Sunday, September 25, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 4

Happy new year! That is, I am onto January 1951 which marks the beginning of Marilyn's second semester of college and a new year of letters for me. In addition, I made good progress this week copying her sophomore year letters (155 pages, as opposed to the 225 of her first year). Next weekend's post will be the last of her freshman year before I move into September of 1951.

Normally I give an overview before jumping right into her passages, but I have so much to still do today! As a result, today's post won't have that substance (but with more to come next weekend, I promise). To compensate, I've included two close-ups of her letters in today's post. Didn't Marilyn have beautiful penmanship? Say what you will about writing in cursive, but you cannot deny it has a lovely appearance in letter writing. The first at the top of this post was written while Marilyn was on choir tour - it was postmarked from Racine, Wisconsin. I found it interesting that the choir members were hosted by the community individuals (practically unheard of in today's age). 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 3

Another week has passed and it is time for another update on Marilyn's letters. I'm sure many of you would love to have a visual of Marilyn, so this photo is Marilyn's 1950 high school graduation portrait. Thank you, Grandma E, for supplying this.

Right now, I am simply taking the time to enjoy Marilyn's stories home. I am 108 pages (of 225) into her freshman year of college and once again, I have so much to share with you. From October to December of 1950, I had to do quite a bit more research online - Marilyn references a lot of things that are unfamiliar to me. Some examples include "Fibber McGee & Molly," a popular radio talk show in the 1940s and 50s, Fostoria dishes (now antiques that can be worth quite a lot), Joe Louis winning a boxing match, and outbreaks of tuberculosis in the area of her college. Fun story: you can actually listen to archived radio episodes of "Fibber McGee & Molly" online. I've put it on my list of things to do when I have more downtime.

In addition to her general news, Marilyn comments much more frequently about the Korean War in this time frame of letters. I am rusty on my history of the Korean War (thank you, History Channel, for the brush-up) but found her first-hand comments to be riveting. As one whose teenage years occurred post-9/11 terrorism, it's interesting to see the connections that span wartime activities between generations. After all, Marilyn was only 18 when the Korean War began. The entries she has about the conscription process and the men drafted spans so many letters, I would have to start keeping a list of all of those she knew who were required to go to war.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 2

I have finished copying, numbering, and organizing Marilyn's freshman year letters but am certainly not close to finishing reading them.There are 225 pages from September 1950 to May 1951. Since some of her stationary is small, some of my scans are actually 2 letter pages to 1 page of printer paper. I am taking a slight break from copying the letters since I want to read each year as I go. I am currently into October 1950, with just a few months left of her first semester at Augsburg.

As I read more and more letters, I cannot help but notice that every generation has a writer in the family. Marilyn was certainly the writer of hers - she was the assistant make-up editor of her school's newspaper, the Augsburg Echo (a make-up editor at the time was responsible for layout and putting the paper together). And of course we know she wrote letters home almost every day.

I am starting to have a clearer picture on the direction of this novel and have started a few rough outlines and even first drafts. I have decided I do not want to lose my initial ideas by excessively annotating, rereading letters, and doing research before I even begin any writing. The project is certainly loose right now and needs a stronger structure, but I know with a little more time and organization, a solid first draft will emerge.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 1

I have taken some time away from regular writing here at Certainly Candid as I work on my novel. Now that I have made significant progress, I will share some background information with you, my online readers. Letters from Marilyn is a working title and while I have not decided upon the style of this piece (purely nonfiction, historical fiction emphasis, infused memoir, etc.), I have enjoyed every moment of reading (and rereading!) her many letters.

Marilyn Solberg was my grandfather's sister and she wrote letters to her mother almost every day during college. Marilyn died too young at 21, leaving behind a family who loved her and a myriad of friends. Our family found her letters when her own mother (my great-grandmother) died in 2004. She had kept them all. Over 60 years old, they contain so much written word from the great-aunt I never had the chance to meet.

Shortly after Marilyn's sudden death, her college roommate wrote this to Marilyn's mother in 1953: I don't know how I'll ever get used to life without Marilyn. We had done so many wonderful things together. It seemed that at first I was too stunned to realize, and now each day it becomes more vivid that my best friend is gone.

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