• Brides of 1941 Delivers Something Old, Something New

    September 1, 2018 | News Press
  • In February 1934, T. Wayne and Dr. Lelia Skinner leave their three children behind in North America. Lelia’s hand-wringing letters from “Campamento Americano,” the residential section of a Chilean mining camp, describe an over-worked existence. The Skinners commit to keep up with the expense of three college educations. It is through her candid correspondence Lelia opens the door to an authentic multi-general family saga.

    Their eldest daughter, Roberta, lands on the campus of Smith College in 1937. Beaus who rank on Roberta’s “man-score” include a “townie,” several ivy leaguers, and a Montana cowboy. Over Christmas break 1939, in Saint Pete, Florida, she dances with Buster Bedford, a Princeton “Tiger” graduate and Columbia Law School first year. As the Roosevelt administration strategically guides the nation toward U.S. involvement in WWII, Buster prepares himself for the effort while courting Roberta long distance. He implores her to join him in an uncertain future and presses for her hand.

    “When cleaning out the personal effects of members of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ it’s not all that uncommon to find boxes of letters,” says Park. Short of pushing them to the back of another closet what do people do with them? “Some suggest to ceremoniously burn them and return their energy back to the universe. Tragically, others choose to declutter them straight to a dumpster.”

    Over the course of a few years, Park transcribed her family’s correspondence without giving thought to publishing a book. Though she confesses, “lessons from a conference of personal historians lit up a passion.” A game-changer for Park. The testimony of struggles, hopes, dreams, laughter and fun of real people who are no longer with us is compelling.

    “The fact that my husband is an enthusiastic collector of WWII memorabilia also plays a hand in my writing.” The ghosts are afloat in their Park City home where khaki and olive drab dominate the color palate. “It’s like living in a museum,” she laughs.

    “I’m a little undone at this moment in history. I appreciate now more than ever the patient teaching moments of Robin and Buster, and how they informed my values.” Civil rights, the second wave of feminism and the Vietnam war dominated dinner table conversation in her childhood home.

    The lessons are universal. “We humans are often too quick to judge. Why others hide from uncomfortable conversations with family and friends that we can, and must, learn from.” In Park’s case, anxiety, depression and suicide were woven into the family fabric before mental health mattered enough to dominate headlines.

    When asked how her ancestors might feel about sharing their story with the world, Park has this to say. “They may not like it, but I say it’s time for those skeletons to begin the conversation other American families might want to have.”


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