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A Plea to Save Letters!

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Save letters! I have a treasure trove of memories downstairs.

So began the email from my mother earlier this week. She was going through letters written fifty years ago, many of them by her.

(Blue is my mother's writing. Black is mine.)

Christine, letter-saver, with daughter Pam
Christine, letter-saver, with daughter Pam

For years I would write a long letter occasionally with several carbon copies which I could then individualize for the recipient - and I saved copies. Also...there are the letters we received from your four grandparents, my grandmothers, etc. My mother wrote long letters which show their everyday life. [Your father's mother] often wrote hers while under the hair dryer at the beauty shop.

Next Mom shared wonderful excerpts from throughout the year. It made me think of times when a long-distance call was expensive, and thus cherished - long before email. The good part of this is that letters often had a pitter-patter of what had been going on - they offer such delightful insights into daily life.

The first set of letters she shared were from right when my parents were figuring out where they were going to set up my father's medical practice after finishing his training in Pittsburgh, so a pretty important decision! I'm pretty glad we ended up in Asheville, NC. It's especially interesting to compare what they say about my hometown with how it is today - much more of a hot spot!

Below are a few excerpts that will shed some light into one family's life in 1971 and hopefully inspire you to save (and share) some old letters you might find in your closet.



Moving from Western PA to Western NC - Opel, WVand UHaul
Moving from Western PA to Western NC

We were living in Glenshaw, PA, and moved to Oak Forest, NC the end of June. Lois helped us with that move driving the Opel, while I drove the VW van with a car top carrier, and Rob drove a truck pulling a trailer.

January 17

“We took all the children downtown a few weeks before Christmas to see Santa Claus at Horne’s where they don’t take pictures and we could take our own slides....Rob and I went to the ‘Nutcracker’ ballet and were so delighted that we went back with John and Stephen...for a matinee.

Aha! Now I'm reminded that we need to look at our family's old slides. Luckily, my parents just ordered a slide scanner.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theater was only a year old. Its Nutcracker is still going strong. My family even watched its innovative online adaptation this past December.

“We had a nice cover of snow during Christmas vacation ...Stephen and Bruce just played in our yard. Bruce is more adventuresome about sledding than Stephen. They both enjoy just rolling down the big hill way to the side of the house.

“The other day I sternly told Bruce that I didn’t like wet diapers. He kissed me and said 'But you like kisses.'

Ha! "But you like kisses" is still a line used in our family. How fun to read when it started.

Pam’s eyes are already dark - they won’t be blue.

February 24

“We had written to many towns....At first we thought the lack of response from Charles Longenecker in Asheville, N.C., meant he was not interested or opposed, but it turned out that he had been out of town. He sent a very friendly letter saying he was delighted we were considering Asheville and saying that they would offer to have us stay with them except that they were remodeling their house. He has been there three or four years....The quality of the hospitals and if we would be compatible is unknown, but the town is large enough for two. The difficulty there is that there is no large city close enough for an evening out.

March 23

Christine and her kids all dressed up
Christine and her kids all dressed up

“...Asheville is on a plateau 2300 feet above sea level between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. You see the mountains almost anywhere you drive, and the town itself is quite hilly in places. The Blue Ridge Parkway is right outside town....We pass an entrance to it on the way to our house which is...south of town...It took fifteen minutes to get from the house to the real estate office downtown so it will be less to the hospitals and the office nearby. There are two main hospitals, both currently expanding.

“For some reason the literature from Manchester, new Hampshire, appealed to both of us....So we will fly to Asheville Thursday, March 4th. Sunday we will go to Manchester, and we’ll return very late Tuesday....

“We arrived there the evening of March 4th, a Thursday. The Longeneckers were still away, but Charles met us at breakfast the next morning. Rob and Charles went to hospitals while I wandered around in our rented car, then the four of us met for lunch. I spent a few hours with Mary Alice, and Rob with Charles, then the two of us drove around a bit. We talked with Charles a little Monday morning, went around with a realtor a bit, and met them for dinner. That afternoon as we drove around looking at the area, listening to the Met’s ‘Boheme’, we decided that if the evening went well, we’d cancel our trip to Manchester and look for a house. It did - we really had a good time with them and another couple - so we told them and started making long distance phone calls.

Our family might have ended up in Manchester, NH. Oh, yes, and even then my mother loved listening to the Met's opera on the radio. It continues today via their video broadcasts!

May 5

“...The VA has approved our mortgage, and the N.C. medical expecting Rob on the 17th.

“... on Sunday we drove over to Fallingwater...Then we got home in time to get a sitter and went to see a double feature - ‘Patton’ and ‘Mash’....

A double feature!

June 9

“Rob’s big official license for framing came yesterday so we celebrated and went out to dinner.

“We can’t get a phone until July 6th....The office phone is 254-8111. Our number will be unlisted....

Most doctors didn't want their home numbers in the phone directory. Even so, the hospital would call him in at any hour of the day.

September 14 - Asheville

“ on call almost all the time and how busy he is varies considerably.

Rob with three young children
Rob with three young children

“I’m still having almost no problem with asthma, and I’ve had very little trouble with hay fever. That’s very unusual for the end of summer

“We were amazed that school started for John the middle of August. The bus stop is right next door by the corner, and he buys his lunch at the cafeteria...

“We like to go driving up and down the hills and exploring a bit in the car....Rob has gotten all kinds of very detailed maps so we’ve been on lots of dirt roads. I suspect that’s why I had a flat tire the other day! One day Rob went with some fellows from the hospital in a jeep on an almost impassable road, slid off the road, and spent hours digging a new road out.

“Rob and I had an excellent dinner one Saturday on the terrace of the Grove Park Inn. The view was magnificent. It’s an impressive building with two huge fireplaces in the lobby. We enjoyed just walking around after dinner.

Visiting my parents a couple years ago, my family (with a couple of my brothers) did some dirt road explorations in a successful search for waterfalls. It's obvious my parents' (father's?) influence is strong.

I continue to be surprised by how different the start and end of school is in different parts of the country. The Grove Park Inn is one of the older landmarks in Asheville and it also was a place we would sometimes go as a family for special occasions.

October 6

“The children all like school. Bruce is apt to fuss the days he doesn’t really growing up. He is a very good worker when given a job such as sweeping the porch.

Young Stefan, the "good worker"

“We’ve discovered something nice here that takes us back to our own childhoods. A theater about five minutes away (it was at South Forest Shopping Center) has a Saturday and Sunday matinee show for 50 or 75 cents a ticket. The show is a movie like ‘Gypsy Colt’ (Rob described it as a cross between ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Lassie Come Home’), a cartoon, coming attractions AND a serial. Right now it’s one about the Royal Mounties, with endings such as the good guy going over the cliff in his car. Of course, when they went back the next week they were relieved to find that he had been able to jump out before it went over! Rob threatened that I might have to take the three boys this Saturday when it’s a Lucille Ball movie, but ‘National Velvet’ is coming, and last Saturday he said it was a fairly good one about a child’s dream of China.

I saw countless movies at that that movie theater. I don't remember the 75 cent children's movie specials, although I do remember looking up the movie listings in the local newspaper.

So......I urge you all to Save your letters!


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