I hope that sometime during this holiday season, people who read this column and recognize some of the names or faces from Roger Kohlmeyer’s sixth-grade class at Richards Elementary School in 1969 will let them know that they did good.
So good, in fact, that their message of cheer to an airman serving in war-torn Vietnam was carried with him until his death seven years ago.
The family of Robert Dale Wilcox came across the Christmas greeting while going through his personal papers recently. The 1959 graduate of Columbus High School died in 2005, but some materials that had been stored in his home had not been thoroughly studied.
It was his sister, Sharon Snyder, now living in Crawfordsville, who came across the hand-lettered envelope with the return address of Richards Elementary School at 2811 Fairlawn Drive in Columbus. It was postmarked Dec. 9, 1969, one of the bloodiest years in the Vietnam War.
Opening the envelope, Sharon found a handmade card that had been scissored into the form of a Christmas tree. Handwritten names were penciled on both sides of the card.
Some just wrote their names; others added salutations.
Teresa Minor sent “Best wishes.”
Jeff Malicoat, since he was greeting another guy, threw a “Howdy” behind his name.
Lisa O’Neal and Kyle Schrier wrote “Hi” after their names, but Lisa apparently wanted some emphasis on her greeting. She added an exclamation point.
Brenda Briest also put “Hi” after her name, but she added much more. On separate sheets of paper she wrote a note to Robert Wilcox. It was dated Dec. 2, 1969.
“How are you? I’m fine.
“My name is Brenda Briest. I am 11 years old. I will be 12 on Dec. 7. I’m in the sixth grade in Richards School. My teacher is Mr. Kohlmeyer. My favorite sports are baseball, basketball, skating and swimming. I have two sisters, one older and one younger.
“The weather is good here. It’s a little cold. It snowed a few weeks ago. All the snow is gone now. How is the weather where you are?
“What did you do for Thanksgiving? My aunt and uncle came. They brought their dog and their son. He’s a spoiled little brat (their son).
“Our class is writing letters to the men overseas. I am writing to you and two other men. We are studying friendly and business letters in English.
“Here are some jokes:
“1. Why did the little boy climb the ladder to watch the football game?
“He wanted to keep up with the
2. “What is red legged and eats stones?
“A red legged stone eater.
“I don’t have anything else to say.
“P.S.: Merry Christmas!”
The class assignment handed out by Kohlmeyer was not unlike those given in thousands of American classrooms during the Vietnam War. The practice continues today with young children penning notes to men and women in uniform. The letters have been mostly written to people the children do
I suppose there are those who wonder how much of a difference letters like this make. Well, I guess we have the answer to the question as to whether Robert Dale Wilcox was affected.
He had brought the envelope, the Christmas tree-shaped card, Brenda’s letter and a photo of the class home from Vietnam. He had carried them all with him the rest of his life, and they remained with his belongings until family members discovered them earlier this year.
This is a time of year in which we like to think of goodness. Mr. Kohlmeyer’s kids did good.
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.