on to create Steve Canyon, another action adventure strip, which ran until 1988, the time of his death. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The mail continues to arrive in Tokyo

The letters kept pouring in today in Tokyo, and Maj. Gillham has become a changed man.  He speaks about KW again, who, according to Emily, was Maj. Gillham's boss at Southern Bell and a source of some unpleasantness for him over the years.  And, just as a refresher, Whittemore's Shoe Polish was what Pop sold in his shoe salesman business.

22 Mar 46

Dearest Darling,

It looks like this mail jam is breaking up, I am certainly glad to say.  Yesterday I got three more letters from you.  Two were dated 12 and 18 Feb, but the third was postmarked 10 Mar.  Only 10 days old!  It was the first letter I had to come by air in over six weeks!  I opened it with great gusto and anticipation.  It contained KW's speech!!  I was so disgusted that I haven't read it yet.

This morning I got another big fat letter that had come by air and was dated 11 Mar.  It contained the children's school papers and magazine clippings and a letter from Peg that was 10 days more recent than the last I had had from you.

Finally, this afternoon a real letter from you arrived.  It was postmarked 12 Mar and was very welcome indeed.  All your letters have been very sweet and I love to get them and read them over and over again.  I am still missing anything you wrote between 18 Feb and 12 Mar, but it certainly is wonderful to get your inspiring letters again.  I enjoy all of your tales about the children and your own activities.  You must be having quite a time.

Today I also got Emily's letter telling me she is going to dance "with boys"!  Oh my!  A new day is dawning for us, I am afraid.  I hope she has a nice time and enjoys it.  I think it is well to learn such things early so that one doesn't feel embarrassed or out of place later on.  My opinion is naturally based on our theory of parents compensating their own deficiencies through their children.

You mentioned the Imperial Household Museum.  I went out there a couple of months ago, but it wasn't open.  The Japs had carted most of the stuff out to the country during the air raids.  However, it is opening next week, and I have an invitation to the preview to be held Sunday.  I am looking forward to it with a great deal of interest and will write you about it.

Nara was not bombed.  It is down near Kyoto, an overnight trip from Tokyo.  I want to go there before I leave, if I can.

My rheumatism has been rather bad in the left shoulder since I went skiing.  I have a doctor working on it.  He thinks it is bursitis and not arthritis.  He is now giving me some tests to determine.  If I can get this thing properly diagnosed, I might be able to get some treatment that would do some good.  My feet are not yet causing me any trouble, because I am not on them much.  I went to a dance about a month ago and they hurt for a week afterwards.  Otherwise they have been O.K.

Since I am not the least bit worried about my job, I have had no ulcers or stomach trouble.  When they try to put any pressure on me now I tell them, "Maybe you had better hire somebody else."

I probably don't get a haircut often enough.  I need one now.  Thanks for reminding me.  All such work here is done by Japs.  We have an excellent barber in the hotel here that for many years worked on a steamship running between Japan and San Francisco.  At the Peers Club they have the former Imperial barber.  I understand that he cuts hair in full dress.  When I was in Fukuoka, I got one of those kinks in my back.  They got me a Japanese masseur who worked on me for about an hour and got it right out.  He was very skillful.  When I had my shoulder x-rayed it was done by Japanese technicians.  They even use them exclusively for army jeep drivers now.  And they scare you to death, too, the way they plow through the pedestrians.

I haven't had much trouble with holes in my socks because I had all new equipment.  There is a nice little Jap girl that looks after my room now.  I giver her a candy bar now and then and she seems very pleased and keep my room immaculate.  When she finds any of my clothes needing mending, she mends them without request by me.  A combination of Whittemore's Shoe Polish and Japanese elbow grease keep my shoes so that they hurt your eyes.

I have everything that I need here, but I wouldn't care for this life for long.  I much prefer the trials and tribulations, and the joys of my own family.

I will now turn in and read all the things you sent me.  I might even read KW's paper, now that I have a letter from you.

You are the light of my life, my darling.  In my eyes all life revolves around you.  And the nicest thing is you are my very own.  I love you with all my heart.


