Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A treatise on inflation and its effect on increasing the size of the Gillham family

Today's letter includes a long expository section on the evils of inflation, using the current Japanese situation as an example.  By Martha's "playmate," Maj. Gillham is referring to a possible new child in the household, something he would love but cautions about given the uncertain financial situation.

18 Jan 1946

Two letters from you today -- 8 + 10 Jan.  Mail is coming about as quickly from Atlanta as it did from Calif.  I guess the time from Robles to S.F. about equals the air time from Atlanta to S.F.  I am always so glad to hear from you that I feel like I should sit right down and write you a letter.  Your letters mean more to me here than they ever did before.  I live from one letter to the next.

I think I remember the Tech librarian about whom you sent me the clipping.  She was just one of the hired hands when I was there.  I noticed that Fred Turner was on the board that selected her.  He used to be Gen'l Com'l Mgr. of SBT&T and is now a V.P. and director.

I am glad Monty got off to a good start at school.  I think she and Emily like it there.

I can appreciate your trip to Little Five Points with all the children.  I will never forget my trip to New River with Monty and Margaret.

I am anxious to read Bryant's book.  What is it about?  Tell her that it had better be good, for my editorial work is making me very critical.

I still put a few entries in my diary, but I find that I generally want to say about the same thing that I have written to you.  It is boring to write it all down again, so if you will save the letters it will help to keep a record of this interlude.  I write more freely and with less care in the letters.  The diary is becoming largely a log.

As for a playmate for Martha, I was serious enough.  The only two considerations as far as I am concerned are your health and our finances.  If we are going to be too poor I hate to handicap the other children.  Frankly, I am afraid of a bad inflation in the U.S. before long.  Inflation is a device that governments have repeatedly used throughtout history in order to wipe out a public debt which is too large to handle.  We are in the economic group that will be hardest hit by an inflation.  I can see it all taking place here in Japan now.  The farmer is fairly well off, for he can provide for himself and he gets increasing prices for his produce.  The merchant can keep trading and marking up prices as fast as they rise and he is able to stay a couple of jumps ahead of the dog catcher.  The black market operator gets paper-money rich.  But the formerly well-off salaried worker with nothing but his fixed income is in a bad fix.  All his savings are wiped out in a short time and he is hard put to get enough to eat from day to day.  Formerly, a person here that made from Y75 to Y200 per month was well off.  Those wooden clogs that I sent the children cost Y50 and that is what the Japs have to pay for them, too, yet their salaried workers still have about the same income.  I hope that the U.S. can avoid inflation, but until the danger is over I hesitate to take on more obligations.  Of course, all of our best moves have been taken in the face of apparent disaster and we generally come through.  Anyhow, be thinking it over.  I prefer to do the job personally and not have to send you a test tube, so a final decision will have to wait a while.

Enclosed are a few documents of interest.  Two of them illustrate the great language difficulty.  It is equally hard for us to put a thought into good Japanese.

Glad you finally got the $50.  Think I will use money orders in the future.  You are smart to save so much money.  I want you to get yourself a nice layout in the spring.  If you see a nice loud necktie, get it and save it for me.

I imagine that the holidays slowed the Office of Dependency Benefits down on getting their checks out.  Also, they are having so many discharges now, which makes extra work as they have to be careful to stop them promptly.  I am glad the changed amount is coming through without a hitch.

I think I have the nicest family of anyone I know.  I love you all very much and yet each in a slightly different way.  My family's bosom is the nicest place that I like to be in the middle of which.  Now the Japs have got me doing it.  I had better go to bed.

Lots of love.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A trip to the fish market, and the first taste of sake

In this letter you can tell Maj. Gillham is in a good mood just from his salutation.  It won't be long before I start posting Frances' letters, and you'll see that she is also playful with her salutations, which may have inspired Maj. Gillham.  It's a short and sometimes humorous letter. 

17 Jan 1946

Dearest Lovely Dovely,

Your letter of 5 Jan, which was written between the other two I received lately, came yesterday and cleared things up a bit for me. I am glad you all didn't have the flu and I don't want you to get it.

You were mean to tell Emily she was eating a large spider. She should see some of the sea food that the Japs eat. Recently I took a walk over through the fish market area. They eat all of anything that comes out of the ocean and these waters contain many more varieties than those around the U.S. Favorite delicacies that you see at all fish stands are octopus and squid. Some of the octopus are fairly big fellows, too. Shark is another standby. There are many "varmints" that I can neither name nor describe. I saw a fish that was an ordinary nice-looking fish except that in addition to its full quota of fins it had six legs. I told Lt. Col. Fiedler, the head of our Fisheries Section, about it and it beat the hell out of him.

I finally had some sake to drink. It is served hot from a little bottle, like I sent the children, into the same kind of little cups. It tastes like a sour wine and I never did feel it to speak of. I went with Reese out to the home of a well-to-do Jap business man. He served it to us. He had a fine home with one western-style room of which he was very proud. We preferred to sit on the floor in the Japanese part of the house. We all put our feet under a blanket thrown over a little frame containing an electric hot plate. That is all the heat they have -- even charcoal is very hard to get now. He owns an apple orchard up on the northern tip of Honshu near Aomori and he had some very fine apples which he served also.

