Friday, May 28, 2010

Maj. Gillham eats his last California fig

Today's letter is low-key and a bit subdued. He hasn't gotten a letter from Frances in a while, and he just ate his last California fig, sort of a symbolic tie to his former life with his family.

He mentions that the envelope his is using seems somewhat unusual and that a stamp collector might find it interesting.  I examined the envelope from top to bottom trying to see what he was referring to, but to no avail.  I felt like Cary Grant in "Charade" trying to find the $250,000 in the travel bag.  The stamp, envelope and postmark are all just like the many others in the collection.

21 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

Tonight I have the duty, so I am at the office.  I have to stay here until 9 P.M.  Nothing much ever happens, but we just have to be here because it is a habit the army got into.

Some day I am going to get a whole bundle of mail, I hope.  I have had two letters from you since I returned from Nikko on 4 Feb.  Everyone has had the same trouble.  It makes me feel much further away from home than when the mail was coming quickly.

I was interested in your meeting Bill Bradley.  I wonder what he finally did?

I know Lt. Col. Jacobs very well.  He lives in the Dai Ichi Hotel and is in charge of Wire Communications.  In fact, he is the one that tried to get me transferred to the Civil Communications Section.  His wife is at present housemother at some sorority house at Emory.  He is going home about the same time that I will.  He was formerly Georgia Construction Superintendent.

I ate my last fig last night.  They were certainly good.  Our mess supplies have improved lately.  We have lettuce and celery, fresh and frozen fruit and chicken now.  PX supplies have been very plentiful since they got started.  I guess we really want for nothing except that most want to go home.  Life here is just not very satisfying.  I much prefer to be with my family in the good old U.S.A.

If you know a stamp collector, they might be interested in this envelope.  It seems to me it is a bit unsual.

I love you, my darling, more than all else.  We must not be separated so long again.

Lots of love,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two letters in one day, perhaps

Today's letters are both dated February 20, and I have put them in what seems to be the right chronological order, from my reading of them.  Presumably he saw the movie in the afternoon and the boxing match in the evening, although the letters may be from two separate days.  My policy has been to post the letters chronologically according to the date written on the letter.

Maj. Gillham mentions in his first letter that he hopes to find some Victrola recordings of some Japanese folk songs or children's songs.  In fact, he does eventually find several and Monty (my mother) is in possession of the album of 78's that he purchased in Japan.  Once I am savvy enough to transfer vinyl to mp3 I will post some of them.  We had a good time listening to them earlier this year; some of the tunes are traditional and some are in the style of Western big bands.

Also, in the first letter he writes about the Japanese children's story Momotaro.  In the trunk of items that my aunt Emily gave to me was a copy of an English language children's book of the story of Momotaro, or Peach Boy, from the 1960s.  I assume that the Maj. Gillham bought this book later as a remembrance of his time in Japan.

20 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling

I have just returned from seeing the picture A Bell for Adano.  It was very well done.  You should see it if you get a chance.  It is getting pretty old now, but it might come back to some neighborhood theater.

We have had several slight earthquakes since I have been here.  Tonight during the picture we had a real good one.  It just picked this building up and tossed it around like a cracker box.  No harm was done, but I imagine the same shock to one of our cities in the states would have done some damage.  What is left in Tokyo is pretty tough.  Most of the large buildings were built since the 1923 earthquake and were designed to be earthquake-proof.  That is why the structures of so many buildings, burned out during the bombings, still stand intact.  An earthquake is something that gives you a rather peculiar feeling.

I got some Christmas cards from the Telephone Co. today, and a bill from the income tax collector.  I owe $10 more on my 1945 tax, but I think I will wait until I return to settle up with them.

I wish I could sing well enough to learn and remember a tune.  I am very fond of some of the native Japanese tunes, especially the folk songs that the children sing -- things equivalent to our London Bridge is Falling Down and Farmer in the Dell.  I heard one tonight about Momo Taro.  Momo is "peach" and Taro is a boy's given name.  The story is of an old, childless couple who bought a very large peach. When they cut it open, it contained a baby whom they named Momo Taro.  He grew up and made the acquaintance of several personified animals:  a chicken, a dog and a monkey (on a par with the tea party in Alice in Wonderland).  They all went forth and slew a very bad "warui-hito" -- a sort of devil-dragon-man.  The tune and the story are both probably very old and purely oriental.

I will see if I can find some Victrola records of some of these things.

Since I have had to stay in one place, I am rather glad it has been Tokyo.  This is the cultural center of Japan, the climate is good, we have good quarters and services, and there is a considerable entertainment to be had.  I dont think Korea or the outlying areas of Japan are nearly as desirable.

Lots of love,



20 Feb 1946

Dearest Lovely,

Haven't got much to write about tonight -- this is just a note to let you know that I love you and am thinking about you.

Tonight I went to a boxing match. These were all Japs, boxing before a GI audience. Some of them were pretty good. The last boxing match I saw was the one at CASA that we dropped in on -- remember? The time before that was the all-negro match in Chicago that I went to while you and Emily went to see Sonja Henie and the ice review.

The weather continues very mild. They say it is warmer than usual here this winter, but I believe Tokyo has a very good winter climate.

I sent you another package today. This one is mostly dry goods. There are two more pair of pajamas in it, so give one to Bryant. I am on the lookout for some pearls. Such things are off the market right now because all currency must be turned in for a new issue soon. At that time most of it will be subject to a heavy tax. After the new money comes out, I think things will reappear at cheaper prices.
Three months is not a very long time in the course of history, but it is a very, very long time to wait to see you, my darling.




A Bell for Adano from 1945 is a film directed by Henry King starring John Hodiak and Gene Tierney. The film was adapted from the novel A Bell for Adano by John Hersey, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945.  The screenplay was written by Atlanta's own Lamar Trotti, who was a colleague of Margaret Mitchell at the Atlanta Journal.

