Wartime Mail Call in Small Town Oklahoma

Despite the millions of servicemen and women in uniform during World War II, the great majority of Americans remained civilians on the home front. Their day-to-day lives continued, but with the added interest in and concern about the war, and family and friends directly engaged in it. Retired University of Oklahoma Professor Frank Heaston provided a window to the forgotten realities of those home front lives in A Paean to Pocasset, a book of remembrance about his tiny Grady County hometown. Heaston chronicled the daily drama of wartime mail in the following excerpt.


Pocasset had incoming mail twice a day—in the early morning and at about 2:00 p.m. The mail arrived on trains at scheduled times, but often the schedule meant little. Passenger trains were sidetracked by military trains and military freight. Someone was paid to pick up the mail, usually a bag or two, at the train depot and bring it to the post office.


It was a time of news sharing and news gathering. Most people knew there would be nothing placed in their boxes, but just in case they wanted to be there. It was, perhaps, a little like girl watching by young men of the urban areas. And the twenty to thirty minutes it took to sort the mail was good visiting time, which went on until the job was complete. That brought on a rush with everyone taking one last look in their post office box and then running their hand through the box to be certain that their eyes had not lied.


This afternoon ritual became even more important as war drew closer and finally arrived with Pearl Harbor. As more and more of the local men and boys were called up or volunteered for the service, the mail deliveries became an increasingly important part of the day, if not the highlight. Mail and mail delivery became the only link between the men serving around the world and the parents and sweethearts left at home. On that great day when a letter arrived, the fortunate person would see it hit the front of the post box, then dash, spirits soaring, to pick it up. With light in their eyes, recipients would tear open the envelope and move a step away from the others to savor the words written to them from places they’d never been. A smile and a tear might emerge while others casually looked their way to be certain that all was well. There were many who would be disappointed. There might be mail in their boxes, but the longed-for letter had not come. They cleared their boxes, turned, and walked quietly to the front door, hiding their disappointment and trying to avoid shedding a tear.


Sometimes days turned into months without a card or letter. This brought great sorrow and fear to parents and wives, and to the community as a whole, for the community was whole in those war years, and one person’s loss was the community’s loss. More often than not, the lack of mail meant that the serviceman was simply extra busy or in some special training or a short leave. It seemed that most of the town’s servicemen were very careful to keep their loved ones updated. They tried to reduce their worry and concern. But it could mean their serviceman was in transit, perhaps to overseas, or if he were overseas he might be a casualty or wounded or be lost in a prison camp. Pocasset experienced all of those things during the terrible war years.

 

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Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

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