I will have to look up Dr. Sutton when he arrives. I know most of the fellows in the Education Section.

You know I believe that you are the sweetest wife that any man could have. You keep telling me that I am O.K. and it does me a lot of good to hear it whether it is so or not. Anyway, I wish I had you in my arms right this minute. I have your picture before me now. It seems like you should break out into a big grin and walk out of the picture and spend the night with me.

I hope that Monty is entirely well by the time this arrives. I don't like for her to be peaked. Please let me know whether or not you have received the $50 government check and the $100 money order. Also, are the $100 bonds coming through now?

Give my love to Mother Ki, Mother 'Cile, Father, Bryant and all the children. Tell Elizabeth I am anxious to meet her.

Lots of love,



Aomori is the northernmost prefecture on the main island of Honshu and is situated on the Tsugaru Straits opposite the northern island of Hokkaido.  It is located about 400 miles from Tokyo.

As most everyone knows, sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice.  However, many people mistakenly refer to it as a rice wine, when in fact it is not fermented but brewed, much like beer.  It has been a Japanese tradition since about the third century A.D., and it can be served hot or cold, depending on the season.  Maj. Gillham was served warm sake because it was in the winter.  Sake is also used during many Shinto rituals, much like the Christian tradition with wine.  Kamikazi pilots often drank ceremonial sake before setting out on their final flights.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A new PX at the hotel, and a scheme to talk on the telephone

Hello again and apologies for not posting any letters since last week.  I was preparing the following letter for posting when I realized that I had recently come across a letter that Maj. Gillham mentions in this one.  It was from an old civilian friend of his named Glore, and I had wanted to post Glore's letter as well.  However, somehow in the transition from Crosswicks to Atlanta earlier this month the letter has been misplaced.  I searched everywhere I could, and my mother (Monty) did her best in Crosswicks as well.  I am sure the letter will turn up one day when I'm not looking for it;  in the meantime, I shouldn't hold up the progress of the blog any longer, so I'm simply going to post the next letter minus enclosures.  When the letter turns up, I will post it (probably as a retrofit) and let you know.

15 Jan 1946

Dearest Love,

Two letters from you came today;  one was mailed as recently as 7 Jan.  That was a quick one.  Also, the ribbons came today.  Thanks very much, and also thank Dan for getting them for me.

In your first letter you spoke of the flu breaking out.  In the one written three days later you talk of everyone being up and about, so I guess it wasn't so bad.  Did you all get the flu shots from the Army?  If you didn't, you can probably do it now without trouble.  I think it would be an excellent idea.  Your present crowded housing is a natural for an epidemic and the Army is afraid of a bad flu epidemic, so do this at once and without doubtI have gotten one since I came here.  Also, some smallpox has broken out and we all had to be vaccinated again; I tested immune.

At the time KW retired I was moving to California, so I didn't get the forwarded mail from the committee working up that book of letters for him until it was all over.  On my own initiative I did write him as nice a letter as I knew how at that time.  It went directly to him and didn't get bound, I guess.

I am sorry the girls couldn't go to NAPS.  And I am sorry you didn't get to Memphis at one time or the other, for I wanted your report on Mother's condition.  I can't believe anyone else on that subject.

I know you are busy and working hard.  Don't overdo yourself.  Try to get out some -- get a change of scenery and some exercise occasionally and you will be better to live with when you are at home.

The cartoon about the Jap clean-up rumor is a good laugh.  You will see when the boxes begin to arrive.

I got a letter from Glore today from Panama dated 2 Jan.  The world is getting small, isn't it?  We had so much trouble getting a room in Wickenburg once that I think he wants to build an auto court there so he won't have that trouble again.  I will enclose the letter.

We now have a gift PX shop here at the hotel.  It opened today and I got you a pair of stockings.  We can only buy one item each day, but I will see if I can pick up a few things for all of you.  Guess who is the main buyer for the PX system in Japan.  Our old friend Capt. (Wolf) Karsten.  It is a wonderful set-up -- for him.  He travels all over Japan and picks up choice silks, etc., which he trades (excuse me, I mean gives) to the nurses and WACs, etc.  He actually has a satiated look about him now.

The 14 Jan issue of Time has quite a write-up under International about MacArthur's first complete report, "written in typical MacArthur style."  I got quite a laugh out of that.

On the telephone call -- enclose a separate and complete letter to me telling all your troubles and asking for decisions -- to sell car?  to move Mother?  where to locate? etc.  Make their apparent solution require two-way discussion.  Be sure there is another letter in the envelope so I won't get too worried.  Then look out for a call about two weeks later.  Wright got one thru to Memphis and said it was swell.

I love you my darling.

Goodnight, Sweetheart,



The ribbons (i.e., medals) referred to in the first paragraph included some of ones I scanned and posted earlier.  I am assuming that since Frances' brother, Dan Holsenbeck, had been in the Navy and spent Christmas at 992 Washita with the family, she sent him to Ft. McPherson (which is just south of Atlanta) to pick up Maj. Gillham's medals. 

