Friday, August 1, 2014

December 15, 1963 The Coldest Wind, The Christmas Tree, The Snow on the Ground and The Next Summer's Vacation

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It is almost midnight but I was afraid I wouldn't get this written if I waited till morning.  We have been to a potluck supper and just got home.  This has been a full day and I didn't even get to Ann's lesson with her.

I had to go down to the church and help set up the dining room for our big family Christmas party tomorrow night.  I have to fix food for that and really don't know yet what I'll fix or when I'll fix it unless I skip church.  All of us are invited to a tea in the afternoon and the church supper is at 5:30.

Yesterday I got a permanent and spent the rest of the day addressing cards.  Last night we went to a program at school.  It was so cold and the wind just went through us as we walked across campus.  I think this is the coldest wind in the country.

We finally got the Christmas tree up and the children have it decorated.  The cat thinks it belong to her. She lies down under it and watches the lights.

There is snow on the ground but we are planning our next summer's vacation.  We have signed up to go to Europe with a University group. President Bone's family is going so Bob will have pals in the group and Polly's folks are making arrangements for her to go so Ann will have a friend, too.  The rest will be adults, we think. There will be about 30 in the group.  We'll be gone from the end of June to the end of July.  It will probably be the last big trip we can take before Bob starts to college because he'll want to go to summer school a year from next summer. He is more excited than any of us, I think, and is doing a term paper on one of the Greek islands we'll visit.  We'll be in London, Rome, Greece and Paris besides a lot of other places.  We'll just have to tell you more about it when we see you.

We're still planning to come on the 22nd and probably will stop in St. Louis.  So it may be late afternoon before we get there.

I must go to bed but we'll see you soon."

                                             Lots of love,


Clipping with the letter

NOTE:  The poem at the top of the post was written by Grace Shea (1894-1982), our school nurse, a writer, and close friend of our mother.

Thank you, readers, for reading another year of letters!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

December 8, 1963 The Big Feet, The Coffee for Students, The Socializing and The Christmas Tree Lighting

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Here I'm late again.  I got my paper out to write yesterday but that was as far as I got.  I had to go to Bloomington to pick up an order from Wards and ran a few errands.  Then Ann had her lesson and the phone kept ringing.  B had an all day meeting at school and last night we went to a Christmas formal at one of the girls' dorms.  We stood in the receiving line for over an hour so my feet feel too big for my shoes today.

This morning we had a coffee for students at the church and that took the morning.  I cut out Ann's velvet dress last week but then spent a day on a formal for myself (which I didn't like when I got it together and wore an old one).  This week I must make Ann's dress.

Yesterday was a warm, fall day.  It started raining last night & it's snowing hard now.

We are planning to come home on Sunday, the 22nd and stay until after Christmas--probably Friday, unless the weather should be bad.  I've written only a few Christmas cards and can't seem to find time to do them.  There are always so many things to do at Christmas.  I wish it could be simplified some way.

Ann had a little supper party Friday night.  She had all the girls in her room to come after a ball game & then they all went to the high school ball game so they weren't here long.  She planned the menu and it was real simple but took most of the day to fix the food.  I put everything on the buffet and they helped themselves.

The faculty women had a tea Tuesday afternoon, book club met Monday & As You Like It Club was Thursday.  So I did a lot of socializing this week.

There is a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on campus tonight. They decorate an outdoor tree & have a little ceremony when the lights are turned on.  We had planned to go but the weather is so bad we may not.

I must stop & get this mailed or it won't go out tonight.

I'm glad Daddy is fattening up a bit and hope you both are fine."

Lots of love,


Christmas card from family friends, Dec. 1963

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

November 30, 1963 The Usual Turkey Dinner, The Bad Dream, The Memorial Service and The Christmas Spirit

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"I don't know where the time goes.  Although it has been a long weekend we really haven't done much.  The office didn't open yesterday so B has had a little extra free time.

We went to church Thanksgiving morning and then had the usual turkey dinner all by ourselves.  It was a quiet, sad Thanksgiving but I think the whole country really stopped to give thanks and ask God's blessings this year.

Last week was like a bad dream but I'm beginning to feel now that is was all real.  That may sound strange but I still feel strange when President Johnson's face appears on T.V.  I miss the young, lively face of Kennedy.

The University had a memorial service on Monday when other services were being held.  It was a lovely, religious affair and about 6000 students & townspeople came.  We spent the rest of the day in front of T.V.  I didn't even get lunch.  Ann fixed it and brought it to the basement for us.  There have been so many things said about the Kennedys in the past and none of us could agree with everything they did but the family showed it was a great family the past few days.   I think everyone will have to admire Mrs. Kennedy's courage and even little John behaved like a little soldier.

