Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Aba - October 9, 1940

The war affects the mail, the girls get new swimsuits, and twins make a delayed entry into the world. 

October 9, 1940

Dear folks,
It has been so long since any letters arrived that we have forgotten the date of the last one – it’s at least several months. But we still have hope that a lot of letters will turn up somehow one of these days. And one big event that has served to stir up our hopes is the arrival day before yesterday of the parcels you sent! More of them later. We are still enjoying the thrill of realizing that it is possible for parcels to reach us, and if parcels certainly letters should arrive eventually too. Mail routing has changed and that partly explains the long time necessary for mails to come. For the present it would be better not to address mail of any kind via Egypt as that route is probably completely closed at least as far as American mail is concerned.[1] There are several other routes available and it would be interesting to try to see which proves the quickest.  Our address would be the same as before, i.e. c/o A.I.M., Aba, Congo Belge, but in one case the words “via Matadi” should be added; and in another case “via Mombasa, British East Africa”. Then there are two Air-Mail routes available. The first is by American Transatlantic Clipper by way of New York, Durban, and Juba. Another way, and the one by which this letter will be sent is by way of the Pacific. As addressed from your end it would be: “… c/o A.I.M., Aba, Congo Belge, by Transpacific Clipper via Hong Kong, Manila, Entebbe and Irumu.” I rather think the transatlantic route is quicker and it is cheaper, but we are going to try the Pacific Route this time anyway. Another thing – parcels sent “via Egypt” require more postage in America, and if they would really go that way the total mailing charges would be less by the time they reach us here as there is additional transport charge to pay for all interior transport in the Congo, but in the case of Aba there is no such charge on parcels coming through Egypt and the Sudan as Aba is on the Sudan border practically. When parcels are sent via Matadi the original mailing charge in America is less but the additional charges on this end are very high as they cover the distance from Matadi to Aba, all in the Congo, a matter of several thousand miles, so that the total cost by the time they reach here is higher. Of course now via Matadi is probably the best way for parcels, but the point is that if they go via Matadi anyway there is no use marking them via Egypt and then paying the extra high postage for that route.

Now for your parcels. They produced the climax at the end of a perfect day, a day that brought us relief from a long period of strain and tension due to a native case at the hospital. For last Saturday I was called very early in the morning by Akulu, a native workman on the station who for years has been a great help to all of us as an auto mechanic doing much of the routine upkeep work on our cars as well as giving help in actual repair work. He said he had just brought his wife to the hospital as she had been in labor since the day before without making any progress. Examination revealed that there were to be twins, and one of them appeared to be in poor condition so that we began to make preparations for operative delivery if necessary. However we watched things closely and the first baby was born spontaneously in the evening. But the second baby failed to arrive soon after as is ordinarily expected, and finally labor stopped altogether. The circumstances were such that any kind of operative delivery would have been very dangerous for the mother, and as she and second child appeared in good condition we decided to wait. The waiting time, however, proved very long and we had nearly reached the point of despair for both mother and child, when, almost suddenly, the second child was born and in perfect condition, 45 hours later than his sister!

Such a case is nothing to be proud of and so long a delay would not have been permitted at home[2], but the conditions and circumstances here in this particular case made waiting even so long the only justifiable procedure. Best of all it was all clearly answer to prayer, and so the more glorifying to the Lord and the more blessing to all of us. The twins are now two and four days old and they and the mother are getting along very well. Today the old grandmother arrived, having walked a hundred miles and having no doubt expected to find her daughter dead.

Well, all this is still just leading up to your parcels. I got home a little while before Coralee, and found on the table some local letters and among them the most lovely ones from Edith and Esther whom we had taken back to Rethi just a few days before.  Then in the next room I found piled on the table all three of the parcels from you! It was just like Christmas and you can be sure it was a happy evening we spent together opening them.

First of all Coralee wants to say that she is very highly pleased with her dresses. They certainly are pretty and will be most useful to her. The shoes for the girls too are just right and I know they will appreciate them a lot. The hat for me is swell and fits perfectly. It will go well with my grey flannel trousers and light grey sweater, as well as with the grey suit. And I wish you could know how welcome the shirts are. I had almost no decent shirts left and so these have come just in time. Please pass on my warmest thanks for them and for the pretty pillow cases and the Chinese Checkers. We played last night and Coralee wants me to especially tell you that she beat me – though just why that should be such a feat I don’t know. You will probably never realize what a joy such things as the tacks, the waxed paper, and the real American candy bring to us.

