This is Post #11 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.
AIR LETTER – AEROGRAMME
VIA AIR MAIL – PAR AVION
Pre-stamped U.S. Postage 10c Air Mail letter and envelope.
Mr. Fred W. Clayton
American Embassy – USOM Kabul
Department of State Mail Room
Washington 25, D.C.
Typed letter #2:
September 30, 1958
My Darling Fred,
Your letters have been most interesting – last received was from Hong Kong. We appreciate the time you have taken to write them. You did not mention the big typhoon which hit Tokyo just after you left. We are glad you saw the town before the damage was done.
We’ll be looking for the pictures.
I have continued to work on clearing the yard to the limit of my strength. The whole side yard is cleared and a temporary fence relocated. (probably quite permanent) and the north yard is also cleared. I have not yet done the clothesline yard nor the two rear yards. Maybe I’ll have space for a sketch of some changes. I’m a little bit behind schedule because of troubles getting things rototilled, but it is now half done.
Some of the packing troubles are beginning to show up. I had particularly left you the slim scissors and given myself the heavy yard one so I could cut down lilies etc. It seems I have the slim one (a duplicate of one I have here) and I can’t find the heavy yard one at all. What are you going to do without the slim scissors I had left for the Afghanistan shipment? Also I had put 100 informals in the home box and now I can’t find any. I wanted them to write Burris and Melarkey and others. 200 went to Afghanistan in another box. All I asked you to do about scissors was add one sewing one to the home shipment, and this was done nicely.
Weather here has been exquisitely just right. There are signs that this could be a very golden fall. Donald was looking at a very bright big dipper this evening. Days are so delightful I wish they would never change.
Kenneth came out as one of two in Carson High on the Scholarship Qualifying Test for Merit. Now he takes college board and fills out papers and if he keeps up his average, he is in. Keezer and he had identical final scores, in the 99th percentile. 10,000 semi-finalists represent ½ of 1% of the high school seniors.
I haven’t done anything in the yard yet that I regret.
(Yard diagram showing changes in planting and layout)
Washington bank balances came today and saved my life. I love you so very much and look forward to your letters with such interest
Sweet Dreams and Happy Wishes.
Lloydine, Don & Ken
Notes: In this age of consumer excess it is hard to remember that in the 1950’s there was still a shortage of manufacturing capacity and hence a dearth of stores to sell the stuff that was wished for, but not yet made. Much of the European, Japanese and Chinese manufacturing capability had been leveled by the war; blown to bits by American bombs and bombers and laid waste by the invasions of “enemy” armies.
Hence, from automobiles to toasters to scissors America (its industry untouched by the war) was supplying most of the worlds needs; prices for consumer items were high and there were still in 1958 shortages in almost everything, everywhere.
Hence we have a small spat about scissors; expensive and hard to replace. Frugality and thrift as well as scarcity and practicality dictated a careful planning about what one did, not a “buy it – charge it” mentality. One can always cut the spring flowers with a knife, but the use of scissors is better if one has had the luxury of scissors. In Afghanistan flowers were seldom cut at all although one might note that even today the cultivation of the opium poppy calls for knives, not scissors.
The “Carson House” at 405 North Roop Street cannot be found today on Google Maps. The streets have been renumbered. In 1958 the house was still on the east edge of town, only Pratt Street was further out. The lot being cleared bordered Telegraph Avenue, named because that is the route Bee’s Telegraph took as it made its way to Fort Churchill (the lines were gone in 1958 as most of Fort Churchill was gone too; but the name remained as a moniker of history.
The house was a 1905 era model home for a subdivision that was never built because the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake destroyed the bank and the wealth that was going to make the sub-division possible. We owned the house and the empty corner lot next door. Someone built a carriage barn and small stable at the front of the property when it became clear that the hoped for streetcar line would not go in. It was painted red. Later as automobiles became the rage a grease pit was added beneath the wooden floor where before only horses had tread. Kenneth used the garage to work on his 1908 jalopies and 1912 model cars that he bought and sold for $10 to $20 in his hands-on training to learn about the ways of modern cars. When one would actually be made to run it was a miracle, but he was still 16 then and his father was in Afghanistan – a bit too far away to help.
The north yard had grass and flowers. The front had two great cottonwood trees, one on each side of the green painted walkway. Further north (north of the barn that faced Roop Street) was another lot (more the field), also empty where we housed our horses when we had them. They had been sold when we moved to Washington DC so the field was now really empty. The old riveted hot water heater on its side with its top side cut off (the water trough for the horses) was still there and a half eaten salt lick left behind the day the horses were sold. I tried not to notice such things.
I had raised chickens in the chicken house, also painted red. It had a low roof, mice, uncollected eggs that I had missed when I scoured the hen house for the morning meal of eggs and in my case duck eggs from my two white ducks. The chickens and the ducks were gone now, the building was still there, its gone now though so don’t look for it on Google.
There was a chicken yard south of the chicken house next to the dirt alley. It had high wire to protect the birds from the other birds – the chicken hawks. South and west of the chicken yard was where we would shoe the horses; we hired someone, we didn’t have the tools. It was in the horseshoe yard that the propane tank was located, mentioned in the last Lloydine letter; it was next to the alley, really more another lot as no one lived behind us and no one lived very near going north and then far away across this emptiness to the east was Pratt Street and the Lynch’s. I thought you should know.
Between the back door of the house and the horseshoe yard was the clothesline yard. This was where I made mud pies and got stung by wasps if you’ve read the post. But I was younger then, five and not in 5th grade.
It’s a lot like trying to describe Qala Bist when it was a city and not just a wasted and forgotten place. The memories are still fresh, but so many places gone; If only one could find a letter from Qala Bist; “gone to America and this is the way it was the day my father left”. “Please don’t steal the postage or history will never know.” Communication is a two-way street; one must listen in order to learn.
The house is on the National Register now, for Historic Homes. The registration is about the house, not Fred or me or Lloydine or Ken. Others lived there too. Exchange students: Panzi from Burma, Guy from Belgium, a nice young woman from Finland – I need to find her name. And others owned the house and lived there both before and after us; but it was Our House for awhile and now the street (Roop) is very busy and the house houses offices and one day bulldozers will tear it down and there will not even be a gate that’s left; but we are not there yet. There are still more words and letters. The postman still knocks twice.
“Pansy” in Carson City in January of 1954 at the Clayton House. She experienced snow for the first time in her life in Carson City and even went skiing with the Claytons at the Sky Tavern ski area. Governor Russell and his family were also on the slopes that day. Everyone said “Hi”.
2010.02.28 – 22:49.