Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Maj. Gillham sends home some photos of Hiroshima

Here is a quick letter from Maj. Gillham written basically to accompany a set of pictures he in enclosing.  It's interesting to note how much trouble he was having taking pictures of Hiroshima in the rain, and it makes you remember how arduous 35mm photography used to be.  It's a shame he never got to experience the advent of digital photography, because I have a feeling he would have loved it. 

Incidentally, I am sure I have seen these photographs of Hiroshima, but as yet we have not found them.  When I was a kid, I found in our attic a cigar box full of loose photographs of a totally destroyed city, and my mother explained to me that it was photos that her dad had taken of Hiroshima.  They may still be up in the attic, but we haven't found them in our recent rummages.

8 Mar 1946

Dearest Darling,

Enclosed are some pictures, most of which were taken on the Hiroshima trip.  Some was Jap film and some American, but most came out fairly well considering that it was so dark and raining so hard that all the pictures in and around Hiroshima had to be bulb exposures.  This meant I always had to find something solid to set the camera on and then guess at the length of the exposure.  There were many beautiful pictorial spots around the Inland Sea, but conditions were just too bad.

I am duty officer tonight.  Now that I have returned from my trip, the weather is bright and clear.  Col. Jacobs is in the hospital.  I must try to get to see him if I can.  He had a bad sore throat.

We may try to have a little reunion of Chicago alumnae next week.  There are a good many of us in the vicinity.  I hear that Kirk is here now, but I haven't seen him yet.

I am glad I talked to you on the telephone when I did.  With this mail situation like it is, it is good to know that you were all right on 24 Feb.  My last letter still was postmarked 8 Feb.  Now with a telephone strike I might not have been able to get through to you.

I am coming myself one of these days, just you wait and see.

Loads of love,


Sunday, June 27, 2010

More news from Atlanta, including a basketball game

Here is another letter from Frances catching Maj. Gillham up on all the goings-on in Atlanta.  She talks about a basketball game between Seminary and NAPS, which is the Washington Seminary high school and the North Avenue Presbyterian School.  Both schools later merged to become what is now the Westminster School.

After the game, they all went to the Varsity, which is probably familiar to most readers. It is a famous hamburger drive-in founded in 1928 a few blocks east of Georgia Tech, and it is still very much an Atlanta institution.

Dearest, My Love,

The big box of silks came today.  In it were the things for Cora, the kimono for Emily, the lovely blue silk pajamas for me, the handkerchiefs, scarf, stockings and the handsome brocade.  They are all simply lovely.  It is hard to say which I like best.  I was delighted to get the blue silk and parachute material, too.  I am going to try to make us some nice frilly things out of them.

I can hardly wait to wear the blue pajamas for you.  I'll be sure they are nice and fresh, too!

What can the brocade be used for?  Is it a cover or do you make coats out of it?  I think it is handsome.

Mr. Weisiger came over yesterday afternoon about two with Professor Sutton.  Sutton just brought him by.  He is not coming to Japan now.

Mr. K.W. looked at all the brass and liked it very much.  He enjoyed the little books you sent Monty.  He had a nice time with the "rubber foot" dolls.

He read us an article he has written on the re-education of Japan.  I will send it along.  He gave me a copy for you.  He stayed until five o'clock.  Then I drove him home.

Father returned from the convention in Chicago last night.  He had a fine time, because he had a chance to do some sightseeing.  He and Mr. Durden, one of his salesmen, went to see the Field Museum and the Aquarium.  Father enjoyed the natural history exhibits with the animals in natural habitats. He also remarked about your elephants.

This morning I called the doctor in to see Martha.  She had a fever of 100 degrees this morning.  That was under her arm, too.  The doctor came out and said she had tonsillitis.  He said it would be four or five days before the tonsils would subside entirely.  However, he said she would improve each day.

She is so pitiful and forlorn.  Emily says that she feels especially sad because Martha is so good and uncomplaining.  She is so sad -- and so am I.  She has slept most all day and is sleeping away now.

Peg writes that Carol West's husband, Scotty, is back from Japan and I hear that most of the others around Robles have returned, too.

Tonight Bryant and I took Emily, Monty and Margaret to the Seminary-NAPS annual basketball game.  Seminary won 30-14.  Dorothy Fugitt gave up her job as phys. ed. teacher at NAPS this year, so they had a new coach.

Emily was more interested in the cheerleaders.  She has been doing all the antics ever since.  She came home making up yells and cheers for her grade at school.  Monty can hardly wait to be large enough to play basketball.  She said tonight that she'd just love to play.

After it was over, Bryant drove us around Tech and up to the Varsity for hamburgers and Orange Crush.  Emily said, "Mother, aren't we having an elaborate evening!"  Margaret enjoyed it immensely, too.  She remarked to her mother that she was staying up late tonight and that it must be midnight.  It was only nine, but Margaret had such a large time it seemed terribly late.

Please see if you can get Margaret a kimono.  She is five and wears about a size six.  Monty's red one came and she loves it.

Darling, you are an angel to be so kind and thoughtful to all of us.  You are an angel anyway, tho, and I love you to pieces.

All my love,


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Maj. Gillham is back in Tokyo

Today we have two letters from Maj. Gillham written and mailed on the same day, with the first one having been mailed via registered mail along with a money order.  The second letter was mailed regularly and is much longer and newsier.  These are his first letters after returning from his trip down to Hiroshima, and you can sense that he is really ready to come home now.

7 Mar 46

Dearest Darling,

I mailed you a letter yesterday telling of my trip south.  This one may reach you first, for I plan to send it registered and I hear that registered air mail is the only thing that is being flown.  If you get this within two weeks, please reply by registered air mail.

I had a rather hard reaction to some shot that I took yesterday, but feel OK now. 

