Letter Writing – A Lost Art

27 Jan

I have been so pleased with the response to Elsie’s story. Some have really made my day by sending me a note telling me how much they enjoyed reading Elsie. Thank you each and every one who has read the book.
This “tidbit” will be about the lost art of letter writing. I would not have been able to write “Elsie” without the letters she had saved. Her letters from her mother were a connection that I treasure. I never knew my great-grandmother, May Carrie Hayes. Through her letters I have had a glimpse into her relationship with Elsie and a picture of her character.
Elsie’s letters were her only way to communicate with her family in California. While Elsie lived in Cornville, letters were sometimes delayed for weeks due to the rivers being too full for the mail carrier to safely cross. The post office was three miles from the Girdner farm, on the other side of the Verde River. I have one delightful picture (not included in the book) that shows the “mailman” on horseback with huge canvas bags of mail tied upon the delivery horse. We used to stamp letters “Airmail;” makes me wonder if Elsie felt like writing “horse-mail” on her envelopes mailed from Cornville. When she was living in Williams she often mentioned walking down to the train to mail a letter. By 1891 all railroads were required to provide cars meeting U. S. Post Office specifications. These mail cars carried postal clerks who sorted mail en route.
Phone calls were not possible in Cornville and difficult and costly from Williams. Letters were a bond that went beyond what I think telephone and email accomplish today. Elsie did not send many greeting cards but she carefully wrote word pictures for her family and gave great detail of what she was seeing, doing and even what she was eating.
I can imagine the anticipation for her family as they waited for those precious letters from their daughter in a new state that was still thought of as the “Wild West.” Her mother would likely read the letter and then it was passed around to Elsie’s father, her sisters and Aunt Mamie. I know the letters were treasured because some years later Elsie’s mother returned to Elsie all the letters she had written from Arizona.
I wonder what we will leave behind as a record of the significant events of our lives. I encourage friends to leave behind a permanent record of what their lives were like for their grandchildren to someday treasure. Thanks Elsie and May Carrie Hayes for saving those letters from 99 years ago. They are a priceless inheritance. I am blessed.

5 Responses to “Letter Writing – A Lost Art”

  1. Shirley Lee January 28, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    Love “seeing” the responses you are receiving! Letter writing is truly a “lost art”, since it is no longer necessary in school. twitter, tweet, and such are taking over, and spelling doesn’t have any place in it!
    When, as a young bride, I was with my husband in Cape Hatteras, NC I wrote often, to my family and my husbands family. I so looked forward to getting mail, and was anxious to get my letter mailed in order to receive another. All my family (Mother, father, sisters and brothers) were in California, and especially since I was pregnant with our first child, I was emotionally homesick!! It was my one link with loved ones, and I wrote often.

  2. Renee January 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    I’ve been going through old letters that I’ve saved off an on for the past year. It is so wonderful having hand-written letters from my parents, grandmothers, my aunts, etc. I wonder if the next generation will feel the same way about old emails, and tweets! I just can’t imagine it would be the same…

    • Barb Waite February 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Renee, see my answer I gave Anjuli. I really believe a hand written account should be left behind for EACH of our children and grandchildren. Otherwise they may never know what we treasured and what we cared about, Tweets will just not do it! I did print off and save my daughters E-mailswhen she was living in India. No phone calls that year so e-mails were to be savored and re-read and saved.

  3. Connie (Anjuli) February 16, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    I so agree that letter writing has become a lost art- and I think we will suffer for it! Truly, those who come up from behind us- how will they be able to put the puzzle pieces together w/out them? I learned much about my family- and my grandmother- because of the myriad of letters she wrote from China- to family- to her mission board- to friends.

    This makes me want to dash right out and write a few REAL letters 🙂 and send them off immediately.

    • Barb Waite February 16, 2012 at 11:56 am #

      Exactly right Anjuli. Letters and Elsie’s diary became the puzzle for me and old newspaper articles became the missing pieces to the puzzle. Elsie’s letters from her mother revealed a woman with depth that I was thrilled to learn about. I never met my great-Grandmother but her letters told me so much. When I have spoken to women’s groups I have often encouraged them to leave each grandchild a small notebook that contains a handwritten record of what gave their life meaning. A treasure for that child to understand when they are old enough to truly have an interest in those who came before them. Thanks for your reply.

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