Here’s another letter I’ve transcribed from my grandmother’s brother, Warren Kerns. Warren was killed in an airplane accident with his brother, Nelson, 15, on July 24, 1930, one week after this letter was written. You can read about the accident here.
He wrote this letter to his mother, Caroline (called Callie) who was visiting her parents in California at the time. Some of the handwriting is indecipherable and there are some errors but I left them there because I wanted to transcribe them exactly. To read the other letters I’ve posted, click here,here, and here.
The Charlie that Warren mentions in the letter was the husband of his older sister Rhoda, who was my maternal grandmother. The Nevada is a town about twenty miles away in Missouri.
This is the last of the surviving letters from the boys to their mother. These handwritten letters are priceless to me. I think about how their hands passed over these pages and how the letters show their thoughts, activities… the things they wanted their mother to know. In the picture below, I wonder what Warren had first written but then erased beneath the words “Write soon.”
July 17, 1930
How are you? I am fine. It sure has been hot here the last two weeks. I am home now. I came last Friday to help with the hay. We got through the day before yesterday. I helped Charlie thrash last week. It sure was hot. Nearly all of the corn is laid by. Everything needs a rain. The early corn will not stand it much longer. The grass is almost dried up. I suppose things are much different where you are. How is Grandma.
I had a good time the forth. We went to Nevada in the after noon. I was in the lake about four hours. We got home after midnight. I know you had a good time. This is about all I have to say. Write soon.
I have a number of items from the two brothers that I will continue to share. Follow my blog to see old grade cards, Sunday school reports, Valentines, monoplane and biplane mechanical drawings, 4H awards, and more. Click like if you enjoyed this post and would like to recommend it.
Also feel free to comment about any of your own family history, artifacts or ephemera. Thanks for reading.
Once again, I’ve transcribed a letter from my grandmother’s brother, Nelson Kerns, 15, who is pictured below. Nelson was killed in an airplane accident with his brother, Warren, 16, on July 24, 1930. You can read about the accident here.
He wrote this letter to his mother, Caroline (called Callie) who was visiting her parents in California at the time. Some of the handwriting is indecipherable and there are some errors in spelling and possibly with regard to the temperature. I think it’s safe to say it was very hot during the last month of their lives.
I transcribed the letters as best I could, letting the errors exist since they do reveal a little about Nelson’s life, personality, and the value of chickens, eggs, and cream.
July 9, 1930
I have been so busy I have hardly had time to write. How is Grandma getting along? We are almost worked to death. All of our corn is laid by but that over south. We celebrated at Radio Springs the 4th. We are hayingnow. Breakfast is ready now. Katherine Alexander got the school. Did you celebrate the 4th? Rhoda and Charlie did. Warren hasn’t worked one day at home since school is out. He is working for Charlie. I am going to wash clothes while Papa mows hay. The weather is very hot it was 108 above zero one day. I stayed in the lake about 4 hrs. and got a good sunburning. Well, I must go to work. Write soon.
Cream 25 cents
Eggs 14 cents
Chickens 17 cents
We sold 90 chix and recieved ($22.00)
I have a number of items from the two brothers that I will continue to share. Follow my blog to see old grade cards, Sunday school reports, Valentines, monoplane and biplane mechanical drawings, 4H awards, and more. If you found this post enlightening about rural Missouri life in 1930, click the “Like” button and feel free to share. Here’s a photo of Nelson’s letter:
Okay, I didn’t meet him meet him. I just met him, and by that I mean I saw him in concert on May 10, 2015. From across the enormous Scottrade Center arena in St. Louis, to be exact, I met the artist who I have since learned is one of the hardest-working musicians performing today. And that’s the main reason why I’m an Ed Sheeran fan.
Even though Ed and I met on Mother’s Day two years ago, going to see his Multiply concert wasn’t originally intended to be a Mother’s Day outing for my daughter and I. Several months before, my daughter had purchased two tickets for herself and a friend without realizing that the day of the concert was also the day of her college’s graduation exercises. So the friend she had originally asked couldn’t go. Turns out her friend just had to graduate or something. So I went instead. It was Mother’s Day after all, we both agreed as we took the four-hour drive.