Sonja Henie was a Norwegian figure skater who won 10 world titles and 3 Olympic gold medals.  She later became a Hollywood movie star, usually appearing in movies that could show off her ability to skate.  She was one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood and amassed a fortune that she later used to purchase a large art collection.  She died at the age of 57 in 1969 of leukemia and is buried on the grounds of the art museum outside of Oslo built to house her collection.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Maj. Gillham sends home some photos

This is just a quick letter from the Major along with some photos he sent back home.  Unfortunately, I haven't located the photos, although I do have a pile of negatives that should be developed one day.

19 Feb 1946

Dearest Sweetheart,

Enclosed are a few more pictures.  This was my first try with the new Japanese film.  It didn't do too badly, but I can see it is slower than American film.  Also enclosed are a couple of silk cocoons that I thought the children might be interested in.

Your letter telling of receiving the box of brass came today.  I am glad that you liked it.  It was a lot of fun to dig it up.  That was the second box of it that I sent.  I hope that the first and third get there too.  The third box sent about a week later was a very large box.  I too think that the rose with the tara leaf was my best piece, and an excellent design.  Some of those pieces are not supposed to have a bright metal polished surface, but rather an oxidized or bronze effect.  I think you will be able to tell them.  The scrap pile is now off limits but I got all I wanted before that happened.  I even threw away and gave away a lot of junk that was cluttering up my room.  Afterwards I saw a replica in a shop of a large vase that I had given away because it was too big to pack.  The price on it was Y750.  Some of the pieces are damaged but I thought we could fix them up when we get our shop set up again.  It will serve as stock on which to work.

It is certainly fine to have such a sweet wife.  I am sure we will have lots of fun when we can be together again.  This period of separation will make me realize more fully what a fine thing I have when I hold you in my arms.

Lots and lots of love,


Saturday, May 22, 2010

The boxes from Robles arrive at 992 Washita

Today Frances answers some of the letters that she has just received from Nikko.  I am also including a short letter from Emily which was mailed in a separate envelope but was dated the same as Frances' letter.

Feb. 18, 1946

Dearest My Love,

Today I received three letters from you and so I feel just wonderful!  Two of them were written at the rest camp.  One told of your experience on skis when nature called you.  Poor dear!  I really felt for you, but I certainly enjoyed a good laugh out of the story.  I'd have laughed so hard if I had been there that you would have had to pull me out of the snow.

Well, I am glad you received the second Christmas box finally.  All I can remember that I sent was the calendar.  I had so much fun thinking up things to put on the pages.

Maybe you should go around with George Bull and see Japan!  However, I can't imagine his being a better sightseer than you.

Aren't you smart!  I'm proud of you writing so well that the Chief of Staff used your sentences complete.  I think they are intelligent men to recognize your ability.  I just wish Dad could have known about your work.  He would have enjoyed knowing you had developed so well in that way.

The stuff came today.  I have my things cluttering up my room again!  I was able to put around the house, two pieces in the basement, two on the back porch -- the big box and the old trunk -- your two gas mask boxes in the attic, and the footlockers in the hall and in the bedroom.

I used the washing machine today.  I have to arrange some way to drain the rinse tub as I don't have it our of doors and I miss your nice drain pipe.

The pictures you sent were interesting.  We've enjoyed looking at them.  Have you ever received the two rolls of film I sent you?

Martha's box contained a darling little Japanese girl with writing equipment, the tiger with the wobbly head, and the cap.  Also, her kimono arrived.

I am delighted that you have mailed Margaret a birthday present.  You are smart.

All my love,


P.S. I guess I'll have to read "Pastures of Heaven" to see what you are talking about.  It interests me.  FHG


February 18, 1946

Dear Daddy,

How are you getting along with your skiing?  It sounds very interesting.

Today at school we got a new arithmetic book.  It is very modern and easy to understand.

Sunday we went to North Fulton Park and played.  We had a wonderful time.

At Sunday school a man showed us some slides of Mexico.  He went down there for Christmas.  The slides showed the celebration of Christmas in Mexico.

Lots of love,

Emily Gillham

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Frances tells of the goings-on at 992 Washita

This letter should be titled "Atlanta Confidential," since it's probably the most the most personal of Frances' homefront portrayals thus far.  The onus of the letter is Bryant, Frances' younger sister, who is having a lot of trouble adjusting to life without her husband, Carl, and life at home with her parents.  She and Frances would apparently have their rows, which would almost be expected in any family living in such tight quarters.  This dynamic is definitely news to me, because as I was growing up, Frances and Bryant seemed very close as sisters, and we would always visit Bryant and Carl when I spent vacation time in Atlanta.

I should add a few brief explanations of some things you will encounter in this letter:  North Fulton Park is now called Chastain Park, and Walter Pascal turned out to be quite a well-known Atlanta radio personality in the 40s and 50s, mainly on WSB.  He was also a popular emcee at local events.  Helen Mankin was the second woman to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of representatives, even though her term in office was less than a year.  She served out the unexpired term of Rep. Ramspeck (which Frances had mentioned in a previous letter), but lost later in 1946 in the Democratic primary for the next term.

Feb. 17, 1946

Dearest My Own Dearest Lovely Dovely Sweetheart,

I think you are so sweet that I'd love to give you a great big hug and kiss.

Isn't it wonderful that you are learning to ski!  I can hardly wait to see you.  Have you skied like the cartoon?  [She draws a picture of a skier with the ski tracks behind him going around either side of a tree].  I'd like to take some movies of you so I could show them going backwards, too, like Thompson did.

Write me about it.  Did you really get the feel of it?  Did you make a leap?

