Thursday, September 22, 2011
Letters From Home
ROSEMARY HARRIS: This has been quite a year for me re: old pix, documents and even recipes which I have either stumbled upon at tag sales or have discovered in the course of going through the home of a recently deceased relative.
Two days ago I received an envelope containing a batch of letters - all written in 1945 by a dear aunt. Sixty-six years ago she must have been in her early twenties and she was writing to her brothers who were in the service. They are surprisingly well-written for a young girl of modest means who was home looking after parents,nieces and nephews and the occasional girlfriend (my mother in particular.)They are wonderful letters filled with popular culture (she loved the movie A Bell for Adano), philosophy, spirituality and war news.
But my favorite is dated Friday, September 14, 1945 and it's about Dashiell Hammett, who had apparently just returned from the Aleutian islands where my father was still serving. (Who knew..I guess you really can see Russia from Alaska. Not only was my father there, but so was Earlene Fowler's.)
Like my father, Hammett was posted to the island of Adak. Hammett was assigned to write for the local newspaper, The Adakian.
I don't know whether Hammett wrote the piece she refers to for the 50,000 troops on the island or for the folks at home, but Aunt Mary didn't think much of it! Here's a snippet of what she had to say...
This is what is known as looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Dashiell Hammett just returned from a two year stay in the Aleutians..He writes melodramas for the movies; stories that have a sophisticated touch, so that may have an effect on his romanticism for he paints the Aleutians as a place of beauty. The footing, he tells us is rather precarious, hence the average G.I. spends most of his time looking downward whereas he tells us he looked up and never saw more beautiful mountains and lakes...Mr. Hammett is too romantic...the bleakness of the islands, the hurricane speed of the wind are quite unromantic things and they should be painted with stark realism."
You tell him, Aunt Mary! From this vantage point I'm guessing they were probably both right - from the pictures I've seen online Adak was wildly beautiful but barren and difficult. What a treat for me to find that my feisty, cigarette-smoking, scotch-loving 90 year old aunt was as much of a pistol in her youth as she was in her senior years!