Postcard from Summer Camp, 1967

Postcard from Summer Camp, 1967

Today is Earth Day, and what better way to observe this occasion than to feature a postcard sent home from camp?

This card was written in 1967 by Nancy Ipsen, a 17-year old high school student from rural Fresno. Nancy attended Camp Gaines first as a camper, and then as a counselor. Located in Sequoia Lake, in the Sierra Nevada range of California, Camp Gaines was opened by the YMCA, and recently celebrated its 100th year of operation. It is now under private ownership but still welcomes campers every summer.

Postmarked from Kings Canyon National Park, August 30, 1967

Dear Friends,

I’ve been promoted to handicrafts, which is nice because I couldn’t do nature crafts!

I’ve got chapped lips, a hoarse voice, a runny nose, a bloody toe, a gash on my ankle, and a swollen finger where I ran into a bush.

xxooxx (including some for Tramp and Dirty Roy)

Makes camp sound very appealing!

Ed.’s note: Tramp was a dog, Dirty Roy a cat.


A Sad Update for Werner Silberschmid

In a previous post, “A Friendly Word from Home,” I shared a cheeky letter from a boy back home in Cincinnati, Werner Silberschmid, to a buddy in Navy boot camp at Great Lakes during World War II, Julius “Jules” Frank.

Part of the research I do for each letter posted here involves trying to find out as much as I can about the letter writer, recipient, and anyone or anything of note mentioned in the letter. Most of the writers and recipients were regular folk, so there’s not much said about them in newspaper or genealogical searches besides announcements of birth, marriage, military service, and death.

One of those routine searches turned up the sad news that this jovial fellow passed away very early in life, at the young age of 19. More digging revealed Werner’s death certificate, which indicated that he passed from a brain tumor he endured for three years.

It also turns out that Werner made good on his promise to join the Navy. He was an Apprentice Seaman in the Naval Reserve at the Navy Pier in Chicago. He was honorably discharged from the service on June 28, 1945.

His death certificate also gives some other important details about his life: he was not married. He was a shoe salesman. He lived in his community for 10 years. He was born in Germany, as were his parents.

RIP, Werner Martin Silberschmid.



In Which the Army Didn’t Want Anyone to Know How Many Shots Soldiers Received

Letter from U.S. Army Lieutenant, in an American Army General Hospital (think M.A.S.H.), to wife at home in Iowa, U.S.

1 July [1945]

My darling,

The end of one more week. I’ve been in hospitals for 2 months and a little over a week, now. Hope I don’t stay in one that much longer.

You mentioned in one of your last letters that Bob had written again, so I take it he hasn’t yet obtained a furlough. I hope he gets home–it will do your Mom good. I’d like to see him–I wonder what the Army has done to him. Whatever it is, it will probably be for the better. Wouldn’t it seem unusual if he takes an interest in girls? I never could figure out his attitude. But what the hell, it’s his life.

Some of the boys are getting their penicillin shots. Boy, they try it for everything, from jungle rot to earache! You know it’s used for venereal disease, too, Not that I needed it, but those 10 days of shots I took should have left me pure as the drive snow. [REDACTED] shots altogether–but I guess I told you.

Well, I wonder what Bun thinks about his marriage by now. I haven’t heard fro him since he sprung the news–wonder if she’s blonde or brunette. Seems to me, if she’s the gal I think he means, that she’s dark. Oh well, I still prefer blondes. One about 5’4″, with grey blue eyes, solid chassis [Ed. note: ewwww] and all the accoutrements. (I knew I’d be able to use that word someday.) Oh baby–when I think of you–well, it’s better not to bare my soul, or is it?

Anyway, honey–you keep the home fires smoldering, and when I get back we’ll really fan up a flame. And it will blaze for a long time, too, believe me.

Here’s one that just cropped up–what’s the difference between a super nurse and a super-dooper nurse? Ans.: A super nurse can make a bed without disturbing the patient; and a super-dooper nurse can make a patient without disturbing the bed. [Ed. note: *gag*] And now while I roll on the floor in gales of hilarity it’s time to say again, bye, I love you, and that’s all for now.

Your Dwight


I suppose it must be extremely boring to be in the hospital–and a military hospital (the 126th General Hospital in the Philippines) at that. Other letters around this time from Dwight tell of poker games, crutch-jousting, and rolling around in wheelchairs for fun. But he also writes of slow mail delivery and a lack of mental stimulation. In a foreign country. Where it rains every single day. What a dreadful way to pass the time.

