We moved my mother out of her home of fifty years in 2003. What followed was a two-year marathon effort to sort all of her precious junk into piles of things to keep, things to give away and things to throw away. We will be forever indebted to our oldest brother, Terry, for volunteering to take on this monumental task. My other two brothers and I would show up on designated weekends to go through things we might want to keep. That, in short, is how I ended up with five boxes of assorted items which included the letters upon which My Darling Dorothy is based.
Nothing in any of the five boxes was organized by any stretch of the imagination. As I mentioned in the novel there were multiple greetings cards from the 1940s mixed with greeting cards from the 1990s along with letters, funeral notices, graduation announcements and grocery lists that stretched the entire eight decades of her life. At first, as you might imagine, this was quite frustrating, but then, something happened. I slowly changed my agenda from wanting to organize my mother’s collection to searching for little gems that might exist within the chaos. A sense of real excitement would envelop me when one of those gems emerged. The letters were, by far, the largest gem I uncovered, but the photos I have included with this blog post are examples of other nuggets that appeared as time passed.
My father’s Army discharge papers provided the necessary dates of his entrance and discharge as well as all the battles in which he participated. This allowed me to connect his letters with what was actually going on in his life at the time and “read between the lines,” when he said things like, “You or anybody else has no idea what we’re going through over here.”
The insignias were especially intriguing and provided many hours of enjoyment, researching their meaning online. The olive green insignia with the “T” in the middle left no doubt that he was part of the 36th Infantry Division, and the wildcat led me to the 636th Tank Destroyer Batallion. Reading their history further enhanced my understanding of where he was at any given time and what might be going on in his life.
Next time I’ll share more photos which were never dated and seldom had any identification. It didn’t matter. They kindled my imagination and led me down many paths which culminated in the creation of My Darling Dorothy.
Click below for more information about the division and the battalion associated with the insignias in the photographs.
36th Infantry Division:
636th Tank Destroyer Battalion: