D. E. Larsen, DVM
Deacon opened the letter carefully, she was hoping to be able to reuse the envelope. Inside there were four small sheets of paper, she removed them almost reverently.
“You kids come in here and I will read the letters,” Deacon said “And bring your little brother.”
“He can’t even talk,” Larry said. “Why does he have to listen to the letters?”
“That is how he will learn to talk,” Deacon said as Linda was arranging the chairs around the kitchen table.
“I don’t think he will ever talk,” Linda said.
It was 1943 and World War II was in full force. On the Home Front, gas rationing was one way everyone could participate in the war effort. Frank and Dolores (Deacon) Larsen were living up Coos River, out of Coos Bay. A trip to Myrtle Point to visit with family required save ration tickets to allow enough gas to for the trip. It also distracted from the Home Front effort to help the war effort.
Catching Creek was heavily invested in the war effort. Stan Felsher was missing in action in The Philippines, actually dead at the time but that was not confirmed by the military. Bob Lundy was on a flight crew in the Pacific. The Bartlett boys, Gene and Phillip were in the Navy. Gene was on a ship and Phillip was flying a fighter in the Pacific. Ernie was in flight training in Texas to fly bombers. The Home Front was their way of supporting those young men by actions, rather than just words.
In response to this forced isolation, the large Davenport family adopted a plan the titled The Round Robin, that was a common mode of communication during those dark years of war.
Some would start a letter and include all their family news, maybe some local gossip, war news and the like. They would mail the letter to a family member. The second person would add their letter to the envelope and send it on. By the time the letter made it around the family, it was a treasure trove of information. Not quite the same as a family dinner at Grandmas, but the best substitute they could devise.
With the kids all seated around the kitchen, Deacon started to read the letter. Actually, she read it to herself and paraphrased it for the kids.
“Grandma is sending a package to Uncle Ernie in Texas,” Deacon said.
“Mom, Why is Uncle Ernie in Texas?” Larry asked.
“He is learning to fly airplanes to fight in the war,” Deacon said. “And Aunt Lila and Uncle Robert are planning to go to San Diego to work building ships for the war.”
“When is the war going to be over?” Linda asked as she helped Gary out of his high chair.
“We don’t know how long it will last,” Deacon said as Gary toddled off into the front room. “That is way it is with a war. We just never know when it will end.”
“When do we get to go see Grandma again?” Linda asked. “I miss her.”
“We have to save our gas ration so we have enough gas to go visit,” Deacon said. “It is over thirty miles to Grandma’s house, and they need most of our gas for the men fighting the war. You want Uncle Ernie to have enough gas for his airplane, don’t you?”
“Yes, but it’s hard not being able to see Grandma,” Linda said. “Are you going to tell everybody about how good Gary is walking now.”
“Yes, that will be a good thing to add to the letter,” Deacon said.
“And tell about Dad bringing home a branch from the huckleberry bush where he works,” Larry said.
About this time there was a loud crash in the front room and a squall from Gary. Everyone rushed in to find Gary in the middle of a pile of boxes that Frank and Dolores had stacked in the corner.
“I wonder how high he got be they all came tumbling down?” Linda said.
“That’s the second time he h
as fallen from his climbing,” Deacon said. “I would think he would learn to keep his feet on the ground one of these days.”
“He just seems to be a slow learner,” Larry said.
“You kids take care of your brother,” Deacon said. “I will write our notes on the letter and get it ready to mail. I just hope I still have a stamp in the drawer.”
Deacon penned her notes on the back of the last slip of paper and carefully folded it and placed it in a new envelope. She addressed it to Duke and Jean Davenport, and placed a three cent stamp on the envelope.
“Larry, you take this out and put it in the mailbox before the mailman comes,” Deacon said. “And make sure you put the flag up so he will know there is a letter to send.”
“How come a letter cost three cents?” Larry asked. “The postcard we got yesterday from Auntie Dee only had a penny stamp on it.”
“You can only write a little note on a post card, and this letter contains a lot of those notes,” Deacon said. “Now, you hurry out to the mailbox so we don’t miss the mailman. The sooner this letter is mailed, the sooner we will a reply with all the other messages.”
It would be a long week before the same letter would make its second appearance with all the notes from everyone in the family. And Grandma would be starting a new letter.
It served its purpose, probably not as functional as a zoom meeting, but for a couple of three cent stamps, the Larsen family were kept informed of all the goings on the entire family group. And Gary grew up with acrophobia.
2 thoughts on “The Round Robin ”
That round-robin letter was a great idea for keeping family up to date back then.
Never heard of such a thing before. But it sounds like a splendid idea – in the days before telephones were in every house.