Friday, January 3, 2014

When there's no one left to remember them

Sometimes when I'm looking for WWII postcards on e-Bay I'll come across one written by a man to his wife or future wife and wonder why this family keepsake is listed for sale. In a few cases it's because the card accidentally got out of the family, but sometimes it's because there' no one left to remember. Such is the case of a card I found today.

It was written on August 10, 1945, just before the war ended. Germany had surrendered on May 8, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) were driving the Japanese to surrender. Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender on August 14, formalized on the U.S.S. Missouri on Sept. 2.

The postcard was written from New Mexico by Private John C. (Jack) Coldron to his future wife, Violet Day, in Pennsylvania. The message bemoaned the fact that the train schedule had gone "haywire" and 97 soldiers had an unexpected layover. They had to pay for their own lodging at 50 cents apiece. But he added, "War may be over soon, and then I get to see you soon anyway."

Jack was born in 1915, making him an old man compared to many WWII soldiers. He wasn't drafted until April of 1945 and served less than a year, being discharged in March 1946.

My research showed that John and Violet got married after the war, but it was a long courtship with their wedding taking place in 1952. He worked for the Board of Public Assistance in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Jack died at age 65  in 1981 and Violet at 79 in 1987. They did not have children.

When I first saw the card I concentrated on the message, trying to figure out the story behind the people. When I looked at the photo on the card I realized it's a place I've actually been. The card depicts the Raton Tunnel, a railroad tunnel between Raton, New Mexico and Trinidad, Colorado. I've seen the tunnel entrance several times while traveling I-25 when I lived in Pueblo, Colorado.

The postcard was offered for sale by a large-scale postcard seller in Canada, so I presume someone in the family put it out in an estate sale.  If anyone buys it, I suppose it will be a railroad buff.

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