Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What I Scanned

Each week I drive across town and scan someone else's stuff as part of a larger family history project. Here's a description of what I scanned this week:

One folder included documents and photos pertaining to the 1947 Texas City explosion. The family in these files lived in Texas City at the time of the disaster. Right after the explosion, the family headed to a relative's house in Houston for shelter. They took some photos of the black smoke over Texas City as they drove away. I digitized those and tagged them.

Another item I scanned was a Western Union telegram sent by the family to their relatives up north. This was an era with limited news resources and before television on wide scale. To hear on the radio that an explosion killed hundreds would worry anyone. This family wanted to make sure their relatives knew they were ok. The telegram said:

"All unhurt and at Houston house / damaged home / terrible explosion."

I just can't imagine how terrifying that must have been. 

When the family returned to their damaged home in Texas City, they drove around town and took more photos. The black and white set included images of damaged buildings, houses off foundations and blown tanks. If you didn't know the truth, you'd think these were tornado photos.

The next folder I scanned included an interesting set of letters. One of the subjects in this family graduated from college in 1940. In 1947, one of the classmates wrote to others in the class and asked them for updates on their lives, families, etc. That person collected all of the letters, typed them, stapled them together then sent booklets to each member of the class of 1940.

My task is to scan, but I couldn't help but read these letters as I was scanning them (thank goodness the scanner is slow). What made these "where are they now?" vignettes so special was that between graduation and adult life, there was World War II. 

Most of the letters had updates that were influenced by WWII. The former male students served in the military, and the former female students married men who served. Almost all of the updates included descriptions of base locations and relocations. After the war and in 1947 when they provided updates, these Midwest college folks were spread all over the country, and on all coasts. Did the war do that? If there hadn't been a war would they have stayed closer their Midwest college?

This was such a unique and interesting document. My description doesn't do it justice so you'll just have to trust me. Everyone has a story and each one is fascinating.

1 comment:

  1. Long ago, when I was in Nursing School, we saw a film on that disaster. This event was one of the foundations of modern burn care. I also think that was the time that Brooke Army Hospital also became a leader in burn care too.