Cheesecake for Christmas
Karen M. Vincent
Minnetrista Director of Collections
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Thoughts of home, family, and sweethearts were never far from the minds of the men and women who served during World War II. Mail call was a much anticipated time of the day, and letters were read, re-read, and read once again. Soon after the United States entered the war, the volume and bulk of mail became problematic for the Post Office and the War and Navy Departments. Officials looked no farther than the British Airgraph Service for a solution. That solution was to microfilm correspondence going both to and from the home front, thus reducing both bulk and weight.
Victory mail, more commonly known as V-mail, was launched on June 15, 1942, and was in operation for forty-one months. Forms used for correspondence were uniform in size, grain, weight, and layout. On the home front, correspondents could get two forms free per day from the local post office or purchase them in many stores. V-mail did have its limitations. Photos and other loose items couldn’t be included, and handwriting had to be large enough in the original to allow for shrinkage caused by microfilming. A particular problem was known as the “Scarlet Scourge.” The lipstick residue left from a sweetheart puckering up and kissing the letter regularly jammed machines. No kissing allowed!
The Minnetrista Heritage Collection includes lots of samples of V-mail, including the following letter from Edmund F. Ball to his uncle, George A. Ball. You really had to want to read these letters, because microfilming reduced the size of the handwriting and often darkened the background so much that there was little contrast. It was mail, though, and welcome.
My favorite pieces of V-mail are those that include holiday greetings. Some were form letters like the one from Richard Yeager to his mother, with just a few words added. Welcome still, I’m sure, because any note is an assurance that a loved one is safe and well. Another year, Yeager sent a much more personal, hand-drawn greeting.
Then there is this fun Christmas note from one brother to another. It’s a wonderful piece of Christmas cheesecake!