Letter: An Offer of Employment in 1928

Written on Wednesday, December 5, 1928

She didn’t take it. Or maybe she did? I’m actually not sure.

5.12.28.

Dear Miss Hodder.

about the passage I may inform you. We are going in the middle of Jan. with the german ship, “Saarland” via Suez. If you are willing to take care of 2 children, really only the baby of 9 month, the other child being 4 already, I offer you first class cabin for it. Do you like children and have you any experience? If you are still interested call at my house. from 2-5 o’clock you may call anytime, otherwise I am absent, shopping etc. or you write before, than I shall be at home.

We are Germans.

Fran Strehlow

No 9 Tchinotani
Suma

Taking the tram no 2, 3 or 4 to the terminus and than a risha, they know us all at the Suma station.

Letter: Reunions, Kisses, and the Weirdness of 1920s Consent in 1929

Written on Wednesday, June 26, 1929

This is another letter that leaves me feeling weirdly and awkwardly protective of Gwyneth. But presumably this is what she wanted from the man she loved. Presumably, this is a letter showcasing at least some of the qualities that she found attractive in him. The paragraph about the expected kiss is also a bit weird. There’s no reason to believe that she would resist kissing him (though they haven’t seen each other in months, and anyone might feel slightly shy at first in those circumstances), but it’s made clear that resistance is uncool. Even if she wants to kiss him, which she probably very much does, it’s still somehow framed in this weird slightly coercive way.

Pense, Sask
June 26th
1929.

My dearest Gwyneth,

This should reach you about the day before you leave + I thought that even if I wrote on Sunday I had better write one and be sure to catch you before you left so as to cheer you up. Just imagine sweetheart, two weeks from the time you get this, (and) we shall be together again. I hardly dare think too much about it as I get all excited.

Your good letter of the 11th came yesterday and of course made me all the more excited. By the way little girl, what is it that you should tell me, that is worrying you? You say that you don’t know what on earth to do about it, so why not tell me and get it off your chest. I may not be able to help you, and yet I may, and in any case, I believe we should be frank with one another as we expect to be man and wife. In any case don’t worry over whatever it is, + if you don’t care to write it down then tell me after you come out. Remember dear heart I love you learly and want to do everything to make you as happy as possible and after we are married let us both try to remember to give and take. You say too that at times you get a little bit frightened when you think what marriage really means + what a huge responsibility it is, but I hardly think that we should be frightened, sweetheart. Truly it is one of the greatest blessings given us by God if we follow Him. I realize that we should understand the responsibility we have, also the wonderful privilege and holiness of it. God institute it in the beginning, + He knew what was best for man. I realize with you that it is up to both parties to make marriage a success, + I believe if we will both help the other that it should not be so difficult. I also strongly believe that where Christ is given his rightful place in teh home that there should be unity. Cheer up little woman. I believe we should be able to make as good a success of married life as most people, and a good deal better than lots.

I’ve been trying to clean up Andy’s house. Its awfully dirty, + I’m afraid I wont’ be able to make a very good thing of it. One thing, it will be clean when I’m through, even though it doesn’t look very good. One thing its so small that you won’t have so very much house work. Perhaps some day we’ll be able to build us a home + then we’ll have it as we like it.

I heard from Mr. Thornton today + he says that he hates to disappoint us, but he has had to cancel his Canadian trip this year on account of his heart. He has had had another heart attack and has to rest off. The doctor told him that his blood pressure was so low that it was too low to live; but he says he is gradually gaining.

He says too that he doesn’t know if he would be allowed to perform the ceremony here in Canada.

I still think sweetheart that it would be best for us to get married shortly after you arrive, but we’ll see how you feel about it when you get here. If we should, it will be about a month more + we will either be married or be seriously thinking about it. I can hardly imagine it, it seems too good to be true.

Now look after yourself sweetheart + be careful. Don’t forget to send me a telegram and state when you expect to reach Regina. Do you think you’ll recognize me at the station? Anyhow I have your picture + will do my best to make myself known,don’t yell if I try to carry you off. Remember the big kiss you’ve promised me for so long too and don’t try to get out of it. In any case there’ll be lots of chances on teh way home if we come by car, so I’ll try not to be too greedy all at once. I expect Vi will be at the station, so we’ll have to behave to a certain extent, but can make up for it later.

Now I must close, as its an hour after my usual bedtime and I’ll be all in tomorrow, so goodnight sweetheart o’ mine, take good care of yourself + keep looking up. May the Lord richly bless, protect and keep you in safety + satisfy the longings of your heart. With heaps of love + kisses till we meet in Regina,

Ever your own

Will

Letter: Weight, Japanese Furnishings, and Fashion in 1925

Written on Monday, January 26, 1925

Lottie is the aunt with whom Gwyneth went to Japan. This is apparently one of a package of letters sent back to England from Japan.