P.S. I sent you a box today containing some silks, the Hiroshima vase, etc.  There is something in it for everybody.  WTG

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

...and mail finally arrives in Tokyo

Maj. Gillham finally gets a pile of mail from home, a day after Frances received mail as well, so the channels must be slowly opening up again.  He does his best to answer all of Frances' questions (you may need to refer back to previous posts to refresh your memory) and gives some very sage advice about problem solving.

20 Mar 1946

Dearest Lovely,

The mail finally got through and I got three letters from you today, dated 13, 18 and 19 of Feb.  Also one from Emily and one from Dan.  These were all written before I called you, but it was certainly good to get them and read them and feel close to you again.  I had begun to feel so far away -- it had been over a month since I received a letter.  I have read them all several times.

I haven't gotten the package with the cigarettes, candy and jelly yet, but I did get the cigarettes in the package by themselves, and the film and lock.

I also got the Valentines with the pictures, but not the ones mailed on 12 Feb.  The last thing I had before this batch of mail was mailed 8 Feb.

I hope Monty got in the Brownies and Emily in the Scouts.  I am glad you had fun cooking out.  Those amateurs didn't know they were up against a professional camper in you.

What has become of all of Mother 'Ciles' what-nots, with Martha at the reaching age?  As I remember, she would certainly have made a wreck of it.  What did she get into at Avery's?

I also got a Feb. Southern Telephone News today.  It looks like everyone is returning all at once.  I don't know what they are doing with them all.

I am afraid you didn't find any art treasures among that brass that I sent.  It is interesting, but I don't think valuable.  A connoisseur might have been able to pick out some good pieces, but I didn't know one from the other, and it was mostly junk anyway.  Did the big box with the gong in it ever get there?  There are a few nice things here but they are all so expensive that I don't feel able to go in for art objects.  Also, I need you to help me find and select things.  It would be great fun prowling into things here with you.

I am glad you got your freight delivered okay.  I infer that it arrived in good condition.  I hope it doesn't crowd you out of house and home.

I hope the children enjoyed the dancing and made some nice friends.

When I read of your activities from this great perspective of time and distance, it is almost like reading an 18th-century diary.  It is hard for me to realize that only a short time ago I was concerned with similar things.  When you are close to a problem, it sometimes looks much bigger than it is.  When things seem to crowd in on you and tend to get you down, back off and look at the situation from a distance and I think it will clear up.

You made no comment on the enclosed correspondence about the taxes on the Doc Hall place, but it looks like you are handling it O.K.  I have always thought the taxes on that piece were lower than normal, so I guess it was logical to raise it a little.  I guess there is no help for it.

Things certainly look brighter to me now since I got some mail from you.  I think the air mail will be functioning again soon.  You have probably had a dearth of mail, too, but I hope it hasn't been as hard on you as it has on me.

I just don't function very well without you, darling.  I will certainly be glad when we can "function" together again.

A heart full of love,


Monday, July 19, 2010

Frances gets a batch of mail from Tokyo...

In today's letter we find that a number of letters have arrived from Tokyo, and Frances is "delighted."  Her greeting to Maj. Gillham is probably familiar to most of you, since it comes from the popular song "In The Good Old Summertime."

March 19, 1946

Dearest, My Tootsie Wootsie

Here is a song that is becoming popular here.  It is a follow-up to "Mairzy Doats" and "Chickery Chick."  In fact, it is written by the same man who wrote the first two:

One-zy, two-zy, I kiss you-zy
Two-zy, three-zy, you kiss me-zy
Three-zy, four-zy, we kiss some more-zy
Let's start counting higher-zy

I wonder if the Japanese could sing that one.  We were interested in the little song the soldiers had taught them to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down.

Today I was delighted .  I spent an hour reading the mail you sent me.  A batch of it came today.  One was sent Feb. 25.  The others were around Feb 8-15.  The pictures and cocoons arrived.  The article about climbing Fujiyama was included.  Your letter to El Paso to me arrived.  It was such a nice one.

You are an angel to help me out about Bryant and Margaret.  They have been a problem here for some time.  Now that Bryant knows Carl is on his way home, she has been much happier.  He expects to get here or rather to the West Coast about the first of April.  Please just send her pearls here.  You are such a darling to get them for her that I won't even get curious about mine.  At least not much!  I wish I could have seen the twinkle in your eye when you wrote me that!  You are so cute and I love you so much I could just eat you up.