People are trying to get the Christmas spirit going now but there is still a sobering atmosphere around.  It has snowed most of the day but the ground still isn't covered solid.  It does make one begin to think of Christmas, though.

Ann and a friend have to play their flutes in the school Christmas program and decided to wear red velvet jumpers.  So we went to Bloomington yesterday for the pattern & material.  Now, I'll have to get busy on that.  I have one more sleeve to make for Bob's sweater.  He couldn't have picked a harder pattern but it will be pretty.  He's anxious for me to finish it but doesn't realize how difficult it is.

I had a nice letter from Charlotte this week.  She sounds busy but happy.

Ann has an organ lesson in a little while so I'd better get a few things done before we have to go.

Is Daddy's hip better now or does he still have to use a cane some?  I hope both of you are fat and sassy and stay that way all winter."

                                  Lots of love,


The flag at half staff, ISNU, Nov. 22, 1963

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

November 26, 1963 The Letter from Grandmother: Goodness, Dignity and Love

Dear Bonnie, B & children,

"This is a nice sunny day & not very cold, I have been real busy to day, for I didn't do much yesterday but watch television, didn't even wash my dinner dishes until after President Kennedy's funeral--I couldn't read or think either, call I wanted to do was cry and pray--I didn't always agree with him but I was proud of him and his family & thought they graced the White House with goodness, dignity & love & it will take someone very great to partly fill his place.  Sunday was more like a funeral than church. Our first song was My Country Tis of Thee, and they prayed for our country & the President's family & most ever one was in tears.  There were no Democrats or Republicans, nor Baptists nor Catholics (or it didn't seem so anyway) but all Americans grieving for our beloved president.  Then someone called the church & said the man accused of killing the president had been shot.  That made three lives lost by violence in a short while--I watched the policeman's funeral, also the other man's--yesterday was the little Kennedy boy's birthday & tomorrow the little girl's--Mrs. Kennedy looked so lonely as she went down the steps leading both children.  It all seems such a pity and so unbelievable--I can hardly realize it's true yet--

I don't know whether there is any news around home or not, except a bad car wreck near here last night; one boy killed (a Henry boy) and several hurt real bad so the radio said--a Meyers boy, a Henson boy and I don't remember the others, all from Richland--

There was a church supper at the school house last night; but we didn't go--I know they had a nice time, but we seldom ever go any place at night--

I suppose we will go to Beulah's for Thanksgiving.  We invited them up here, but she said for us to come out, it would give us a chance to get out for a day--and they all ways have to go home so early--

Cliffie is going with Beatrice & Francis to Hadlys & Ruths for Thanksgiving.  This will make her third Thanksgiving with them--I suppose you got an announcement from Ruth telling about the new baby, a boy named Scott Thomas--

Dad finally got Ruth Deberrys table made, Floyd took it to her this morning--she just now called & said it was a lovely table--she had an old drawer (small) set in the side & sent a picture like she wanted it, he tried to make it as near like as he could, he has been a long time making it, but she didn't seem to mind--

Dad is getting ready to go to town so I will stop & send my letter--I hope all of you have a nice Thanksgiving--Tell B & the children helo for me and excuse this hasty letter---

                       Lots of love to all,


Monday, July 28, 2014

November 24, 1963 The Weeping Heaven, The Greater Sorrow and The Shining Sun

 Dear Mother & Daddy,

"I don't know how to start this for I can't think of much except the terrible thing that happened yesterday.  It was an awful day--so gray and the rain poured all afternoon and evening as if heaven was weeping for President Kennedy.

How can a human being hate so much that it makes him do such a thing?  If Kennedy had been a cruel, wicked man maybe we could understand a little.  But he was such a good man and I believe he honestly tried, with all his heart, even if it would hurt him politically, to lead our U.S. to the greatness he mentioned in his inaugural address.

I can remember when Roosevelt died and how we needed him and how terrible I felt then.  But that time couldn't compare to today.  Kennedy was so young and brilliant and we need brilliant leaders. We have been cheated.  I feel great pity for the murderer but I feel greater pity for his wife and mother.  They have a greater sorrow to bear than even Mrs. Kennedy. She has the world to help her bear her grief.

The University will have a memorial service Monday but no classes.

We will have Thanksgiving by ourselves, I guess.  Things will probably be very quiet.

I'm glad Daddy feels better and hope he stays that way.  We are all fine.

I'm sorry this is such a gloomy letter. The sun always shines sometime after a cloudy day though, and maybe next week we will all feel better."

                      Lots of love,


This is the insert in the program, pictured at the top

NOTES:  We have all heard it said that for those who were old enough to remember, we know where we were and what we were doing on the day that JFK was assassinated.   While I remember the circumstances very clearly, what has stayed with me and made the biggest impact was the grief I observed in my parents.  It would be the first time I had ever seen them cry.

