Postcards of the Great War

As a part of researching my family, there are just a few archival items that have been passed along in our family and some of those are a little worse for wear.  There are two postcards, written by my Great Grandfather John Moors addressed to his son, my Grandfather John Moors.  One is in my auntie’s possession and the other is in my father’s possession.  The first one is known as a silk, easily identifiable because of the stitched front side.

Background and production

Embroidered silk postcards do not all date from the First World War – they were used for sentimental greetings in France before 1914. First exhibited in 1900, they continued to be manufactured until the 1950s. Production peaked during the 1914-18 war, as the format proved especially popular with British soldiers.  The hand-embroidery is thought to have been carried out in domestic houses as ‘out-work’ by civilians in France and Belgium, and in the UK by Belgian refugees. The designs were repeatedly embroidered on rolls of silk.  These were then sent to cities (mainly Paris) for cutting up, final assembly and distribution, in what was probably at that stage a factory operation.

The silk that we have in our family is now behind glass.  I apologize for the glare as it did impact the photograph, but it is great to have a digital image and to be able to share its contents with my family.

John Moors Post Card from Auntie Eleanor's House

On the backside…lovely words…a father to his son.  John asks for mailing information for Walter and George.  I’m pleased that I have placed both of them in this photograph prior to heading overseas.  He writes very much as my grandfather spoke, with a bit of formality.  I reach across time and space to give him my love.  This is August 2016, mid ocean.  My Great Grandfather died, while a patient, during the bombing of Etaples Canada Hospital on May 19, 1918.

Post Card John Moors 11

Walter and George both appear in the 40th Field Battery photo taken at Camp Borden.  I don’t know if my Great Grandfather had any opportunity to reconnect with them.  They both survived the war, though there are several references that put their military units at such locations as Vimy and Passchendaele.

R Walter Haddow 4th fr lft 2nd row frm back

My Great Uncle Walter…

Walter haddow 40th field battery

My Great Uncle George…

George Haddoe 1915 40th Field Battery

The second postcard was more simple issue, sent as my Great Grandfather was returning to the war, after a leave in Paris.  It’s strange, but this object is a real treasure, in my mind.  When one thinks about letters or postcards, there is an intimate relationship between the hand, the eye, and the heart…these two items were held in the hands of my relation.  Quite amazing that they have managed to move through the passage of time!

A couple of things I wonder…

…if my Grandfather sent his father letters.

…if anyone has a photograph of my Great Grandfather in uniform.  As far as I know, the photograph that appears at the bottom of this post is the only one in existence.  This is also a digital image.

I am forever-grateful for these two postcards, the last one post marked March of 1918, two months prior to John’s death.

Front Side Post Card John Moors

John Moors Postcard

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Postcards by E. Annie Proulx

Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 199, Annie Proulx.

I have completed yet another E. Annie Proulx novel, Postcards.  Over the course of the novel, I began to carry Loyal Blood around with me…fearful for his life choices, the anguish of his life, and curious about the challenges of his work.  During the daytime, I wondered over and over again if he just might at some point include a return address on one of his postcards to his family.  I wondered if he would return home.  This book, like Accordian Crimes, is NOT for the faint hearted.  I ached for the characters in this 1940s Vermont farming family.  ‘Proulx wrote me there.’  I anticipated each postcard from Loyal because each one linked the struggling family with other struggling individuals across 1940s America.  This was yet another tale of misery and the strength of the human will.  It was just a most hostile and ‘tough’ time in the United States, whether that be in a rural or urban community.  The writing was compelling; the imagery, authentic.  I grieve Loyal, his life, even as I type.

Above, I’ve included a link to a very thorough interview with Annie Proulx.  I thought that some of my readers may wish to look at it.  Proulx’s work is not light reading.  It is necessary to plough through her stories.  It is, I think, important that the reader bring their personal views/ knowledge and experiences to the reading.  At times it is a question of whether to be angry at the ‘stupid’ motivations of characters or to feel ’empathetic’…I think both reactions are ok.  Proulx doesn’t seem to hold any expectations.

I am saddened by the loss of the farm.  I am saddened when Jewell sets out in her car into those mountains.  I fear for the miners as time seems to tick in the dark wet chill.  This is another dark story.  Don’t say that I didn’t warn you! I’ve read a number of reviews and David Bradley’s is, by far, the strongest…so make certain that once you’ve spent time with Postcards, you look this one over.

 

 

Hollee’s Card

My fridge door holds a whole collection of ephemera…wee bits of flotsam and jetsam, each piece carrying little meaning for others, but huge meaning for me.  It all takes the form of magnets, photographs, bits of writing and items that bring to light my relationships and the people I treasure.  This morning, a postcard particularly stood out for me; on the back, a special message from Hollee on her journeys and on the front, a beautiful image, La Clairiere 1944 by Rene Magritte.

Magritte had survived a very unhappy period.  Invaded by the Nazis in 1940, he fled his beloved Brussels and the woman he loved (Georgette).  Returning in 1943 and experiencing a very dark personal period, Magritte overcame his sadness at the occupation of his home by spending a brief, but potent, period experimenting with the luminous and fruity palette of painters like Pierre Auguste Renoir.  La Clairiere (The Clearing) is evocative of work coming from Magritte’s  ‘Sunlit’ period.  Something like fifty pictures were completed during this brief, but inspiring, period from 1940 to 1945.

La Clairiere by Rene Magritte 1944

From 1935 forward one can glance through the art history books and discover the huge reaction and agitation in artists. Artworks, with the coming of war and the spirit of domination, demonstrated huge shifts and experimentation world wide.  We see this evidenced in a myriad of works including those produced by Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and abstract expressionist, Oskar Kokoschka.  Since university years, I have admired the work of Oskar Kokoschka and notice some of the same movement and expression in the work of contemporary, John Hartman.

Returning to the image…La Clairiere.  While I can not find any analysis of this painting in my art books or on line, suffice it to say that the images captured are very symbolic for me.  Most obvious, I suppose, is the image of the dove.  Within our western culture, the dove is symbolic of peace.  We see within the plants, the birth of a multitude of doves.  The single point of interest has already taken flight.  It feels as though peace arises from ‘the ordinary’, but the viewer is given the sense that it must be tended…watered…harvested.  This sense of ‘giving birth’ or ‘nurturing’ is supported by the nest and the contents, three eggs.  Here, I apply some of my Christian symbology…three; the triune God, the bread…the water of life and baptism.  I would give anything to be able to speak with the artist.  Wouldn’t we all like that?  So, for me, there is a sense of the Eucharistic elements present to a landscape that smacks of ‘the garden’.  While we are not present in the image, we are present through a sense of responsibility or engagement.  The glass of water invites us, as does the bread.  These fragile details (the eggs and nest, the bread, the glass) appear at the very forefront of the composition, causing a nurturing response and a sense of immediacy.

The shrubs read to be tobacco plants, a product that gave some sense of comfort and relief in the day and a plant that within first nations cultures represented a bartering tool as well as a gift.  Today, tobacco continues to be a part of healing ceremonies and is incorporated into sweat lodges and other ceremonies.

I enjoy Saturday mornings…after my walk with Max, I can take time to pray, sip a coffee…look at a postcard.

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
— Anne Rice