Old Mail Speaks to New Generation

New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, NH) – Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Author: MEGHAN PIERCE Union Leader Correspondent
Library discovery: Letters in the basement now available to all.

TROY, NH

AFTER DECADES in the dark, World War II letters and postcards found in the town library basement are now seeing daylight.

Gay-Kimball Library director Catherine Callegari was rummaging through boxes in the basement last spring when she happened upon more than 50 wartime correspondences from servicemen and women to 1940s’ town librarian Annie Clark.

“I didn’t know they existed. I’ve been here six years and we’ve got a lot of boxes and things in the basement. When I found them I said, ‘What are these doing down here, these are a town treasure,'” Callegari said. “I was a little horrified that it was buried in the basement and forgotten.”

During World War II, Clark and library trustees George Ripley, A.H. Hanscom and J. T. Hawkins sent out requests to residents serving in the armed forces. The library wanted to keep a record of all the Troy residents who were in the military and where they were stationed, Callegari said.

Additionally Clark, who was also the organist at Troy Congregational Church and a part-time employee at the town post office, was in a great position to give hometown news to those in the military.

The first thing Callegari did with the mail was to take it home and read it.

“I spread them out all over my floor and I read every single one of them,” she said. “I was excited and fascinated. I couldn’t wait. It was like holding real history right in front of you. You’re touching it.”

Reading a letter from one servicewoman was particularly interesting, she said, since people today are so much more familiar of what servicemen did during the war, she said.

“It was a real insight into what she was doing,” Callegari said. “It’s stuck with me that she wrote this two-page letter about how she was out in the West and what that was like for her.”

Callegari said it was heartwarming to read the responses to Clark. “You could tell the request meant something.”

Reading through the mail, Callegari also learned about V-mail, which stood for Victory Mail. During the war, overseas letters and postcards were microfilmed and then mailed. Once in the U.S., the letters and postcards were printed at 60 percent of their original size then sent to the recipient. The process was used to save space, allowing the military to reduce 2,575 pounds of mail to a mere 45-pound mailbag.

“I had to look up what V-mail was,” Callegari said. “I’m sure everybody knew about that in the ‘40s.”

Callegari said she wanted everybody in town to be able to read the letters, so she’s having them posted on the library website, troylibrary.us.

“I think they are of extreme interest to the locals,” she said.

Volunteer Allan Bailey scanned each piece of mail to make electronic copies. Then the Edward Boufford American Legion Post 56 stepped up to pay for the Flicker account that is storing the correspondences online.

“We had so many letters we couldn’t do it on a free account. They happily agreed to sponsor the account and have already paid for two years of the account,” Callegari said.

The World War II mail has been posted online since November, but Callegari said she has only recently begun to publicize it.

“We’ve gotten a little bit of feedback from the town so far. I think people are still discovering it,” she said.

Hardcopies of the correspondences are also available for people to read at the library.

“When I found these I thought this is such a super cool piece of Troy history. It was hidden away and we’ve brought it out to the light of day,” Callegari said.

New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, NH) – Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Edition: State
Section: Local
Page: 1
Index Terms: General News
Record Number: 867368
Copyright, 2012, Union Leader Corp.