Several of the Dwight letters have tape along the left side of the envelope. The tape says “U.S. ARMY EXAMINER” on it. I knew that meant the letter had been reviewed by a censor, but I had not yet found one that was actually censored. There’s a precise little rectangular cut that removed the actual number of shots Dwight received. Why was this information censored in the first place?

The 1940s were a prolific time in what we now consider basic modern medicine. The healing power of penicillin had been discovered just two decades prior, and many infections were no longer an automatic death sentence. World War II was an economic and innovative juggernaut for medicine, and many important discoveries were made to treat exotic challenges faced by the American military. To wit, this article lists some of the more notable treatments: quinine for malaria, kidney dialysis, and caudal anesthesia (basically, epidurals, like what women in labor are given). Of course, not all of these medical problems were associated with the military, but many came out of military and government research, like how thanks to N.A.S.A. research we civilians enjoy Velcro and Tang.

It makes sense that the U.S. Army would not want anyone on the outside to know how many shots a solider received. If you knew how many shots were received, then you could potentially figure out what they were for–and more importantly, what wasn’t in the vaccination or treatment arsenal. Biological warfare could ensue. Infection spreads absurdly easily and quickly in close quarters, and in areas with poor hygiene, and lacking basic germ-fighting protocols like clean water, soap, and antimicrobial agents. Many World War II theatres ticked all of those boxes, and disease was imminent.

By the 1940s, the typical vaccine schedule, for children at least, consisted of smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. But, the typical World War II soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine would have been born at a time when vaccines either didn’t exist, or were not automatically given. According to this piece from the Office of Medical History, a typical vaccine schedule for a World War II-era soldier would have been typhoid-paratyphoid, smallpox, tetanus, yellow fever, cholera-plague-typhus (only for certain areas of activity), influenza, and Japanese B encephalitis. Sometimes, diphtheria, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, measles prophylaxis, viral hepatitis prophylaxis, and scarlet fever immunizations were given.

In an upcoming letter, we will hear from the very worried mother of our friend Julius Frank, who apparently came down with the measles during his time in the Navy.

A Friendly Word from Home

Letter from Werner Silberschmid, approximately 15 years old, to friend Julius “Jules” Frank, newly enlisted in the US Navy, stationed at Camp Porter, Great Lakes, Illinois

Monday, 22 [1943]

Dear Jule:–
Boy! it was really swell to get your card. I knew that it was from you, because right away the sailor represented you. (Back view, of course!) How is the Navy? Really fellow, I wish I were in your boots, but Dad tells me that I still have to wait two years. Yesterday we had a meeting at the Plaza. Nothing new! Rafalo is in Texas, and Les is in Georgia with some “Ack-Ack” division. I’m home from school to-day with a little cold, but mom says I’ll be OK to go back tomorrow, Dammit!

How are the femmes? You won’t need Esther anymore, since a sailor has a girl in every port, and a port in every girl. (Woo!) Butter is rationed, but we still drew the fat. (P.U.) You know, if you can’t make both ends meet, you can always make one vegetables! (Ha-ha.) The Reds are training, but I don’t think any body will care much for baseball this year. Speaking of baseball, I’m going to try out for the A.Z.A. team next Sunday. If I can get enough dough, ($1.50, specifically,) I’ll take a date to the 490-Vivalets affair. Eve is still as small and hot as ever. Yesterday I bowled 132 and 78 at Snapps for a grand average of 105. I’ll make a team yet. But really Jule, the only thing athletic about me are my feet, I’ve got Athletes-Feet! Is Laibson or any other A.Z.A. boys with you?

Excuse the hyrogliphics [sic], but I got a hell of a time writing in bed. Write if you get a chance,

Fraternally yours


P.S. My folks, although not knowing you send their best regards. WS


I was initially drawn to this letter by the handwriting on the envelope. It was neat, tidy, and distinctively masculine. I had a stack of letters that had been sent to a Julius Frank–but none other was addressed to “Jules.”

The letter was written on three pages of personalized stationery. Werner Silberschmid must have been a friend of Jules Frank’s, perhaps from Hughes High School in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati, OH. They lived just about a mile from each other, Werner on Larona Ave. and Jules on Carplin Place. The Wikipedia article on Avondale states that the neighborhood was majority Jewish until after WW2, when it became a destination for black residents. Violent race riots happened there in 1967 and 1968. Here is a great read on the history of the area from the Avondale Community Council.