Your last letter that I have received was mailed 8 Feb.

I am enclosing a money order for $100.  I wonder if you got the last one?  It was mailed about 10 Feb.  There is no use in asking you a question about it or anything else, the way the mails are now I wouldn't get the answer before I left here.  I will try to anticipate any questions you might have and give you my ideas when I write.  If something comes up requiring an answer, send me a cable, or else cable requesting that I call you on the telephone.  I feel much farther away now than when I first came over here, and I am getting very anxious to get home.  Anyhow, it won't be very much longer now.

Lots of love,



7 Mar 1946

Dearest Love,

Sent you a note and $100 money order this morning by registered mail.  It may reach you long before this if they really send it by air as I hear they may.  It only costs 20 cents and is certainly worth it if it will speed up this mail situation.

I have about gotten over my shots and feel much better.  Many others that took this batch of shots had bad reactions also.  I don't think I will have to take any more while I am in the army, I am glad to say.

There is nothing much new about which to write, but I still love you as much or more than ever.

I saw Dick Johnson today.  He had a civilian job with a P-7 rating all lined up and was just ready to sign up when he got a cable from Ann telling him to come on home.  The job would have paid him about $9,000 per year, but his is passing it up and going home in a few days.  He can leave whenever he wants to, for the navy military government officers were not held under the regulations that governed the army officers.

I am stocking up on underwear, socks, shoes, gloves, etc., that I can use after I return.  I can get them much cheaper in the army and they are good material.  I got a very nice pair of tan calf skin officers gloves today.  I think I will just save them for next fall.

When I don't get any mail for a long period I just get out some of your old letters and look over all the nice pictures you sent me.  It helps some.

The group of educators has just arrived but I don't think Dr. Sutton is with them. I will check again in a few days.

As I remember Atlanta, it is very nice there in April and May.  I hope you and the children can get out and enjoy it some.  You should remember a lot of pretty spots near Atlanta.  We used to explore them enough!

When I talked to you on the telephone, you said Martha had a cold and you implied you all had had a lot of sickness.  I do hope you can stay well from now on.  Try to get outdoors regularly and make a little weekend expedition now and then.  It will do you all good in many ways.  Drive out to some country hotel and spend the night.  You will be surprised how much better you feel when you return.  It breaks the routine.

I think that instincts similar to those which "drove" me to get married in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles are beginning to work on me again.  I feel an impelling urge to return to my little flock and look after them.  You all stick together until I get there -- it won't be long, if I can help it.  We may have our troubles getting settled at first, but we have jumped a lot of hurdles together and I am sure we can can make one more.

How was the trip to Memphis?  I hope you enjoyed it.  Who went with you?  How is the car doing?  We may have to run it at least another year, so take good care of it.  And above all take good care of my three little chicks.  I know I don't have to tell you that, for you have always been a very devoted and attentive mother.

Give my love to all the family.  Tell Pop they finally got some Whittemore's shoe polish in the PX here.

Lots of love,


Friday, June 25, 2010

The girls go to a formal party and learn about kissing

Here is another newsy letter from Frances, dealing primarily with a birthday party the girls went to.

Mar 6, 1946

Dearest Angel Love,

You are constantly in my thoughts.  Spring has come early this year.  The daffodils, yellow jasmine and peach blossoms are all in full bloom.  It is like Charlottesville.  Across the street there is some lavender flower blooming just like the one we had on the side of our house in Charlottesville.  As I walk around and see the beautiful blossoms, my thoughts drift to you.  I think of such lovely things to say to you, if you were here by my side.  The things I'd say would be bright and gay as the daffodils in the sunlight or soft and gentle as the apple blossoms falling on Jerry asleep under the apple tree.

Emily, Monty and Margaret were invited to Claire Livingston's birthday party today.  She asked them and informed them that they were to come in evening dresses because they was to be a boy for each girl and they were going to dance.  You should have seen Bryant and me flying around here digging up her old evening dresses to cut up for our children!  Claire was ten today.  Bryant made Margaret one out of white taffeta she had.  I cut up a lovely pink organdy one for Emily.  Emily pinned a blue velvet ribbon on the shoulder and had a blue velvet ribbon in her hair.  She looked like an angel -- and she said she felt like one, too.  When she came home she sighed in her own Emily way and said, "Mother, I just wish I could wear evening dresses all the time!"

Monty had a blue-ish purple dress with ruffles on it.  She wore a camellia in her hair.  She had her hair up on top of her head like the picture we had made in Chicago.  She was darling.

They played "Spin the Bottle" and other forms of kissing games.  Margaret was too young to let it bother her, so she was quite the belle of the ball!  Monty said that she kissed one little boy twice and he kissed her three times.

Emily came home a bit more evasive.  She said that she had to the boys five or six time and -- oh, yes -- they kissed her, too.  She thought it was rather silly, but Monty just loved it!  Monty said tonight at supper that she was going to have a birthday next and that was the kind of party she wanted to have!  Quite a contrast to the party she had last year when you led the children in "Follow the Leader."

You better come home and look after your daughters or some other young man will!!  They are growing up so fast!

I went out to Fort McPherson on Monday and had two teeth extracted.  They were my two right wisdom teeth.  I nearly fainted when he shot the Novocaine in.  I remembered at Woodrow Wilson when I fainted with you there.  There was a slight infection under the lower one, and I went out this morning to have it treated.  I'll go again Saturday.

Bryant just told me a joke she heard at her Grey Lady work.  Here it is --

A lady got on a crowded street car and worked her way back to the middle of the car.  She leaned over and whispered to a man in an aisle seat, "Mister, please may I have your seat, I am expecting and.. er"  The man gallantly arose and let the lady sit down.  Then he began to notice that she didn't show any signs of expecting.  So he asked her, "Lady, you don't look as if you are expecting.  How far along are you?"  "Oh," said the lady, "thirty minutes, and I am just exhausted!"