The "KW" referred to above is most likely Kendall Whittaker, a boss of Maj. Gillham's at Southern Bell Telephone.  It's hard to tell exactly what his feelings are for this boss, since it sounds as if he were writing "as nice a letter as I knew how" under some pressure to be kind.  He had some unbearable bosses at Southern Bell over his long career there, but the worst one by far wasn't to materialize until he was transferred to New Orleans in 1949.  Whittaker was probably not that bad an egg, since it was apparently through him that Frances later got a part-time position at the Fernbank Museum, in its infancy.

The Time article he mentions in this letter can be found online at,9171,886828-1,00.html.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Maj. Gillham discusses his place in history

This letter is a rather interesting one, especially because of one paragraph where Maj. Gillham makes an assessment of his place in history.  He realizes that he is doing historic work but that he is not in a position to make any decisions about the course of history.  It's a rather cognizant assessment, given that it's very easy to get bogged down with daily minutiae and lose the broad perspective.

11 Jan 1946

For several days I have been sinking lower and lower because I didn't get any mail from you.  I had your letter written Christmas so I knew you got to Atlanta all right, and I had a sweet note from Emily and one from Bryant, so I assumed everything was O.K., but nothing can take the place of a letter from you, my own sweet wife.  Today two of them came and I have taken a new lease on life.  Although they were written on Dec. 29 + 30, they were both postmarked 2 PM 31 Dec.  I had seen cartoons of a lonely G.I. getting nothing at mail call, but you have no idea how it makes you feel to see everybody getting mail except you until you experience it.

I sent the children another little package yesterday -- nothing valuable, but maybe interesting.

Tell Bryant I met a Marine Lt. Col. McMillan today that said he knew Carl well at New River.

Of all the stuff I brought with me I think I have gotten the most satisfaction out of my pajamas, and that little can & bottle opener.  The things I wish I had brought and didn't are my bath robe and writing pad; in fact, I though I had them until I unpacked.  However, I have everything I need.  I found a good Eversharp fountain pen, so I have two; I won the right to buy a lighter at a PX lottery, so I have three; we get more than we need to eat; I got another pair of low shoes, but I turned my ankle so I have gone back to field shoes temporarily; at the PX we can nbow consistently get crackers, cakes, candy, gum, fruit juice, peanuts, soap, paper, razor blades, etc.; we get a ration of one carton of cigarettes per week and sometimes they throw in chocolate bars, shaving cream, chewing tobacco, etc.

At work I have two officers as my assistant editors and two enlisted men typists.  The are all good men and very cooperative.  I don't sit across the table from General MacArthur, but at least we work on the same papers.  I get them with his own penciled notations on them and put them in shape;  but he hasn't changed too much of my work, though I know he reads it.  My spot in history is somewhat like that of the hero in the "Tree of Liberty."  I can't do much about it, but at least I can see what is going on.

Please send me foot outlines of all of you who would like tabes.  Put your foot on a piece of paper and draw an outline around it.  Send me Margaret's size, too.  Also tell me how tall the children are.  I hate to get things too small, but over here among these dwarf people you lose your sense of proportion.  Things are easing up a bit, more goods are available, and before I leave I might be able to get a few nice things.  What type of things would you want?

I will try to send Martha a birthday present in a few days.  Doesn't one year ago seem a long time ago?  I know Martha is keeping you busy, but it's fun, isn't it?  I think that as I get older, I am becoming much more interested in my children -- all of them.  I think it will be fine for them to go to NAPS provided there is no snobbery there.  I have no use for that, but I don't remember it as that kind of a school.

I think Emily was very smart to pick out a silver pattern.  She showed excellent taste and I am very anxious to see one of the real spoons.  She profited by waiting for her present, for I had the same idea and sent her the pearls.  I am glad Monty liked the bracelet.  I hope she doesn't get sick any more.  I am also glad to hear that you have a watch again.  Bryant and Dan are keepingus in time pieces.

We have about three movies a week -- I am going to one in a few minutes.  We have been able to get some Japanese sherry (very dry) at the bar lately.  It is very good.  Believe it or not, I haven't tasted sake yet, but I will before I leave.

I recently finished reading Arctic Adventure by Peter Freuchen.  He married an Eskimo and raised two children in the Arctic.  Some of their experiences raise your hair.  Imagine seeing a wolf stalking your child and being too far away to help.  He got the wolf with a lucky shot, but many of their experiences make our hardships and hazards look very mild.

-- Just saw "Those Endearing Young Charms," a love story with some good lines and acting.  Makes me miss you more than ever -- and also look forward to seeing you again more than ever.

I dreamt of you last night and I hope I dream of you again tonight, my love.  Also, the other morning I was dreaming that the children were running around in the room -- and I woke up and it was the Jap boy running down the hall.

Good night, Sweetheart, 



The "New River" mentioned in this letter refers to what is now called the Marine Corps Air Station New River, now a part of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  Originally, the New River section was a tobacco field that was purchased by the War Department in 1941 to be developed into an air field for adjacent Camp Lejeune.  When this letter was written, the property was known as Marine Corps Auxiliary Airfield Camp Lejeune, but was known commonly as just New River.  Carl Moore, the husband of Frances' sister Bryant, had done his Marine training at Camp Lejeune.