Sadly, I learned Werner passed away in 1947, at just 19 years old. It appears he was the only son of Robert Silberschmid and Else Silberschmid.

So… why did Werner pass away at such a young age?

What happened to Jules Frank? I have a letter from his mother, written in 1945, and addressed to Jules at a Naval Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island. It seems to insinuate that Jules contracted measles. But that’s another letter, for another post…



A Little Girl’s Postcard

Postcard “Into Mischief”
Postmarked May 19, 19XX, Lithonia, GA

“Hello Nona
How are you
This morning
Come and see me
Lillie Clarke”

This looks like a postcard from a little girl (Lillie Clarke) of Lithonia, GA to a Miss Nona Mitchel, also in Lithonia. Found in Monroe, GA.

Unfortunately, the postmark is illegible. The year is not visible. So, to narrow down when this might have been sent, I looked to see in which years postage for a postcard was just a penny.

After WW1, postage went back to one cent. It was one cent from 1918 to 1925, and then from 1928 to 1951.

Another clue that could reveal a timeframe for this postcard would be when RFD, or Rural Free Delivery, was active. It was a Georgia Congressman, Thomas Watson, who put RFD in motion. I couldn’t find exactly when RFD was in service in Lithonia, but it went into effect in the late 1890s. Lithonia was established in 1856 as a farming community. Today, it is considered a suburb of Atlanta, conveniently located right on I-20.

I can’t find much more information on these two people, Lillie Clarke and Nona Mitchel. Perhaps Nona Mitchel was a friend of Lillie, or a family member? My own daughter, age 9, wrote a postcard just like this to her auntie a few towns over a few months ago, which is one of the reasons I found this card so endearing. Now, my daughter can text her auntie, too, but back when Lillie wanted to get a message to Nona, she could either write or call (probably).

If you know anything of this Lithonia family, please comment.



First Day Cover: Boy Scouts of America 1910 – 1960

A first day cover is a commemorative envelope and stamp that bears a special postmark from the first day that the stamp is put into use. Often, special envelopes are designed to represent the subject of the stamp, or the occasion that the stamp represents.

Here is a first day cover from the 50th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. This was postmarked on February 8, 1960 in Washington, D.C.


Back When Your Resume Listed Your Height, Weight, and Complexion

Back in 1937, a young woman from Decatur, Georgia sought employment as a teacher. Frances Treadwell was her name, and she earned a normal (teacher’s college) diploma from the Georgia State College for Women after graduating from Decatur Girls’ High School in the 1930s.

I learned of Miss Treadwell after finding an old, tattered envelope in a pile at a a Covington, Georgia antique store. I couldn’t resist peeking inside, and when I saw the yellowed pages folded up inside, I gladly paid the $9 asking price for this treasure.

Inside the envelope postmarked April 27, 1939 was an old “Abstract of Qualifications,” typewritten but with some handwritten notes, and letters of recommendation from former instructors. It looked like a job seeker’s packet, like something Miss Treadwell would have tucked into her pocketbook after fastening her shoe buttons and donning her gloves before her interview.

As I read the pages, a few things stood out to me.

  • One expects that any letter of recommendation would speak to the subject’s intelligence, aptitude for the task at hand, and so on. One of Miss Treadwell’s letters included commentary her physical appearance:

She is very attractive in appearance and manner and is cooperative in attitude. She is somewhat timid, but because of many other superior qualities I think she will make a good teacher.
– Euri Belle Bolton

(Interesting side note: It turns out that Euri Belle Bolton was a well-known educator in Georgia, with a varied career teaching all ages.)

  • And, one’s resume, or “Abstract of Qualifications,” had to include these very important attributes:

Height: 5 feet, 3 inches.
Weight: 112 pounds.
Health: Good.
Complexion: Fair.
Hair: Brown.
Eyes: Blue.
Church: Methodist.

My, how times change. Today, Miss Treadwell’s resume would be (generally) completely unprofessional for including all of the detail about her appearance–and religion. Unless she was going for a performance or modeling job, or a church job, that stuff just wouldn’t matter. I wonder if the complexion, hair, and eyes attributes were sneaky ways to ascertain if Miss Treadwell was white? Remember, this was in the Deep South in the 1930s, and institutional racism may not have been the law of the land, but it was still very much alive.