The two other boxes of brass arrived and I have to admit that I was overcome and flabbergasted when I unpacked it all and saw so much tarnished brass sitting around me.  The gong and all those big pieces seemed to much for me.  However, I am polishing one piece a day and they are really handsome.  Mother has just put all her vases away and I am placing the polished pieces of brass about the house.  In that way, they shine and glow and give a bit of warmth to the whole house.  Each piece I polish I become attached to, because I enjoy seeing them shine under my work.  Tell me what is valuable and what you'd like to keep.  I am in a quandary about giving any away until you come back.

Monty's kimono came today.  It is beautiful.  She loves it.  It fits her nicely and is just the right length for her.  Emily put it on and it fits her except for length.  She put the tabes and clogs on, too, and pretended that she was a real Japanese girl.

My most beautiful silk scarf, the silver desk blotter and two pins came.  The design on the blotter is elegant.  You have such excellent taste.  And you have been wonderful about sending us such lovely things.  I get so excited every time a package comes from you.  I had a terrible time waiting for Monty to come home from school today so she could open her kimono.

I had an inspiration today -- one of those kind that come upon you and seem just the thing.  I'd like to go to Bermuda with you when you get back.  You may be too tired of ships and traveling when you get back, but if you are not and we can arrange it financially and otherwise, I'd just love to go.  The thoughts of it seem so interesting and nice.  Anyway, I think I'll inquire about it just for fun.

All my love,


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Frances' daily routine

Here is a quick letter where Frances outlines an average busy day, which she says helps take her mind off the fact that her husband is overseas.

March 4, 1946

Dearest, My Love,

The days manage to go by.  They are full and overflowing with things to do and yet they lack the touch that makes them glow.  You and your vital presence supply that to my days.  Here it is March.  I hope I can be busy the rest of the time you are gone.  It keeps me in a nice safe shell.  It keeps me from wanting to dash around and do something silly.  By the time I get breakfast cooked and served to ten people 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM, the dishes washed, Martha attended to, the room straightened, clothes washed, itis time to help with lunch.  Before I can breathe good, the girls are gome at 2:30 PM.  Twice a week, I take them to dancing.  Once or twice a week I get a chance to take a nap in the afternoon.  The girls are wonderful about letting Martha play out in the yard with them.  On the days I don't fix breakfast, I cook dinner.  It is always seven or afterwards before we are thru in the kitchen.  Then I hear Monty's reading and spelling.  Emily gets her arithmetic by herself.  By the time I get them to bed, it is eight thirty or after and I am just dead or feel like screaming.  I generally put Mother Ki to bed about nine thirty.

Martha goes to bed about six thirty and goes to sleep.  When Monty and I go up to study, she wakes up and has a gay time (and incidentally contributing to the general bedlam) until the girls are undressed and in the bed with the lights out.  By trial and error we have discovered that it is more satisfactory to take the girls up to our room immediately after supper whether it wakes Martha up or not.

Friday night Bryant and I went to a fashion show at the Erlanger.  It was sponsored by Rich's, a social organization and several fabric concerns.  There were some luscious styles from the movie style designer Adrian.  Tina Leser, Hattie Carnegie, Maurice Renter and several other top style designers had costumes displayed.  My eye always caught the Western designs before they were announced because they were colorful, casual and comfortable.

Today I took Emily, Monty and Margaret to the auditorium to see a tap dancer and a fancy harmonica player.  Emily enjoyed it but it was too slow for the other two.

All my love,


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Maj. Gillham visits devastated Hiroshima

The letter today is a rather important one, since it includes Maj. Gillham's descriptions of his visit to the city of Hiroshima, which had been decimated by a uranium bomb dropped by the Allies on August 6, 1945, just seven months earlier.

There are two versions of the letter:  a handwritten version missing two pages, and a typed version which deals only with Maj. Gillham's description of Hiroshima.  My guess is that, owing to the historical significance of the Hiroshima section, someone later typed up that portion of the letter (presumably using the now-missing pages to type from and then not returning the pages to the original letter).  

The handwritten letter contains four pages, written on both sides, with the pagination of 1, 2, 5 and 6, with pages 3 and 4 missing.  The typewritten letter contains most of what is in the handwritten version, save a few incidental personal paragraphs and rewordings, as well as a long stretch which would seem to fit between pages 2 and 5.  This would appear to represent the missing handwritten pages, but with no handwritten pages to compare it with, one cannot be sure if it is exactly what is missing.  In any event, I have made an attempt to merge both letters into something that hopefully represents the letter Maj. Gillham actually wrote.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that on Thursday I received a scanner at my door, courtesy of Andrew Waskey, the son of Martha Gillham Waskey, the Gillham's little girl in these letters.  He bought it for me in memory of our Aunt Bryant, Frances' sister, who died a few weeks ago.  As I mentioned before, Bryant was the family historian, and since I have taken that mantle from her in some ways, this gift seems very appropriate and is quite appreciated!  I have not had a chance to use it yet, since I am visiting my sister in Asheville this weekend, but stay tuned for an increase in scanned photos and memorabilia in future posts. 

Fukuoka, Japan
2 Mar 1946

Dearest Darling,

I will probably carry this letter back to Tokyo with me and mail it there, but I thought I would start writing it and tell you something of my trip south while it is still fresh in my mind.

We left Tokyo Monday night on the "Allied Limited," a special train which carries only occupation force personnel.  We had berths on a first-class Japanese sleeper.  It was very nice, but they don't have very many of them in Japan.  It was a compartment car, with the berths running crosswise.  Each compartment had an upper and lower berth and a fold-down wash basin.  Two compartments could be thrown together, which made a right roomy arrangement.