My things are coming out Monday.  They arrived Feb. 14, but I didn't get a notice until the 15th.  The Army Transportation Department will pick it up tomorrow from the depot, deliver it and uncrate it for me.  Isn't that just wonderful!  I can hardly wait to get my washing machine set up and working again.

Last week I took a training course in Girl Scouting and was gone some of every day.  Friday the class went out to North Fulton Park to a scout cabin and cooked out.  I enjoyed it more than anything I've done since I've been home.  My group cooked my one pot meal of corn, tomatoes, onions and meat.  We built our fire, cooked, ate and cleaned up before the other three groups had finished cooking.

Friday afternoon, the three girls, Margaret and I went over to see Connie Shumaker Garrett and her daughter Gwen.  Another schoolmate of ours was there with her daughter.  We had a fine time reviewing the last twelve or fourteen years.  Of course, I thought my children were by far the most outstanding (the others of course have their own opinions!)

Connie's husband is in politics.  His candidate, Tom Camp, lost the election to congress.  Bryant's one, Mrs. Helen Mankin, won.  Connie was disappointed but said her husband was already looking around to see who threw their hat into the gubernatorial race.  The election for that is this fall and Arnall, the incumbent, cannot succeed himself.  Talmadge has already said he was planning to run.

I am making arrangements for the children to take dancing at Emory --  that is, the school is in the little business district at the entrance to Emory campus.  Emily will take dancing during the week, and on Saturday mornings, she will take ballroom dancing for no extra charge.  Since she is not going to NAPS, I think she will meet some nice children this way.  As yet, she hasn't found anyone she especially likes.

Uncle Ossie, Father's uncle who was in the foundry business, has a granddaughter, Shateen, who is eleven.  She had Emily out to a party the other day.  Emily likes her quite well.

Monty has a constant shadow in Margaret.  If Monty has to gargle her throat, Margaret (who hates to usually) begs Mother 'Cile for a glass of salt water to gargle her throat.  Monty called Margaret a baby Saturday and Margaret cried and ran to her mother.  Such things happen when the two get tired, but usually they play nicely together. 

I did too much last week and as you will know my temper got the upper hand.  I flew off twice at Bryant for very "logical" reasons at the time.  Since I've been here, we've had several spats because she harbors her grudges and I get mad and spit.  They've always cleared the air and we've ended friends again.  This one Saturday was similar to the terrible night in Chicago when we both were at the breaking point.  I am sorry it happened, for Bryant may not love me as deeply as you do, and it is not her policy to forget.  We are amiable and she is most polite.  I am afraid it will take much on my part to bury my one blunder.

She is really having a hard time mentally and emotionally.  At least the family say that she was a real problem to them until I arrived.  I think our spats have made her get over her grudges quicker.  Between times she talks to me.  Getting angry at me has lessened her resentment with Mother, too.  I feel that all told I have been much help to Bryant.  At present she might deny that I have.

Bryant is a good manager, neat, orderly, methodical and quick.  She has been an inspiration to me.  Margaret is a most attractive young child.  She is sweet, responsive, well-mannered and alert.  She loves me and I consider her my fourth child.  We always take her out with us and include her in everything we do.

The other night at the Thursday night supper at the church, the pastor asked me how the Major was and if I'd had any letters from you.  He was in the pulpit when he asked me that.  You see, you are a graduate of the U. of Va. in law to him, and he thinks that is marvelous.

Bryant didn't go to the supper Thursday because she was out somewhere else.  I didn't tell her about the preacher asking me about you because she is extremely jealous.  This morning at church someone told her and she has been upset all afternoon.

She likes the preacher, admires him and, up to this point, she has defended him against the family's criticism of him.  They contend that if a member is rich or from Virginia, the preacher will pay attention to him.  Otherwise he casually shakes hands with them and never remembers their names.

Bryant maintains that he recognizes worth when he sees it and is quite a brilliant man.

I heard both sides of the story before I met the preacher, so when I did meet him, I filled him full of Virginia, the Montagues, Richmond, Williamsburg and the University, and he fell for it hook, line and sinker.  He has been three times more cordial and friendly to me than the rest of the family -- and Bryant.

Friday night Bryant and I went up the street to call on Walter Paschal, his wife and mother.  Walter and his mother have lived in the neighborhood as long as we have.  He is quite a brilliant young man.  He is a few years older than I am.  He is a news reporter for the Journal over WSB, gives lectures, writes, etc.  One of his hobbies is collecting Oriental art.  I went up to see his Chinese brass.  He has several nice pieces, but my brass is far superior to his.  However, he has a wonderful collection of gold medallion Canton china that is museum stuff.  If you see any of that, latch on to it.  He has studied and knows good Chinese and Japanese art.  He is coming down to see my brass next week.

He and Liza, his wife, asked Bryant and me to attend a lecture on Chinese art on February 28 at Agnes Scott.  He suggested that I take several of my pieces out for the lecturer to see.  Your visit to the junk pile afforded you much pleasure and opened new vistas for me!

I can hardly wait to go to the lecture and to get some books from the library to learn more of the treasures you sent me.  This is much more fun than anything I've done since we closed our metal shop.

Another thing I have become interested in is camellias (or japonicas).  They are red or pink or variegated.  They resemble a rose but they have waxy green leaves like a rubber plant, only about 1/3 the size.

Several weeks ago Mother bought tickets to a camellia show. No one around here could go, so I went with her.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  The Cragons were there.

Father has a camellia bush in the front yard and it is in full bloom now.

The paper today ran several pages of color on camellias. Walter and Liza had a bowl full the other night.  Everywhere I go, people are discussing "Pink Perfection," "Il Tramonte." or "Mississippi Hastie" in as casual terms as a cotton man on Front Street would us "staple," or "middling to fair," etc.

