24 June 2014

From Mack to Martha with love

Whenever my parents were separated, starting with when they became engaged to be married, my father would sometimes decorate the envelopes of his letters to her. Here, to honor the anniversary of their marriage in 1939, is a selection of envelopes. 

The first are from when she was in medical school at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

They became engaged with the understanding that they wanted to be missionaries.  They were hoping to go to China.  They had not learned that the mission had a strict social stratification for its selections for China.  

Mother said that once when she went to the post office, she saw "her" postman passing an envelope around, saying, "Now, I get to deliver these!"  

 In 1942-3, they taught at Judson College in Marion, Alabama.  The last weeks before I was born, my mother went up to Birmingham to stay with her mother. 

When I was five months old, my father left for war. Here is the last photo, with my aunt Janet Jordan Tate who idolized him, my grandmother, Anne Whitehurst Jordan, my mother, Martha Jordan Gilliland, and me.

My father got to China, by way of the US Army Air Corps.  He was stationed with the 14th Air Corps, the "Flying Tigers," in Kunming, China, and at a small base to the north. My mother took me and went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for two years.

 Notice the date on this next envelope: a month after the atomic bombs, he had learned that he was to be demobilized.   It was another six months, including three months on a troop ship, before he reached the United States,


  1. Exquisite drawings. What a delightful thing to do, just sharing his talent freely like a bird singing. How much she must have enjoyed getting them.

  2. Peter H. GIllilandTuesday, 24 June, 2014

    Note also that on the letter with the quill pen, the quill is an actual (tiny) feather glued to the envelope.
    On the "Rainbow's End" envelope, the picture(s) of Martha and Diana were photographs glued to the envelope. The photo of Diana got lost over time.
    McKinley returned from China with severe PTSD, due to having had (in his duties as Chaplain) to attend many airplane crashes. At several of those, he had to watch helplessly as some of the trapped crew members burned.
    When one goes through the envelopes from China, one notices a huge gap in the postmark dates. The art stops about the time McKinley gets to China, and it does not resume until the end of The War was in sight and the Soviets were closing in on Berlin.

  3. Charlene, that's a lovely simile! Thank you, Peter, for the added information. That feather fascinated me when I was small.

  4. How very romantic of your father - what beautiful memories.


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