I’m also genuinely surprised at the tone of some of her “recommendations.” One writer admits she has not really even met Miss Treadwell, stating she is “attractive” and that “Her father’s experience as a teacher should be valuable to her in understanding her chosen profession.” And another writer, Ms. Bolton from above, states that Miss Treadwell is “somewhat timid” which I find to be an odd sentiment to include in a letter of recommendation. Maybe these letters were just fulfilling boxes that had to be ticked, and the content didn’t matter much.

I wish the letter writers would have focused on Miss Treadwell’s accomplishments, expanding more upon the American Legion Medal she won–voted on in secret by the entire faculty of her high school, it’s kind of a big deal.

I was drawn to this case, too, once I learned Miss Treadwell was from Decatur. It made me wonder why she did not attend Agnes Scott College, a women’s college located in Decatur. I think it may have been because she was Methodist, and Agnes Scott is a Presbyterian college.

It was a happy life for Miss Treadwell, it seems, as she did land a teaching job in Cave Spring, Georgia, and shortly thereafter married and moved back to Decatur. She passed away at age 95 on December 26, 2012. Click here to view her obituary.

If you are kin to Ms. Treadwell, and would like to have these letters, please get in touch.

Frances Treadwell Abstract of Qualifications
Recommendation from Hallie Claire Smith
Recommendation from Euri Belle Bolton
Recommendation from Wheat Williams
Recommendation from Daisy Frances Smith


The Shellback Ceremony

Letter from U.S. Army Lieutenant, on a ship in the Pacific, to wife at home in Iowa, U.S.

March 23, 1945


Today, before I forget it, I’m going to tell you about that shellback ceremony when we crossed the Equator. I meant to send the certificate home, but forgot to, so will hang on to it now because it’s rather attractive and I don’t want to fold it. They also give you a little pocket card to carry in your billfold, so you don’t have to worry about going through the thing again.

TheĀ accompanying mimeographed form shows the general setup of the day. Right after breakfast we were all assembled in the dining room, and several of the ones among the group who had made themselves conspicuous by some sort of behavior, were called out and made to talk or perform in front of the group. The dining hall had passageways along two sides; and those 4 nurses stood up there and all confessions, remarks, etc. were addressed to them. Especially enjoyable were the vocalizings of a few of the captains who had trailed around the nurses since they came on board. Everybody got quite a kick out of their disconuforture [sic]. While we were assembled, the various minions of Neptunus Rex circulated among us, under the fiendish direction of the “Lord High Sheriff” and made us get on our knees, smile brightly, and administered well-placed whacks with folded belts. After a half-hour or so of this we were allowed to recess for awhile in preparation for the real initiation ceremony on deck.

Well, when they called us out, we had a regular inquisition line to go through. As we stepped out to go through the line, we were greeted by the full force of a ship’s salt water hose–then were were several back-side slappers to go by, and believe me, they laid on with a [illegible]. Then we were forced to kneel before his Majesty, and bow to the floor. Next we had to “kiss the baby”–a crewman, who had an odious collection of mustard and other reeking spices, mixed up into a paste, spread over his stomach, and we affixed there–with our lips. Ugh! Then we scrambled on hands & knees to the “Royal Barbers”–they didn’t hit me so badly, because my hair was short, but some of the Romeos with their long wavy locks were shorn to the scalp in assorted patterns. (The next day there were more shaved heads on board than you could count.)

Then we passed through another belt line up to a big tank–oh, I forgot–after the shearing, two devils smeared your lead liberally with the same vile mixture of spices that was on the “baby’s” stomach; and when we got to the tank, we were tossed in bodily, backwards.

And thus I became a shellback. It was several days before I, or my clothes, stopped reeking. Everybody had a tremendous good time, and it was a real relief from the monotony of the voyage.

A typical day began with breakfast at 8:00. At breakfast we made sandwiches for noon–there were always cheese & cold meats to use for that purposes. We had fresh butter, all we wanted all the time. Here is a typical breakfast–all served, remember, on fine china, and silver dishes–boy, what luxury. A cup of fruit–prunes, apricots, & peaches, or perhaps fruit cocktail; cereal, eggs & bacon, toast, and fresh fruit. There were always rolls, both bread & sweet. We didn’t now what we had, then.

Honey, I’ve got to stop–I just got word I’m leaving here at noon today. Got to get ready. Don’t know for sure where I’m going–I’ll let you know as much as I can.

I love you, dearest–‘bye now. Finally, something’s doing. I’ll be thinking of you all the way.

Your Dwight

Links to view original scanned pages:
23 March 1945 1
23 March 1945 2
23 March 1945 3
23 March 1945 4