A Penny for . . .

The last paragraph in a letter dated March 22, 1943 reminds me to take stock of all that I own, and of the conveniences of living in the 21st century:

“Pass this news on to the fellows and tell them I can’t write them all because I’ll only have to tell them all the same news . . . tell them and the LeBlancs that this is sure a swell pen & pencil set. The pen writes by itself. All I have to do is hold it. I really appreciate it. This watch that you gave me is really on the ball. It will go pretty near two days on one winding and it’s keeping good time.”

Just the thought of having to write individual letters to all my friends and family leaves me exhausted. With Facebook and other social media, I can update all 255 of my closest peeps (!) with the click of a key. I do, though, remember receiving my own gift pen & pencil set when I left for my first college, and treasured it as I did my Smith Corona electric typewriter (which was quite a technological advancement from the manual one on which I learned to type at Braintree High School). Do we make wind-up watches anymore? I wonder what percentage of our population even wears a wrist watch in 2011.

Earlier in this same letter, Dad asks his family to remind any of the “fellows” to follow that they should bring 10 hangers with them, and requests “a carton of book matches, if you can get them. All they have down here are those penny boxes of wooden matches and they are too bulky to carry around.” To smoke was the status quo, and if cigarette manufacturers had the knowledge then of the destructive physical results, they sure didn’t tell anyone. Soldiers would find cigarettes in their meal rations . . . “’Spuds,’ ‘Wings,’ and if we were lucky,” Dad tells me, “Chelseys.”  They came four in a pack. I am reminded of being a child in a time when chalky candy cigarettes from the “Penny Store” were a treat. Ugh.