Jean Croker Petke

Letters for Leyton

DSC00464Since January I’ve been compiling my parents’ courtship letters, written from 1936 – 1939. Though there are over 300 letters, I approached it as a simple, but large, typing job. My goal was to complete the project by the end of the year. Plenty of time.

Not far into the typing I discovered a need to document the people and things they wrote about. I kept thinking about my youngest great nephew who will eventually read these letters. Not only has he not met the letter writers, he won’t know the other relatives mentioned, the radio shows, the authors, the colleges, the movies and songs of their day, the automobiles, and so many other things. Research on the 137 noted items became a major task after the letter typing was completed.

As I typed I wanted to keep my parents’ original spellings, so I inserted [sic] after their errors so the reader wouldn’t think I made a lot of typos. Those [sic]s were totally annoying as I read the finished manuscript. So I took them out — more than 1000 of them. Using search-find-delete can create unforeseen problems requiring another edit of the manuscript, so I deleted them individually. The issue of my parents’ writing errors is now noted with a few sentences in the introduction.

After all of that, I realized a family tree would be helpful. Though I’ve heard about the relatives all of my life, I continue to have difficulty connecting everyone correctly. So I dug through the family archives in my garage, found most documents, and sent emails to get the other information I needed. Another not-so-small task.

The completed document is 470 pages and nearly 200,000 words. Before tweaking the final formatting I consulted with Office Depot (my printer) to make sure everything was exactly right for their process — only to discover that we have to print two-sided instead of one-sided (my original plan). There are now places where a blank page must be inserted to guarantee that section dividers print on the front, not the back side.

Since the last year of the letters contains all of the details of their wedding plans, I planned to scan two wedding photos onto the final page of the document. Number One Son taught me how to scan and insert photos into the document. No problem. Piece of cake.

From the very beginning I’ve had one dilemma: though the typed letters are accessible and readable, the original handwriting and envelopes with all the stamps are not available to the reader. Now that I know how to scan, a brilliant idea flashed into my brain. Since every letter begins on a new page, portions of some pages are blank. Why not scan parts of the original letters into these blank spaces? Little did I know how many such spaces existed in this project. What I originally thought would be a tiny bit of scanning has become huge — but I believe it enhances the project, so I am forging ahead.

When we start a project — any project — we have a vision. We can see it finished. But in our unknowing, we’re unaware of what will crop up along that way, what complications will arise, what additional steps may be required, or what will simply take more time than we imagined.

And at every step we have to ask: Do I need to do this additional thing? Will it make my project better? Am I willing to do the extra work? Can I expand my vision beyond my original idea? When is enough, enough?

So, Leyton, the expansion of my project is all for you. I want you to know about the world of your great grandparents when they were in love and courting and planning their wedding. The children they talked about having turned out to be your grandfather and me and your great uncle (our younger brother). You know us. And because you know us and you can read this compilation of letters, perhaps you can understand the profound influence our ancestors had on our lives.

Until next Tuesday . . .




2 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Karen Baker -

    What a great legacy your parents left for you! You are to be commended for taking the time to make this legacy something your family’s future generations will read and enjoy! Kudos!!

  • Linda Dingus -

    A good project for you and great information for your future family. I have so many unanswered questions about my heritage and past family in which I will never know the answers to.

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