We stayed in that car until about 10 A.M. the next morning, at which time the sleepers were taken off and we had to move up into a 2nd-class coach.  They aren't bad, but need maintaining.  They are about like one of our ordinary day coaches.  We rode that to Kaidaichi, where we changed trains and got on a 3rd-class coach and went to Kure.  We must have gone thru 75 to 100 tunnels during the day.  The Japanese railways seem to be operated by very young boys.  But when you come to think of it, if an 18 or 20 year old can fly an airplane better than any other age group, it would stand to reason that they could also do a good job with a locomotive.  We are just used to seeing 75 year old engineers in the states.

Several odd things noticed on the trip were:  a Japanese version of an R.R. handcar, consisting of two tandem bicycles equipped with R.R. flanged wheels and held together with tie rods so that one is over each rail;  a section gang working on the track all raised and lowered their picks together in perfect unison;  a locomotive engineer sitting in the cab of his engine, absorbed in pruning a sprig of cherry blossoms;  and all retaining walls are built with stone laid diamond-wise, like lattice-work.

Kure was a former major Japanese naval base, and consequently took quite a beating.  The town is mostly burned up and there are many sunken ships in the harbor.  The natural setting is as beautiful as you could imagine.  It is right on the Inland Sea which is a gorgeous mountain-fringed, island-studded body of water.

We visited the telephone and telegraph offices at Kure.  They were a mess, but I guess they deserve credit for trying to carry on under very difficult conditions.  They had one very good repeater station out on the edge of town.

The second day in Kure we drove over to Hiroshima.  I am glad that I had the opportunity to see that while it was still fairly recent.  It is truly an awful sight.  As you approach the city (formerly 400,000 inhabitants) you notice that the windows of most of the houses have been boarded up.  They were broken and there is no glass for replacement.  Next, you notice loose tiles on roofs, then plastered walls that have shed the plaster.  Next you see houses that look like some giant pushed them in.  A little closer and they look like a tornado had struck them.  However, the parts are not burned.  From this point on everything was burned to the ground.  Four square miles were completely destroyed.  In this area only a few steel and concrete buildings remain and their interiors were blown out.  Bare steel towers supporting electric lines were knocked over flat as if they had been run over by a train.

Everything in the central area was subjected to an extremely great heat.  In the midst of this ruination, I found a little porcelain vase that was still intact.  All the glaze had been completely melted off, but the marks of an ornamental chrysanthemum design are burned into it.

Of all the buildings in the central area, a new telephone dial office building seemed to stand up the best.  All the windows and doors, including their steel frames, were blown in and the equipment churned and scarred, but at least it was still there.

I talked to a man who was in the building at the time of the explosion and lived through it.  He was blown clear across the building, knocked unconscious and remained so for several hours.  He received a bad cut across his face from flying glass.  Another man who was in the Board of Communications Building some distance away had an ear cut off from the same thing.  Three hundred telephone operators were killed on the job.  The amazing thing to is that  none of the people show any outward resentment.  They laugh as though it were a great joke.

The sequence of events described by witnesses was (1) a blinding flash.  All who were looking towards the bomb were permanently blinded.  (2) A heat wave of great intensity.  Some who instinctively threw up their hands at the flash saved their eyes and faces from the heat.  (3) A pressure wave that knocked everything down.  (4) A returning pressure wave to fill the vacuum stirred everything up again.  (5) Everything burned simultaneously.

At a distance, people wearing white clothes were not injured, but those wearing black were badly burned.  Black clothes hanging on a line were charred and fell to pieces, while light colored things were not hurt.

To add to the woes of poor Hiroshima, a typhoon hit that area in September and did a great deal of damage.  A large hospital that was far enough from town to escape the bomb and to which many bomb casualties were taken, was practically demolished by a huge landslide.

At Iwakune I struck up a conversation with an Australian officer, who I took for an officer.  I noticed he had some little crossed sword gadget by his crown which signifies a major.  I also noticed that the Australians in the vicinity were standing very stiffly.  He turned out to be Lieut. General Northcott, who had recently arrived to take command of all British Commonwealth forces in Japan.

The weather while we were there was so cold, wet and miserable that Col. Jacobs got sick and decided to return to Tokyo.  Since I had orders to travel and was that far, I decided to go on down to Fukuoka and see Wrightson.  I left Kure at 1:30 AM, caught another train at Kaitaichi at 3:30 AM and got to Fukuoka about noon.  Wrightson is with a base command located about 15 miles out of town, but I caught a ride with a Stars and Stripes truck and got out there without any trouble.  He is looking fine and has a very nice place to stay, but it is rather isolated.  The outfit is breaking up soon and he expects to be transferred but he doesn't know where yet.  The weather continued terrible, so we didn't go out much.

The only thing I got on the trip was three little Hakata dolls and fans for the children.  Hakata is the old name for Fukuoka and the area is famous for this type of doll.  They are little porcelain figurines but have a satin-like surface and pretty colors.

The return trip took 27 hours continuous running.  It is about 600 miles down there.  I saw all the major Japanese cities on this trip.  Kyoto is the only one that is not in ruins.  I don't think that many people that haven't traveled over Japan recently have any conception of the extent of the damage that was done.  Every little town of any significance whatever is completely leveled.  I marvel that the country is functioning as well as it  is.

I hear that the only type of mail being flown to the states is registered air mail.  I will try it with this one.  I will mail it 5 Mar.  If you receive it in less than two weeks, reply by registered air mail.

