Tuesday, March 9, 2010


In the files that had to be cleaned out after my mother's death I found this one bit of memorabilia that surprised me. Dated June 20, 1944, it was an acceptance letter written by Union Gospel Press for an article she submitted to them called "Remember the Sabbath" and for which she was paid $1.00.

She died in 1982 and she had kept this letter AND the dollar bill all those years. I tucked it away in my own files and it will be handed down to one of my kids when I pass on.

Oh, how she wanted to write. One of my earliest memories is coming home from elementary school to see her sitting at her old typewriter pecking away. My sis and I knew she was writing stories, and most of them were little moralistic pieces featuring little Barbara or little Ginnie Lou as the good little kids. Of course we weren't interested in what she was writing. As with most kids, we didn't much interest ourselves in the big folks' business unless one of them was baking cookies or bringing home a bag of Sears freshly popped popcorn. So her writing was of no particular interest to us; mother at the typewriter was a common scene.

Mother was a high school graduate who went to work in a photo studio immediately upon graduating to learn "retouching" and "tinting photos" but who married soon and left the work force. According to family lore, her grandmother Louise ghost-wrote a book of early Caldwell, Kansas, and althought Grandma Louise died when my mom was 8, mother always felt that her own desire to write was passed down in her genes from her grandma.

When I saw this letter and dollar bill, I had a vague recollection of it from my childhood. As I recall, mother had a copy of the published story that we all read. It was fun to see her name in print and of course we thought she was now famous and were very proud of her.

Unfortunately for her, this is the only thing she ever published, but it was not from lack of trying. What her constant efforts at writing did was to aim both my sister and me at the typewriter! My sister entered college as an English major. And from the time I was in 9th grade, my mother encouraged me to take journalism classes, which I did through high school and college. And of course any of you who know me personally will know that the drive to write is no less in me that it was in my mother. I do not have a need to publish, but I do have a need to write. That urge bypassed my sister.

The most interesting thing for me when I look at this letter is that my mother was not religious nor was she a church goer. She always sent us kids to the nearest church to where we lived, and I suppose her idea of submitting an article to this publication came from her seeing something we brought home from Sunday School. And the second most interesting thing is that although you can't see it very well in the photo above, the dollar is a "Silver Certificate" instead of a "Federal Reserve Note" that is used today. And I note that my mother wrote her initials on the note up toward the left corner: VRD for Virginia Ryland Dobbins. She wanted to be sure she would always have the EXACT DOLLAR that she earned in her possession.

Yes, I have a copy of the check sent to me for the first article I wrote that was published. But there certainly isn't as much drama in that as in what my mother left for me.

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