The girls have not yet seen their swimming suits but it needs little imagination to see how tickled they will be with them. Coralee has just finished embroidering a yellow duck on Esther’s. We saw them in swimming in Rethi a few days ago and can testify that they have thoroughly outgrown their other swimming suits. They can really swim now and are very pleased with themselves. The pond is a great boon to the kiddies at school. I paddled around in it myself that day and was surprised that I did not freeze nearly as much as I had expected. The water is cold but the sun is warm and that makes a good combination. I had to puff quite a little though what with the altitude of 7000 feet and me getting “aged in the middle”. 
My mother's caption on the back of the photograph:  At Victor's Pond, near Rethy. Coffee plantation. Victor had dammed the local stream for his plantation and allowed Rethy Academy to bring kids to swim. Very cold. Mud at bottom. Front to back: Esther Kleinschmidt, Edie Kleinschmidt, Jacques Closset, Carl Becker Jr. Possibly taken 1943. 

To get back to the things you so kindly sent, once more our heartiest thanks to all of you for all you have done to get them out to us. We realize a little something of what is involved in the shopping, the packing, and the mailing, and we appreciate that as well as the fact that many of the things were gifts besides. But we do hope you have felt free to apply to the Mission office for the remainder and for the postage. Only so can we ever feel free to ask you to do shopping for us.

The occasion for our going to Rethi near the end of September was partly to take the children (ours and the Stams) back to school, and partly to see the doctor. Coralee was in need of a small operation and I felt it ought not to be done by her husband and so we asked Dr. Trout to do it. The stay in bed was only a few days and so she didn't get much rest out of it. But we did enjoy the few days with the children while they were attending school and over the weekend, as it helped us picture the various phases of their life there, the work and the play as well as the spiritual side of it. They are certainly well situated there and we are very happy about it all. An especially fine feature now is the fact that they, together with Ruth Stam and Mary Grimshaw who are now in the “older” group at school are living in what they call the “Annex”.  This is really Miss Brown’s [3] home which she has cleverly adapted for their use as a place to sleep and study. They still have their meals at the Dormitory with the other children, but Miss Brown’s place has been made a real home for them. Miss Brown herself is especially well adapted to give them this care because of her previous experience as well as her exceptionally fine quiet spiritual life. Our girls’ room is fixed up like a ship’s cabin with a double-decker bed, and appropriate pictures and decorations. The living room is light and cheery and has a nice big fireplace, an important feature at Rethi. The impressions of these years will mean real blessing for them throughout their lives.

There is little evidence of the war to be seen in these parts. Of course some conditions are changed, prices higher, longer delays in correspondence and in getting supplies from the homeland. Through certain difficulties about banking arrangements, and poor management at the Mission office allowances have been held up for some months but now that is better. We have no radio of our own but there are two others on the station which we can listen to whenever we like – which isn’t often, as it takes out practically a whole evening every time – and so we can know something of what is going on. We are glad that we are at least spared all the excitement of the election campaign just now![4]  We are sorry to hear that missionaries who are on furlough will probably be delayed in returning until next spring at the earliest.

[Personal portion redacted.] If you see any of the Gospel Center folks please give them our greetings and tell them we remember them in prayer with thanksgiving constantly. Let them know that all is well with us and that the Lord is blessing in the work in many different ways. Now the night is far spent, and so is the five grammes of letter space, so must close. Coralee promises to write before long – and we hope you will do the same! 

With lots of love,


  1. World War II started in September 1939, and mail routes through the Mediterranean would have become problematic after Italy declared war on Great Britain and France on June 10, 1940. There is a comprehensive and fascinating history of the Clipper routes here.    
  2. Apparently this has changed.  From a brief review of “delayed twin birth intervals” it appears that the present approach is to allow the second twin as much time as possible in utero, to encourage development. The incidence of twins in the United States is much higher due to the prevalence of in vitro fertilization, and I saw reports of delays of up to 93 days! The instance reported here is unusual though both for the time frame, and the fact that these twins were probably full term. 
  3. Eugenia Brown, sister of Paul Brown who served at Banda.  She was a single woman who finally married after she retired in the U.S.  She loved orchids and grew lots of them, and painted them too.  Mom remembers her with fondness. 
  4. The presidential campaign of 1940 was between Franklin D. Roosevelt (running for an unprecedented 3rd term) and Wendel Willkie.  Roosevelt won handily.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

July 27, 1928 - Aru, C.B.

