Tiers of Memories

Working with memories is like weaving or making collages - especially when I try to connect my memories with stories I might have heard when I was a child.

When I read this letter it reminded me of day I was visiting my grandmother, my father's mother, at her home. We were sitting in the "music room" when something sparked her to remember a trip to New York many year before with her husband. The most vivid memory I have of that conversation is her description of going to a Broadway theater to see "The Merry Widow." As she talked about her dress and a new fashionable hat her eyes were sparkling and she was smiling as she remember the evening.  I never forgot that afternoon.

In 1975 I went to Vienna with my friend Marie. One evening we went to the ornate Vienna Opera House to see "The Merry Widow" and the memories of the conversation with my grandmother flowed over me and I felt very connected to her although in real life I was not that close to her. It was a good feeling.

Finding this letter my aunt had given me was a "gift". So glad I wrote about it -so that I did not lose the memories of her again - - and that I connected to those days of WWI - - knowing more now about that time gives her letter more life for me.


Messages from the Past - 

Do you believe in "messages" from the past? I do. Its the mysterious part of working with history.

I have been writing this blog since 2005. From time to time I stroll back through old blog posts looking for a connection, a story, or something sweet to remember. 

I had forgotten about this letter my Grandmother Diggle wrote in 1918 and was startled when I read it last night. It is such is a strong connection to what I am absorbed with today. In fact the letter and what I later learned about her younger brother who died in France in 1918 may explain my fascination with WWI.  

Maybe there is something lurking here that I will be interested to find. Or perhaps "they" have something to tell me.

So - - - - I am pulling it back to the front so that I can think more about it as I wait to see what happens.


Letter from the Past - Part 1

I love old letters, whether I know the people of not. The handwriting brings you close to the person who wrote it and often there is a story hidden in an old letter. I have several storytelling programs built around old letters.

A few weeks ago an old letter fell out of some files I was moving. I recognized my grandmother's strong cursive handwriting before I picked it up. The paper is yellowed, the creases where its folded threaten to tear. The envelope is addressed to her mother, Mrs. J. W. Cobb, at 703 South Church Street in Charlotte and the postmark - 

the letter bears a purple three cent stamp and is postmarked April 30, 1918. Mailed from Madison Square Station in New York City. It is written on hotel stationery - Hotel McAlpin, Broadway and 34th Street, New York City.

On a first read the letter doesn't say much but as I thought about it I wondered if there was a story in it. I often tell people to use old documents to make a story. So, what about trying it.

First I will share the letter with you - then I will add bits and pieces as I discover them to flesh out th story.


Tuesday, April 29th
Dear Mama,
This won't be much of a letter because I am pretty tired, But I just want to tell you that think I am going to have "some trip." We arrived OK this morning, and I hadn't slept much on the train. I went to bed after a hot bath and slept until about one thirty. Sam spent the day at the office, so I crossed over to Macy's and spent quite a while looking 

around and shopping. Had dinner with Sam and then Uncle Fred and Florence came over to the hotel and took us out. We went to Vaudenville and then to a little place - a favorite of Uncle Fred's and had some beer and sandwiches. Believe me, it certainly tasted good. Florence is such a sweet girl. She has Friday evening off and she is coming to take me over to her house.

Cousin Nell called me this afternoon. She will be here about nine tomorrow morning and we will spend the day together.

Hope your finger is getting better and that the boys are not too much trouble. Won't write any more now as it is late. Everything here stirred up over Liberty Bonds. Hope to see the returned heroes from France before I leave.

Tell Grandma not to worry about Uncle Fred. He looks grand and says he never felt better in his life.

Kiss the boys and tell them to be good. Much love to you all. Will save some news until I see you.


First - Lets' consider the cast of characters:

Louise Cobb Diggle - the letter writer- my father's mother. At this time Louise was 32 years old, they had been married nine years and in that time she had given birth to six children and was now two months pregnant with her seventh child, who would be a daughter, Loretto. No doubt she needed a break.

Sam Diggle - her husband, father of all her children, was 31 years old.

Mrs. J. W. Cobb - Louise's mother, sister of Uncle Fred, was 59 years old. Her son Walter, Jr., 31, was in the Army and overseas in France along with his younger brother, Fritz, 23. Fritz was who was named for her brother, Fred - the Unlce Fred in Louise's letter

Uncle Fred Grose - Mrs. Cobb's younger brother who was 55 and had lived in New York City for some time.

Florence - his daughter
Cousin Nell - not sure who she is.

"the boys" - Lewis Diggle, age 7, Jack Diggle, Age 6 and Robert Diggle, age 4 - Robert is my father. The other children left behind in Charlotte were Mary Cobb, Catherine and year old Betty.

Grandma- Mrs. Samuel Grose - Louise's 83 year old grandmother and Mrs. Cobb's widowed mother.

One afternoon when I was about thirteen I was visiting Nanny at 826 Central Avenue, the house she and Sam build to house this large family. She reminisced about a wonderful trip they had made to New York. I listened vaguely, as a kid 13 would, but I do recall her saying that she had a new hat, a new Easter hat, with a wide brim.

Hoping for a new slice of history.

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