|Dad, age 18, 1939|
|Mom, age 18, 1943|
We suppose that a simple text message of “Hi, I’m in the frozen food section of the Piggly Wiggly” is worth sending only because there is that opening for some kind of response, albeit as mundane as the message was. I’m not sure if such messaging creates the illusion of some level of badly needed intimacy, but it can also separate us further from the very world with which we want to feel in touch. Think of all those people on streets, trains, in restaurants, theaters, even in cars (even when with friends or family), who are oblivious to who and what surrounds them, because they are consumed by that little cell phone, convinced that texting or chatting is of greater import than actually being with people. My question continues to be “Why?” What emptiness is filled by that prosaic activity that we imagine to be almost as significant as our own heartbeats?
I believe that if people seventy years ago had been given cell phones and instant texting access, things would not have been any different from what they are now. In that light, I would like to share with you a passageway back to the early 1940’s during World War II, when my father, Elwood Bolinger, served in the United States Army Air Corps, and his twin brother Eddie, served in the United States Navy.
My deeply personal interest in that time comes from a couple of old hat boxes filled with over 100 letters written by my father between 1942 and 1945 to his parents, who lived in Northwest Indiana. My grandmother saved them all, and after her death, the box of letters went to my Great Aunt Viola Irvin in Pennsylvania, who gave them in 1990 to my mother, who kept them until her death in 2008. After my sister’s death in May of 2011, I inherited the letters. They speak of everything from the horrors of war and waiting daily for letters from home to the love Dad had for my mother, who became his sweetheart April 3, 1940 and his wife December 26, 1944, when Dad was on a brief leave.
He wrote hundreds of letters to my mother and to his twin brother Edward too, but those have all been lost, so I’m glad to have the letters Dad wrote to his parents with some of his feelings expressed about Mom, along with his views on the war, which was the larger context of those years for everyone in America, Europe, Great Britain, and Asia.
My Indiana blog will be devoted for a while to those communications now almost seventy years old. Dad was meticulous about dating all his letters and indicating where he was stationed at the time… bases in Pratt Kansas, Battle Creek, Michigan, Arcadia , California, Lincoln, Nebraska, London, England, or the Island of Guam. I can’t guarantee that all the details from these letters will touch you as deeply as they do me, but they may provide familiar frames of reference for those of you whose parents or grandparents served our country during those dark years of WWII.