This has been a long letter and I am glad I wrote it.  I feel better for discussing my problems with you and sharing my new pleasures.  It is such a great help to have a pardner like you to confide in.  Of course, it would be much nicer to talk to you, but this is next best, darling.

Always the pride of my heart is you and to you I send all my love.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Maj. Gillham weighs in on the landlady debacle in Robles

In today's letter from Maj. Gillham he answers some of the questions that she puts forth in her letter of January 30, including the brouhaha with the landlady from Robles.  He gives a very reassuring answer, with just the pinch of vinegar I remember he had, and I can almost imagine him saying it aloud in my mind.

17 Feb 1946

Dearest Love,

Your letter of 30 Jan came today.  It was the first I had received in nearly two weeks.  I certainly was glad to get it.  It seems that the mail takes about three weeks now instead of 10 or 11 days, as it used to.

I have just returned from a USO play, "Three Men on a Horse."  It was a little raw in spots but well done and just the thing for the audience.  I enjoyed it very much.

Today I worked (Sunday) but I volunteered for it, because I want to get several consecutive days off a little later and go to Nara and Kyoto with Geo. Bull.

Last night I went to a big dance that they had at the hotel here.  It was quite a heterogeneous crowd with Russians, Chinese, Japanese, civilians and officers from every service.  They had a good band, and an excellent juggling act for a floor show.  Maj. Johnson from our office was celebrating his army discharge.  He is staying on as a civilian in the same job.  The drinks were on him.

As to that woman in Calif., I think you handled it just right.  Give her what in your own conscience you feel is right and not one cent more.  If she won't give you a complete release, don't give her anything.  I have no fear of her writing my C.O., I don't care if she does.  By the time she finds out who he is and gets a letter to him, I will probably be out of the army.  If not, all she will get in a case like this where there is a dispute as to the facts will be a letter informing her that the army is not a collection agency.  It is too bad we can't have more landlors like the Lytles in Cape Cod.

I said the little girl in Atami was named Musume, but that is just the word for daughter.  They called her that.  Anyway, it is a good name for a Japanese doll.

My friends in the Education Section say that Dr. Sutton's name wasn't on the last list of educators coming here.  They will be here in a few days, and I will check again.

You are the sweetest thing I know of anywhere.  I like to look into your eyes in your picture.  I feel almost like I am looking at your.

Lots of love,


Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Valentine's Day letter from Maj. Gillham

Today's heading may be a little misleading, since, although the letter is dated February 14, Maj. Gillham never mentions Valentine's Day in it.  Whether Frances takes offense to this, we'll have to wait and see, but I think she is probably just happy to get letters from Japan no matter what.

Added at the bottom is a letter dated February 7 addressed to Emily.  I found this letter inside the same envelope as today's letter, althought I somehow think originally it must have been mailed separately.  The attachment mentioned is an original copy of MacArthur's order establishing his command as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific.  As soon as I get a scanner, I will add a copy of the order to this post.

14 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

One of the officers in our office received a letter from Carmel, Calif., today date 31 Jan.  My last from you was dated 25 Jan and received about 10 days ago.  The only thing I have received was some non-airmail which has been a long time coming.

I received the enclosed from Mother's nurse.  You will note that they haven't told her that I was in Japan, even though I have written a number of letters.  At least this letter tells me that they have moved to the new house, which is something I was never able to get an answer on from any other source.  As I read between the lines it seems that mother has become quite senile.  I wonder if there is any use in my trying to keep on writing to her.

I got a letter from Sam Wrightson recently.  He is now at Fukuoka and doesn't like it and wants to get up here.

Japanese theaters are off limits, but today I got the pass from the officer in charge of theaters and tomorrow I am going to take Geo. Bull to a kabuki play.  I think he will appreciate it more than anyone I know.

Do you have Col. Adams' address?  If so please send him the enclosed not and stamps.  I think he would like to have them.

We have been on dry rations for some time, but I think a new supply ship got in recently.  Last night we had celery and lettuce, and this morning  grapefruit and eggs, so things are looking better.

How is Flip-Flop?  I haven't heard anything about him lately.  How does he fit into the Atlanta household?

I have been getting some Japanese film lately.  I just took my first roll of it but haven't gotten it back from from being developed yet.

It is a pleasure to have such a nice family to look forward to coming home to.  I love you, my sweet, and I am still enjoying your pretty new picture.




Tokyo, Japan
7 Feb 1946

Dear Emily,

Enclosed is a rather historical document that I thought you would like to save.

A commanding general never signs anything except the first order by which he establishes his command.  After that all the other orders read, "By Command of General So and So," and are signed by some member of his staff.

This headquarters is not just the head of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, but as the name implies, it commands all Allied forces.

How is your arithmetic?  Maybe you need an abacus to help you out.  I must send you one.



P.S. This order is not a copy, but was run from the original stencil.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Valentine's Day letter from Frances

Today's Valentine from Frances is actually a mixed bag: part love letter and part business report.  Maybe Monty or Martha can fill in some of the blanks about the tax situation Frances finds herself in, but I have a feeling it has something to do with the Macon Road Property in Tennessee.  Frances also mentions her uncle Gartrell, Pop's brother, but I can't remember if he was still living at 992 Washita or not.

St. Valentine's Day


It looks like I can have more things happen to me when you are away.  The tax assessor in Memphis returned my check of $43.00 for the 1945 taxes.  He said that the taxes on Doc Hall's piece of property had been revaluated this year and was now valued at $2,479, making the tax on it around $20.00, instead of the former sixteen.  The taxes are now fifty dollars on the entire Kerrville property.

The little postal cards sent out for each piece of property wandered all around the country trying to catch up with me.  I didn't received the one about Doc Hall's place, but it didn't worry me.  I just looked on last year's receipt and copied those.  I made the bill up, deducted it from Herbert and Ruth's share, sent them checks, etc.  Then this comes back to me.

