Monday, April 19, 2010

The first box of brass arrives in Atlanta

In this letter Frances tells of the first package of brass arriving at 992 Washita.  In the letter she refers to "tara leaf" ornamentation on some of the brass objects.  There is such a thing as a tara plant, a native of South America, but I wonder if she meant the leaf of the taro plant, which is very common in the Pacific Rim area.  The taro leaf looks like a solid green calladium leaf and grows very large (it is sometimes referred to as elephant ear).  Since I have no example of the brass objects with me, I can't say for sure.

If anyone reading this has any brass objects sent over from Japan by Maj. Gillham, or knows of their whereabouts, please leave a comment.  I know my mother (Monty) has several pieces, and I am posting several photos of them following the letter below.

Jan. 30, 1946

Dearest Angel,

I have had a perfectly wonderful time today all because you found a junk pile in Tokyo.  The first box of brass arrived and we are simply delighted with your treasures.  From the way you wrote, I expected some monstrosities, but these are lovely.

Mother 'Cile, Pop, the three girls and I have polished brass all day!  Father was so interested that he went out and bought two different kinds of brass polish and a jar of silver polish, just for good measure.  He was supposed to leave to go out of town, but he kept diddling around helping me try various methods of cleaning the brass.

By far the loveliest piece is the slender vase with the tara leaf and handles.  Next I like the little dish that matches it with the tara leaf, root and flower engraved on it.  They are the only two that have a chop or hallmark on the bottom.  A real craftsman designed them, I know.  When polished it looks simply beautiful.  The lines seem too fragile to be designed for brass.  Crystal or china seems the most logical mediums for the design.  I selected it as the best piece when I was unwrapping them.  Mother Ki, Bryant, Elizabeth, and Emily each in turn and separately selected it as the loveliest piece.  It and the little dish were the first two pieces cleaned.

The mirror is darling.  I never have seen anything like it before.  It made me feel as if I'd just discovered it in the excavated ruins of Pompeii or some other ancient buried city.  It is the most personal piece you sent.  I can't help wondering whether it was made for someone's wife or his concubine.  It and the other two pieces seem Chinese in character.  Every time I look at it I wonder and marvel that women are the same the world over, in spite of their cultures.  They enjoy admiring themselves and they use whatever mediums are at hand to see their reflections:  metal, water, glass.  The design on the reverse is lovely.

Monty likes the Buddha and the soldier best.  Emily went for the turtle and wanted it.  She started polishing it immediately.  We found that if we submerged the coins in the brass polish and just left them in it fifteen or twenty minutes, they'd come clean but would have the same reddish cast copper has when it is given an acid bath.

Martha and Monty take turns playing with the bells.  One was smashed when I unpacked it, but I can put it back together nicely.  The little lantern, the pen holder, and the door hinges are unique.  I can hardly wait to have a house where we can use the hinges.  Let's put them on the door to your den.  We'll have the laughing Buddha sitting on your desk and the lovely fluted ashtray on the other side.  Monty polished it up.  Emily did the other cylindrical one.  They are made of such fine quality brass and have a deep luster when polished.

I haven't done anything with the two large vases on tripods, but I just can't believe they are brass -- they are so black now!  We have started on the two jardiniere-type bowls (one has medallions of animals soldered on).

Take another trip to the pile.  I am afraid you'll have to send me lots more before I can begin to want to part with any.

I am glad you found all this.  It is so interesting.  The brass can be used by all members of your family.  We can have it in the living room to show off and use at the same time.  There is a fascination in my soul for metals anyway, and this brass has quite taken my fancy.

Tonight Elizabeth Brandon, our cousin, asked me to go to the Grand with her to see "Spellbound" with Ingrid Bergman.  While we were waiting in the lobby to get a seat, I saw Bill Bradley.  He got out Dec. 19 and is down here "reluctantly" interviewing the Southern Bell people.  He said that he was looking around elsewhere, too.  He also wants to go into the electrical sales promotion business for himself.  His wife and 3-1/2 yr old son are in Nashville, where they have been since he went overseas two years ago.  He was stationed just out of London with the ground forces of the 8th Air Force.  His job seemed to be similar to Crenshaw's.  He visited France, Belgium, Holland and outer fringes of Germany and wasn't in combat.  His place was attacked by the buzz bombs, though.  He said that when they buzzed overhead, the men would duck and reach for another scotch and soda.

Bill said that the housing situation was one drawback to Southern Bell in Atlanta.  I imagine the salary difference has something to do with it, too.

Would it be possible to get Bryant a strand of pearls?  She wants some very much.  When she saw Emily's, she asked me to see if you could get her a strand and she'd pay you.

Thanks a million for the brass.  I have already had a full day's pleasure from it and know I can count on a lifetime's pleasure in store for us using it every day.

All my love, darling,



Below are some photos of the brass collection my mother (Monty) inherited from her parents.  Remember, you can always click on any photo for a larger view.

According to a Japanese friend who has read the inscription,
this is an urn to carry ashes of the deceased.

Below are the front and reverse details of the above vase

Front detail

Reverse detail

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