Monday, January 25, 2010

Finally, letters from home arrive in Japan!

After being away from home for nearly a month, Maj. Gillham finally received letters from home on this day.  It must have been quite a relief, since there was no other way to find out any news about his family.  In this age of email and cheap long distance, it's hard to imagine exactly what that news deprivation must feel like.  Add to that the uncertainty of the long wait:  Was the mail lost?  Did they just not write anything?  Has something happened to them?  You could probably drive yourself crazy thinking about it.

Consequently, the letter he wrote on this day deals primarily with things mentioned in the letters he just received.  I will try my best to clarify the names and places he mentions, but I may need some help from our studio audience, as well.  If you have anything to add, please make a comment below by clicking on the comment link after this post (it most likely appears as "0 comments," but it could be more).

15 Nov 1945
Tokyo, Japan

Dearest Darling,

This was a big day for me.  I got my first batch of letters.  There were five from you and one each from Emily and Monty.  They were all addressed to my temporary APO and the latest ones were postmarked 30 Oct. which isn't bad considering they were forwarded.

It is certainly fine to establish contact with you again.  It had been just four weeks since I left (not counting the day I gained crossing the date line).

I know you enjoyed the visit from Mary Elizabeth and I am glad you have been getting out and about.  I am glad Emily is so prompt.  It will have to be her job to keep the family on time.  I am sorry George Bull went on such a wild goose chase, but I may get to see him yet.  However, most everyone I know is in Korea now.  The situation is rather difficult there now and I knew it would be before I left the states.  What with the Russians in an arbitrary half of the country, and all the Japanese officials removed and no trained Korean technicians or proven leaders to take over.  Also the Koreans feel they have been liberated and don't want anyone telling them what to do.  Here, other than such problems as food and shelter, everything seems to be running smoothly.  The Japs run everything and we just tell them what we want and they break their necks to do it without any apparent evasion.  For instance, they had stripped two of the four elevators out of this building to get the metal.  They were told to replace them and now they are swarming up and down in the elevator shaft like bees in a hollow tree.

I have wished for the movie camera many times on this trip, but I don't think you had better try to send it.  By the time it arrived and I got film coming regularly I would be back home -- I hope.  And it might get lost or broken.

You are a very smart girl to get your stove fixed and to take such good care of the car.  When you leave be sure to sell Mrs. Baldwin all the oil and butane you have on hand.  She sold it to me when I moved in, and said such a transfer was customary there.

I like the piece on youth very much.  It is quite true, and I believe Dad was a young man when he died.  It has been nearly ten years now.  Can you realize it?

Tell Emily and Monty I wrote to them last night and will write again soon.  I enjoyed their letters very much.  Emily is developing a very nice handwriting and I know Monty is going to, also, if she keeps on working hard.  I know they enjoy Ed Singy's visit, and they really caught some fish!  My!  So Monty is going out visiting over night!  What big girls you have, mama!

The only criticism of your letters so far is that you didn't date several of them, and you didn't tell me enough about Martha.

I am looking forward with great anticipation to the result of Siederneck's work.  He had fine material on which to work and should get results.

I am glad we got to see Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon together instead of separately as Mary E. and George are doing.

I think it is a fine idea for you to ask Father to come out and drive back with you.  It will mean a lot of traveling for him, but it will be over new territory and with his grandchildren, and that should make a difference.  I will write him and tell him how much I will appreciate it if he can.  By the way, when you get to Atlanta, don't say anything about that waiver to any telephone people.  There was no harm in it, but I think it best not to talk it around.

The Halloween party sounded like a lot of fun.  I know the children had a big time.

I know Bryant is disappointed at the prospects of Carl having to stay out another year.  Where is he?  If I get home before he does, I don't think I will be able to face her.  I am already scheduled for a week's "special duty" at a rest camp located in a swank hotel in the mountains -- next spring if I am still here.

Ate supper tonight with a Lt. Col. Smith that taught me when I first started in the army at Ft. Monroe.  He was also on Handwerk's staff at Edwards.

Thanks for Wrightson's address.  Maybe we will be able to get together.  Kobe is not too far from here.  I will write him.

I wrote Mr. Hay and Mother 'Cile the other day.

I will be looking forward to your letters all the time now.  I love you more than anything else in the world, my darling.



George and Mary Elizabeth Bull were great friends of my grandparents, and remained so for the rest of their lives.  I don't know the facts about how they met, but I do remember my grandfather saying how great it was to travel with George Bull, because it was easier than bringing along a set of encyclopedias.  I accompanied my grandparents and the Bulls on a trip to Alaska in 1977, and I can confirm my grandfather's claim.  He was a quiet and insightful man, tall and lanky, with a wry smile that always put you at ease.  His wife, on the other hand, was a garrulous, effusive sort who seemed the antithesis of George.  She was a good sport, always loved a joke, and was generally a fun person to have around, but she had an uncanny ability to misjudge situations and speak before really giving things much thought.

George Bull shows up in subsequent letters, since he was also being sent hither and yon by the Army after the war and would occasionally pass through Tokyo.  It always seemed to me that George was my grandfather's best friend, and it was a joy to watch the two of them interact while I was on that Alaska trip.

I have no idea about Ed Singy, Siederneck or a Mr. Hoy.  And it may actually be Mr. Hay, I'm not sure.  My grandfather's o's and a's are indistinguishable, which is not a problem 99% of the time because of context.  It's only a problem when he writes names that are of people or places I don't know and that could be spelled correctly either way, like Hay or Hoy. 

Bryant Holsenbeck Moore is my grandmother's sister, and her late husband, (Thomas) Carl Moore, was in the Marines during the war and fought in many battles in the Pacific Theater, including Guadalcanal.  They were stationed in Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  I don't know the specifics of Carl's "having to stay out another year," but I do know that Bryant was living with her parents at 992 Washita Ave. in Atlanta, which is where Frances and her daughters eventually moved in December.  Bryant and Frances' parents were Daniel Marshall Holsenbeck, Jr. (referred to in these letters as Father or Pop) and Lucile Dixon Kiser Holsenbeck (who everyone called Mother 'Cile).

Bill and Frances Gillham with their new daughter, Emily, 1935
Behind Bill are his inlaws, Lucile Holsenbeck (Mother Cile) and
Daniel Marshall Holsenbeck (Pop).  Behind Frances are her inlaws,
George Halsey Gillham and Effie Tucker Gillham.
Taken at 992 Washita Avenue, Atlanta

Ft. Monroe is located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, across the James River from Norfolk.  Maj. Gillham was stationed there in 1940-41 for officers training, before the family headed out to La Jolla, CA, in 1941.

Capt. Gillham at Fort Monroe, VA, 1941

Capt. Gillham (third from right) with Bell Telephone colleagues
at officers training in Fort Monroe, VA, 1941

"Edwards" refers to Camp Edwards, which is located on the southern part of Cape Cod, MA.  It was used as an Army training facility and sending off point for new draftees during World War II.  Maj. Gillham was stationed there in 1943 and the family lived in the nearby town of Monument Beach.

Monty and Emily Gillham showing off their doll collection
Monument Beach, MA, Christmas 1943

I will be heading out to Harlem, GA, tomorrow to visit my Aunt Emily, and I will be sure to run some of these names, places and questions by her when I am out there.

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