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Letters From Home Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake

Please be aware; many artifacts from the WWII period, including some shown in this activity, contain derogatory language about the Japanese forces.

Have you ever sent a handwritten letter?

Letters provide a personal and physical connection between people far away from each other. While there are faster methods to communicate with family and friends today, for past generations letter writing was an important way to keep in touch.

During World War II, letters were a lifeline for soldiers facing homesickness, boredom, and the stress of combat. In return, families and friends were urged to write about everyday happenings at home— social gatherings, the weather, neighborhood gossip.

Although phone calls, text messages, and social media allow for instant communication today, letters sent in wartime were often delayed for weeks or months.

Envelope from the Adirondack Experience's Moaner Newsletter Collection.

The Moaner Newsletter

For some during World War II, writing one simple letter wasn’t enough. Adirondack residents in communities such as Tupper Lake banded together and sent newsletters out regularly to servicemen and women stationed all over the world.

Tupper Lake’s The Moaner updated those stationed overseas on all that was happening in the small Adirondack town they had left behind. The newsletter was started by Len Perry, the athletic director at Tupper Lake High School, who had a habit of moaning in response to his team's performance.

The newsletter's title The Moaner came from the nickname given to Perry himself —"the "Moaner." Over the course of the war, 70,000 copies of the newsletter were issued.

Prior to the war, many people stayed in contact with friends and family through social gatherings through school, church, and other community functions. With men and women called to serve so far from home, people had to find new ways to stay in touch with loved ones.

Post card from the Adirondack Experience's Moaner Newsletter Collection.

Thousands of people sent letters in order to keep those service members up to date with news from home and to express how they were feeling. Letters were highly encouraged by the US government because they helped boost morale and therefore were critical to the war effort.

Victory Mail

Because of the increase in mail being sent around the world, the military began encouraging the use of Victory Mail, or V-Mail. Designed to save space and allow for faster delivery of letters, V-Mail was written on a specific form. This form was then shrunk to fit on microfilm, transported, and then blown up to a readable size before being delivered. V-Mail helped free up space for other valuable war supplies on transport vehicles and planes.

V-Mail letter from the Adirondack Experience's Moaner Newsletter Collection.

Activity 1 -- Write your own letter.

It’s your turn to write your own letter! During difficult times like these, when many people are feeling physically and socially isolated from their family, friends, and communities, receiving a handwritten letter in the mail can be heart-warming. As they did in World War II, letters can have a tremendous effect on those who send and receive them. They can make us feel connected when world events and crises force us to be physically separated.

Photo of Noah John Rondeau c. 1940s from the Adirondack's Experience Photograph Collection

Think of someone to whom you'd like to send a letter. A friend? A family member? An elderly resident in a nursing home?

Once you've decided to whom you are sending the letter, start writing! Topics can include your day-to-day activities, what’s going in the world currently, or a funny joke you heard. Keep the recipient in mind as you’re writing your letter.

Write your letter using your own paper or use the Victory Mail template below to write on the same form that people used during World War II.

Activity 2 -- Write your own newsletter.

Just like Tupper Lake’s The Moaner newsletter, it’s time for you to create your own! Using a pencil and notebook, come up with a list of questions you want to ask your family and include in the newsletter.

Record their responses to your questions in a notebook. After you are finished interviewing the different members of your family, start writing! Just like The Moaner newsletter, you can have different sections of your newsletter dedicated to the different members of your family and what they talked about in your interview.

Don’t forget to write about yourself, too! After you’re finished writing, make copies of your newsletter and send it off to friends and family in the mail!