I wrote him a letter and asked why the tax on that place had been increased and none of the others had.  The letter is upstairs.  I will try to enclose it for you to see.

I will go ahead and send him a check for the increased amount.  It makes Grandmother pay an extra seven dollars this year.  That isn't much, but it irks me for her to take the rap on it.  I think next year when I make out the bills and income, I will add it in and return about five dollars to Grandmother.

I have written Alf Mason about investigating the roof at Kerrville but I haven't heard from him yet.

You know, this is excellent training for me.  I just hope I have sense enough and force enough to keep it in good shape until you return.  Then, I shall return it to you most graciously.  You are such a wise and understanding person.  You can judge things on the larger scale.  You know where to put on the pressure and where to apply soft soap.

I talked to Gartrell today and he was happy that you had written to Mr. Cates about his son.  He said that they flew the boy back to the states this week and that he is home in Atlanta now.

Darling, you have been wonderful about looking up people and going to so much trouble to do it.  I know you do the thoughtful things that people appreciate.  Darling, I am just so proud of you.  I love you dearly because you are so much fun to love and because you are an inspiration to me.  You are not the boy I married.  You have grown and developed throughout the years.  Your spriritual depth has increasd.  Your thoughtfulness and consideration for those about you has grown and has given your personality more warmth and richness.  You have developed your various abilities as the man with the five talents did.  You have emerged from your cocoon and are now beginning to display your richly colored wings.

It has been a pleasure to watch you grow and to feel like I may have helped in some small way.  I realized it to some extent during the process, but now that we are separated, I can have more time to think about these things.

I also know that with each day, each week and each year that I have been your wife, my love for you has increased a thousandfold.  All these years you have made life so interesting and so full for me that I am lost without you.

Martha has learned to climb up into small chairs and stools and get wonderful lovely things that have been withheld from her.  The other day she found the little Japanese lantern.  Where once it was one now it is two, I am sad to relate.

I received your letter written on the green paper.  I want to comment on it in my next letter.

Hope you had a nice stay at Nikko.

All my love,


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Maj. Gillham receives some photos from home

Today we have two letters from Maj. Gillham mailed separately on the same day, and they seem to pivot on a set of photos that Frances sent him.  Since the photos were not in the letters by the time they reached me, I can only guess that the photos were the set taken in Robles that I have posted at various times on this blog.

13 Feb 46

Dearest Darling,

We are just too far away from each other.  Here I sit in Japan eating a fig that you sent me before you left California, and by the time you get this letter telling you about it, it will be almost spring.  One certainly has to think ahead on that kind of a schedule.

Everyone here is sore about the mail slow down.  When it starts coming again I guess we will get it with a fair degree of regularity, but it will just take longer for it to get here.  The mail I received on my return from Nikko over a week ago was the last I have received.

Today I got a Theta Chi circular which you forwarded to me about a month ago.  Think what it must have been like to be in a far corner of the world a century or two ago.  You probably got mail once a year and it was six months old when and if you got it.

Tonight I met a naval officer who knew the author of the article on the ancient Indians of the Southwest.  I gave him the article to read and he was muchly interested.  He himself was quite an authority on them, having a Ph.D. on the subject, and having written several books about them.  I had a very interesting talk with him about the history and migrations of the Pueblo Indians.

Before mailing this, your pictures came this morning.  I am delighted with them.  I think they are just fine.  You all look mighty pretty and are a sight for sore eyes.  I have the ones in the pretty red folder on my desk in the office where I can look at it many times each day.  The one of the three girls is unusually good.  I don't see how you caught all three of them with such good expressions at the same time.  Thanks a thousand times for the nicest present you could have sent me.




13 Feb 46

Dearest Love of Mine,

Since I don't have a letter to answer, I will answer the lovely pictures which came this morning just in time for Valentine's Day.  I think that every woman should have her picture taken when she is in her prime -- at her zenith.  I think that is just what you have done with these.  You have reached mature full bloom and are radiantly beautiful.  It was not the religious tradition alone that caused so many great masters to select the subject of Madonna and child for their masterpieces; it is the high point of natural beauty and the climax of the fulfillment of life.

I like all the pictures very much, and each in a different way.  I love every one of you, and each in a different way.  It is fine to have these new likenesses with which to visit.

I am anxious to return to you, for I don't want any more of this prime period of life to pass without our being together to enjoy it.  It won't be so long now before I will be back.

Tonight I went to see a very good show -- Rhapsody in Blue, a life story of Geo. Gershman.

I will write more tomorrow night.

I love you very much.



The film Rhapsody in Blue was released in 1945 and is a musical biography of the composer George Gershwin (not Gershman, as Maj. Gillham writes above).  The film stars Robert Alda, the father of Alan Alda.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More news from the family at 992 Washita

This letter is of some interest in that we find out that Frances is about to start training to be a Girl Scout leader, which would be a passion of hers for the rest of her life.  My mother (Monty) was also a scout leader, so after growing up with Frances and Monty, I'm one of the few men who can now sing every song from the Girl Scout songbook.

And if anyone can understand the meaning of her last sentence in this letter, please let me know in a comment.

Feb. 12, 1946

Dearest My Love,

Emily received her letter from you with the cartoon of the octopuses.  She enjoyed it.  You keep her delighted with your humor.

Today I sent you another package.  It contained some cigarettes, candy, jelly, etc.  I hope they arrive in good condition and that you can use them.  I went to send it "First Class."  The postman told me that I could send it "Special Delivery" and get the same first class treatment, and it would cost less than half as much.

In one of the Valentines I sent you I enclosed some pictures taken on Martha's birthday.  I am going to have to have some instructions on picture taking.  Also, there seems to be a leak somewhere.  I hope my movies are better than the stills.