I am glad you have been to Hiroshima.  I can hardly wait to hear all about it.  I think it is wonderful that you and George Bull are going to Nara and Kyoto.  You must remember all you can about them so you can tell me.  I enjoyed the cards and folders you sent of Nikko, even if I couldn't read it all.

I am glad you have found a friend who enjoys sightseeing as much as you do.

Monty's impetigo is improving.  I think it will be well in a day or so.

Bryant took me to an Officers' Wives Club luncheon today at Davison's.  I enjoyed it.  I wore my new shoes and hat.  I bought me a pair of gloves to match the flower on my hat.  Wouldn't I steal the show if that was all I had! -- a hat, bag, gloves and shoes!

Lots and houses of love,



The song Frances mentions is in fact called "One-Zy, Two-Zy (I Love You-Zy)" which was a hit in 1946 for several groups, including Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, and Phil Harris. Here is a YouTube link to the version by Phil Harris (who was the voice of Baloo the Bear in the Disney movie "The Jungle Book"):

Friday, July 16, 2010

A quick, enigmatic letter from Maj. Gillham

This is just a quick letter from Maj. Gillham, in which he mentions an enclosure that, alas, was not in the envelope when I received it.  One could guess that it was probably some sort of G.I. form letter that he received in his internal mailbox at work, or perhaps a joke letter of some sort.  We will never know.  Otherwise, his letter is quick, since he has received no letters from home to which to respond.  This is in sharp contrast to his next letter, so stay tuned!

19 Mar 1946

Dearest Love,

The enclosed letter might be named a "morale builder."  At least one good thing about receiving no mail is that I don't get any like this one.

The weather has been some warmer today, although it is still rainy.

I got a nice little baby set for Dan and Nancy today.  It is blue knit wool with a jacket, cap and booties.  I also have a hare-kari knife and a table cloth and napkins for them.  I will try to get it off tomorrow.  Maybe it will arrive before the big event.

A few letters have begun to trickle in, and I hope to get one before long.

I read a lot of discouraging things in the papers about the housing situation in the states.  I hate to go through that again, but I guess we will have to do it.  It looks like we never are on the right side of the fence, doesn't it?  Whatever the difficulties, I am looking forward to working on them with you.

I'll bet my girls are going to be so big I won't know them.

Lots of love,


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The post-war scarcities in Atlanta

Here is another chatty letter from Frances with news from the home front.  It really shows exactly how scarce things were right after the War and how inflation was starting to effect the economy.

Enclosed in the envelope were two magazine clippings that she doesn't mention in the letter.  I have scanned them, and they appear below, after the letter.

Mar 18, 1946

Dearest Lovely Pie,

How are you tonight?  I certainly would like to have you sitting across from me with your new black robe on.  I know you look handsome in it.  What kind of sash or obi do you wear with it?  Does it have a brocade design or is it plain?  What color is the lining?  I notice that nearly every lady's kimono I've seen has a bright red lining to it.  Is that significant?

The girls love their kimonos.  They love dressing up in them.  They do take care of them, too.

Darling, you are smart and foresighted to buy shirts, undershirts, socks and shoes.  I wish you could get suits ahead, too.  The run on men's suits has been terrible.  I went to the Atlanta Woolen Mill today to get material to make the girls some spring coats.  While I was waiting to go up to the sample room, an ex-service man came in with a handsome beige herringbone suit on.  The receptionist told me that the man had bought the yardage from the mill ends and had a suit made by a tailor.  The suit looked fine, but the point is that that is the only way many men are getting clothes.  By this summer the situation will ease up, I expect, if the strikes are over.

Yes, supplies are even harder to get than during the war.  The steel and General Motors strikes lasted a long time, as did subsidiary strikes.  The unemployment compensation has slowed down  employment, prices on clothes and food are creeping up, up, up.  I wonder how much higher the inflation will rise before it bursts.

