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.

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