Before going to the concert, I really wasn’t familiar with Ed. Even though I had given my daughter his Plus and Multiply CDs as Christmas gifts, I didn’t understand his music or his performing style. I didn’t understand that when you went to an Ed Sheeran concert, you were going to a concert starring Ed Sheeran. And no one else. There is no band, no backup singers, no other musicians. There is one exception: his guitar technician, who would, after each song, walk out to Ed, take his guitar and hand him a new one with the capo placed, or the strings tuned, for the next song. Sometimes the guitar tech just handed Ed a new guitar in exchange for the one he had just destroyed. Yes, Ed Sheeran, king of the exquisitely-worded love ballad, can destroy a guitar. Into several pieces.
This happened onstage, in the heat of the concert. Ed transformed many songs from their original three- to four-minute length to 15- to 20-minutes. And this is when Ed revealed his alter-ego, when his guitar also functioned as a drum and he beat on it with his fists and the palms of his hands to take any song and morph it into a raucous, mind-blowingly loud tour de force accompanied by giant backdrops that exploded with psychedelic patterns, colors, and images to add a visual element to the audible. He did this with “Runaway”, “Bloodstream”, “I See Fire” and other numbers.
Still, the Ed that everybody knows and loves does dominate the show. But he returned smartly and consistently to his specialty: the songs that first come to mind when you think of Ed Sheeran: “Thinking Out Loud,” “Photograph,” “The A Team,” and “Lego House.” These songs surprisingly thrive in the presence of thousands. Maybe it’s because of the darkened arena when Ed asks everyone to turn on their smartphone lights. Thousands of lights dot the arena like the starriest sky as seen from an isolated prairie. The stars gently sway in rhythm to the music, and to the one man singing alone onstage.
To accomplish his one-man band, Ed uses a loop pedal, a device that records and layers chord progressions, riffs, vocals, beats, and other musical components until the song, in all its complexity, is pulsing out of the speakers while, all alone on that big stage, Ed plays the last layer of guitar live and sings his beautiful songs.
So, thanks to my daughter, I’m a big fan of Ed Sheeran. It’s fun to attempt to play some of his songs, the tabs for which I find online or on Youtube. Thankfully, some arrangements are doable for a guitar novice like me. Some, clearly, are not. Ed Sheeran definitely has a gift for songwriting and guitar playing. He would tell you, as he does in his book A Visual Journey, that it’s not so much a gift as simply a product of hard work and practice. Ahhh… music to my motherly ears. An artist with the work ethic to match his ambition.
Now that’s an artist that I, as an adult, can admire. I really like Ed Sheeran. I mean, I don’t like him like him. I just like him.
My daughter and I will see Ed again tonight at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. I’ll fill you in on how things go in an upcoming post.
I guess you could say I’m fascinated. It’s fun to learn about your distant ancestors. Then you learn that two of them died in their teens in an airplane accident. Recognizing the pain that their family and community felt upon their passing somehow honors their short lives and deaths and makes me better appreciate life and my ancestral heritage.
Below, I’ve transcribed a letter from my grandmother’s brother, Nelson Kerns, 15, who was killed in an airplane accident with his brother Warren, 16, on July 24, 1930. You can read about the accident here.
He wrote this letter to his mother, Caroline (called Callie) who was visiting her parents in California at the time. Some of the handwriting is indecipherable. I just transcribed the letters as best I could, leaving out editing marks to avoid distraction. For example, I’m sure that “hoes” isn’t the correct word in the second line, but I can’t figure out what word it should be.I never knew these two uncles, obviously, since they died so young.
My grandmother never talked about them either probably because their tragic lives would have been too painful to recall. She would have been newly married and no longer living at home, which would explain why Nelson doesn’t mention her in the letter. Her husband, Charlie, is mentioned, however.
Nelson’s letter to his mother (and others I have) included details about farming, school and church activities, local scandals, and a dog that really sucked.
June 24, 1930
I have been so busy that I haven’t had time to write. I have had all of the corn plowing to do while Papa works around home and hoes the truck. How are you getting along out there? How is Grandma? Warren hasn’t worked home a day since school was out. Our corn sure is fine, almost ready to lay by. We are laying by the corn by the potato patch. Our truck and garden is fine, more vegetables than we can eat. It has been awfully hot and still hot. We had a rain yesterday evening. It is noon now and Papa is up at Mr. Wallace’s getting a team to plow with and pay him back by plowing. The chickens sure are fine. Some almost ready to sell. I didn’t play the harp at the commencement exercise. We had it with Metz. I was second. Charlie has botten Warren a new suit. Papa has bought a complete new outfit of Sunday clothes. Old Spot got so bad sucking eggs that we carried him off. We took him up to Trout’s old house, up by Maler’s. We took him three weeks ago Saturday nite, and he came back Saturday morning. It took him three weeks to come home. He sucked six eggs one day. And found a nest of 12 and sucked all of them. Maybe you heard about the Leuty boys, Frank, Jim and Edgar. All three got in jail over stealing. Serving two years. Edgar and Jim broke in Horton’s store and got a shotgun and a lot of ammunition. And Frank helped steal meat from John Corribon.