I had several letters from you and the children, mailed 4 & 5 Feb, here when I returned.  I am amazed at the size of their feet!  It was interesting to read your letter written from La Jolla just before the war started.  A lot has happened since then.  The only change that has taken place in regards to my love for you is that it is greater than ever, and that means that by this time it is becoming truly immense.

Lots of love,


P.S.  Received the film and lock -- many thanks.

[The following was written on a separate page] 

P.S.  I won't register this letter after all.  I have held it several days trying to get everything together.  I wanted to enclose a money order, but the P.O. closed before I got there yesterday.

Yesterday I took some booster shots for typhoid, typhus and cholera.  They never hurt me much before, but this batch knocked the fool out of me.  I had chills and fever all night, and am still feeling rotten and staying in the hotel today.

I will mail this here and send the registered letter and money order in a day or so.  I want to get something off to you.  My last letter from you was Feb 8.




The facts of the Hiroshima bombing are well known and exhaustively documented online, but here is a brief description of the occurrence:  At 8:15 a.m. on Monday August 6, 1945, a bomb containing 130 lbs. of uranium-235 nicknamed "Little Boy" was dropped onto Hiroshima from the B-29 Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets (who had named the plane after his mother).  Over 80,000 people died instantly, or roughly one third of the city's population.  Final estimates put the area of total destruction at 4.7 square miles.  An additional 40,000 people would later die as a direct result of heat and radiation suffering in the bombing.  This and the subsequent plutonium bombing of Nagasaki two days later effectively forced the surrender of Japan and ended the war in the Pacific.

View of a residential area of Hiroshima after bombing

Map of Japan showing general train route of Maj. Gillham,
from Tokyo west to Hiroshima and Fukuoka (rail line in green).
Click on map for larger image, and then click on resulting map for even larger image.

Lieutenant General John Northcott (1890-1966), with whom Maj. Gillham spoke, was indeed the commander of the British Commonwealth Occupational Forces in Japan, and had served earlier as the Chief of the General Staff during the war itself.  He retired after his command in Japan and became the first Australian-born governor of New South Wales.
Lieutenant General John Northcott

Incidentally, I am in possession of the small vase that Maj. Gillham describes in this letter.  I will make a photo of it and post it here, so stay tuned.  I will announce in a subsequent post when I have posted the photo.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The hosiery shortage in Atlanta, and the girls learn a poem

Here is another fine letter from Frances reporting on the home front.  The last half is especially touching for me, since Frances tells of the poem "The Coin" that the girls learn, which my mother (Monty) subsequently taught us.

Pop was a shoe and leather goods salesman, and, as you will read, he planned to visit Chicago for a convention.  It's not quite the "leather convention" we would probably envision nowadays!

Feb. 28, 1946

Dearest Angel Pie,

You surely made a terrific impression around here with your birthday package to Pop, Mother 'Cile and Margaret.  The package arrived yesterday in fine condition.  Today Margaret took her box, doll and owl to school to show around.  She insists the box is a lunch box, just like Emily's and Monty's lacquer box.  She put her lunch in the box this morning.

Father is going to Chicago Saturday to a leather convention.  He is delighted that he can wear his new socks and take the handkerchief along with him.  Mother is delighted with the hose and scarf.  By the way, any time you can get hose, please send it home.  It is extremely difficult to get any in Atlanta.  The nylons come infrequently and the stores hate to stock up on rayon for fear of being caught with it if the nylon market opens up suddenly.  The old cigarette queue has turned into the hosiery queue.

Rich's published a coupon in the Constitution and one in the Journal, for one edition.  It was to be filled out and mailed before midnight of the next day for a pair of nylons.  The city mail was tremendous.  It swamped the post office worse than an unexpected Christmas mail would.  Several of our friends have received their nylons, but we haven't yet.  My one and only is the pair you sent me.

I learned that Singy's father is home on leave and expects a shore assignment afterwards. 

Col. Unger called me from Washington last night.  He seemed very nice.  I liked him especially because he said such lovely things about you.  He seems to be smart enough to appreciate you and your ability.  Thanks for having him call.  It was next best to talking to you.

Emily says that her teacher at school is wonderful because she knows how to teach teach Emily arithmetic.  When Emily first arrived, she made "average" on tests."  Now she makes "excellent" and "perfect."

The teacher takes the children to the library each Monday after school and helps them select interesting books.  On Wednesdays she gives extra credit to the children who bring their library books to school and report on them.

Every week she has the children learn a poem.  Sometimes it's short and sometimes it's long, but Emily learns them and enjoys doing it.

Last night Emily, Monty and I learned "The Coin" by Sara Teasdale --

Into my heart's treasury
I slipped a coin
That time cannot take
Nor thief purloin.
O better than the minting
Of a gold-crowned ring
Is the safe kept memory
Of a lovely thing.

Monty said that Sunday School in Robles was one of her "coins."  Emily treasured the memory of the snow in Chicago the night we went to the Christmas pageant at the University.  Other memories of theirs were autumn on Cape Cod, the fine falls at Yosemite, spring in Charlottesville and California.  They are such sweet darling children.  I am so very glad we have them.  I hope it will be soon when you can be with them again.  They miss you almost as much as I do.  You are a definite part of their lives. You are a friend and a companion to them as well as a daddy.

We enjoyed the letter about the earthquake and the native song.  Emily said she'd heard the story dramatized over "Let's Pretend."  It was an old friend to her.  Please try to get recordings of the songs.  Write us the stories, too.

Darling, you know we love you every minute of every day, and we all want to be with you again.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

More "News from Lake Washita"

Here's another great letter from Frances with all the goings-on in her little corner of Atlanta.  In this letter she talks about some 8mm film she had developed, and I know exactly the roll she is talking about.  I am sure some of the family will remember this film, as well, especially regarding Martha's face being licked by a dog.  It is fascinating to hear the stories behind the films that I have seen my whole life.  If I was a savvy blogger, I would digitize the film, upload it onto YouTube and put a link to it on this blog.  Well, maybe one day.

