Elisabeth Barnett Fisher papers  1858-1916 (bulk 1858-1864)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection (1.5 linear feet) mainly consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence pertaining to Mary Flavin and her grandson, Charles A. Robertson, who served with the United States Army in Europe during World War II. Robertson wrote letters to Flavin about his experiences in Western Europe and received letters from Flavin and his fiancée, Naomi Watson ("Dee"), who wrote about her life in Oakland, California, during the war. Later letters pertain to Robertson's compensation from the Veterans Administration and to romantic relationships between male soldiers. The collection also contains ephemera.

The Correspondence series , which comprises the bulk of the collection, is primarily made up of Robertson's incoming and outgoing correspondence, particularly during his military service. The earliest items are family letters and greeting cards to Robertson's grandmother, Mary Flavin ("Mother May"). From September 1943-March 1946, Robertson wrote letters to his grandmother and received letters from his fiancée, the Veterans Administration, and acquaintances. Between September 1943 and July 1944, he discussed his army training at the Presidio of Monterey; Camp Lee, Virginia; Fort Washington, Maryland; and Fort Omaha, Nebraska. From August 1944-April 1946, he wrote about his experiences in England, France, Germany, and Belgium with the 48th Machine Records Unit (Mobile), 29th Machine Records Unit (Mobile), and 65th Machine Records Unit (Fixed). He occasionally mentioned attending mass and communion and responded to family news, such as the death of his Aunt Lizzie. His letter of December 9, 1944, has diagrams of his quarters in a building formerly held by German troops and a cabinet, and his letter of April 10, 1945, encloses several German monetary bills. Some of Robertson's later letters are written on stationery with printed cartoons about military life. Flavin received many greeting cards for Mother's Day, her birthday, and other holidays throughout the World War II era. The collection also has a small number of letters from Flavin to her grandson.

Much of the series is comprised of letters and greeting cards to Charles A. Robertson from his sweetheart and fiancée, Naomi M. Watson ("Dee") of Oakland, California. She regularly wrote to Robertson about her work, social activities, and life in Oakland, particularly after he was sent to Europe. She reported news of her family and his, whom she occasionally visited or with whom she corresponded, and discussed their relationships and her hopes for their future. A few of her letters enclose newspaper clippings, often with cartoons about military life or photographs of herself and friends. In the spring of 1945, she celebrated the one-year anniversary of their engagement and V-E Day, which she hoped would lead to Robertson's quick return home. Her letter of October 29, 1945, has drawings of cartoon mice representing Watson and Robertson. Watson's mother sometimes wrote personal letters to Robertson, whom she referred to as a "son." One large group of newspaper clippings is enclosed with correspondence dated July 1945, and other enclosures include advertisements, telegrams, a program, and an invitation. Watson stopped writing to Robertson after February 1946, and later correspondence indicates that their relationship eventually ended.

Charles A. Robertson occasionally received letters from fellow soldiers and other acquaintances after the war. A group of letters from the Veterans Administration, including some drafts of Robertson's responses, pertains to financial compensation and to Robertson's health in the late 1940s. Charles F. Foley ("Chuck") wrote a series of letters to Robertson while stationed in Tokushima, Japan, with the United States Army in July and August 1948. He frankly discussed his reluctance to visit prostitutes, despite the threat of derogatory epithets from fellow soldiers, and mentioned the possible effects of giving up the "gay life" (August 7, 1948). Foley's later letters apparently went unanswered, and he ceased to write after August 25, 1948. Later items, dated as late as 1951, concern Robertson's financial compensation from the Veterans Administration.

Dee Watson compiled 2 Scrapbooks entitled "Army Life of Charles A. Robertson 1943-1946." The volumes have picture postcards, train timetables, travel ephemera (including guides and visitors' maps), souvenir folders, performance and church service programs, and newspaper clippings. Additionally, several items relate to a trip taken on a United Air Lines "Mainliner" aircraft. The postcards have images with humorous mottos, paintings of army bases and other locales, and photographs of army bases where Robertson was stationed. The clippings and other materials pertain to his service in the United States and Europe.

Most items in the Ephemera series pertain directly to Charles A. Robertson's military service, such as his service record and military documents. Among the printed items are a French/English dictionary, a religious pamphlet, newspaper clippings, and pocket guides to Paris and Birmingham. Other items include, but are not limited to, a record with a message for Mary Flavin from Robertson, name cards, and photographs.

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