It was during my visit to Calgary in late April that I took my father to the hospital. We both thought it would be just a short stay. However, he was admitted. Meanwhile, I continued to prepare and organize things for the move from Calgary to Toronto.
One day, dad asked if I had found the letters. “What Letters?” The letters from Bill; they were in a box in the closet in the basement bedroom. When I returned from the hospital, I looked and there they were.
The box was made of pine, untreated. It had an unhinged lid. One of the sides of the box was loose and partially separated, but it still held place when the box was left alone. I opened the box, and there on top was an American Flag; 48 Stars, all aligned. The flag that the families of all those killed in action would receive.
The first letter was dated November 14, 1943, 5 days after he left his Toronto home. The last letter was dated April 13, 1945, 4 days before he was killed. The box contained letters written on regular paper, postcards, “v-cards” (which look like microfilmed letters reprinted on post card-sized paper) and army paper. It looks like he wrote at least once a day, and thus I estimate there are over 500 letters and cards. They are all hand written.
The first few months of letters were organized into folders. The remaining letters were loose. I went through all those loose letters and cards and sorted them into separate file folders by month, from February 1944 through April 1945.
As the material is over 70 years old, I proceeded with caution. First, those letters that were folded, I left folded, only peeking in to find the date. Following that, I consulted an archivist on how to proceed. While the letters are, for the most part, in good condition, I wanted to make sure I didn’t damage them, especially as I would need to unfold them.
My next step is to follow the advice of the archivist in preparing the letters and cards, and only then will I read the letters. I want to try to read all the material in one shot so I can build up an image and sense of things.
After I get a sense of the content, then I will be in a better position to determine the role, if any, they will play in my work.