The Eversharp fountain pen was made by the Eversharp Pencil Company of Bloomington, Illinois, which by 1945 had branched out from its origins as a manufacturer of mechanical pencils.  In fact, the mechanical pencil was invented in 1913 by Charles Keeran, who subsequently started the Eversharp company.  In an interesting sidelight, the Japanese inventor Hayakawa Tokuji devised a mechanical pencil in 1915, which he called the Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil.  With the success of his company, he later founded the Sharp Electronics Corporation.

The Tree of Liberty was a novel that was written by Elizabeth Page and was filmed in 1940 as The Howards of Virginia starring Cary Grant.  The story revolves around Matthew Howard and his family's plight during the American Revolution.  One can assume that the novel's title comes from Jefferson's now-famous assertion that " the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

NAPS was the acronym for the North Avenue Presbyterian School which was founded as a day school in 1902 and later became a K-12 school in 1917.  It was associated with the North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, which is where Maj. Gillham and Frances met in 1929.  In 1951 the school became what is known today as the Westminster School, located on West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead.

Peter Freuchen (1886-1957) was a Danish explorer who traversed the Greenland icecap with Knud Rasmussen.  In 1935 he wrote a book about his experiences, Arctic Adventures, which Maj. Gillham references in this letter.  Interestling, a year before his death, Freuchen won the top prize on the TV game show The $64,000 Question.

Those Endearing Young Charms was a 1945 RKO film starring Robert Young and Laraine Day.  It was a service romance, which is probably why it particularly struck Maj. Gillham.  Incidentally, the film was based on a play which got its title from the old Irish song, Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms, written in 1808 by Irish poet Thomas More.  Modern audiences probably remember this song as the one Yosemite Sam had Bugs Bunny play on a rigged piano in the Warner Brothers short Ballot Box Bugs.  The high note in the opening strain was supposed to set off dynamite, but Bugs Bunny would continually play the wrong key.  Finally, in frustration, Yosemite Sam shows him how to play it, with explosive results.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A letter from brother-in-law Dan Holsenbeck

Martha Gillham Waskey (who was a year-old baby when her father wrote these letters) recently found a letter that Frances' brother, Dan Holsenbeck, had written to Maj. Gillham in Japan.  It was written in December of 1945 and seems to have arrived before the end of the year.  Maj. Gillham makes mention of it in his letter of Decemeber 31:

Dan seems very pleased with his prospects (both family and job).  I am glad they are not wasting any time getting a family started.

Indeed, in this letter Dan talks about his new job, new wife and expected baby, who turned out to be Penn Holsenbeck.  Dan mentions the baby is expected in early May, but Penn wasn't born until June 11.  We also get to hear a little bit more about the family's cross-country trip and the Christmas gathering awaiting them at 992 Washita.  Here is the entire letter:

December 15, 1945
Cambridge, Mass.

Dear Bill,

My three months here will be up in about 4 more days. It certainly has gone fast and I really don’t know how much I have learned but I do think it has been beneficial.  I have never run across a group of men that were more likeable than the men here.

The other night I wrote Frances and told her that I was delighted to hear that you had gone to the Orient.  I can honestly say that I wouldn’t give anything for my Navy experience and I know you must feel the same way about your trip to Japan.  You are doing something that you will always remember and to me it is just like an adventure.  However I realize fully that sometimes you will get a little bit fed up with it (as we all do) but on the other hand after it is all over you will never regret it.

Frances wrote me about her plans in regards to coming to Atlanta and today I believe is the day that they will leave California, or is today the day that Father leaves Atlanta ?

My plans are to leave here on the 19th of the month and to go to Kingsport where I will stay until the 26th.  After that Nancy & I are going to Atlanta where we will stay until around the 1st of January.  I am supposed to start back to work on Jan. 2nd. If Frances has not told you my work will consist of doing sales service work for the company.  I don’t know exactly what the details of my first few weeks work will consist of but I am sure that it will be necessary to go through some re-orientation program.

Speaking of being in Atlanta, we surely wished that both you and Carl could be there.  All three of the Holsenbeck children will be there but I will be the only one to bring an in-law.  Mother has said that she could make arrangements for all of us and the children.  In regards to that I only recently wrote Frances and told her that Mother was better at figuring beds than I was.

Has Frances written you in regards to the expected addition to the family along about the first of May?  Well of course that is the big event in my life at present.  Nancy fortunately is doing fine now after a couple of bad weeks at the beginning.

In Boston we have already had three heavy snows this winter.  I don’t have a map handy but believe you are just about the same latitude.  Have you had any heavy weather or is it rather mild in Tokyo?

Before closing I want to tell you about our Labor class here.  We take it with 15 Labor Union men who have been sent here to take a special labor course.  These labor unions are getting smart and I don’t think that things are too bad on a long range view point if the unions start sending their men here because it at least will make them more responsible and they will have an idea what they are really working for.  You can imagine what sparks must sometimes fly through in class, however the labor group as a whole are not a bad bunch of fellows.

