[Fair warning: I wrote this one for family and it may have no interest at all for you.]
My Mother’s family have always been prolific writers. Mostly of letters, but also of poems, essays, lessons, and books. There’s a great sense of humor among the whole Hallford family. Tonight I was re-reading a round robin letter that my grandfather sent out in 1959. I don’t know where page one is… it may be deeper in this box, but I’m going to share the letter even without the first page. My family will chuckle at the style of writing Papa always had.
To set the stage, this is 1959, Papa and Mamma Hallford lived in Eastland, Texas, where he was the supervisor over the region’s Department of Welfare. He had been a school teacher and superintendent for many many years and always was an educator at heart. The four daughters were a little bit scattered (geographically, I mean)… the oldest, Aunt Dorothy, and her family were living in California. The second, Aunt Billie, may have been in Tyler along about this time. My mom was third, Pat, and we lived in Amarillo, and the youngest, Lou Helen or “Louie” lived in Oklahoma right on the Red River. My mother and her sisters and their mother wrote one another just about every week. There were always letters in the mailbox from someone in our family. Papa wrote less often, but sometimes felt like he needed to get into communication with his kids, so letters like this would arrive. What I really love about this letter is that he certainly didn’t waste paper, he wrote on the back of a mimeograph of the Sunday school attendance for the First Baptist Church. It has columns for the number enrolled, the number attending, the “total con.” (I don’t know if that is contributing or amount contributed), and the number that brought their Bibles. I had forgotten how that was always a check box on the offering envelope. Also, the number attending preaching. They had a good turnout that Dec. 7, 1958 Sunday with 320 there for Sunday school.
Here’s a picture of Papa Hallford so you can put him in your mind’s eye as you read:
So Papa sends out this round robin letter asking for each daughter to contribute and send it on. Imagine how much fun he could have had with e-mail!
Now to the letter, page 2:
The nature of these round robin items of communication can in no wise be called informative far as all of you know, old saggy P. has too much competition in the person of the previously mentioned champion noise maker who can lick more postage stamps in a month than a cow in a clover field cuts her cud. [He’s talking about my grandmother.] Neither can they be said to be exemplary especially for the up & coming nine [the grandchildren], because all of the laws of diction are violated in the effort. – - maybe (I do not indent or space for paragraphs) this particular primer one might be a kind of boastful, egotistical sort of thing that explains how the undersigned has really triumphed in the battle between him & the twice aforementioned character. In other words for the last few years she has been calling him “Pudgy” instead of honey or sweetheart or other similar honeymoon terms. as of now, it gives the undersigned great pleasure to announce that the valid basis for such unheard? of nickname is slowly but surely disappearing. Changing the subject rather abruptly – this is a cold, cloudy, misty, icy, dreary (so some people) day and it is the opinion of the undersigned that he had better bring this effort to promote family solidarity and individual stability to a halt and chase off down to White Gap and see about the ducks.
The recipients of this will please forward on to the next in the line of chronological descent after having entered their signature or made their mark at the bottom of this or attached sheets along with their comments and finally return, as explained above, to the undersigned,
P.S. Please explain to some of the age scrambled nine that old PP can read their writing. [I think that was a hint that the grandkids should write him]
[Thus ends his part, now my aunt Dorothy in California comes in.]
Dec. 24, 1958
Well, thought I’d get time to add a hilarious note to pop’s epistle, but, sing I’m not too gifted along the witty line and it takes me 24 hours to think up the proper thing to say; and, since far be it from me to break the chain, will sent it to the next in line, as I am now working 24 hours a day and have no time for thought. Will send you something for your “garden” tho – the following piece about Homer was in the Inglewood paper. Love to all and “Merry Christmas – Happy New Year.” Dorth
[She attached this article about my uncle:]
[Next, Aunt Billie chimes in. While everyone up to now has been in handwriting, she types hers, which was usually Papa’s favorite style of writing.]