Gwyneth was studying short-hand with one of the Woodbridge sisters. I believe it was Edie but need to follow up on that fact in her diary to be sure.

“Hama Ashiya”
Near Kobe.
Japan.
26. 1. 25.

Give our love to Fred, I hope he is keeping well. Does he still go to Reading??

My dearest Rosie,

Thanks so much for letter dated Dec: 19th. It arrived on Jan: 21st, quick wasn’t it? I am so glad you have had some of my letters again, I can’t think why that letter of Mothers took so long to reach her. I hope you will get all the letters with the snaps in anyway. I expect that letter was delayed at Kobe, I wonder if I put “Via a certain ship” if so, + that ship had just left before the letter was posted they would keep it in Kobe until that ship came to Kobe again. They couldn’t possibly send it on by another one. I was very pleased to get Willies letter, he is a good boy to write so often. How are all the children? I hope Marnie didn’t catch Scarlet Fever. I expect it is all over now though. Is Philip back at school again. Does John go to school with Willie + Bryan? Did Una dress any dolls for Xmas!

The Girls Club gave Miss T. + Mrs. B. a nice present didn’t they? I expect they were pleased with it. I do want to hear all about the wedding.

We all went to a tea dance at the Oriental Hotel on my birhday, + enjoyed it very much. The Orchestra from the “Belgenland” (a British ship, the 7th largest in the world taking 300 Americans round the world, why they were at Yokohama nine days, + at Kobe five,) was playing. Joan had a dance with Charlie, she thought she was so grand to dance in a real ball room. It is a lovely room too. We were all weighed while we were there, I have gained 7 lbs; since last I was weighed, 7 yrs; ago. Joan is 5st: 6 lbs:. + is 4ft 4 1/2 in tall.

Did I tell you Gwyneth is learning short-hand, she is going to try + work up to be a Stenographer, she says she wants to stay here after we go home.

She has joined the “Hikers Club” in Kobe, there are about 30 girls + young men + they go for long walks every other Sunday. The girls wear knickers + shirts etc: as they do a lot of climbing: they all have a real good time anyway. We went to see a new little Japanese baby on Sat: it was only two days old. He looked so sweet, but they had had his head shaved about 2 ins: above the years all round, + it looked as if he had a little black cap on.

His mother was lying on a Futon ( a padded mattress on the floor) + the baby was on a little one by the side of her. There was nothing else in the room only a small hi-batch-i char-coal fire, + it was so cold. They are very rich people but they never have furniture of course. They have three girls, this is the only boy. So he will be nicely spoilt. The weather is still lovely, Charlie + I sat on the sands a long time yesterday the sun was quite hot. The wind has been rather cold today. It looks so funny to see the men out in furs, just like ladies wear at home, + a lot of them wear “nose-bags”, (just what I have always wanted.) They are like a round piece of padded material with elastic each side to fit over the ears, + it just fits round the nose so nicely. + they come out in all sorts of hats. We saw a man in a lovely pale green silk toque with a veil of silk to tie under his chin.

I am sending you a photo, or rather snap, of Joan in her “Little Boy Blue” things. I took the snaps + had them enlarged. They have coloured them nicely haven’t they? The sky is here is nearly always this colour.

Well, I mustn’t stop longer now, we are going to Kobe tomorrow, so want to post these letters while we are there. Give my best love to all, + remember us to Miss Tuck.

With lots of kisses to the children, + heaps of love to yourself,

Your ever loving,

Charlie + Lottie + Joan.

Letter: The End of Dancing in 1926

Written on Wednesday, August 25, 1926

I’ll be honest, I find this letter hard to read. I guess this is where this blog gets a little personal, because I can’t pretend to be dispassionate about this. These are my grandparents, who admittedly I never really knew.

My grandfather, Will, died when I was less than a year old, and my grandmother, Gwyneth, died when I was just two, although she had been in residential care due to dementia caused by an iatrogenic brain injury related to her bleeding disorder.

I have very slight memories of going walking with her in my orange sweater. In my memory she feels kindly, and I am comfortable with her, but that’s all that I have to connect me in a real sense. Nonetheless, I have always felt a special connection with this woman. My father’s stories about her always made me want to know more about her, to connect with her in some way. That’s always a bit difficult when the person you want to connect with is dead.

This was probably helped by how often, when I was young, people would tell me how much I resembled her, not so much in my physical appearance (though our faces have similarities), but in the way we acted and moved and spoke. I’ll be honest here and say that I do feel a rather inappropriate level of possessiveness and protectiveness for her.

