Call this the latest chapter in a story that began more than 70 years ago in July 1945, when Pembroke’s Ivey Bacon Beardslee sent a postcard.
The tale picked back up in January, when Ivey’s daughter, Pembroke Advance Communications co-owner Mary Anna Hite, learned the postcard was sold on eBay by a collector in Marietta.
“My first reaction was, ‘Who would want Momma’s card?’” Hite said. “That and the fact they paid $6.95 for it. Why would it be worth anything to anybody?”
Until then, neither Hite nor her sister Jeanne McCormick knew of the postcard’s existence nor how it wound up in the hands of a collector.
Their parents “were from a generation of people who never threw anything away,” Hite said.
Because of that, much of the sisters’ family history is safely packed away upstairs at Pembroke Advanced Communications - the same business that has been in their family since 1946, when Master Sgt. Paul Beardslee and his new bride, Ivey, both fresh from service in World War II, claimed their stake on the future by buying what was then called Pembroke Telephone and Waterworks.
Both were part of the “Greatest Generation,” Paul a navigator and tail gunner who flew bombing missions over Europe, Ivey a worker in the Savannah shipyard until she was old enough to join the Women’s Army Air Corps after petitioning the military to let her enlist early.
Both also were young, had just won a war and were in a hurry to start their lives together.
Instead, Paul died young in 1951, and Ivey raised her daughters and ran Pembroke Telephone.
The postcard comes home
Not long after learning of the postcard’s sale, Hite and McCormick got a second surprise. This time, it was a typewritten letter from John Schlatter, the man who bought it.
Enclosed was the postcard. In a postscript, Schlatter wrote, “The card is a gift. I never accept payment.”
“Never” because it’s not the first card or letter Schlatter has returned to a family. He calls it a hobby.
In an email, Schlatter said it began “about 10 years ago at an antique store in Florence, Colorado, when I found seven WWII postcards written by three different soldiers to people in a small town in Maine. I was intrigued by the cards, both for the content and for the fact they somehow made their way to Colorado 60 years after the war.”
A Tennessee native who lives in Las Vegas, Schlatter spent time as an Army officer in the 1970s before going on to a career in corporate public relations.
He said he uses the internet to track down information on the soldiers, locate the families and return the cards to them. He enjoys the challenge, “and the families are always happy to receive a memento of their loved one’s wartime service,” Schlatter said.
Over time, one find led to another.
“I kept on finding and returning postcards and wrote a book in 2012, telling the stories of about 20 postcards and the soldiers who wrote them,” he said. “Since that time, I’ve continued with the hobby and have returned more than 100 cards and letters.
“In a few cases, the soldier who wrote the postcard is still living, and those are particularly satisfying,” he continued. “There have also been a few cases where the man who wrote the postcard was killed in the war, and those are especially important to the families.”
At first, Schlatter said he would look in antique stores for wartime postcards and letters. Later, he realized there were hundreds of post cards and letters from World War II for sale on eBay, “which makes it hard to decide which ones to pursue,” he said.
Ivey’s story inspiring
The postcard from Ivey Bacon is dated July 5, 1945, and has a Pembroke postmark. It is addressed to a Mrs. J.M. Brown in Kathwood, South Carolina, and in Ivey’s cursive scrawl says in part she is “home for a week, my brother is still here. He’s writing you a letter. If your daughter is still in Savannah will you send her address immediately as I’d like to see her before I leave and I’d like my brother to see her also.”
The card appealed to Schlatter.
“I was first drawn to Ivey’s card because very few of the postcards I find were written by women, but then it got much more interesting,” Schlatter said. “When I started researching her, I found the inspiring story of how she lost her husband when she had three young children and still went on to build a successful communications company. That alone was very impressive, but the clincher was when I found a photo of her wearing a lineman’s belt, climbing a telephone pole.”
The postcard suggests Ivey may have been trying to fix a brother up with the postcard recipient’s daughter.
“But we’ll never know,” Schlatter said.
Editor’s note: Schlatter has written two books, both of which of which are availble on Amazon.com.