You are certainly fortunate to get a chance to get some temporary duty at Nikko.  I am delighted you can go.  I know how you feel about returning to a place you've already seen.  As you say, tho, you'll be able to enjoy it more this time.  I will be interested to hear about your experiences there.

I mailed you two Valentines today -- one I sent by air, the other by ordinary mail.  They both were mailed at 5PM Feb. 12.  Let me know when they reach you.  Your chart of mail arrivals was most interesting.  I am glad you did it.  It seems characteristic of you.  And anything characteristic of you is just what I love.

I know the family gets tired of hearing me quote you on all occasions, but Emily and Monty and I just beam whenever we can mention your name or anything you have done.

I am so glad the days are passing.  I surely hope the time will fly by so we can be together again, my darling -- very soon.

Monty is on a waiting list for the Brownies and I am going to a leaders' training course to be a Girl Scout leader, so Emily can be in a troop.  At her school there are three Brownie troops and no scout troops.  Woe is me!

Today is election day for the unexpired term of Congressman Ramspeck.  Bryant got up in time to go vote.  It was the first time she's ever been able to vote and she was afraid she'd miss it.  Now that Bryant is up, Mother is in bed.

I'll be so happy to see spring this year.  It will be as welcome as spring would be in Chicago.  It has rained four out of five days ever since we arrived.  There are floods up by Rome, Ga., and the clay country roads are impassable.  In some sections of the state, the school buses have given up and the RFD men have had a time.  Georgia is probably on a par with Japan as far as improved highways are concerned.

Martha fell down on the sidewalk today and skinned her nose.  She surely looks funny, poor little tyke.

She is at the table-reaching stage now.  Yesterday she pulled a cup off the table and broke it.  A butcher knife, Margaret's clay, a tray of dishes, a pot of flour are all the same to her -- just something to reach and pull off.

Today she took a small glass of water from Mother Ki's table.  She started drinking from it.  Instead of drinking from the near edge, she tried drinking from the far edge, with the cup down around her chin.  The water spilled down the front of her dress.

We have enjoyed polishing the brass.  The two large coppery vases with the oriental writing on them are lovely polished.  They have a reddish finish instead of a bright yellow as most brass.  I am going to get a book from the library on Chinese brass and see if there are different types of brass.  One vase has  greenish cast. Of course, they may need more polishing.

Margaret has the pink eye.

Darling, you are my love and my life.  With you I can soar to the heights.  Without you I am nothing.  I wish the ** on your mail chart had meant the same things as they did on your budget book one time.




Robert C. Word Ramspeck (1890-1970) was a Democrat from Decatur, GA, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1929 until his resignation on December 31, 1945, to serve as the vice chairman of the of an air transport company.  He later became a board member of Eastern Air Lines. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frances and the girls spend a Saturday downtown

This is not only a fun letter, but a rather historical one, as it catalogs the kind of excursion that is no longer possible in Atlanta: a trip downtown to Rich's department store.

Feb. 10, 1946


Please excuse pencil, but I went out into Bryant's room to fill my pen, left it there and went downstairs.  When I came up, she was asleep.  I am going to write you tonight, pen or pencil!

Bryant had been in bed with a touch of pleurisy.  Her cold has been hanging on for about a month.  It became a deep-seated cough.  She had the doctor come out and he put her to bed with sulfa drugs.  She expects to get up some tomorrow.

Mother's cold is about in the same condition as Bryant's, but she won't go to bed.  She takes cold capsules and keeps on her feet.

I think the cold vaccines the children and I have been taking have helped us.  Father takes them, too.

Yesterday my check came.  I took Margaret, Monty and Emily to town with me to deposit it.  It was Saturday morning and it was raining in torrents. I drove up to Rich's, parked on Forsyth just behind Rich's.  Then the four of us trudged down to the First National Bank under one umbrella.  We went thru the Arcade.  Monty discovered the revolving doors.  She and Margaret started going around in them.  There was one at both entrances -- that made four revolving doors for the round trip.

I took them up to meet Singy's aunt who works on the same floor with Lucile Taylor at the bank.

On our return to Rich's, we passed a man selling bunches of acacia -- lovely yellow frilly bits of color on a drab day.  All of us stopped in front of him and admired the sunlight he had to sell.  Of course, we had to but a bunch of it -- for Bryant, we said -- but I knew all three of us were buying memories of you -- of spring in California and of past happiness.

We bought happiness for several sales girls in Rich's, too.  Three came up and asked us the name of the flower and where we bought it.  When they found out that the man was at the Broad Street entrance to he Arcade, they said they were going to buy some during their lunch hour.

I took the girls up to meet Helen Bauer, a friend of mine who is a buyer for the infants department of Rich's.  Helen's department is on the second floor.  The escalators go up to the third.  After Monty and Margaret had said "" to Helen, they wanted to ride the escalators.  I let them go.

Emily and I discovered some toilet water like you bought her in Carmel -- "Little Lady."  So I bought her some to replace the bottle Carla spilled at Robles.  All this time the others were riding the escalators!  I waited until I saw them going up to the third floor and I called to them.  They turned around and started down the up escalator to get to me!

Finally we got together.  I took them up the stairs (stationary) from the third floor to the sixth to get them lunch.  They were tired enough to sit still until we were served!

They gave the children Br'er Rabbit menus.  The large menus were covered with pictures of the cotton plant.

We started talking about Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and the man who wrote the stories.  Then we decided to go out to the Wren's Nest in West End and see Joel Chandler Harris' home.  So, we did.

When we were driving home, Emily said that she had had a delightful day and that it had seemed more like a day when Daddy was home, because we'd picked up and done something different -- and had fun!

We miss you, darling, and we think about you, and we love you.