Feb 26, 1946

Dearest My Love,

The phone call the other night has meant so much to me.  All during the day, at odd moments or when I am busy, I can think of it.  When I do, the thought of it sends a thrill all through me.  For weeks after the first time you kissed me I would have a similar kind of thrill run thru me, when I would recall the moment.

In your last letter you wrote an answer to one I had written you concerning Paul Wright.  The three propositions you suggested might sound romantic if they referred to someone else or if I were reading about them in a book.  To me now, they mean a longer separation from you and that isn't romantic in the least bit.  I had rather starve with you than to have plenty of money and you sitting halfway around the world from me.  It'd be lots more fun starving with you than getting rich by myself.  I am ready for you to be discharged today and come home fast as you can.

However, whatever you decide to do in light of the situation at the time you have to make a decision will be fine with me.  You make such good decisions and all that you have made have been the best for all of us.  I rely upon your judgment, for you are wise and just.  And I love you for it.

Last night Bob Haggart, Carl's runner-up for Bryant's affections, came by to see her.  His father is a commadore and is in charge of the Naval Training Station at San Diego.  Bob is getting married soon and he came by to tell Bryant about it.  Bryant is so very happy that she is Mrs. T.C. Moore.  She is worrying now that she was silly enough to ever like Bob!

Our little scrap is a thing of the past.  We are great friends, Bryant and me.  She has given up Grey Lady work and started getting a trousseau ready for Carl's return.  That in itself is a leveling agent for any woman.  When shall I start to get ready for you?

Marthat is getting two more upper teeth.  She is wearing training panties now.  Yesterday she had only one pair of wet panties.  You have a daughter of whom you can be justly proud.

The color film you took of the pumpkins and Martha with Jimmie came back yesterday.  It is the best we have done in years.  There isn't a bit that needs splicing.  Martha is darling, Jimmie licked her just right.  The pumpkin and the children is perfect.  The colors are just as they should be.  Monty has on blue sweater and red skirt, the pumpkin is yellow, Lynn is in brown, Emily in blue.  The three girls somewhat overshadowed poor Jimmie.

I took some lovely shots of the fishing boats at Monterey.  The camera was running slowly, so I reduced the lens, but didn't realized that panning would be jumpy.  The lights are perfect but the panning is terrible.

Dr. Pendergrast, the family pharmacist, said he's order me some Kodachrome film.  I hope I can get it in time for the spring.  Mother's yellow bushes are in full bloom.  Father's red camellia bush is a wonderful movie shot and me sitting around with black and white in the camera!   Woe is me!  Gr-r-r!

I am planning to get some shots of Glen Memorial Church, Stone Mountain and some characteristic scenes around Atlanta.

Mr. Weisigen isn't at Oglethorpe any longer.  It kept him in the grindstone too closely.  He and Ed Clement can't afford to let their business interfere with their civic activities.  He has been busy with the recent Brotherhood conference, the YMCA membership drive and about six other similar activities.  He does them well because he enjoys them.

I am glad you didn't move out of the Dai Ichi Bldg.  You need all the breaks you can get.  You've had hardships long enough.

I bought a stamp pad.  The girls have a lovely time stamping their dolls and their "rubber foots."

Glory be!  I was called to the phone and it was Webster Nubanks, Elizabeth's boyfriend.  He said that he'd been to the Eastman Kodak place and bought me a roll of Kodachrome!!  He was out last night when I was showing the film.  I asked him to get me some if he could.  He's trying to make as much time with the family as he is with Eliz.  Which is wonderful for us but not so fine for her.  His tactics are much the same as Peyton's.  Eliz. is treating him just as I did Peyton.  Only Eliz. doesn't have a handsome Bill Gillham that she can fall in love with and marry.

Unfortunately, too, she doesn't know how to keep several boys interested at the same time until she can find the one she likes best.  She has eliminated all except Webster and yet isn't satisfied with him.  She lets him take her everywhere -- church, Sunday School, parties, and all the boys know she's going steady and they leave her alone.  Bryant and I have tried to explain these things to her, but we've finally decided to let her row her own boat.

Thanks for the little charm from Nikko.  I took it in to Bryant and let her use it on her side.  It has been paining her terribly since her illness.

Pop is going to Chicago next week to a convention.  He will stay at the Congress Hotel, just north of the Stevens on Michigan.  He was asking me to tell him points of interest to see.  In doing so, Emily and I got most interested in going back ourselves -- just for a visit.  Time is the great healer of wounds to the flesh and spirit, I should think!

All my love,


Sunday, June 6, 2010

...and Major Gillham relays his version of the overseas call

Today we get to hear Maj. Gillham's version of the overseas telephone call with Frances.  Not surprisingly, his story is very much that of an engineer, dealing mainly with the technical aspects of it.

25 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

It was certainly a thrill to talk halfway around the world to you last night.  It has made you seem real and live again instead of just a dream.  It may have been that the American transmitter was a little better than the Japanese one, for I heard you very plainly and distinctly.  Your voice would distort at times, but it was always intelligible.  Just when my call was put up the lights in the room went out, in true Japanese fashion, and I had to grope in the total darkness to even find the telephone.  I was unable to refer to my notes and had made no previous effort to memorize them.  Just as the operator was trying to get me to stop, the lights came on, and I realized I hadn't mentioned half the things I had in my notes.  Anyway, it was certainly fun, and the main thing was just to hear your voice again.

It sounds like that woman in Calif. is being coached by Mrs. Baldwin.  Well, let your offer stand, and if she won't take it, give her nothing.  Tell her I am to be discharged from the army "very soon."  Then let her make the next move.

