The paper bag was tucked away in a closet at her grandparents’ house. Forgotten about by her grandmother and likely untouched for years, Dr. Melody Miyamoto Walters found it with her mother as the pair cleaned the house after her grandfather’s death.
Inside the bag, they found something to treasure, both personal and historical – letters collected by her grandparents in the early days of their courtship in Hawaii, which coincided with the beginning of America’s involvement in World War II. Dr. Miyamoto Walters said her grandmother, who is still alive, had never given much thought to the letters. They were just memories put down on paper.
Both teachers, the pair met through mutual friends the summer before the attack on Pearl Harbor. She was from a wealthier merchant family, while he came from a family of farmers on another island.
“He was from the country and she was used to city boys, so she would always talk about how he was so different,” Dr. Miyamoto Walters said of her grandmother.
The letters chronicle everything from her grandparents’ social life and the songs they both liked to their views on gender roles and clues to how they felt living under martial law. That level of detail, shared between two people who couldn’t see each other very often, provides more than a personal narrative. It also serves as a way to view history, which is something Dr. Miyamoto Walters is very interested in as a historian and professor at Collin College.
“I think (the letters) are invaluable,” Dr. Miyamoto Walters said. “You see their handwriting, the way they spell certain things, you see the emotion and the personal stories. You don’t get that from government documents and textbooks.”
Many of the letters are transcribed in Dr. Miyamoto Walters’ book “In Love and War: The World War II Courtship Letters of a Nisei Couple,” which was published last year. An article about the book is in the June edition of McKinney Image. Read it here (link).