Reading Other People’s Mail
Correspondence provides a glimpse into what people were doing on a daily basis and what they were talking about with their friends. Working as a reference librarian at the VHS, I spend a large part of my day reading other people’s mail. But often, we the researchers, are propelled into the middle of one-sided conversations because it is rare when we have the full exchange of letters between the two correspondents.
Rarer still, is when we have a sense of the emotion the recipient felt at the time they received the letter. The following is a letter I stumbled across while looking for something else completely unrelated. I include it because I felt connected to Mrs. Rachel Grinstead as soon as I read it.
In 1951 Sidney Adair of the Social Security Administration wrote to Mrs. Grinstead advising her to send them her deceased husband’s social security account number so that she could begin receiving his benefits (Mss1 C5795 a 89-137). On the back of that letter Mrs. Grinstead scribbled the following verse:
Roses are blooming everywhere I’ve found,
My heart is so heavy it could touch the ground
You’ve gone and that is why I am so blue
For my heart could love only you.
My arms are empty, my eyes are sad
Somehow or other, I’ve forgotten to be glad.
My feet won’t take me to the place we once knew
For my heart could love none other than you.
Hot on the outside, cold on the inside
You say that cannot be
Yes, hot on the outside, cold on the inside,
Why, that’s me.