Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bossier City Child Writes to Roosevelt

We received a donation of some newspaper clippings (2014.035.002 & 2014.035.003) from Billie Jackson Lynn of Bedford, Texas. Ms. Lynn lived in Bossier City as a girl, graduating from Bossier High School in 1950. Her mother saved two clippings about a letter Billie wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942. Billie had four uncles and a cousin serving their country during World War II, all but one in the Army Air Forces. Two were prisoners of war, captured after the Philippine fighting. Worried about them, Billy decided to appeal to President Roosevelt to do his best to get them back safe and sound to their homes in Shreveport. He referred her letter to the War Department, which, in turn, referred it to General Ulio, adjutant general.

Here is his reply: "Dear Billy, Your letter of September 12, 1942, addressed to the President, concerning your loved ones who are now serving their country, has been transmitted to the War Department for reply. Your comments have been noted with interest and you may be assured that the War Department is always glad to receive the opinions of our young women and future citizens. Very truly yours, J.A. Ulio, Major General, The Adjutant General."
The newspaper noted the status of the soldiers in Billie’s family: “Billy's [sic] uncles are: Staff Sergeant H.F. Leeman, now a prisoner of war in Japan, formerly with the Army Air Forces; Private Charles H. Haynes, in the Air Forces in England; Private Homer W. Haynes, last heard from in Fort Lewis, Wash., with the Air Forces; and Corporal Clyde A. Jackson, in San Diego, with an anti-aircraft unit of the coast artillery. Her cousin: Private First Class James H. Markham, of the Air Forces, a prisoner of war [in Japan].

All are from Shreveport, and Billy hopes they all get back safely, after the job is finished. If she, the President, and General Ulio can affect it, they will. Meanwhile, she is an earnest collector of scrap metals, which will free her uncles and cousin.”

Both SSgt. Leeman and PFC Markham had been stationed at Barksdale Field and were reassigned to Savannah Army Air Base in Georgia in early 1941. They then went on to the Philippines where they were captured by the Japanese and taken prisoner. The men survived the Bataan Death March and were held in separate prison camps in Japan. They were finally released after the war and returned to the US.

Her newspaper photo shows Billie holding the letter she received along with a bomb, which her uncle had been fashioning into an ashtray before he was called into service. Billie donated the bomb to a scrap metal campaign.  Ms. Lynn remembers that “in those days, we were all patriotic.”

Newspaper clippings are commonly saved and passed down as family mementos, but newspaper is acidic by nature. This acid causes the paper to turn yellow and break – things you don’t want to happen to your family keepsakes! Since the information in the clipping is the real treasure and not the newspaper itself, be sure to make copies of fragile clippings. Use an acid-free, lignin-free paper for the copies. Much of the standard copy paper today is acid-free and can be purchased at any office supply store. By making copies, you ensure all of the important information is preserved for future generations. We made photocopies and scans of Billie’s articles so that we can easily preserve and share the story of her presidential correspondence.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chautauqua in Plain Dealing, 1917

A Chautauqua was a community gathering focused on lectures about important social, intellectual, and political issues. Musical performances and plays were also frequently part of the entertainment offerings. Plain Dealing hosted a Chautauqua in the fall of 1917. The Bossier Banner, October 11, 1917, announced a “three-day whirlwind of things worthwhile” and called the event "an educational and social opportunity that should not fail to be taken advantage of by all residents of this entire community." The paper noted that “the prices of admission will be reasonable.  Sunday, free to all.  Get a season ticket and see all the numbers.”
“These four things will be given great emphasis: Community co-operation, Better Schools, Increased Farm Production and Good Citizenship.  All worthy topics."
“The Radcliff Booster Club of Washington, D. C. will present:”
“THE METROPOLITANS—a trio of artists comprising Patti Rode, contralto; Alexa Whitmire, violinist, and Edward Coleman, a musician adept at playing any and all band instruments.  Every member of this company is a soloist, and their program will be one of the musical treats of the Chautauqua.”
“THREE OTHER CLEVER ARTISTS—Louise Carlton, a contralto of unusual power and eligibility; Mary Blanton, a reader with a rare personality  and a record of triumphant successes, and Estelle Wilson, a pianist of recognized ability, for a combination which has made a wonderful impression on every platform on which they have appeared.”
“THE LYRIC GLEE CLUB OF PHILADELPHIA—Four fine fellows who are known for their great voices, clean comedy and witty wisdom.  Their programs have never yet failed to please an audience.”
“J. Q. ROBINSON—An orator and a scholar.  Opie Read said of him: ‘I wish J. Q. Robinson was stationed in my town.  What an inspiration it would be to work with him.’”
“Col. GEORGE A. GEARHART—One of the most commanding figures on the Chautauqua platform.  His lectures, ‘The Coming Man’ and ‘Civic Righteousness’ are classics.  You will want to hear him.”
“JOHN G. CORNWELL—Preacher of health, happiness and efficiency.  As an orator and lecturer his services have been in demand in every part of this country.  He is supreme in that plane that lies between pure humor and vital philosophy.”
“W. G. G. HENWAY brings to the platform a sweet and wholesome optimism.  His messages deal with modern problems and their right solutions.  His winning personality, enthusiasm, rare tact and diplomacy have won for him a distinct place upon the platforms of the largest Chautauqua in this country.”
“THE MILBURNS—Gustav Milburn is a magician who ranks with the best and his charming wife is his capable assistant.  They present a program which is irresistibly fascinating and one that shows intelligent earnestness in its conception.  This is a winning feature of the program.