We get all the food we want and need.  Since the meat strike ended, supplies have been continuing.  Mother found a 1/2 pound of butter last weekend, the first she's had since I've been here.  I take Mother out to the commissary every week or so.  We get canned bacon, ham, beef stew and all the types of foodstuffs you probably have.  We get pineapple, soap, toilet paper and other scarce items there.  Mother has a regular picnic every time I take her out.  She isn't used to it and it is fun to see her examine each can, look at the price -- and then look back at the price in utter amazement -- and end up getting the limit "at that price"!

This month I joined the officers club at Fort McPherson.  The dues are two dollars a month and this spring the girls and I can go swimming out there.

When we went out to Fort Mc this morning to see the doctor, I took Mother and Monty to the club for lunch.  They enjoyed it, especially Mother.  She was thrilled to be going to the officers club!

Monty broke out with a rash-like chicken pox the other day.  After two or three days of "chicken pox," I suddenly realized that it was impetigo on her face!  I took her to the out-patient clinic and the doctor gave me a salve of sulfathiazole ointment to apply.  He said to put it on top of the scabs and let it dissolve them!  It really does it, too, thank goodness!  I cannot imagine anything worse than trying to give Monty the treatment I had to give Emily.

Emily's fever has gone with no after-effects.  She is going back to school tomorrow.

Martha is cut as pie and spoiled as everything.

Today with your $100 in my pocket, I went down and made some purchases for myself.  I bought a pair of the fanciest black patent leather pumps I've ever had.  I bought a black hat with a green flower on it.  The other day I bought a black patent leather bag.  I looked at yellow coat suits but couldn't find any to suit.

I tried to draw my shoes for you, but couldn't do them justice.

The hat has a long veil on it and I feel most wicked and fancy with my two new accessories!  Now to get something to go between!

I am going to make a frilly blouse out of some of that parachute material you sent me.

Darling, I love you so much.  You are such a dear.  I know all the pitfalls of our reunions, but the dreams of you are so much comfort while you are away that it is such a temptation to keep right on dreaming until I bump right into you personally!

Love -- and heaps of it,



Here are the two clippings that were enclosed.  It is interesting to see the Delta Airlines ad, since passenger air travel was in its infancy and most people still traveled by train.  In fact, the Delta route map looks exactly like a train map.  Both clips are undated and from Newsweek, but judging from the date of the letter and the mention of the Oscars ceremony in the second clipping, they are probably from the beginning of March, 1946.  Also, the very bottom of the second clipping was cut off by the scanner, but it was a short note from Frances with an arrow to the article about The Lost Weekend saying, "I've seen it.  Have you?"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Frances and Bryant take up a cause

We have another several scan treats in today's post.  Actually, the letter itself is dated March 16, but the enclosures are dated March 15, so it may be a bit out of order with the rest of the blog.  Frances wrote her letter on the back of a typewritten draft of a letter Bryant had written to Helen Douglas Mankin, the U.S. representative from their district.

Also enclosed is a draft of a letter from Frances to Wright Bryan, a writer at the Atlanta Journal and a friend of Margaret Mitchell's.  He also later became a friend of our good friend Jerry Reel at Clemson, and I got to meet him several times.  He wrote the (to date) definitive history of Clemson University and signed my copy of his book.

In Emily's letter, the blank space was in her actual letter.  I suppose she was going to go back and fill in what it was her dad sent her, and she never did. 

March 15, 1946

Dearest Lovely,

Here is a copy of Bryant's letter to Mrs. Mankin, the new representative, about the mail collapse.  Bryant is a registered voter and is most interested in writing letters for causes.  It pleased her exceedingly that I let her write the letter.  Also enclosed is a copy of my letter to the Journal.  I hope these efforts can help to bring about an alleviation of the mail trouble.

The letters I received today were the first in over two weeks and they were mailed on Feb. 8.

I am glad you received the pictures.  I, too, hope you can get home before I pass my prime.  When I have days like today, I feel as if I have passed my prime and reached my nadir.

I had Mrs. Lozier get ready to drive to Memphis with me this morning.  I had the car greased and oil changed.  I ironed most of the children's clothes and had suit cases almost packed to go when Emily came down last night with a fever of 102.  Monty broke out with splotches all over her face.

I called Elizabeth and told her.  She was sweet as she always is and said for me just to try to come next weekend.