Rich's Department Store operated from 1867 to 2005 when it was subsumed by the Macy's trademark.  It started as M. Rich Bros. & Co. and was eventually changed to simply Rich's in 1924.  The large flagship store downtown between Forsyth and Peachtree Streets, where the Gillham family goes in this letter, became part of the Sam Nunn Federal Center in 2005 when the store was closed.

The former Rich's downtown store as it appears today

Joel Chandler Harris was a Georgian writer, editor and folklorist whose first book, Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings from 1880, was a tremendous bestseller and popularized the characters of Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and Br'er B'ar. Uncle Remus' Br'er Rabbit stories were made world famous in the 1946 Disney film, Song of the South.

Joel Chandler Harris in 1880

In 1881 Harris moved into the Wren's Nest, an 1870 Queen Anne-style house located in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta.  He lived there until his death in 1908.  The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places and it is open to the public. 

The Wren's Nest

Monday, May 10, 2010

The girls play "Japanese," and Martha learns a yoga pose

This is the first letter we've seen from Frances in a good while.  The occasion of the letter seems to be the arrival of a new shipment of brass from Maj. Gillham, but she catches him up on a few other things as well.  The paragraph where she asks Maj. Gillham to send three of everything for Margaret's sake was written on the top part of a page, the rest of which had been torn off.  On the next sheet she explains why, as you will see.

Feb. 9, 1946

Dearest My Own Lovely,

You have been wonderful to all of us.  Every few days we feel like Santa Claus has arrived again!  With each package from you we have Christmas all over again.

The package to the children containing the sake bottle, cups, clogs and tile came.  Also, I discovered the piece from the Jap plane before I threw it out.

My two girls can get into the larger pair of clogs.  Margaret can wear the smalled ones nicely.  The white tabes you sent me Christmas fit my girls and Margaret has a pair from Hawaii that she can't fasten.

Yesterday Margaret and Monty each took a pair of tabes and clogs to school to show their classes.  Each came home feeling most happy and elated over their momentary success at attention!

Today Emily fixed up a box of things to take to show her class.  She took the tabes, clogs, the stamp dolls, the portable pen holder, the brush, a piece of Jap newspaper, the lovely Jap prints you sent at Christmas and some coins.

After school yesterday, the three girls played Japanese.  Cushions on the floor were their chairs.  Emily was the hostess.  Monty and Margaret (the guests) put on the tabes and clogs.  They let Margaret wear Martha's kimono.  As they came in the house, they proceeded in their tabes.  Emily poured each of them a cup of water from the singing sake bottle.  Emily greeted her honorable guests and welcomed them into her most humble abode.  You would have enjoyed it as much as I did!

After they finished their visit, Emily went off to play with a friend.  I let Margaret and Monty wear their Japanese footgear over to Little Five Points and back.  They have thoroughly enjoyed everything you have sent them.

Please, for the sake of unity and harmony around this house, send three of everything.  Margaret nearly dies when she doesn't get something, too.  We try to divide with her, but sometimes there is nothing to give that is equal to our childrens' share. If it means getting less expensive things, OK.  If you can't duplicate the gift, just include something for her.

The rest of the page was just catty house gossip, so I decided to tear it out.

My second load of brass came.  The box was nice, except the top had split.  Nothing was lost.  The outer wrapping and rope held it in place along with nails on top.

What kind of animals are on the collection you sent this time?  I called them cats.  Father said they were dogs.  Monty said they were "just animals."

I was delighted to see pairs of things.  Two pairs of candlesticks, vases and the large vases, too.  The little incense burner is attractive and I just love your favorite piece!

Did you find some of the brass polished or have you been polishing it yourself?  I am going to send you some polish.

The two mirrors, coins, tiny ash tray, bell and bowls arrived in good order.  I was delighted with the brush.  Is the black solid material ink or sealing wax.  I haven't had a brush like that since I took water coloring in college.  We used them to paint with.  Martha's indoor tabes are darling.  We all just laugh when Martha walks across the room in them.  She knows she is the center of attention and enjoys the exhibition.  By the time she is across, her feet are out or sideways.

At the clinic the other day, Martha saw a little girl stand on her head, bent over with her feet still on the ground.  Ever since then Martha has been perfecting her stance.  Every time I change her diaper, she turns over and stands on her head for me.

I am glad you are taking a rest.  I hope you aren't seriously ill.  Is your cold still with you?  Have you had an attack of the arthritis since your cold?  I think it is lovely that you can get to go back to Nikko.  Let me hear all about it.  Did you stay at the inn?  Get the manager to take another picture of you.

I will send you the leave list in the next letter.

The December $100 bond came yesterday.  That leaves only the January and February to come.

All my love to you,

Your own Lovely Dovely,


Sunday, May 9, 2010

A surprise in an official Joint Chiefs document

Today we have a short letter from Maj. Gillham written mainly as a cover letter for his photo collection from Nikko.  As soon as I get a scanner I will start posting some of these pictures.  The postscript at the bottom is a reference to the fact that the Army of the Pacific's Rear Eschelon, which had been stationed in Manila, was now moved to Tokyo, so now all Army mail is routed to Tokyo.

9 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

Enclosed are some of the pictures that I took at Nikko.  Also a few others that were on the roll.  I have another roll that I haven't finished yet.

Received no mail again today, so I guess what is on its way is coming by boat.

George Bull had dinner with me and then I went to the train with him.  He is going to Niigata tonight and return tomorrow.  It is quite a strenuous trip as ther is no sleeper, but he is the most avid sightseer that I have run into.

I sent you a money order this morning for $100.  I hope you receive it O.K.

Tomorrow is Sunday, but I plan to work. I will get the time off a little later.