I am sorry I called you at such an ungodly hour, but I wanted to get it in before going to Hiroshima and had to take what time was open.

Today I sent you a wooden box by parcel post, containing some lacquer, etc.  Let me know when it arrives.  The seven sake cups contain pictures of the seven wise men, or seven "happy gods" prominent in Japanese tradition.  The three red lacquer bowls of different sizes are a set used in the marriage ceremony and are dated Showa 11, or 1936.  I got them at Nikko and they seem to be good lacquer.  Also I like the carved lacquer postcard box.  It is an old piece.  I kept in on my desk until I sent  it and would like to hang on to it.  The other pieces are things made up new for the PX.  Time will tell whether they are good or not.  I made no attempt to get something for everyone in the family in this box, but just sent what I had on hand.  There is a little doll for Margaret and a cherry bark cigarette box for Father.

I leave tonight for Hiroshima and am looking forward to the break.  I have been working steadily since I returned from Nikko.

Tell Bryant I have a string of pearls for her and they are a "presento" (a new word recently added to the Japanese language) from me to her.  Shall I mail them or wait and bring them with me?

You will have to wait until 23 June to find out if you are going to get any yourself.  Isn't that horrible?

Loads of love,



The Seven Lucky Gods are a traditional grouping in Japanese folklore, and each god has his own personality and duty.  Their depictions are ubiquitous in Japan, like on the seven sake cups Maj. Gillham mentions above, as well as on netsuki figures and prints found on walls in homes and small retail shops.  The seven gods are as follows:

1. Hotei, the fat and happy god of good health and abundance.  I own a brass Hotei figure that is presumably from Maj. Gillham's collection.  In our house we always referred to him with the familiar form, Hotei-san.

2.  Jurojin, god of longevity

3.  Fukurokuju, god of happiness and wealth

4.  Bishamonten, god of warriors

5.  Benzaiten, goddess of art, knowledge, beauty and music

6.  Daikokuten, god of commerce and trade

7.  Ebisu, god of fishermen and merchants

The Seven Lucky Gods, in the same order as above.
Click on photo for larger image.

The year Showa 11 refers to the eleventh year of the Showa dynasty.  Emperor Hirohito was known officially as Showa and attained the throne in 1926.  Therefore, 1936 would be the 11th year of his reign, with Showa 1 being 1926. 

It is interesting that Maj. Gillham, while counting off the items that he sent Frances, mentions that "the other pieces are things made up new for the PX."  This is the very subject matter of the film Teahouse of the August Moon, from 1955 starring Glen Ford.  Ford's character is an Army officer stationed in occupied Japan and is sent by his irrascible C.O., played by Paul Ford (Mayor Shinn in the film The Music Man) down to southern Japan to rebuild a small village and help it regain its economic footing.  The initial plan is to have the villagers create handmade trinkets and gew-gaws that could be sold in Army PX's throughout the country.  This plan, of course, goes badly awry.  Apparently, though, this sort of economic planning did take place in Japan at that time.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Frances recounts the overseas call...

Today's letter is all about the phone call that Maj. Gillham talked about in the previous post, even though it will be a while before Frances gets that letter.  She starts with a salutation that I am quite familiar with, since she often called me "angel pie" while I was growing up.

As you could probably guess from the ellipsis in today's title, the next letter in the sequence is Maj. Gillham's account of the phone call, so stay tuned.

Feb 24, 1946

Dearest Angel Pie,

You gave me such a delightful, thrilling experience last night. Talking to you half way round the world was marvelous, to put it mildly.

I set my alarm clock for 3:45 AM as the overseas operator said she’d call me then. I was so excited that I woke up at twenty minutes to four, got up and went downstairs and sat by the phone until the phone rang at 4:00AM.

The operator in S.F. announced that she was the overseas operator and was ready to connect me with a call from Tokyo. There was a brief pause, then I heard another operator with a definite oriental accent saying “Hello, Mrs. Gillham, just a minute.” And then your own sweet voice! Honestly, I was thrilled beyond measure. You sounded so natural and happy. Darling, it was a delight to talk to you again. Just think, you were halfway around the world from me. The sun had just set in Tokyo and had not risen here, yet our voices traveled fast enough for us to carry on a continuous conversation.

Is there any chance of getting another call soon? There I go – just can’t be satisfied with a little – always wanting more – especially when my want is you, darling.

Monty and Emily were thrilled even though they didn’t get to talk to you. Monty couldn’t believe that I had really – really – talked to her sweet daddy. I told them all you said this morning before we got out of bed. We had Martha in with us – a regular Sunday morning bed get-together. You were the only one missing, but you were certainly the subject of our conversation.

You make life so interesting. Your letters, your gifts, and now your phone call. The only way you could improve the situation would be to come home yourself. That is the day I live for now. Your voice over the phone was wonderful. It made me want to see you more than ever. June seems so very far away!

Martha has three teeth now – two on the bottom and one on the top. I thought Monty had written you that she had lost her two front uppers. The new ones have grown halfway in. I took them to the dentist the other day. Monty had three of her six-year molars filled. He just didn’t bother to fill the baby teeth. Emily didn’t have to have any work done. I am going to have two wisdom teeth pulled. The dentist took x-rays of them and I go tomorrow to see about them.

Friday night, Elizabeth and I took Emily and Monty to the Fox to see The Bells of St. Mary’s, with Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby. They enjoyed stepping out.

They went to supper at the church Thursday night, too. Now they take dancing Wednesday afternoons at 3:30 and Saturday at 1:30. I drive them out to Emory. They are in the same class at the present. They take tap-ballet, acrobatic, but no toe dancing. The teacher is good. She manages children as well as Mrs. Crawford in Jackson.

