By: Paige Cline
I was reminded that when my mother died, she was ninety-one. And, like most mothers, she had accumulated lots of ” stuff.” She had saved letters, clippings from newspapers and anything else that meant something to her.
Well, I had some of that stuff that I salvaged from the house and Barbara prevailed upon me to go through it and throw away what I didn’t want to keep.
There were several things that I treasured. There were copies of V-mail that been sent to and by my brothers during World War II. Salty spent most of the war in the jungles of New Guinea while Glenn was in North Africa and then Italy. Mom had saved clippings about when our brothers went to the service, where they trained, when they finished–every little scrap of information. But not just Salty and Glenn. Mom had clipped the same items from the paper about other local boys in service. The Gunters and the Greens and the Roses and others serving were in her collection. Caring like that was not unusual back then. It was the norm. People then did, indeed, feel each other’s pain.
To send V-mail, you bought a special kind of stationery. It was one page and had a box outlined and you wrote within the lines. You folded the letter according to instructions and mailed it. Wherever the letter was processed, it was photographed and reduced in size before going on to the addressee. All this was to save weight and space as the government made an effort to handle the enormous quantity of mail going to and from servicemen.
Morale of men and women in service was an important factor and there were all kinds of things going on to encourage family and girl friends to write often. At our house, all the kids had to write their brothers regularly. This was not such a chore since we regarded them as heroes who were in some far-off place fighting to keep us free. That same scene was played out in the homes of almost everyone we knew.
Among the old papers that I went through was a faded yellow document which I carefully unfolded to keep from tearing it. It was a contract to play professional baseball that had been sent to my brother Salty when he returned home after the war. Scouts from the Welch Miners team had seen him play before he went in the army.
There were several good baseball players around here back then, but if I may be allowed to brag a little, Salty was one of the best. He was fast, he could get on base and in the field he could run down and catch anything that stayed in the county.
Here, sixty years later, I held in my hand the paper that represented the dreams of a boy and young adult. There was no mention of money in the terms, but that didn’t matter. There were checkmarks at the lines for him to put his signature. But it was unsigned.
By that time his skills were diminished to the point that Salty knew that there was no competing at the level that would be required. The dream was a casualty of the war.
I have written before about traveling to Welch to watch professional baseball. Many future major-leaguers played there. I have thought many times, then and now, of how proud I would have been to watch my brother play at that level.
The contract was never signed. He never played for the Miners. But I found I didn’t need that to be proud. He was still my hero, as were all the guys who sacrificed their youth to serve their country.