Today I was looking at a document put out by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington and sent to the Commanding Generals of all the theaters and other high places, giving a digest of the situation in Japan.  I could see sentences, the construction of which I had puzzled over two months ago.  They were there intact without change.

This is the longest I have ve been separated from you since we were married.  I am not in favor of it.  It is entirely too long a time and I want to see you very much.

The time will pass, though, I guess, and then won't it be fun.

Lots of love,


P.S. Adv. Esch. is not necessary in my address any more.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Maj. Gillham buys himself a present: a black silk kimono

In today's letter, we find a hodge-podge of topics, including an interesting lesson in diary keeping. 

8 Feb 1946

Enclosed is money order for $100.  I find that that is about the best way to send it.  Other methods are so slow and uncertain.  If you can sock this away now, I am sure that we will soon be able to use it to advantage.

I haven't received any more mail from you lately, but everyone is having trouble with their mail now.  I am glad that I had a nice batch of it from you when I returned from Nikko.

Today I attended a conference on scientific research activities that the Japs should be allowed to pursue.  It was presided over by an Australian Brigadier.  I must admit that at times I had trouble understanding him.

Today I got myself a present.  It is the first thing I have gotten for myself since I have been here.  It is a black silk man's kimono.  It makes a fine dressing gown and will be fine for traveling since it packs into a small space.  Also, I need it here in this hotel.

Maj. Wade is here now.  I had supper with him tonight.  He is planning to stay here as long as they will let him.

Today I saw an officer that has the diary problem solved.  He has a lot of loose-leaf notebook pages -- his wife has the book and he encloses the pages in letters to her.  If I had done that I might have been able to keep a respectable diary.  As it is I seldom get to make an entry.

How are things at home now, besides the tight housing situation?  Are foods and other commodities plentiful?  How are prices?  Are they still rising?

This is a strange and artificial world that I live in here.  It may take me some time to regain a sense of values.  You are the most constant value in my life.  With you as par I have something to tie to.

Lots of love,


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An earnest letter from Maj. Gillham about their relationship

Today we have a very personal letter from Maj. Gillham to Frances, one that would probably be tough to edit for the kids, since there wouldn't be much letter left that they would find interesting.  It seems that the phase of novelty and discovery about Japan is starting to wane and Maj. Gillham (and Frances) are becoming increasingly more interested in the end game and their future lives together back in the states.

7 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

I can't get much correspondence done because every time I sit down to write, I always write to you.  I start thinking about you and a thousand thoughts race through my head that I want to convey to you.  Writing is such a slow, laborious process that I never get them all down and spend about two days talking to you -- and then stay there and keep on talking to you.  You have a sympathy, understanding and appreciation that I find in no one else.  I used to be able to talk to Dad that way some, but ou are the only other person.  I have the little proof picture of you before me on my miniature writing desk at all times.  It helps me to remember how pretty you are.  During long separations like this people are apt to build dream pictures of each other and then be let down when reality returns.  I am speaking now of behavior more than looks.  I feel confident that you and I have been through enough together to avoid a silly pitfall like that.  I believe that any period of instability in our relations has now shaken down and we stand together on a firm foundation of mutual love and understanding.  But don't build me up in your mind too much, for I am just as bad ss ever and will probably make you very angry before we have been together a week.  Now I have no fear of these little thunderstorms, for I know that they are followed by fresh, sparkling sunshine.

Today is cold and dreary.  It has snowed hard all afternoon and is slushy in the streets.  It is good to have a warm, dray place to work and sleep.

When I get several letters from you at once as I did on my return from Nikko, I can't digest them all at once, but have to read them over several times at intervals for two or three days so I can thoroughly enjoy them.  Tonight I read the two magazine articles that you sent.  I enjoyed them thoroughly.  The fact that you sent them to me indicates that you know me pretty well.

Several from our office are leaving.  Capt.  Lehman, who was a very fine gentleman and a good man for whom to work is going to the Eighth Army to become the Inspector General.  It is hard to keep an organization together here now.

I don't think that the obe that I sent you goes well with your kimono.  You don't "select" the things you get here -- you just get what you can when you can.  A Japanese friend has promised to give me an obe the next time I come out to his house.  Maybe it will be better.  A whole rig is neccesary to properly put on an obe.  I don't think you will want to wear one, but I will try to get the accessories just so you will have them.

Lots of love to my sweet, sweet darling.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Countdown to Valentine's Day -- and the return home

Today's is more of an organizational letter, reporting what things have arrived and what things are on their way.

6 Feb 1946

Dearest Lovely Dovely,

Another Valentine came from you today.  You said you are ready -- well so am I.

I got a chance to look over the Virginia calendar more closely and it certainly brings back memories -- both the picture and the comments you put in.  Thanks a lot for them.  It personalizes it and makes me feel like I am looking at it with you.

Today I sent off six packages.  Two by air mail -- one containing pictures and the other addressed to Father containing birthday presents for Margaret, Mother 'Cile and Father.  They had to be small and light so I could send them by air in the hopes that they will arrive on time.

The other four packages contain various items I have collected lately.  One is to Monty containing a red kimono for her birthday.  You will notice that it was take up in the waist for the little girl that used to own it.  The best kimonos are all second hand, but they are in good shape, and after it is fitted to Monty it can be cleaned.  The storks on it are considered very lucky here.

The white silk scraps are from a parachute.  With them and the blue silk you should be able to make something.

I had a pair of black silk stockings and a loud scarf to send to Cora, but they got wrapped up in one of your packages.  Will you send them on to her?

On your Valentine you said you got the box to Martha.  I wonder which one.  What was in it?

I have been in Tokyo three months today.  This is about the halfway mark.  I should be home in this much more time.

I am enjoying the marshmallows and the figs.  You are a very dear, sweet, thoughtful, lovable wife -- and what's more, I love you.