Friday, February 14, 2014

A Postcard Valentine's Day Story

One of the challenges of the Spokane Historical project has been finding images that we can use. Digital history is hungry for pictures, and unfortunately the institutions which hold historic images in Spokane are hungry for cash. Three is no budget for Spokane Historical, it is a labor of love from the EWU Public History Program. So I have not been able to use many historic photographs from our local museum or newspaper.

Historians, though, are nothing if not resourceful. We have found thousands of images we could use  by scouring other, copyright-free sources, including public archives like the Library of Congress and the Washington State Archives, old images in newspapers and Google books, and hundreds of historic postcards that I have purchased at thrift stores and online. Last year I bought this accordion-style postcard set of colorized images of Spokane from the 1930s and 40s:

Looking more closely, I discovered I had purchased more than I'd bargained for. I always consider it a bonus when someone has written on the postcards. Over the years I have found love notes, parental chastisements, and travel stories this way. This particular set of postcards was addressed to Gazel (yes, Gazel) Turner of Philippi, West Virginia. The postmark is October 17, 1945:

Here is Gazel in the 1940 census--daughter of Issac and Dessie. Apparently unusual female names were a Turner family tradition. She was 21, single, and like nearly everyone else in Philippi, had gone to school only through the 8th grade. What really caught my eye though was the note written around the return address inside:

Can you make it out? It reads: "With lots of love to the girl of my dreams I hope." I love how "hope" is underlined. Of course I immediately went online to the Washington State Archives, Digital Archives to see what happened with Miss Turner and her hopeful suitor. Here is what I found:

Reader, he married her. On the day before Christmas in 1946, eleven months after Milton dropped the post cards with his shyly-penciled love note into the mail. he and Gazel were wed. A Unitarian minister, the Rev. John Brogden, performed the service. I don't know when Gazel came out to Spokane or what she brought with her--but she must have brought our postcards, which she poured over again and again on her way across the country.

And that really is the end of story, because after their marriage in 1946, our lovebirds seem to have vanished. I can find no record of either Milton or Gazel, including no obituaries. And really, how does a person named Gazel hide from Google Search? One can speculate all sorts of scenarios, but I like to think they are still together, in their nineties, and living in a little shotgun house in Peaceful Valley, below the falls pictured in the postcard that Milton sent to his girl in 1945.


Dutchie said...

Did you try The social security death record would be there if either one has died.

Larry Cebula said...

Good point Dutchie, and no I did not. But now I am afraid to--I don't want to ruin that last paragraph, which I know full well cannot be true!