By the same token, I’ve often felt rather disconnected from Will. I have no specific personal memories of him at all, and in the stories my father told about him, he always seemed a rather distant character, not as relatable for me.

And so it’s hard to read this letter from Will to Gwyneth. It’s hard because all his kindly benevolent condescension grates on me. Every time it appears I want to leap up to shield her from it. It starts with the talk of the unknown transgression at the Boat House. As an atheist, and especially as a formerly christian atheist, his advice to give all of her concerns and temptations to God and his assurance that this will bring her more joy than the activities she is tempted to do is particularly difficult to swallow. At the time he was working essentially as a missionary at the Japan Self Help Bible School in Kaibara, and was himself a recent convert with all the zeal appropriate to that, so it’s all quite understandable, but as a person who specifically struggled with the experience of faith and god’s grace (I didn’t feel it despite wanting to desperately, but sometimes pretended I did when it seemed that this would make the adults around me happier/less concerned), it all rings rather hollow.

Eventually a few things are revealed. First, her letters may not exist in the world at all because he destroyed them, to reassure her that should be candid with him (this is unfortunate, from my prying curious perspective), and second that the transgression at the Boat House is related to dancing.

It’s important to know that Gwyneth had been dancing for years. She started young, performed as a dancer on stage (evidence to follow in a postcard), and continued to dance once she arrived in Japan. Her diary mentions lessons weekly or twice weekly. Dancing was a critically important part of her life. But with her conversion to a particularly repressive form of christianity it was suddenly verboten.

My father had told me that growing up he was not permitted to go to movies or attend dances because of their faith, but I guess I hadn’t put together what this would have meant for Gwyneth, dancer.

Kaibara,
Tamba
Aug 25th
1926

Dear Gwyneth:-

Thank you for your letter which arrived this morning. I would have liked to have written then, but did not have the time, so decided to wait until this evening when I would have time.

Many thanks about the pillow slips. I will bring hte measurements on Friday. That is if I do not forget. I’m a terrible person at forgetting things. By the way, before I forget it, I am enclosing a couple of cards with your little brother’s name in Japanese. Tell him to see if he can write it.

Now for more important things. I am sorry Gwyn you are feeling so bad, but listen girl I’m not going to condemn you, for I have no right to seeing I have done things just as bad myself. But Gwyneth tell the Lord Jesus what you write me. Tell him what happened at the Boat House and how you feel, also how you find it hard to give up all these things.

I believe he is speaking to you now. Oh don’t give in but come to Him, for girl you’ll never be happy I know, unless you do.

And Gwyneth when He does give you joy, don’t be ashamed to tell others. You will find that there is joy in that alone. I don’t mean to say you have to ram religion down everybody’s throat, but people will begin to ask you what’s the matter with you, especially if you don’t mix with them like you used to (for you will find that the old things don’t have any pull like they used to) and then tell them. I’m praying for you Gwyn girl, so don’t give in. God wants to bless you.

Don’t worry about those walks. I enjoyed them more tha you I’m sure, and am looking forward to many more.

You don’t need to tell the folk I wrote, unless you wish to. Your letters to me no one shall ever see. Just a minute while I burn it. There it is gone, so you need not worry about that any more. No one will ever know what you wrote.

Dwight came back just as I was going to begin this letter and told me it was a very slow party they had at the B.H. He didn’t say any thing about you at the B.H.

I wish he wouldn’t go there. He knows the people who go there have nothing in common with him. But it isn’t for me to judge.

Well goodnight Gwyneth. Don’t forget what I wrote.

Tell him your whole heart girl and you will never regret it. Speak to Him as though you were speaking to your friend. That’s what prayer is. There’s nothing difficult to it. You didn’t say if you had gone to Him. If you haven’t then Gwyn please do, for girl you cannot give up dancing or any other things in your own strength, but if you will go to God and tell Him you cannot resist the temptation and ask Him to help you, He will help you. Ask Him to take away the desire for these things. Tell Him how unhappy you are and how useless it seems to live, just as you told me and ask Him for Christ’s sake to save and help you, and Gwyn old girl, if He doesn’t undertake and give you a real joy in living and help you out of all your troubles, why, I don’t know Him.

Now listen Gwyneth don’t give up, but do as I’ve just written, for girl it isn’t only a question of now, its a question of your eternal salvation. Doubtless God speaks to all at some time or other, and girl I shall be down on Friday I expect in time for supper. There won’t be time for you to write again before then, but you can tell me, if you care to, when I see you.

I hope you won’t mind me writing like I have. But I just had to, and I was glad you wrote me.