January 14, 1959
I’m afraid if everyone is as long about getting this around as I am it will be a year before said writer receives it back! [I have to interject – I had forgotten that to make an exclamation point on the typewriter we had to make an apostrophe and then backspace and put a period, or vice versa. Remember that?] I would write a long, amusing, and interesting letter but my two youngest daughters are singing which means I can’t even think much less write. But my best to all of you most fortunate people!
P.S. I would like to have a newspaper clipping liken unto Homer’s, however the only time my husband’s name has been in the paper was when he was with the man who shot a whole in one in golf (if my terminology is correct and my spelling). Anyway Glendon was so proud of it he sent the clipping to his boss who filed it undoubtedly in his records and will probably get him a promotion!
[Next it comes to Amarillo and it is my mother’s turn. She is two months away from having giving birth to me! And she has a 2-and-a-half-year-old underfoot]
My mark has had to wait a few days as I wanted Durward to have the privilege of reading this, also, Mackie wouldn’t let Uncle Homer’s picture out of her sight. She was watching cartoons just now and asked if I could sing “Little Lulu” which I proceeded to do lustily. When I had finished, she said, “No, you sure can’t sing it, can you?” Since my writing is somewhat like my singing, I’ll send this on to Baby Louie to see if Jay has shot a “whole” in anything.
[Then Aunt Louie chimes in in pencil and third-person.]
Louis nearly burst a “whole” in the ceiling after reading this, from laughter. My contribution is on the next 2 pages. I think you should send this sheet around again. This “whole” business is too good to miss!
[Sadly, Aunt Louie’s contribution is also among the missing pages and the next page is once again from Aunt Dorothy in California]
Jan. 31, 1959
I think dad had a real brainstorm on this chain letter business, and we should keep it going all year. Homer says they had better not get any “funnier” (how do you spell that, Mrs. Hays? I’m inclined to wonder if my terminology is even correct) though or I will die of a spasm as I got so tickled over the last one I lost my breath. I told my family to get busy and pull something funny so I’d have an amusing line to add for a change. Homer commented that I might as well make up something on him like I always do, but Donna decided it was a disgrace that I was the only one in the family who wasn’t witty, so she composed a poem (aided with a few choice words by “the hopper”); and I don’t know whether it was composed as “huskily” as Louey’s (nor as “funnily”), but is respectfully submitted for your approval (or disapproval as the case may be). Looking forward to receiving the next issue. Love, Dorth
P.S. I think Mackie will surely be a comic writer, and I think her contribution should be mailed to Reader’s Digest.
[So then there is this poem composed by Donna who was maybe 12 at the time?]
The Hallford Captain and Crew of son-in-laws
Our paunchy grandpop is on a diet,
and, believe you me, its quite a fight!
He keeps very regular hours,
especially when mamma is working with flowers.
In bed by 5 and up at 2;
then off to the kitchen for a fried egg or two.
Poor Mamma pulls the covers over her head, and wishes to goodness he’d go back to bed.
The father of our happy crew, [she’s talking about her own dad, Homer]
hardly ever catches the flu.
When P.T.A. is mentioned he blows his hairless top,
it takes a while before he will stop.
Uncle Glendon whirls around,
and is a speedy man about town.
his build is lean, his grin is wide,
and he has a very tough hide!
Uncle Jay is always gay,
Until a storm destroys his hay.
He gins by day and by night,
and a trip to California is out of sight.
Uncle Durward is quite a talker,
but not much of a squawker.
he is a regular hunting fiend,
but rarely ever hits a thing.
don’t get me wrong fellows,
I think you’re all tops!
Meek, mild, and mellow,
And a good wielder of mops!
Composed by Donna.
[eventually the letter has gotten back to Papa and has gone to everyone so they can read it so he adds:]
Above specimen of quadro wit received & this date transmitted on the second go round wtih 1st contribution which has been read by all detached & filed away for future phun similar to that of a whole in won.
[End of the round robin letter]
Like I said, funny and always seeking to educate.
I don’t know if more pieces of this letter will appear or not. Doesn’t matter. There are many other amazing letters and documents and pictures and poems to sort through in this box. And maybe I’ll treat you to some of them.