Just some thoughts:
A lost art. Once so much a part of American society and now it will never be back. Texting is not letter writing.
David McCullough is one of my favorite writers. Maybe my favorite especially of history. Recently thinking of his writings caused me to go back and re-read some of his works. Especially his writings about Harry Truman and The Adams, John and Abigail.
One of the things he talks about regarding them is their letter writing. Not just short notes, but all written in long hand and often many pages. He said of the Adams’s “neither of them was capable of writing a boring line or a short letter.” Between the two of them they wrote over a thousand letters. Most of those letters are still in existences.
He told a story of Truman that when his wife was back home seeing about her sick mother and Harry was President all alone in the White House. In one thirty day period he wrote her thirty-seven letters. All in beautiful hand writing and never a question about a letter or a word.
McCullough tells of personally being given access to those letters and what it was like to sit down in a chair and hold in his hands reading one of these letters. He described it as quite a thrill and an honor. “You’re holding history.”
(USGA -Offices-Far Hills,NJ)
Hearing McCullough tell of that experience reminded me a similar experience I had. During my years on staff at the United States Golf Association I was working late one night when I got a call from the curator of our library. Shame on me. I had given her the nickname, “Big Bird.” If you saw her, knew her you would understand why. But again shame on me.
“Larry you got a minute” she asked. “I think I got some things here that might be of interest to you.” I left my office and walked to “Big Bird’s” office (shame/shame) and there I saw stacks of letters.
What had happened the legendary golfer Bobby Jones’s family had contacted our office. Jones had been dead for sometime and they were making some decisions about his various personal remains. What they had done, was they were now giving a huge amount of his correspondence to our library.
I remember our curator saying, “It’s late I’ve got to leave but you’re welcome to sit and go through any of this stuff you might finding interesting.” Find interesting, what did she think. For well into the night and nights to follow I found myself reading letters that Jones had written with so many over the years.
I especially remember one letter in particular. The letter began, “Dear Ike.” Jones and President Eisenhower had exchanged a number of letters. That particular letter was followed with a letter back to Jones from Eisenhower. One of the letters the two of them referenced the matter of Eisenhower calling out federal troops to support the interrogation of the high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.
There I sat all alone in our library reading, holding a letter from one of the most famous names in the history of golf and from the man who lead the world through WW II. I was reminded of when I was a young boy growing up in Indiana , Eisenhower was running for president and all the signs and buttons that read “We like Ike.”
As McCullough said there is something special about:
“Holding history in your hands.”
April 28, 2020