Madelyn Given enjoyed writing letters as a child.

Childhood Memories: Letter Writing

I enjoyed writing for a purpose at an early age and the main reason was letter writing. There was joy when my mother or father brought home mail from our box at the Post Office. I waited anxiously for a letter or card from an aunt, a great aunt, my grandmother, or a pen pal. I was so excited that I would read the letter and sit down and respond right away. Each person was different, and the mail was very special to me.

I became a regular letter writer by third grade. After third grade, I went away to summer camp for two weeks each summer. I would write home telling all the adventures happening to me in my young life. Telephone calls were not allowed unless deemed necessary by the camp staff.

My Aunt Isabel was a Latin teacher and she would write asking me to come and visit her, or invite me to go out to dinner. One day on a visit I overheard her telling my mother to work on my spelling. This damped my desire to write to her, as I was very sensitive to criticism. In my eyes I was a great letter writer. We still wrote to each other and visited until her passing at an elderly age.

My great aunt Sylvia was the most fun to write to and receive letters. She asked just the right questions for my age. She understood what little girls liked to do.

My grandmother would send a newspaper cartoon or an article from a magazine and usually included a dollar or two to buy a treat. She was a kind and loving woman and a wonderful grandmother.

As a child I didn’t have as many distractions as children today. There was more time to read and write. We had no television; radio was played in the morning for weather reports and in the evening for news. The US Mail was an important part of communication outside of school, church, neighborhood, and the family at home. People were great about sending letters and postcards on a regular basis, not just when they went on vacation. Although people used the central telephone service to make important calls, phone calls were used with moderation, so letter writing was a part of daily life.

In 4th grade in my Girl Scout Troop I was paired up with a pen pal from Mexico. We corresponded for many years and when my mother visited Mexico she met her.

Writing letters has continued all my life. When I left home to go away to college, my mother wrote a letter to me every day. Her letters were current, upbeat, funny, and happy and she never repeated anything. She died at age 91 and wrote cards and notes up to the time of her death. That was a lifetime of letter writing. I hope this family tradition continues with my granddaughters.

-July 8, 2014