A blog for anyone who understands the joy of writing and receiving handwritten letters.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

101 Things I love about letters #9 Living history

I had the great fortune recently to get to write a story about the connection between a man that lives near Yass and the late great Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. Kingsford Smith and his co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge went down in mysterious circumstances over the Bay of Bengal 75 years ago, while making a world-record attempt of the fastest flight between England and Australia.

The man I interviewed was the nephew of Tommy Pethybridge and I was privileged to see many of his amazing family mementos. Among the sepia photographs and frail newspaper clippings were letters Tommy had written to his family. One in particular was pretty amazing. He wrote it while in the US with Kingsford Smith. They were there to pick up their new plane, which they called The Lady Southern Cross - and it was this plane that they went down in just a few months later. The wonderful thing about the letter I got to read was the immediacy of it. It felt like I was listening to Tommy's own voice. He wrote with amazement that you could buy a car "only a year old for just $25!". He thought America was a wonderful place with lots to see and do and his wide-eyed enthusiasm really comes through in his letter. It reminds me, in a really tangible way, that he was still a very young man when he died - younger than I am now.

In years to come will our grandchildren's children be reading our emails and our facebook updates to discover what we were like? I don't know... I somehow can't picture it. I imagine as technology changes in the future that little will be kept for posterity. Letters tucked away in boxes and drawers are a different matter, though. I know my parents still have old letters that belonged to their parents and grandparents. Yes, the ink eventually fades and the paper will one day disintegrate... but until then they provide a wonderful, tangible, living record of lives that went before. I love that.

Love from Kaz


  1. This is lovely, and so true! That's what I always say when convincing people of the value of snail mail-a shoebox of letters in the attic is a far better record of a correspondence than an email account, which seems so impersonal and impermanent.