Well, I must close:
I have more Warren and Nelson Kerns ephemera (report cards, Sunday School records, drawings, etc.) that I will be posting soon. Here is Nelson’s handwritten letter:
Below, I’ve transcribed a letter from my grandmother’s brother, Warren Kerns, 17, who was killed in an airplane accident with his brother Nelson, 15, on July 24, 1930. You can read about the accident here. He wrote this letter to his mother, Caroline (called Callie) who was visiting her parents in California at the time. Some of the handwriting is indecipherable. I just transcribed the letters as best I could, leaving out editing marks to avoid distraction. For example, I’m not sure that the first word in the last sentence is “Play.”
It’s eye-opening to read how life was so vastly different back then in southwest Missouri. My ancestors worked hard. Their days were consumed with difficult, laborious, time-consuming, hot, sweaty work. This will be even more evident in other letters I have and will eventually post. True, we work hard today, but with much less exertion. My ancestors also enjoyed relief from their work-filled days in the simple joys of ice cream and socializing.
June 10, 1930
How are you getting along. We are all getting along fine. Charlie and I have been plowing corn most of the time since school was out. I sure was glad when the last day of school came. It rained today and is rather cool now. I s’pose it is nice and warm where you are. We went to two children’s day exercises Sunday. We went down home Sunday and had all the ice cream we could eat. You don’t know what your missing. I have to wear an overcoat to plow corn in. Where are going to spend the forth of July. It is not very far away. I don’t know where we will go. Most any place rather than in the corn field. Things sure are cheap here. Eggs are $.16 and cream $.25 in Hume. I am going to a community sale tomorrow, which they are starting in Hume. It is now nine o’clock about my bedtime (sometimes). Well, this is all I can think of to tell you. Answer my letter soon and send me a good measure of California summer. Play like you are receiving kisses through this letter also.
Last December 2, I backed out of the driveway headed for the rural middle school in southwestern Missouri where I teach language arts. It was 7:02 a.m. My phone rang. I saw it was my daughter. Awfully early to get a call. I wondered whether something was wrong.
“Yeah, what’s going on?”
“I got the internship!” My heart soared. Two months earlier, she had applied for an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a modern art museum in Venice, Italy. She would venture to the beautiful floating city to undertake museum duties such as guarding masterpieces, giving presentations, hosting tours, and sculpture cleaning from Feb. 2 to May 2.
She was beyond excited. So was I, but now that her acceptance was official, it was impossible to imagine her moving to a foreign country and working for three long months away from her home, her language, her friends, her family, her life. The night she received the acceptance email, I lay in bed and cried.
I simply could not see it happening. but it did. True, it was a rough transition for everyone at first, but we made it, and it was a beautiful, life-changing experience… for her and me.
And let’s be honest, I realize this isn’t intimidating for everyone. Many kids and their parents have no problem doing this type of thing; however, for Midwesterners like us, just traveling to the coasts of the U.S. is a major excursion. In our eyes, Venice might as well have been Venus.
Internships that pay, like my daughter’s, are popular and highly valued. Study abroad programs are also. Should you ever be so fortunate as to have your child venture out alone on a similar endeavor, here are some tips to get you through it.
1. Be Strong. Even though I was excited, I was also scared for her, but I couldn’t let my reservations known. I had to be strong and encouraging because I knew that deep down she likely had reservations as well. Even though living in Italy and this particular internship had been her dream ever since we discovered it on Google, interrupting her college career and moving to a foreign country would definitely be outside her “comfort zone.” I had to show I was positive about this opportunity.
2. Send your spouse to get her settled. This was my first and best idea. My husband would fly over with her in January to help her get settled and accustomed to her new home. After all, she had never been to Italy, or even Europe for that matter. She had traveled with our family to South Africa five years earlier, and with a group of other college students and veterans to Vietnam in 2015. But Italy? For three months? Alone?
