Back to the Grind

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend. I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, after a few days off. I spent a good part of the weekend visiting family and attempting to get more family pictures to scan. My aunt had kept a box of things she collected from my grandmother’s house after she died back in 2004. I enjoy reading old letters, because they are first hand historical documents, not history told through the lens of elites who can sometimes warp history to conform to their own biases.

I found this letter, written 5th October 1936, from a Mary Kidner who was traveling around the country with husband and children, living out of their car, and looking for work. This letter was written from a logging camp in Blodgett, Oregon, where they had stopped to find work. This letter was sent to my great-great Aunt Madeline, who forwarded it along to my then 12-year-old grandmother, asking her if she could use it in school. It’s not a terribly well written letter, but it gives an idea of what at least someone’s family life was like during the Great Depression. As bad as we might think we have things now, most of us aren’t raising a family in our automobiles and roaming the country looking for any chance of work. One thing it make me thankful for is that I wasn’t raised during the Great Depression.

One other little side rant is that the letter is hand written. I understand the schools are now going to stop teaching kids handwriting. This horrifies me, because I believe it makes the kids partially illiterate. As soon as they stopped forcing me to use long hand in the schools, I reverted to printing. I probably couldn’t write a letter in long hand today without great pain. But I did learn it, and can read it. The idea that a whole generation are going to be raised with a letter like this being no better than gibberish to them is shameful. The endarkenment continues.

7 thoughts on “Back to the Grind”

  1. Thanks for the letter, it was a real look back into our history!

    Also, I agree that the dumbing down in our schools is well under way – all the better to fit the USA into the third world.


  2. I can only imagine crossing a continent in the hope of finding a job. Things have to be pretty bad to consider doing that, especially with a whole family.

    Her reporting on the scenery was rather beautifully described. I’ve seen those mountains in Idaho, and driven the Columbia River Highway. She was quite correct; there’s not enough space to describe it.

    Also, as others have observed, America’s founding documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights – and the personal writings of the founders are all written in cursive. With “long” S’s, no less. Given another generation or so, kids won’t be able to read the original text; only transcripts. To “modern” kids, it may as well be another language.

  3. I learned cursive, and I can’t read half the chicken scratchings people called handwriting back then. I’ve come across a lot of old books with stuff written on the inside and too much of it is just loopy scribbling.

  4. There is definitely a change in cursive quality. The 18th century is pretty elegant; much of the early 19th century cursive writing is pretty hard to read. Some of the family letters from the late 19th century are pretty nice to read. But some of the 17th century cursive is incomprehensible to me.

  5. I sometimes wonder, what happened in the past to those of us who somehow could never master cursive writing? Would we forever be doomed to being regarded as idiots because our writing looked like a chimp had done it?

    I endured “The Palmer Method” (was it?) for years in elementary school, and after miles of lines of slashes and circles, my writing still looked as bad as it had in second grade. When I acquired a portable mechanical typewriter in junior high school, it was like a gift from heaven.

    Oddly, all of the males over several generations in my family print, when they have to communicate by hand, and all of our printing carries a remarkable “family likeness,” even though cousins and uncles and nephews all evolved their style on their own.

  6. The idea that a whole generation are going to be raised with a letter like this being no better than gibberish to them is shameful. The endarkenment continues.

    Whatever, Mr. Buggy Whip.

    By which I mean half-seriously that longhand styles change over time and are usually illegible after a while anyway – as Mr. Cramer said.

    I learned longhand (and while I’m as out of practice writing it as you, you don’t forget reaading it) – and I can’t really decipher hands from the 18th century, and often the 19th.

    It will be no great loss to humanity or history if reading longhand becomes a specialist skill learned by historians through specialist instruction (or any interested party via the Internet).

    (The Krauts already have and ignore this problem with the use of Sutterlin for three decades or so this last century.)

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