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.
My husband wants to pick some blackberries, so he gets another bucket from the shed and heads to the ten or so rows of blackberry bushes toward the less-frequented part of Persimmon Hill Berry Farm in Lampe, Missouri. I wait for him under a cedar tree at a picnic table with our two one-gallon buckets brimming with the blueberries we just picked. It’s a sunny, humid day. Among the rows of Collins, Northblue and other varieties, the air is thick and still. Oppressive. But while I sit in the shade, a gentle breeze chills the dampness on my neck and arms. I observe and listen to the mid-morning activity of blueberry pickers.
A mother walks purposefully by. She is wearing a stiff, white Anabaptist bonnet and a long, navy blue cotton dress that covers her neck, shoulders, arms. Its hem reaches to her mid-calf and draws my eye to her footwear: hot pink, sparkly flip-flops. Her son wears long shorts, a plaid shirt, and a gray cap. They chatter in a loose and quiet German. The woman’s daughter, about four years old and the younger of her two children, wears a burgundy dress in the same style as her mother’s. Her blonde pigtails bounce with every step she takes in her sandals. She lags behind her mother and brother, dawdling to carefully study three little girls sitting at the picnic table to my right. Like baby birds, they perch atop the table, lifting their freckled cheeks to their mothers to be evenly coated with sunscreen and dutiful vigor.
The bonneted mother turns for the daughter and curtly calls her to hurry. Drawn to attention, the little girl’s eyes dart upward and her mother grasps her hand, pulling her alongside. The girl stumbles, hops, and dances to catch up to her mother’s long, deliberate strides. They turn into a row and disappear among the bushes near the far-end of the acreage where the berries are at their heaviest and sweetest.
My husband returns with a bucket half-filled with shiny, bumpy blackberries, many the size of elongated golf balls. It won’t take many to make a pie, which is what he intends to do this evening. We gather up our buckets and head for the house to pay our bill. I glance back across the valley of blueberry bushes. I see the mother’s starched white bonnet hovering over bushes and I appreciate her determination to accomplish the day’s tasks with her two little ones in tow.