3. Make sure she doesn’t stand out. We Americans like our colors. Once my husband realized her bright floral umbrella could be spied far ahead through a crowd, he purchased her a black one. In looking at her Facebook posts that first week, I noticed her eye-catching, crimson-red purse. I texted my husband to make sure to get her a black one of those, too. Maybe we were being overly protective, but after watching a few Youtube videos of tourists and residents walking around Venice, we knew the city is a labyrinth of narrow, sometimes dark, walkways interspersed with those picture-perfect canals. No reason to look like an outsider, especially if you’re female.
4. Use technology. Numerous Facetime calls, the app People Tracker, Facebook, and Instagram made Italy seem not quite so far away. She started a blog called “From Venice with Love” that kept her in touch with friends at home. Happily, her work and social schedule quickly filled her time, and posting to Facebook and Instagram became more convenient.
5. Send a care package. We waited a couple of weeks, but then sent things from home she couldn’t find there. For example, the Venice grocery stores she frequented didn’t carry American basics such as Ranch salad dressing or pancake syrup. Peanut butter is hard to find. So are Ziploc bags.
6. Visit. If possible, visit for a short time about halfway through. This helped me understand the new lifestyle my daughter was experiencing. Her pictures and posts made more sense and I gained a new appreciation for the life-changing time she was having. Plus, it was Venice, people. We had to.
7. Break the trip into “chunks.” This made the trip seem more “doable.”My daughter’s internship broke down into three parts: one five-week period after my husband left, one weeklong chunk when we would visit, and finally one six-week chunk. Honestly, this last part flew by for both my daughter and I as she was finally comfortable and confidently knew her way around the city.
8. Pray. I relied on this daily. It was a great comfort to know that He would protect and care for her continually.
My daughter’s Venice experience was indeed life-changing. She now has an international set of friends she keeps up with daily through What’s App and she can’t wait to return and tour southern Italy. Her internship also confirmed her next steps: to complete her bachelor’s degree in Art Education and then pursue a master’s degree in Art History with the intention of working in a museum setting someday. She is already filling out applications for another overseas internship. I, on the other hand, am writing myself a note to re-read this post when she lands it.
The valentines in this picture will probably lead you the wrong way. They make this picture look colorful, nostalgic, and cheerful. If you study the other documents in the picture, you will see a tragedy emerge. And it’s one that is very difficult for me to think or write about.
Here it is: when my grandmother (who passed in 1998) was 21, her two younger brothers, ages 17 and 15, took an airplane ride at a 50-year celebration of the founding of Hume, Missouri. Apparently, the pilot underestimated the length of the field when it came time to land and to avoid a fence, he ascended, planning to give it another go. On the ascend, the plane stalled, nosedived, and crashed. All three on board eventually died. One boy died on the way to the hospital 25 miles away, the other died later that night, and the pilot died three days later. The crash occurred on July 24, 1930.
My grandmother never spoke of this. I only learned about it and of her brothers, Warren and Nelson Kerns, when I happened to discover a photo.
The boys’ mother, at the time of the accident, was visiting her parents in Santee, California. She returned by train, alone, to her husband and daughter (my grandmother) to bury her sons.
The tragedy shocked and devastated the tiny community of Hume. One newspaper reported that approximately 1,000 people attended the funeral service.
My mother assembled a large envelope of documents for me about the boys and their untimely deaths: newspaper clippings, photos, school grade cards, handwritten letters, valentines. One brittle envelope contains locks of hair I presume were gathered from the boys before burial.
Warren and Nelson were fascinated with aviation, which may have seemed like a fantastical vocation to two boys who worked hard, long hours on the family farm. I also found in that envelope some airplane diagrams drawn in pencil. They obviously possessed a propensity for mechanical thinking and creativity.
I have thought about my grandmother’s brothers many times over the past several years. I feel compelled to somehow honor, or at least recognize, their lives and deaths and the unspeakable pain that my grandmother, great-grandparents, and other family members endured. I don’t know what I will write or create.
The story will be difficult to tell properly because I know I have a tendency to dwell on sentiment and sentiment can be boring, predictable, manipulative. I want, instead, to write something that will honor the coping, the perseverance, and pragmatism of these people from whom I have descended. I want to write something we can learn from.
This was written in a letter that the boys’ mother received from her own mother two months after the deaths: “I have been so worried over it all I have not been fit to think right or do anything. One must try hard to turn our thoughts on other things. There is plenty to do and we must surely go forward and do our part. The dear boys are safe and happy and free from all the trials of this world and soon we too may be over there with them. Life is short — at the longest — and there is much to do and we can be happy in doing if we will.”