Best of luck to you,


Monday, March 15, 2010

Maj. Gillham hears how the family made it home, and talks about his own route home.

Today we find out that Maj. Gillham has finally learned that the family has made it safely home to Atlanta and that they had some trouble just before they made it.  To refresh your memory, the family lost use of the car's headlights on Christmas Eve in Tallapoosa, GA, about an hour east of Atlanta, and the girls were so afraid that Santa Claus would pass them by if they weren't at home.  Luckily, a man at the garage they stopped at was heading into Atlanta, too, so Pop drove close behind him the whole way, using the man's headlights as a guide.  As Maj. Gillham puts it, they "came in with Santa Claus" and made it just in time.

Just to let you know, it's only a few more posts until Frances gets into the act.  Her first letter is from January 14, so I will post that soon.  Stay tuned!

My mother (Monty) remembers seeing the gong that Maj. Gillham refers to in this letter, but she's not sure where it ended up.  Does anyone out in Blogland have any information as to its current whereabouts?

7 Jan 46

Dearest Love,

Yours written Christmas day received, and it was a great relief to know you had gotten to Atlanta safely.  I am sorry you had so much trouble on the home stretch.  You must have come in with Santa Claus.

I was surprised to hear that that box was there.  I didn't think you would get it before spring.  Parcel post must move faster going to the states, as they have a better organized distribution system on the receiving end.

I sent a little box to the children today containing some little odds and ends that might interest them.  Among them are the seashells I picked up a couple of weeks ago.  They are ordinary types of shells, but seem to contain more color, especially when wet.  Notice how some look like they have Japanese writing on them.

I am also sending two big boxes of metal objects from my scrap metal pile.  I haven't cleaned them up but I think they have potential.  If some need minor repairs we can work on them in our metal shop when we get set up again.

See that everybody in the family that wants any of the stuff gets some.  The only things I particularly want to keep are the cymbal and the gong.  That gong has a wonderful tone when struck with a padded object.

You said you were going up to Memphis soon.  I will be interested in your report on things there, but hope you don't overdo yourself.

Cpl. Newton Allen (Seddon Allen's son from Memphis) brought a Sgt. Broadnox by to see me last night.  Broadnox is from Atlanta, Ga. Tech and Camp Callan.  Allen had just finished at Princeton when the Army got him. They are both very fine young fellows.  I enjoyed talking to them very much.  It almost made me feel young again.  They are scheming to get discharged here and hook up with some newspapers and go home via Europe.  If I were a little younger I think I would go with them.  However, I hear there is some possibility of the Army taking some officers home that way, and I may do it if I have a chance when the time comes.

I am anxious to hear all about the Holsenbeck house party.  I know you will have a fine time.  How long since you were all together at the same time?  I hope that you won't be so crowded that you get in each other's hair.  I tried to help a situation like that once by staying at a hotel, and only got myself in the dog house.

I am sorry that my letters which greeted you on your arrival in Atlanta were those where I was fussing about your lack of plans. I trust that you have received some more pleasant ones since.

Goodnight, Sweetheart.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

The third letter of 1946, on new stationery

Now I am back home in Atlanta for a stretch, so my posts should be fairly regular for a while again.  Alas, I am without a scanner now, so the photographic additions to my posts will be mainly from the Internet.  If any of you out there in Blogland has an old scanner that's up on cinder blocks in the backyard that you don't use much any more, I'd be happy to take it off your hands.

Be sure to watch the HBO miniseries "The Pacific" starting tomorrow, Sunday March 14th.  I don't know the exact time, and I won't even be able to watch it, since I don't have cable.  It has gotten good reviews, and it should provide you with background to the ultimate occupation of Japan.  A good DVD that I can highly recommend as well is "MacArthur:  American Experience," which is available on Netflix.  It is long but fascinating and quite comprehensive, and it shows actual footage of MacArthur at the Dai Ichi Building.

The third letter of the new year was actually misdated as 1945, but, as we all know, it takes a week or so for the new year to sink into one's mind.  It's a short letter, since I assume Maj. Gillham is still battling his New Year's cold.  Again, he uses the word "Jap," which I have discussed before, and I am convinced that there is nothing derogatory in Maj. Gillham's intent.  It is akin to our current usage of the word "Brit" to signify a Briton.  However, there is no doubt that the word "Jap" is now pejorative and should never be used except with a historical perspective.

4 Jan 1945

Dearest Love,

A Jap that I met on a train made me a present of this paper. There is an old Japanese proverb that says, "That which is bought is cheaper than a gift." I wound up by giving him a candy bar.

Enclosed are some recent pictures. The place that I found that did good work is temporarily closed, and these were not printed very well. Also the trouble with getting someone else to take pictures with you in them is that they frequently mess them up. You will notice that I have had no more trouble with the camera leaking. It was that little red window that shows the shot number; it had faded so it was letting white light in. I keep tape over it now.

Stew Barron, whom we knew in Chicago, has been promoted to major and moved over here. I had him up for a drink before supper tonight.

