Love Letters of WW2 Story

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Love Letters in the Hope Chest

Arline’s Hope Chest and Love Letters

Love Letters of WW2 is a true story based on 300 letters written in 1942-1946 by my father, Morris (Mose) Densmore, to my mother, Arline. In 2012 Arline gave me the love letters from her hope chest. The focus of this creative non-fiction work is Mose’s freshman year at Bowdoin College 1942-1943. In 1944 Morris enlists in the U.S. Navy and deploys to the South Pacific.

For years I had wondered about my mother’s childhood. I wondered because she never talked about it. Her dad, my maternal grandfather, was an alcoholic. She refused to discuss him. Her parents spilt when she was twelve. They divorced which was unusual in that era. She never saw her father again though they both lived in the relatively small city of Portland, Maine. Of course I didn’t know anything, only that her parents had divorced. The 1940 census answered a lot of questions for me. But if it was’t for the love letters I’m not sure I would have searched so hard to fill in all the puzzle pieces of my family history.

Love Letters of WW2 story takes place in New England in the 1940s. My parents, Morris and Arline, are all-American high school sweethearts in Portland, Maine. They get together at Deering High in their senior year, the summer of 1942. Both are overcoming turbulent childhoods in the Great Depression. Both are refashioning their lives. Each is ambitious, determined to succeed. Arline is petite, beautiful and smart. She loves drama but plays basketball with her friends. Morris’s passion is sports. He plays varsity football, baseball, and track both in high school and at Bowdoin. Arline campaigns with the Deering High gym teacher and school principle to be the first female cheerleader. She enlists her basketball girlfriends as cheerleaders. They mesh into the all-male squad.

Morris is sports editor the 1942 Deering yearbook. He’s president of Deering’s “D” club, a varsity letter club.  After high school then comes Bowdoin college and his love letters start here.

Story highlights include moments of childhood in families during the Depression. Then 1942 high school sports culture followed by Bowdoin College in 1943. WW2 pressure turns the college and its community upside down. Even the pool is set on fire to train young men to swim through flames.

The life of a college freshman, school sports, army sports, fraternity practices and parties, formal dances are all colored against a severe backdrop of a college take-over by the U.S. military.

Liberal arts here is education as it was. Prior to WW2 Bowdoin college taught Christian morality as the cornerstone of “common good”. Christian values were revered as the standard for both mind and good character. But the soul of a Maine school is challenged and attacked by federal necessities of WW2. The question is poised: What does it means to be a man? The most vital skill for the survival and spiritual progress of humanity? It comes down to life choices, to mind, education and its sufficiency.

The case of Maine manhood is ardently made through the vehicle of Morris’s english teacher, master poet, Pulitzer Prize winning Rhodes Scholar, Professor Robert Peter Tristram Coffin, R.P.T.C.

Link to blog about Bowdoin’s teacher, Prof. Robert P.T. Coffin.