Bryant said if you get a piece of dirt or molten metal at Hiroshima for her, she’d surely appreciate it. I will be so interested to hear of your trip. Why are you going? How did you and Col. Jacobs happen to be going together?

Thanks again and again for the phone call. It was wonderful.



Friday, June 4, 2010

Maj. Gillham sets up telephone call with Frances

Maj. Gillham is in fine fettle while writing this letter.  He's just received a bunch of letters from Frances, and he is planning a trip to Hiroshima and southern Japan.  But foremost on his mind seems to be the telephone call that he has arranged with Frances.  This was effected by Frances' "trouble letter" that you may remember from earlier in the blog.

23 Feb 1946

Dearest "Lovely Dovely,"

Today I received several letters from you.  Two dated 1 Feb and one that must have come by air dated 8 Feb.  I received the pictures, your trouble letter, the collection of business letters, and your sweet and interesting letter telling of receiveing the second box of brass.

I have been in a whirl today getting things arranged.  I have the telephone call set up for tomorrow afternoon, and I hope you will know about that long before you receive this.  It will be wonderful to have us pulled together in the matter of time, if not space.  I don't know when I have been so excited about anything.

Monday night I am leaving with Lt. Col. Jacobs to go to Hiroshima and to inspect a telephone plant in southern Japan.  I already have the orders, so it should go through o.k.  I will be gone 4 or 5 days or maybe longer.  I had to do some fast operating to get this through, but I decided I might as well get what I can out of it while I am here.  Traveling under orders this way we will have Pullman reservations and it should be a nice trip.  I might even get to return by air.  I may get as far down as Fukuoka -- if so, I will try to see Sam Wrightson.

I was delighted to get the pictures even if they are fuzzy.  I don't know what causes that.  I always had the same trouble with that camera.  I wish I had it here now.  I could probably get $75 to $100 for it.

To answer some of your questions:  Yes, I polished on some of the brass, but I only had a blitz cloth and I wore it out.  The piece is a Buddhist temple incense burner.  I saw several just like it in operation in Nikko. I think Monty is right about the “animals.” We call them dogs, but they may be lions. They are found around all temples in various places (there is one on top of the incense burner above), but the male always looks to the left and has his mouth open, and the female looks to the right and has her mouth closed. That shows the degree to which this art was conventionalized, like the ancient Egyptian.

I don’t know what the other large vase is, but I thought it would be nice for hanging a trailing vine.

I am sorry I haven’t sent things for Margaret. I have thought of it, but it just meant not getting the package off, so I went on and sent what I had. I sent her several little things by air for her birthday, so she will be ahead of the other children then. I will send her something next time. She looks mighty cute in the pictures. So do they all. I am amazed at how big they all are. Has Monty lost a front tooth? How are her teeth? Are they very crowded?

The black solid material is ink. You rub it in a little tray of water and make what ink you need for the moment. I am looking for a writing box, which contains this tray. Brushes are rather plentiful. Would you like some more of various sizes? I understand the portable brush holder is quite an antique and perhaps valuable.

I would love to see the children playing “Japanese,” and I am sure the Japanese would, too.

I got rid of the cold I had at Christmas, after a couple of weeks, and have been in good health since, except for some arthritis. I developed that as a result of skiing. It is mostly in my left shoulder now.

I think you are very smart to handle all the business so well. When I come back, I think I will just let you keep on doing it. There was a $5 error in Cousin Ruth’s statement, which I am returning with explanation. She just got mixed up, and I am sure she will understand when you point it out to her.

Mother ‘Cile and Father certainly have a fine looking group of grandchildren – and just think, another is on the way.

With two nice things to look forward to (calling you and the trip), I am feeling very fine tonight.

Loads of love,



I didn't find out much about the blitz cloth, but I did manage to find an image of a blitz cloth container that was featured on a website about items from WWII.  I imagine, then, that the name comes from the German word Blitzkrieg, which is where most of our usage of the word blitz comes from.  I would assume it was the wonder cloth of its day, very much like the current Shamwow.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Describing Tokyo's street system

This past weekend a very important character in this story passed away:  Bryant Holsenbeck Moore, Frances' little sister, died in the morning hours of Monday May 31st in Atlanta at the age of 91.  She is survived by her daughter Margaret, who we have read about a lot in recent letters, and her son Thom, who was born after these letters were written.  She will be buried next to her husband, Carl Moore, at Arlington National Cemetery some time this summer.  She was our family historian, keeping records and family minutiae that will be invaluable for future generations, and I was happy to have been able to spend some time with her during my 12 years in Atlanta.

This is just a quick letter from Maj. Gillham written on a surprise day off, for Washington's birthday.

22 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

After pulling out of bed this morning and going to the office, we were informed that it would be a holiday and we could have the day off to celebrate Washington's birthday.  Most of us just stayed on and worked a while.  This afternoon I went with Dick Wilson down to an undamaged area near the Imperial University. The stores were mostly second-hand book shops and the like.  It was a very interesting part of town.  I got some Victrola records of Kabuki and Geisha singing.  I also got one children's record, but I suspect the tune of being English or at least European.

One thing that makes it difficult to find your way around in Tokyo, or any Japanese city, is that the streets have no names.  Only areas are named and these sometimes contain many blocks.  The block within the area is numbered, but no order for this number seems to apply.  Next, the houses are numbered within the block but chronologically according to the dates when they were built.  Add to this a street plan which is a combination of Boston and Atlanta and you see what the problem might be.  One officer told me that he recently hunted all day for an address and finally found it -- a pile of ashes.

Enclosed is a picture that Wilson took of me recently while I was taking some of that last batch I sent you.

Loads of love,