Today I sort of drifted around nursing and cooking, etc.  Martha has been climbing down the steps for just a few weeks.  Today when she was halfway down, she slipped somehow and tumbled the rest of the way down.  Once was bad enough, but twice in one day was the last straw for me.  She hit her lip and it is puffed out.  Her nose bled and she has two terrible bruises on her forehead.

If your four letters had not arrived today to cheer me up, I guess I would have cried.  The letters were so nice and ever so sweet.  They made me realize again what a wonderful partner you are.  You always are lending a hand when I need it most.

The postal money order came today.  I cashed it and am tempted to spend most of it on some clothes because I need them and they would boost my morale at this point.  You are always thinking of us.  I just love you for it.

Monty received your letter with the insignia on it.  She was delighted.  Emily's letter containing the first order from MacArthur came, too.  She was pleased with it.  You know how to select appropriate gifts.

Elizabeth received a letter from her brother, Marshall Brandon.  He is in Tokyo and gets his meals at the Dai Ichi Hotel.  He is billeted several blocks away, but eats at your hotel until his mess hall is completed.  This is his address:

T/S Marshall Brandon 14203429
Co. H, 1st Bn Hq + Sr Gp.

He is the boy I tried to locate at Fort Ord.  He is about 19 years old.

I have been reading with much interest about the new island growing in the ocean just south of Tokyo.  Wouldn't it be fine if you had an aviator friend who could fly you over to see it?

Much love,



March 15, 1946
Atlanta, GA

Dear Daddy,

We were going to Memphis today but I got sick.  So mother is going by herself on the train tomorrow.

Thanks a lot for the beautiful            you sent me.

Martha fell down the stairs twice today.  She got two bumps on her head and bumped her lip.

I hope you come home soon.  I love you very much.




Here are the draft letters typed by Frances and Bryant.  The final line on Bryant's letter ("Yours truly,") was typed on the back of the page, and Frances hand wrote her letter to Maj. Gillham below that.  Remember to click on the images to get a larger image.

Bryant's letter

Frances' letter

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Encouraging news about the arrival of Japan-bound mail

Another quick letter from Maj. Gillham, and we find out exactly why his last few missives have been so short.  The letter was written over a two-day span.

He mentions JOAK in this letter, which was the main radio transmitter in Tokyo, founded in 1925. During the War, the notorious Tokyo Rose radio broadcasts were made over this radio station.  By 1950 the name was changed to NHK, which it is known as today, and it it very similar to our PBS.

He also mentions the phrase "watakushi-wa" which is a formal way of saying "I am" or "My name is."

16 Mar 46

I hear that there is a slow freighter approaching Japan that has over 2,000,000 air mail letters aboard.  It will be great to hear from you again.

I am duty officer tomorrow (Sunday), so I will try to write you another letter then.

Today Wilson and I drove out and had lunch with Bull.  It is about 15 miles out there.  Bull is going on a trip next week something like the one I went on recently.  He is looking forward to it very much.  I hope he gets better weather than I did.

I have a radio in my room now that Wilson loaned me.  It is a lot of company.  I can understand a little of the Japanese that comes over JOAK.  I also get the Armed Forces station.

For some time, I have meant to mention to you a rather novel custom of the Japs.  I may have done it, and if so, here it is anyhow.  When they refer to themselves they point to the end of their nose.  It is amusing to see a very dignified Jap bowing, saying watakushi-wa and pointing to his nose.

It gets hard to write a good letter when I haven't heard from you in so long.  We got a letter from Col. Unger that was sent by official air courier.  He said he had called you up.

There is some possibility that I might get home sooner, but I hope to be there not later than June 1st.  If it should be sooner, you will probably know it before you get this.  I will cable you when I know I am leaving.

1 Mar -- at office

Today is St. Patrick's Day.  It is snowing here. It snows every Sunday.  Being duty officer, it doesn't bother me much today.

More civilians are coming on every boat.  Some of them may be fairly able, but a lot of them are plain carpet-baggers.  I have four civilians working for me now.  They are O.K.  One, an ex-enlisted WAC, is a statistical clerk;  one of my old G.I. typists is now a civilian in the same job;  a lieutenant that I knew at Charlottesville is my civilian assistant editor.  Also I recently got a girl from the Washington bureaus as an analyst.