I am going to take it easy tomorrow and try to get rid of this cold. Starting Monday, I will have another working spell which will keep me tied down for two or three weeks. I have had a good deal of spare time lately, but haven't been able to take advantage of it on account of this blooming old cold.

We have movies 2 or 3 times a week, but they are generally third-class stuff. However, it is diverting.

I met a Cpl. Allen at the Dai Ichi Bldg. today. He is from Memphis and is working here as a telephone intsaller. In fact, he is the son of Seddon Allen, our lawyer in Memphis. Isn't it a small world and don't the tables turn?

I plan to sleep late in the morning and spend the time dreaming of you, my love. Then I will get up and make me a cup of Nescafe from my nice, little bottle. Everyone admired both my bottles.

Much, much love,


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The second letter of 1946

After today's post, I will be away from my laptop for a couple of days and should make my next post this Friday.  I am driving back down to Georgia and spending Thursday night with my cousin Missy in Durham, NC.  She is the daughter of Dan Holsenbeck, Frances' brother.  Her given name is Bryant Holsenbeck, and she was named after Dan and Frances' sister.  Missy is also a blogger and is currently running a blog about her experiment with living without plastic for a year.

I will also get to see John Coppersmith, an old high-school friend that I rediscovered on facebook after a 30-year hiatus.  He lives in Raleigh and is also a blogger, although I'm not sure at this point what he's blogging about.  He is a fellow Follower of this blog, so you will all get to meet him at the reunion in Bermuda.

Today's letter is not long or earth-shattering, and it takes us down several familiar paths, including family finances. 

3 Jan 1946

My Dear Little Sweetheart,

I wonder how you are tonight?  I hope that all is well with you, for I can't bear to think of it being otherwise.  You certainly deserve the best.

I am glad that you found a pin that you liked.  I would certainly have enjoyed giving it to you in person.

I am axious to learn how your trip finally came out.

I am still fighting this cold.  We can buy plenty of canned fruit juices at the PX and I am drinking a can every night.  Although our diet is very good, I believe it is a little short on certain vitamins, due to its nature.  We get very few fresh or green items.

If you could send me a bottle of vitamin pills it might help.  But send it first class air mail.  I have about decided that any other method of mailing isn't worth the trouble.

The Japanese are certainly not a lazy people.  The seem to be instinctively industrious.  They are making good progress at cleaning up and starting to rebuild Tokyo.

How are your finances?  You should have a $50 finance officer's check, and a $100 money order from me by now.  Also, you should have received about three $100 bonds (for Oct, Nov, + Dec).  Let me know if you haven't gotten these things.  How does Mother's account stand at the end of the year?  Did you get straightened out with the Manhattan Bank?

I have started counting the days now until I will be with you again, my love.  It is nice to have something beautiful to look forward to.

I love you with all my heart.


Monday, March 8, 2010

The first letter of 1946

In today's letter, we learn that Maj. Gillham has found out a few more things about the family's trip east, and he makes a startlingly prescient remark about the odds of them getting home before Christmas.

Effie Tucker Gillham, Maj. Gillham's mother, was widowed at this point and living alone in Memphis.  From what I can gather from earlier letters and family remembrances, she was not doing well at all and couldn't write.  Her nurse, Addie, would write letters to the family on Effie's behalf, and Maj. Gillham was not sure that he could trust everything that Addie was reporting.  The family's maid from Kerrville, Cora, would also visit Effie in Memphis and write letters reporting on her condition.  Effie would only live nine more months from this point.

2 Jan 1946

Dearest Darling,

My mail is beginning to filter through now.  I got your cable from Shreveport today.  Many thanks.  It was a little faster than mail, but that service was swamped with the holiday rush also.  I got your letter today from the L.A. Biltmore and also the one you wrote in Abeline, Texas.  When mail goes half way around the world, I guess you must allow for it getting scrambled a little.  I also got two letters from Mother written by her nurse.  One was mailed to my new APO on 21 Nov. and the other to my old APO on 3 Dec.  Neither was air mail.

I know you had a hard time driving across the country, but somehow when I read about it, instead of feeling sad for you, I sit there and laugh out loud.  I hope you don't mind.  I also hope it wasn't too hard on Father.  I know what he went through.  It is still an even-money bet in my mind that you didn't get to Atlanta by Christmas.  Did you go by Memphis?  I know a bad cold wave hit about then.

Darling, you are such a good sport and I enjoy traveling with you.  Do you realize that with all our traveling we have made only one crossing of the continent together?  That was the first time in 1941.  We had a good time, didn't we?

Guess who just dropped in to see me?  Maj. Wade.  He is at Nagoya and doesn't think he has been given anything important enough to do.  However, he is looking well and happy.  I think he wants to stay over here for some time, if he can get the job he wants.

I feel much better now that I have gotten some mail and my cold is better.  I am very thankful for all the good things I have in life and you are one of the "goodest."

I am enclosing the cable you sent for your interest.

I love you, my darling, and am looking forward to the time when we can be reunited and face life together again.  It won't be so very long.  I was just looking at a calendar.  The time will pass before we know it.




