Category Archives: John Lind Collection

Documents, photos, and notes in the collection of my dad, John M. Lind, who turned 95 on Dec. 7, 2008.

In search of Betty Peabody, Part II

With her horseAbout five months ago, just days before my sister died, I found a box of letters my dad saved his whole life. Letters from Betty Peabody, a girl he first met in California when he was in high school. She was a couple of years younger, and when she moved back to Michigan, he visited and corresponded for quite a few years. Actually, they kept in touch through her college years, and he attended her graduation in 1937.

I think Bonnie had taken the box, and many other of my dad’s personal items, to keep our mother from throwing them out when he was moved to a nursing home.

Bonnie once mentioned her belief that our dad had hoped Betty would follow him to Hawaii when he moved here in 1939. That didn’t happen.

My question back in October was simple: “Is it okay to read a parent’s intimate correspondence that they never shared while alive?”

Well, I have read a number of the letters, and they aren’t what I would have called “intimate.” They obviously represented something my dad felt was important enough to keep them close at hand for over 70 years, but to me they’re really just chatty letters from a friend. Little vignettes from her school, news of her siblings and other relatives, descriptions of trips made, updates on the fate of her school’s athletic teams.

Here’s a link to one of her letters. In one place she refers to his visit to see her in Michigan, which helps to date the letter. I believe his visit was in the summer of 1933, when he and a friend hitchhiked to the Chicago Worlds Fair that opened earlier that year. So this letter was written sometime after that.

I felt a bit let down after reading it. I was obviously hoping I would learn something more about my dad from the letters from this youthful romance. Maybe that will still happen as additional letters turn up. We’ll see.

Throwback Thursday: Long Beach Earthquake damage, March 1933

This was Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, after the earthquake that hit the city late in the afternoon of March 10, 1933.

The photo, apparently obtained by my father at the time of the quake, is one of several snapshots showing damaged buildings and displaced residents that were among my sister’s personal papers. There were brief captions on the back, some in my dad’s handwriting, others typed and glued on.

Although my father was born in Berkeley, his family moved to Long Beach when he was very young, and he grew up in that coastal city.

He graduated from Wilson High School. I think that was in 1932.

Other photos show damaged businesses, and an area in Bixby Park where the Red Cross set up an emergency shelter with kitchens and tents.

Click on the photo to see the rest of the earthquake pictures.

March 1933 quake

The old papers, cards, and letters keep turning up

I assumed that the boxes of old papers I found and sorted or stored after my father died back in 2010 were the end of his “stuff”. No such luck. Now that I’m going through the things my sister left behind, I’ve turned up more of my dad’s old, yellowed papers. Yet more letters, receipts, newspaper clippings, Christmas cards, birthday cards, and more, most dating back from around 1930 through the 1950s.

Here are a couple of items of interest.

So you think traffic and the high rate of traffic fatalities in Honolulul is a new issue? Think again.

Here’s a newspaper clipping, undated, although it appears to date from the years of WWII. It features a photo of my dad and other members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce painting what is described as a “death flagpole.”

“In cooperation with the city-county Traffic Safety Commission, the safety committee of the Honolulu Junior Chamber of Commerce is planning to erect on Richards and King Sts. a flagpole that will fly a black “death” flag whenever a traffic fatality occurs, as means of promoting traffic safety and keeping down Honolulu’s high rate of traffic deaths.”

During WWII

And here’s another history lesson. Did you know Hawaii once had a poll tax? I didn’t.

It was apparently a $5 tax, paid annually.

[text]

If you’re wondering what that $5 would be worth in today’s dollars, here’s the answer: $81.92, according to one online

1941

And there’s a small historical side note to the poll tax receipt. It shows my parents were then living at 1018 Kealaolu. They rented there for a few years before buying a house another block down the same street.

You probably don’t recognize the address, but some 70 years later it was owned by Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, and was the scene of the now-famous mailbox theft.

It is a small world!

In search of Betty Peabody

Is it okay to read a parent’s intimate correspondence that they never shared while alive?

It’s suddenly a question I must ask. I still haven’t managed to finally finish sorting through and disposing of the papers that followed my parents to the ends of their very long lives. Endless photos, letters, Christmas cards, handwritten notes, newspaper clips, obits of friends…the variety is endless. I’ve managed to cull the “What in the world should I do with this?” category to just a few boxes that are safely in storage while I wait for the psychological energy to return to the task.

But now there’s a new task at hand…another round of sorting, this time going through my sister’s stuff, since it’s unlikely that she’ll be able to do it herself, given her current health challenges.

Today I opened a box in her bedroom, and recognized an old wooden box that had belonged to our father. I lifted the lid, and found a stack of handwritten letters from an old girlfriend of his. The first letter I picked up was penned in 1933, and scolded him for taking so long to reply to an earlier missive. I don’t know how many letters there are. The stack is maybe four inches high. My sister must have taken them from his room after my dad died, but never mentioned them to me.

An old flameThe letters are from Betty Peabody, a Michigan woman my dad met, probably just after graduating from high school. My sister recalls my mother saying “that woman’s picture” hung on the wall in my parents’ bedroom for several years, even after they were married. I’ve found several snapshots that I believe are of Peabody, only one with my dad’s handwritten note identifying her.

He sometimes talked about hitchhiking across the country to see the 1933 Worlds Fair in Chicago, and then spend time at the Peabody family’s farm in Birmingham, Michigan. But he never spoke to me directly about Peabody or their relationship.

From the bits and pieces, I think Peabody had spent time–a summer, perhaps?–with a relative in Long Beach, California. They met and, I now know, corresponded for years afterwards. She graduated from high school in 1933, and later earned a degree in Home Economics from Michigan State University. A copy of her graduation program was among his papers when he died, along with photos indicating he had attended the graduation ceremony.

Peabody has always been a special and mysterious figure in my dad’s life. Mysterious to my sister and I, that is.

Now I’ll retrieve the box and the letters. I intend to read to through them, although it makes me feel like I’m violating their privacy by digging into things my dad never talked about. And the other hand, he kept these letters for nearly nearly 80 years, and I want to know why. Perhaps it’s because they might tell me something more about my dad as a person, not as a father figure, but just as a guy just starting what turned out to be a long, long life.

And if I do read them, then what? Perhaps I’ll return them to her surviving family members. I’ve already searched online and found an obituary that identifies her relatives. Perhaps that’s the best I can do, and just let them decide whether the letters are worth saving.