I am counting the days until we will be re-united, my love.  It is certainly good to have something as fine as you and my sweet girls to look forward to.

Lots of love,


Friday, July 9, 2010

A new set of china for Frances

Today's letter is a quickie, in which Maj. Gillham tells of his purchase of a large set of china to be sent back to the states.  I had heard about this china set as a child, and I even ate off it at the Gillham's home at 18 Camden Road in Atlanta while visiting in the summers in the 1970s.  My mother seems to think that Martha may have ended up with the china set.  If anyone knows the whereabouts of the set, please leave a comment.

He also mentions in this letter a sampling of dried baby shrimp that he enclosed.  The sample survives to this day, which makes me think that Frances only ate a little bit of it before returning the rest to posterity.

14 March 46

Dearest Darling,

Today one carton of cigarettes and the vitamin pills arrived.  Thanks a million.  You mailed them on 15 Jan.  To date my latest letter is still the one dated 8 Feb.

Enclosed is a taste of some kind of dried baby shrimp that the Japanese consider quite a delicacy, and it is right good. 

I really bought a pig in a poke today.  It was a 93-piece set of china.  I didn't even know what it looked like until after it was bought and delivered.  I am real pleased with the pattern and I think I might have selected it even if I had had a wide choice.  Choice is something you never have here.  You just buy something, anything, when you can, and then look to see what you got.  I will mail the china tomorrow and you should get it in a couple of months.  It is nicely packed and I think it will go through in good shape.  It is in two boxes.  I don't even know what the pieces are yet.  I only opened it enough to look at one or two pieces.  I think it is a service for twelve.

I got two new pairs of pajamas today at the Q.M.

Loads of love,


Thursday, July 8, 2010

The story of the cherry blossoms

Here is a letter from Maj. Gillham describing a banquet organized by members of his Japanese training class in Chicago, and he also tells another Japanese fairy tale. 

This fairy tale is a classic folktale that is generally known in Japanese as Hanasaka Jiisan, which is known in English as The Man Who Made Withered Trees Blossom, or alternatively The Envious Neighbor.

13 March 46

Dearest Darling,

The pretty Virginia calendar that you sent me has a not in it to beware of the ides of March.  So I will start being careful.

Last night we had a reunion of all the Chicago CATS that we could find in the vicinity.  We rounded up about 20, mostly from the 3rd Class, and had quite a sumptuous banquet.  We held it at one of the billets which was formerly something like the Atlanta Athletic Club.  They had fine lounges, private dining rooms, etc.  The food was G.I., but they certainly dressed it up for the occasion.  You couldn't get have gotten a better dinner, more complete decorations, or better service in the best hotel in the states at $5 a plate.  The furniture in the lounge was rattan and it made me think of our pieces.

Col. Clark was there, and it served as a farewell party for him as he left for home today.  Dr. Smith, the ex-congressman on the faculty, was here with the education group and came.  He is an excellent speech maker.  Others that you might remember were Boron, McCullom, Wilson and Bull.

I recently learned another Japanese fairy which I must tell you before I forget it.  Once a very good man and a very bad man were neighbors.  The good man had a smart dog.  One day the dog went the field with him and showed him where to dig.  When he dug there he found much gold.  When the bad man learned of this, he borrowed the dog and took him to his field with him.  When he dug where the dog showed him, he only found an old roof tile.  He was so angry that he hit the dog with his pick and killed him.  (Don't cry, Monty)  The good man took the dog and buried him and planted a tree by the grave.  The next morning the tree had become full grown.  He cut the tree down and made a nice keg from the trunk.  When he made rice cakes in this keg, they turned to gold.  The bad man heard of this and borrowed the keg.  He made rice cakes and they turned to bits of broken tile.  He was so angry that he burned the keg up.  The good man came and said "Let me have the ashes."  He started home with them in a bowl, but a strong wind came and blew them out and into the trees, and they became cherry blossoms.  And that is where cherry blossoms came from.

I love you, my darling, and I hope it won't be long now before we are together.