Tag Archives: letters

I can’t tell history

History is a story with murky beginning, with no end in sight. That much everyone knows. But as I’ve learnt, by digging in dusty papers, is that history is a story you don’t tell- you interpret it. Having found an interesting bundle of letters in one of the folders I thought I can interpret a story of J.V.B King for you. However, sometimes you build an interpretation just to see it crumble before your eyes.
J.V.B King- a student of St. Mark College in the years 1915-17 and like many young men he went to fight in the WWI. The letters I found are dated 1919 and 1920. King had been discharged from the army. He wrote both to Rev. Hudson, the principal of St Mark College, and to the Board of Education to be released from his agreement as student teacher. ‘I no longer feel fit to become a teacher.’ he says in his letter to the Board of Education. ‘…I desire to lead an open air life…’ and the reason for this letter is that he had been gassed during his service.
Few months later, unable to contact him, the secretary of the Board of Education wrote to Rev. Hudson. ‘I have no direct evidence that he had been gassed,’ says the letter. Oh my precious history nerds! Please come out of the woodwork and tell me: could you obtain such evidence back then? A doctor’s note perhaps? Could you even do that with the so many people dead, maimed or gassed? I’m sure that he lived, I can’t remember seeing him on the war memorial…
Thus the letters end and I still don’t know if J.V.B King got his release. I even wonder if he really lost his health or he simply wanted out. If the former, then I can only imagine how heart-breaking it must have been to not be able to pursue something he worked hard for. If the latter, then I can’t really blame him as teaching, to me, is a worthy equivalent of hell.
I wish I could tell you the rest of it, that King became a farmer and happily grew cabbage to the end of his days. But, the history is the only story I cannot tell.

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Filed under long time ago, musings, people

Handwriting week

Welcome everybody in the New Year; let’s hope that it will be a good one!
Did you know that the 23th of January was a National Handwriting Day in USA? It made me think about the process of writing and the ‘hand’ that everyone who can write have (mine is horrible, I can barely read myself:-). I looked at the different styles, different shapes of the letters and the way people choose to make it beautiful. No two writing characters are the same.
Among various books in our collection we also have those that were written by hand, often by more than one person. We have letters and notebooks, scrapbooks and official documents. Here are some examples.
This one comes from the students’ registry, 1918:

1918
And here is the example that was written after the WWII:

1945
Note how the general shapes of the letters change. Before war the style that was dominant in these documents was this careful and flowery copperplate. Then it turned into this small, economical and angular style, but maybe a little easier to read. I know next to nothing about calligraphy. I can’t say if this change was something sociological, political or just plain coincidence. But the difference is quite striking.
This one is a teacher’s notes front page. It gives the notes almost formal look:

Photo0546
This one is just an example of someone trying to make the rather dry pages a little more interesting and having fun with their ‘P’’:

P
Today the handwriting goes the way of the dinosaurs. In my class alone, I can see that half of the people already make notes completely in electronic format. With time it might become obsolete altogether. However it may go a different way. Maybe it will become an art form as it is Japan. In Japan, a calligraphy master is held in the same esteem as a painter would and his/her work is judged by critics as a picture would. What do you think? Is there a future for handwriting?

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Filed under artefacts, special occasions