Background for Ted's letters


Letters to Winnie & Jane and Ray

z-THOMAS T HIGDON 35698289 T43-44 0  C

by Thomas T. Higdon, their older brother, who was in the U.S. Army during World War II: beginning in April, 1943 and ending January, 1945

Thomas Theodore Higdon was 19 years old when he wrote his first of nineteen  letters and postcards in April, 1943 to his two younger sisters: Mary Catherine Winifred “Winnie” Higdon and Elizabeth Jane Higdon, and to his younger brother, James Raymond Higdon. He used a variety of affectionate nicknames with all of them. He wrote several letters to all of them. But the majority of the letters that Winnie saved were addressed to her.

Tommy Ted, as he soon began to sign his letters to his parents, brothers, and sisters, had consistent handwriting which is basically fairly easy to read. His handwriting deteriorated when he has less time to write, and so wrote faster. He developed a formula opening: Hi, how are you? I’m ok. How’s the rest of the family, etc. His closing evolved into: Time is short, have to end now. With love, By By. Tommy Ted. Write soon.

The central section of his letters contains gossip, humor, and teasing of his younger sister(s) and reminiscing with his younger brother. Tommy’s writing style is a cross between e.e. cummings and William Faulkner: a stream-of-consciousness that flows with spelling errors, repetition of words, and intermittent use of punctuation and capitalization. However, if you don’t stop at any of these errors, but just keep reading, you will easily understand what Tommy meant, most of the time. In case you have difficulty reading cursive handwriting, there is a typed transcription at the end of each photocopied letter.

As you read Tommy’s letters to his little sister Winnie, and sometimes Jane, along with Ray, you will learn much more of him personally than most people, outside of immediate family, know of an extended family member who goes off to war, and does not return. Like so many soldiers, Tommy was physically challenged with strenuous training, frustrated to be away from home and family, lonely, bewildered, and desirous of female companionship. By September of 1943, he had found a humorous postcard set with cartoons that illustrated all these feelings, and more, which he sent to his older brother, Joseph David Higdon, along with a standard postcard (same humor) to Ray. These  seventeen letters, a postcard packet, and a single postcard were saved by Winnie and Ray, then passed on to Jill Zinner, Winnie’s daughter,  and to Clara Cecelia Higdon Powell, one of Ray’s daughters. 

Jill and C.C. are Tommy’s nieces, and I am Tommy’s nephew. We have found searching for these heirlooms of Thomas Theodore to be of interest. We hope you also find this information concerning Thomas Theodore to be of interest.

Frank Mayfield, project coordinator

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