Monday, March 1, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: My grandmother's sister offers some advice

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

Below is a transcription of a letter my maternal grandmother received from her sister, Minnie, in January of 1942, shortly after my grandfather made the decision to join the service. Apparently, my grandmother hadn't been consulted, and she wasn't happy. Minnie also shares a lot of family news.

January 25, 1942
Sunday Afternoon

My darling sister, --

Ever since I received your letter I have been trying to think how I could help you get your bearings for it is evident you are upset and “at sea.”

Not that I don’t sympathize, for I certainly can, but being this far away perhaps I can help you find your duty. In the first place, I feel as you do, that Martin should have had your consent. But he probably knew you would never give it! And he must have wanted to serve with great desire, for the reasons you stated. In the years to come you will most likely be very proud of his service, and will be doubly proud if you can bring yourself to cooperate and make his sacrifice less difficult. Suppose he was serving for $21.00 a month as thousands are!

Of course, if you get the position you have applied for, you will go ahead as you have planned – but let me tell you that you will be harassed the whole time about suitable help, and find that no one can or will manage as you yourself do. Can you get someone who has a personal interest in the children to manage the home?


I still want you to rent your place for the summer and make my place your headquarters. Then you can go and come at will – leaving or taking the children. We have a quiet shady place that would be grand for the tots.

Then, we’ll take a trip (if we can) to San Marcos, Austin, Beeville and Corpus! May be take a cottage for a month there. August and I can share expenses and want to go. If you can rent the house permanently, you can stay on here and do war work in E.P. There seems to be plenty of it!

August has had another flare up, his pressure running up to 300 and the Dr. thinks he had a light stroke. They took another pint of blood which is being preserved for [?] use. This is what makes me panicy after living with a person for 36 years – I don’t know how to go on living without him. I realize something could happen any time that would be finis for him.

If you don’t like this idea, why don’t you consider going with Martin, as so many officer’s wives do?

Does he look on this idea with favor? If he does, that should be your first choice.

You didn’t ever ask me for all this advice – but I am so anxious to help you over this rough place, I am talking to you as I would one of our girls.

Please write me right away as to any decision you are considering or have made. If you and Martin talk things over further perhaps you could come to a better understanding. You see, Sis, it is extremely important for you not to make a mistake in this crisis.

Yes, poor Shirley had a hard experience, as I think it went hard with her and on account of quarantine she had had a lonely time of it. She could hardly wait until the 21st to get back to her duties only to find out she still had the germs and had to be isolated another week! If she is found to have them still on Monday it will be the same thing again. I have been writing her daily and sending family letters (including yours) and clippings. She sent me some recent pictures of herself – Think I’ll send one to you so you can see how thin she has become. I am afraid her dieting might have been responsible for the sickness. Do you?

Her boss has gone into army work and she is due a big raise. Her suitor will then be her boss! What a mix-up! Corinne was to enter a hospital this month to rectify her broken nose. She has hospitalization. Elsa and Tiny take quite an interest in Buddy while he is there and attending school. We sold his pony and bought him a bicycle.

Fran was down for a day or two. Carolyn is out of danger (she was at Shirley’s before they knew what she had) & Fran is having her take shots for all the things they give them for – We took some pictures of Carolyn but they were not very good. Harley would like to get in defense work with his big truck.

We have just had our living room and kitchen retinted and have acquired a new model gas stove. The next thing is to start gardening as the days are becoming warmer. We’ve had plenty of cold.

I may get a loomette.

Your loving Sister who loves and prays for you


Your Dr. Johnson from Third Baptist Church is holding mass meetings in E.P. He is considered one of the best in U.S.A.


Names: Shirley, Elsa and Fran(ces) are all daughters of Minnie (Van Every) and August Benold. Carolyn is the daughter of Frances and Harley Searcy. Tiny is Marcus, the son of Elsa and Marcus Waltermire. Buddy is Leonard, the son of Shirley and Leonard Griffith, and Corinne is their daughter - though Leonard Sr had died in 1940, which is why Shirley had a suitor.

E.P. is El Paso.

My grandmother was able to get the position in the post office she was seeking, and didn't take her sister up on the offer. She did take her children to visit their Texas relatives after the war, in 1947.

By "your Dr. Johnson" I believe Minnie was only referencing the fact that Dr. C Oscar Johnson was from St. Louis, as my grandmother wasn't a member of the church.

Blood pressure of 300 is quite severe. Minnie's husband, August Benold, died in October of 1942.

I'm not sure what Shirley had that she had to be quarantined. Whatever it was, she made it through, as she didn't die until 2000, at the age of 91.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am really enjoying your Amanuensis Monday theme. I am currently transcribing the letters that my grandparents wrote during World War II. I am posting a letter daily. My blog is