I was certainly surprised to see that Maj. Gillham got a letter from Frances that seems to have come from the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel.  This was one of the premiere hotels in the city at the time, and it is still in operation today.  It was built in 1928 in Art Deco style, and at the time it was the biggest hotel west of the Palmer House in Chicago.  My mother (Monty) is pretty certain that they wouldn't have stayed in such a fine hotel in the center of the city.  Perhaps the "letter" he refers to was actually a postcard, or perhaps Frances or Pop somehow got hold of some hotel stationery.

An undated postcard of the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles
(copied from the Internet)

Nagoya is a Pacific port city on the main island of Honshu about 150 miles west of Tokyo.  It is now the third largest city in Japan after Tokyo and Osaka.

The fact that the family made stops in Abilene and Shreveport seems to confirm my suspicion that they were traveling on U.S. 80.  It is also clear that they did not stop in Memphis on their trip.  They did, however, come into Atlanta from Tallapoosa, GA, so in order to do that, they must have gotten off U.S. 80 at some point and headed up to U.S. 78.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Last letter of the year, written at the office

We now have 21 followers, and I'd like to welcome our two new followers from Ft. Worth, TX, and Annandale, VA.  Just as a reminder, please feel free to use the comment feature found at the end of each post, if you feel so inclined.  You can comment on the letters themselves, the layout of the blog, or you can let me know if we run out of hand soap or toilet paper.

My mother (the "Monty" in these letters) and I have spent the last few days organizing all the letters in binders.  It's a slow process, especially for Mom, because she always has to stop and read all the letters.  But as of this writing all the letters are bound and labeled properly, and I have been making some more scans of photos and memorabilia. 

Not including Frances' letter from yesterday's post, her first letter in our collection is dated January 14, so it will be a few more days before the correspondence gets rolling.  In the meantime, we will pick up where we left Maj. Gillham, fighting a cold and reading letters from the family on their trek east.

Today's letter is a short one and probably should have gone together with Monday's post, since it is dated December 31 as well.  This letter was written first, at the office, and if you go back to Monday's post (March 1), you'll notice that he references today's letter in that letter.  Remember, he's still not sure if Pop is even going with the family on their trip, but he's sending along $100 for Pop's airfare to California just the same.   

31 Dec 1945
at office

Dearest Love,

Just a note to send the enclosed promptly.  It is mainly to cover cost of Father's ticket.  I have a little more money on hand than I need, as I don't use much here.  I hope I can send you some every month, so after you get straightened out financially, save as much as you can, so we can get a new car when they are available.

I hope you have a happy birthday tomorrow.  I know you will enjoy celebrating it with your family.

I have sent several packages during the past month.  One by parcel post containing mostly brass objects; three by 1st class mail -- one to Martha, one to Emily and Monty, and one to you containing a kimono; and one by air mail to Emily containing some pearls.

Let me know when they are received.

I haven't yet received the packages you sent from Calif., but I guess the Christmas mails are rushed.

I have had no letter from you in about a week.

My cold is better, but still with me.

Saw Geo. Bull yesterday.

The weather is cold but generally fair and pleasant.  We have a holiday tomorrow.  I have no definite plans, as I am trying to get rid of this cold.

Our work is slack right now, but in another week we will be rushed again.

Very much love to my very sweet wife.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An intermission with a letter from Frances

Today's post won't follow the normal pattern laid out thus far, owing to the fact that I have discovered a letter from Frances that was written in November 1945 from Robles del Rio.  To date, it is the only letter from Robles that I have found.  Maj. Gillham comments on this letter in his letter of December 3 (posted on here February 11, 2010).  I thought about retrofitting Frances' letter into the February 11 post, but that post is already very long (it includes his trip to Atami).  So I will post Frances' letter here and then attach the pertinent paragraph from Maj. Gillham's letter of December 3, 1945. 

Nov. 23, 1945

Dearest, my love,

I didn't get to write to you yesterday and it has made me feel terrible.  I felt as tho I had missed seeing you.

It was Thanksgiving and I started in early.  I made four pumpkin pies.  Emily mixed the pumpkin filling while I made the crusts.  Really, it was the most popular dish at the meal.  Then, I candied sweet potatoes, creamed onions, made biscuits and cooked cranberries.

At two o'clock we all went to Carol's for cocktails (Manhattans).  The children had apple juice.  On the guest list were:  Carol, Lynn, Mac, Peg, Chuck, Carla, Cousin John, Nellie, Jack, Downs Atwood, Pudge [?], Emily, Monty and me.

Also with the cocktails we served celery, radishes, carrot sticks, pickled artichokes and sweet pickles.

Then we went up to Peg's house for the big spread.  They had put three tables together and used sheets for cloths.  They filled silver vase with my flowers for the table.

Cousin John bought a 15-lb turkey and Peg cooked it in her oven.  It was delicious!!  In addtion to the old bird, we had creamed onions, mashed potatoes, broccoli, candied yams, rutabagas, sherry, biscuits, butter, pumpkin pie with air whipped cream, coffee and apricot liqueur.

When we finished, Mac said that the whole dinner party would take a walk around the circle before going to Carol's for liqueurs.