We step back a few years (1) as Coralee describes the mail route, children and their nurse-boys, and the usefulness of waxed paper. 

Aru, C.B.
July 27th, 1928

Dear home folks,

It is ages since I've written so it's about time I got busy. The letters we have had from you people have been so interesting and fine. They mean much to us. When the mail comes it sure is fine to find several home letters falling to our lot. Sometimes there are no letters from any of you and then our mail days are very blank.

Perhaps you'd be interested to know that we only get mail once in every two weeks. The mail is carried from the ocean liner up the Nile by river boat and train. From Rejaf it is brought to Aba by truck and from Aba to Aru it is carried by native runners. It is a five day journey.(2)  It arrives here in a sealed canvas bag and there never ceases to be lots of excitement and confusion when that bag makes its appearance.  We're all so keen, it's most like Christmas every time.

[Personal portion redacted.]

There are several children on the Mission station here. Mr. and Mrs. Kemptner have three, two girls and a boy. Also Mr. and Mrs. Pontier have a little boy. They have fine times together. They play mostly just by themselves with their nurse boys.  Usually the white children have a so-called nurse boy who goes with them when they go out to play. His chief job is to see that they keep on their helmets and that they don't get into mischief.  For usually the mothers are busy with their departments of the work.

The children keep very well and here at Aru it seems to suit them very well. They of course have to take quinine every day just as we do and sleep under mosquito nets. They learn to speak the native languages very quickly and they use it a great deal, especially on their nurse-boys when the nurse boy keeps them from wading in mud puddles or some similar disastrous attraction.

We are having heavy tropical rains now and the gardens and roses are doing very well. I have been trying to get a rose garden growing near our house, also to get lawn in too.

The men are pounding the anthills into powder for the floors in our house now. I hope soon the veranda floor will be in so I can get some porch boxes started. They are going to be made of bamboo, it is very plentiful here, and then will be lined with banana leaves, then filled with dirt. We will try and get some pictures when the house is done so you all will have a clearer idea of this "grand" palace of ours.

We are so anxious to get moved into our new house for where we are living now it leaks like anything every time it rains. Our bedroom floor is wet nearly all the time it leaks so badly there. The grass roofs we use at present out here do not last very long especially if they are not carefully done.

The medical work still goes on and is very interesting to us. Lately we have been badly in need of supplies and medicines but even in spite of this we have enjoyed meeting those poor sick folks and doing what we can to help them.

I have been busy today sewing curtains for the guest room. They are very fancy, perhaps not stylish but they at least look fresh. They are made from blue chambray I got from Montgomery Wards for 10 cents a yard. They have a bias striped strip going down one side.

[Portion redacted including discussion of a list of items Coralee requests from the home folks.  I include this portion because of her comments.] I would like about six packages of wax paper, just roll it together like a magazine and wrap it so and mail it that way, just mark it paper. Some folks have it sent just in an old magazine a package at a time but perhaps it will be less trouble to send it all at one time. I want it to use for lunches.  I have to put up so many lunches and out here in this hot sun the sandwiches get very dry unless they are wrapped in wax paper.

The other things just mark as "notions" and don't put a high value on them - mark less than they cost because the duty is judged according to the way they are listed on the outside slip. You'll notice on the slip there is a "neck-tie". Ralph say he'd like a new one - his are all so old and faded I guess he thinks he'd like a change.

Now I must go along as it is getting near bedtime.  [Personal portion redacted.] Again many many thanks for all that you folks have done for us and we pray God will richly repay you all.

With love,
Ralph and Coralee


  1. This letter is out of order - it was previously marked as being in 1939, but internal evidence places it more likely in 1928.
  2. The entire journey from Rejaf to Aru is mapped by Google at 385 km, and should take 7.5 hours. The journey from Aba to Aru is (depending on the route) between 164 and 200 km, duration about 4 hours.