Our mom had a large collection of JFK memorabilia, part of which was given to her by friends who were active in democratic politics, and some collected from the time of the election, throughout his presidency and for the months following the assassination.  In the fall of 1992, she gave me part of the collection to share with students at the school where I was working.  I took the items to school on Friday, Nov. 20, planning to display them on Monday.  In the early morning hours on November 22, the school suffered a devastating fire and the items were all destroyed.  It felt like a terrible loss. Thankfully, she hadn't given me all of the collection.  Pictured in this post and some of the next posts are some of the saved items.

Many readers have asked if I have any of the letters my grandmother wrote in response to Mom's letters.  Mom saved only one, and it is the letter written on November 26, 1963.  (See tomorrow's post)

Cover of the program

Sunday, July 27, 2014

November 17, 1963 The Cold Wind, The Sad Week, The Troubling Hip and The Birthday Towels

Good Housekeeping,  November, 1963
Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It is cold and the wind is blowing hard tonight.  We had a few snow flurries this week but they were hard to see.

I didn't get very far with this for some reason and now it is Saturday night.  I've been going from one thing to another all week so I must have stopped to do something for the kids.  B had a meeting last night & had to have the car and Ann had a late dental appointment so we were rushing around.  All of us are home tonight for a change.

Everyone went to the football game this afternoon but me.  I had a lot of little errands to run and had to get them done.  Ann has her organ lesson at 4:00 and that comes sooner than you expect it to.

Ann did real well on the organ at church last Sunday night.  It was her first experience at playing for a church service and I was real proud of her.  We still don't have our big organ yet but all of us are getting anxious.

This has been a sad week.  Granny Watterson was buried Wednesday.  She had several heart attacks on Sunday & died a little after 10:00 that night.  We were all upset about it for it was so unexpected.  Toni said she looked awful Sat. & Sun. but she was in a Dixon, Ill. hospital, near her daughters, so I didn't see her, of course.  I had written to her though, a few days after she fell and she had had my letter.  She was 70.  The funeral was in Gibson City (32 miles from Bloomington) and she was buried in Strawn. That was her home when her husband was living and until she couldn't take care of her home anymore.
I was there years ago but nothing looked familiar.  We went to the funeral and on to the cemetery & it was such an awful day--wet snow & wind.  She looked so pretty but thin.  The heart attack was bad & the Dr. said there was brain damage so it was a blessing that she didn't have to live long.

Bob isn't using mice for his science project this year.  He's doing something with a certain kind of acid but it is something that hasn't been done so I don't know how far he'll be able to go.

I hope Daddy's hip is better.  Do you have any idea what caused the trouble?

I got Charlotte some towels for her birthday but haven't got them mailed.  Beulah didn't help me a bit with ideas.  I don't even know what kind of an apartment she has."

                    Lots of love,


Saturday, July 26, 2014

November 10, 1963 About Granny, The Paper, The Full House, The Fall and Broken Ribs

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Today is another beautiful, warm day.  We are so thankful for every one we have because our winters are so cold.

Horace called last night to tell us about Granny Gibson.  We won't try to come to the funeral and I know B's mother will be disappointed but it is such a hard trip and we'd have to do so much re-arranging of things all of us have to do the next few days.  B told Horace we wouldn't come.

I have spent a lot of this week working on a paper to give to the women's group at the church and am not finished yet.  The dining table is stacked with books I've been using but I think I'll just leave it until I'm done.

Ann is going to play the organ for a youth meeting at the church tomorrow night so we have been at the church to practice this morning.  We are still using a rented spinet & it isn't nearly as good as our own.  B wrote to see how our big church organ was coming along but he hasn't had time to hear about it.  The contract said Feb. but we had hoped to have it sooner.

Our dedication last Sunday was just lovely and I'll try to remember to put in a program.  We had a full house and our speaker was really good.

Bob stayed all night with Malcolm last night & hasn't come home yet.  That's the friend that took him to Wisconsin last summer.

The rest of us went to a church potluck supper.  It was the first time we'd gone in a long time.

Larsen's didn't stay long in Wisconsin.  Art's mother is better & will probably be all right now except she may never walk again & will have to live in a rest home.  His father will have to go too, so it will be hard on all of them.

Granny Watterson is with her daughter in Sterling, Ill. & she fell down some stairs the other day & broke some ribs.  So she is in the hospital now.  She seems to have a fall every year or so.

How is Daddy's hip feeling now?  I hope it is all o.k.

Ann says dress material would be fine for Xmas.  We tried to think of some other ideas too but couldn't think of anything except a billfold.  I guess the weather is just too nice to think of Xmas.

I hope you both are fine."

                      Lots of love,


The cabin where Granny Gibson spent her childhood, Richland, Missouri