A previous post spoke of a rare find in my home as my mom and I cleared out things for her upcoming house move: Hundreds of WW 2 correspondence letters between my grandmother, Connie Maris, and her husband, Army Chaplain Marvin Maris, who was stationed in New Guinea and later the Philippines from 1943-45.
Connie was in Holland, Michigan with her two children, Priscilla (my mother, ages 11-12) and Rolf (my uncle, ages 5-6). She had moved to Michigan from the California Army base area after her husband had been deployed. Officers’ families were not allowed to live in military housing units once a soldier left so she was forced to find a new place to wait out the war. She had several options but finally decided to sell the car, using the money to hop on the train with her two youngsters and head off to her husband’s hometown, Holland, Michigan. There Marvin’s parents, Ebba and Harvey Maris, lived, which would put her closer to family.
In Holland, she rented the first floor of a 2-story bungalow whose owner was a retired schoolteacher (Jeanette) who lived on the second floor.
Being a pastor’s wife, Connie Maris was extremely active in the Holland Methodist Church, where she directed the youth choir, led Christian seminars, served on numerous church committees, and participated in and organized church activities. In between all this, including raising 2 young children, she sat herself down daily to write long, newsy letters to her overseas’ husband.
Among those many personal letters of happenings in Holland came those poignant moments-in-history reflections, including Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, May 8, and Victory over Japan (V-J) Day, announced on August 14 but commemorated on September 2 during the official signing of surrender aboard the USS Missouri.
A 5-Part letter Series
In honor of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day , I include here my grandmother’s letters concerning V-E Day. Also included will be her husband’s reply in the following 5-letter series
I begin below with my grandmother’s first letter sent to her husband as victory announcements began to spread throughout the world via the radio.
Sunday, May 5, 1945
Just three years last week since you left Williamstown. It sure seems that a lot has happened in all that time — California, Oregon + New Guinea and Philippines for you and Michigan for us.
Yesterday, Rolf went down to the Winstroms for the day for fishing. He had a grand time and managed to get a sheepshead.
He said it was too big for him to pull in alone (very proud young man). Priscilla helped me so well yesterday, I took her out for dinner. She eats everything now with a relish. Boy, she can out-eat me and will be a good runner-up for you.
Rolf’s appetite is getting better and he might be climbing up on you when you do get back.
Do you know the song “All of a sudden my heart sings”? It’s very nice. Good sentiment.
Today has been a day of little accomplishments. We went to church and Sunday school and then I cooked a nice dinner for a change — pot roast, potatoes, asparagus and green salad. Pineapple and banana cookies.
Our neighbors came over and wanted us to come and see their 3-day-old goat. They got it for a joke and were taking it to a farmer later in the afternoon. It was a good looking brown kid. They have 4 ducks and 4 chickens and we go over to see the progress every once in awhile.
Ora came for me yesterday morning and we went to the flower show and discovered that Priscilla had taken 2 3rd prizes after all of $2.00 each: her breakfast tray and miniature. I was very well-pleased. Imagine getting 9.00 in the family for a flower show. It is in war stamps so we are going to get a bond with it. We bought two bonds yesterday — one for us and one for your folks for Mother’s Day. They won’t like it but that’s OK. I’m going to blame it on you!
Tomorrow, I’ll go down and get stamps which is are our prize money. Nine dollars worth of war stamps. I’ll put 9 more with it and the kids can buy a bond.
We’re still waiting for VE Day. When it comes, it will be a tired starving Europe, won’t it? I wonder how we can feed all those poor people. I get awfully ashamed of us when we complain at what we don’t have. I think complaining gets to be a habit in this country of ours.
The all-girls choir is singing “Trees.” The hymn tonight is “Now the Day is over”. One of my favorites!
Off I go. Send money. I’ll try to buy war bonds with it. Goody, goody.
All my love, Connie
Note: If you didn’t know, war savings stamps were issued by the United States Treasury Department to help fund participation in World War I and World War II. A war bond was a debt security issued by the government to finance military operations during the war. Investment in war bonds was an emotional appeal to patriotic citizens to lend the government money as these bonds offered a rate of return below the market rate. My grandmother supported the war effort, as did many Americans, by purchasing bonds, as she did for a Mother’s Day present for her mother-in-law, Ebba. Her comment “They won’t like it!” referred to Harvey and Ebba’s pride when it came to accepting what they considered monetary gifts. However, in her letter written a week later on Mother’s Day, she reported that Marvin’s parents were very pleased with the gift and felt it appropriate.