March 7, 2011

Fin De Blog

Yesterday's post represents the last of the personal correspondence to and between an older generation of family. Many of these people I remember from childhood, but some, like Great-Uncles Edwin and Donovan, and Great-Aunts Katherine and Elizabeth, I know only from snapshots. I've enjoyed the posting of daily letters, and hope that those relatives who stumble on this blog will have fun reading them.

My grandfather's Navy days ended shortly after returning to the US in 1919. He presented an affidavit stating his talents were needed in Texas, and as the war was indeed over, many enlistees were being released from service. Enlistment terms at that time were variable, and it was not uncommon for men to be discharged after only a year or so.

I learned a great deal about my grandfather from these letters. I knew him as a successful, middle-aged man who smoked cigarettes and drank with gusto. I never knew him as these letters' relatively naive Texas teen, leaving home for adventures in the Navy during World War I. At that time he was impulsive, and a spendthrift who was always in debt. Like most young men his age, he would rather have been off having fun and being entertained than working full time. He was self-centered and somewhat spoiled, being the oldest son of an upper-middle class family. He was a small town fellow learning about the Real World in a hurry. His opinions about other people and countries were somewhat cavalier, but understandable given his age and upbringing.

The original letters were given to me by my father, whose grandmother (Mrs. H.F. Weldon) had kept them in cardboard shoeboxes, a very acidic environment. The letters were all written on cheap pulp, which was highly acid, and with the corrosive ink characteristic of the early 20th century. They had been exposed to extreme heat conditions in my grandmother's Dallas home and my father's upper crawlspace in Florida. I had the letters only a few weeks before I began transcribing them in the late 1980s. At that time home scanners did not exist.

A combination of factors has made the letters untouchable today. Heat, moisture, and acidity have damaged them beyond recovery. The paper falls apart into confetti and dust the moment it is taken from an envelope. After consulting with an archival librarian on the best way to preserve them, I got the bad news -- the best option was to transcribe them because there is no way to preserve them. Even before they reached this state, when I could actually handle them to transcribe them, photocopying was not recommended. I was told that the light from a copy machine would only damage the letters further.

This blog will be the only record available of my grandfather's teen-aged naval adventures. The originals, such as they are, will be passed on to another generation, who sadly will not be able to read them unless it is from this blog. Nevertheless, it has been time well spent to get them online and available in some form for posterity.

I suppose this blog will stay intact as long as Google/Blogger keeps the site active. Nothing lasts forever, though. If you want to save the content, it would be best to download posts and save them to a file. There is a link to the source folder for all the photos and illustrations in the slideshow. Interested parties can also download and save any of those images easily.

This material is copyrighted but may be used for any nonprofit purpose. For permission to use the material for profit, please contact me through the site.