Nellie and John spent the night at the cabin so Jack stayed here.  He slept on the studio couch and had an alarm clock.  He woke up at six and drove John to his ranch above Redding.

This morning the children and I took Nellie to Carmel, then drove up to Santa Cruz to visit Mrs. Carell.  We had a lovely time.

Then we came back to Salinas and picked up Ellen and her children.  Ernest brought them down to Opal's this morning.  Now, Terry and Emily, Tots (their dog) and Flip Flop are in Emily's room.  Ellen and Monte are on the couch in the living room, Monty is on the box our room, and Martha and I are in there, too.

Ellen sends her love to you.  She has just crawled into bed with Monte and is going to sleep.

With all my love,


And now the paragraph from Maj. Gillham's response letter, written December 3, 1945:

8 PM -- After writing the above at the office, I got another nice letter from you mailed 24 Nov. and telling about your swell Thanksgiving dinner. That was really some spread, and lots of good fellowship makes it really worthwhile. You are certainly sweet to write me after such a strenuous day. I hope you enjoy Ellen's visit.

So, that's how this blog will work eventually, with a back-and-forth between Maj. Gillham and Frances, as best as I can maneuver it.  The main problem seems to be that letters arrived in Japan in clumps, so Maj. Gillham tends to reply to or comment on several letters at once.  I am still ironing out the details of how to present the letters.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Finally, a letter from the journey eastward, and some talk about the trip

Finally, Maj. Gillham gets a letter from Frances written while she, Pop and the girls were en route to Atlanta.  At least now he is aware of some of the details of the trip, even though he still doesn't know about the eventful Christmas Eve arrival home.

31 Dec 1945

Dearest Darling,

Just received a letter from you written in Las Cruces, N.M., on 19 Dec and postmarked Sierra Blanca, Texas, 4 PM, 20 Dec.  I certainly was glad to get it, as I had had no word from you since 10 Dec from Robles.  Something must have gone wrong with a big batch of mail.  Several others here have had the same trouble.  It either got snarled in the Christmas rush in the states, was lost at sea, or went to Manila by mistake.  You see the Rear Echelon of APO 500 is still at Manila and that is why it is important to put Adv Esch on all my mail.

I infer that you met Pop in LA after some delay and then went La Jolla.  I wrote you to La Jolla and El Paso, Gen. Del.; and to Memphis at 1042 E. McLemore.  It doesn't seem that you got the letter at La Jolla.  You may have missed them all on account of the slowed down mails.  I allowed about 10 days which probably wasn't enough.  Did you leave forwarding addresses with the Post Office at those places, so the letters will be sent on to you?

It is a great relief to me to know that Pop was with you.  I know he looked after you all well and I hope he enjoyed the trip and that it wasn't too tiring on him.

I am sorry to hear of your laryngitis.  That is a sure sign you are over-doing yourself.  Please rest up now and get strong so that you won't be in a weakened condition and susceptible to catching something else.

As well as I can remember, it is about 140 miles from Las Cruces to Sierra Blanca.  That doesn't sound like you were setting any speed records.  I am beginning to doubt if you made Atlanta by Christmas.  The thing is that I hope you got there in good shape, regardless of when.

Yes, I think we need a trailer, too.  Our family has just naturally outgrown one car for passengers and freight both.  We will have to get one before we attempt any more long trips.

I wrote you a note this morning and sent you a money order for $100 to help on Pop's expenses.  It is a good idea to let any vital information appear in several letters, for they might not always go through.

I know you have your hands full with Martha at this age.  992 Washita must be a very lively location nowadays.

How is Mother Ki?  Give her my love.  I know she and Mother 'Cile enjoy having all the children around, even if they do get in their hair.

Dan seems very pleased with his prospects (both family and job).  I am glad they are not wasting any time getting a family started.

Let know your plans as soon as you develop any.

I feel much better now that I have heard from you, my darling.

Much love,



Sierra Blanca, Texas, is a small town that is about 100 miles southeast of El Paso along what is now the Interstate 10 corridor.  As of the 2000 census, the population was 533, so it's fair to assume it was a small town in 1945 as well.  The town was built at the meeting point of two coverging railroads in 1881 which formed a southern transcontinental stretch.

Assuming that the reason Frances didn't mention Maj. Gillham's letter that he sent to La Jolla was because she didn't receive it, it is safe to assume that she did in fact leave a forwarding address at the La Jolla post office, because we are now in possession of that letter (which you read in the February 13th post).
Just as a quick refresher, Mother Ki was the family hypocorism given to Frances' maternal grandmother (i.e., Mother Cile's mother).  Her name was Mary Emma Dixon Kiser, and her husband was a dry goods salesman, Andrew Jackson Kiser, who owned a store at 53-1/2 Alabama Street in Atlanta, which is now a part of Underground Atlanta.

Maj. Gillham mentioned that Dan Holsenbeck (Frances' brother) was "not wasting any time getting a family started," which probably meant that Dan's wife, Nancy, announced that she was pregnant with their first child, George Penn Holsenbeck (who we all call Penn).  The couple was married on March 20, 1945, and Penn was born on June 11, 1946.