Now must close as its getting late and I want to post this at the station before going to bed so that you will get it tomorrow.

Yours as ever,

Will.

Letter: New Kimonos and Eating Fish and Rice in 1925

Written on Saturday, February 7, 1925

Maisie is Gwyneth’s first cousin, which makes her my first cousin twice removed. Like Gwyneth (my grandmother), both Gwyneth’s father and mother (they were first cousins), and my father, Maisie had Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT). When I met her in 1991, she was old-appearing (though young-seeming) and was likely in her late 80s. It’s odd to think of her as being as young as she must have been when this letter was written.

Gwyneth travelled to Japan in 1924 as a governess to Joan, whose family were moving to Japan for reasons I haven’t totally been able to figure out yet. My impression is that they moved there as part of a government posting, but I have absolutely nothing to back up this factoid in my brain. It could instead have been related to a business venture. Regardless, the important point is that they went and took Gwyneth with them to Kobe Japan. There, Gwyneth met several of the Woodbridge sisters and through them eventually William. But I digress, facts not yet in evidence. For now, here is a picture of Gwyneth with Joan and presumably Joan’s family in Japan wearing new Kimonos.

Hama Ashiya
Japan
Feb: 7th: 1925.

My Dear Maisie.

Thank you very much for your dear little letter. I am glad you are getting on so nicely at school. Give my love to Philip, I hope he is better. I have a dear little white rabbit, I wish you could see it. I went to the Tor Hotel Last Tuesday to a concert and tea, and had a very nice time.

How do you like me in Japanese clothes? All the little Japanese girls wear new Kimonos for the New Year, and Father Christmas gave me mine, and everything to go with it, just as you see in the photo.

How are Peter and Tiger? Do you go round to see them very often? Yesterday I tied my baby on my back and wore a padded coat, just the same as the Japanese mothers do. Then I had a dinner party in Japanese style, sitting on flat cushions on the floor and eating rice and fish.

With heaps of love and kisses
from

Joan. xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Envelope Front:

Miss M. Hodder,
The Post Office,
Sunningdale,
Berks,
England.

Group Photo Back:

Japan.
New Years Day.
1925.

The Japanese all have new kimonos for the “New Year”, so we foreigners had to do like wise.

“O me-det-o, goaimasû.”

Group Photo People:

Left-to-right: Joan, Gwyneth, unknown, unknown, unknown (presumably two of the three are Joan’s parents)

Letter: Travel, Education, “Delicate” Matters in 1928

Written on Tuesday, January 17, 1928

I don’t know yet if this friend is going to turn up again in the correspondence. Things got a bit complicated in Japan during WWII.

I wonder what the “many causes which are too delicate to be described on the paper” refers to. Of course, I suspect racism and the many macro and microaggressions that even an educated english-speaking young Japanese man would have experienced in the US in 1927. I suppose we’ll never know, of course.

They nigh-habitual bad penmanship referred to by the writer is some of the most legible handwriting I have ever encountered. Far far better than mine, which is no fair comparison anyway.

Y. Urano
#2 Nishidacho Yodogi
Kyoto, Japan.

Jan. 17, ’28

Dear Mr. Woodbridge

I have just come back home after having a long trip around the United States and, to the glad, received your kind letter from Canada. I left Seattle on the 27th of last Dec. where I was wired from father that I had to go home immediately because of the serious condition of my elder sister (another one whom you don’t know.) who had been confined to bed for a long long time. I am glad, however, to tell you her condition to turn a little better after I came home. My impression to America (States) is not so fine, I can’t tell you why, for there are many causes which are too delicate to be described on the paper. I want to let you know why when I meet you again that is not so longer after, to be sure.

I came to Seattle again on first Nov. last year after finishing so-called the observation trip of the education in the Eastern + Southern parts of that country. For about one and a half months from Nov. to Dec. I attended the law colledge (sic) belonging to the University of Washington in Seattle as a auditor. My father advises me to attend the Kioto Imperial University + to take the law course, so that I, on my part, decide to take his advice. Though it is unimaginably severe cold now in Kioto, yet I am sure the warm and cherry blossom season will soon be with us in 6 or 7 weeks. I am eager to meet you again in Japan. My sister + brother-in-law hope me to tell you their good wishes.

Excuse my ill writing which is almost habitual.

Yours most faithfully,

Yasuka Urano.

Envelope Front:

Mr. W.F. Woodbridge
Room 46
Y.M.C.A.
Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada

Envelope Back:

Yasuka Urano
#2 Nishidacho Yodogi
Kyoto, Japan.

Postmark: Yokohama Japan, 19.1.28