Saturday, August 5, 2017

Grandpa Ramer, Letter Writer Extraordinaire

My Grandfather Lynne O. Ramer wrote scores of letters to people: relatives, college friends, students, and strangers including public figures, could count on his sending a letter.

When Gramps died in 1971 I received his personal papers, as per his desire. They were stored for many years before I could see what was there. Here is a selection of letters he received from the famous and near-famous.

Robert F. Kennedy

What 1962 article in the Saturday Evening Post did Gramps write about in his letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy? I can only wonder! But RFK wrote a nice letter back.


US Senator Warren Magnuson

Senator Magnuson refers to the contents of Gramp's letter. Gramps also wrote that the Senator supported the oceanographic research bill S. 901 which was 'pocket vetoed' by President Kennedy.

My grandfather had sent Senator Magnuson articles about the Lobo Wolves of Kane, PA. Summer of 1961 my grandparents, my mother, and I went on a trip to Pennsylvania. My mother and her siblings had all been born in Kane where my grandfather had been a teacher. We visited the Lobo Wolves and I have post cards, a flyer, and a magazine article about them in my scrapbook.

Lobo wolves postcards

Flyer for the attraction
Dr. McCleery saw his first wolf as a young man. After earning his doctor's degree he returned to his hometown of Kane to practice. The U S. Biological Service was exterminating the wolves that had once followed the Buffalo but now were attacking cattle. In 1921 McCleery asked for several wolf pups and he started a zoo or preserve for the wolves. They were filmed for the Walt Disney film The Legend of Lobo.
Magazine article on the Lobos at Kane, PA
 After McCleery's death, Paul Lynch took over to care for the wolves.

Senator Philip Hart

A letter dated September 13, 1961, from United States Senator Philip Hart mentions that Senator Magnuson had forwarded him Gramps' letter of September 9. "This I have read with much interest. Your observations and philosophical comments have brought home to me some things I have not thought of before, and I am grateful to you." Gramps noted that Hart supported Magnuson on 
S 901.

Governor G. Mennen Williams

This letter from Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams responded to Gramp's congratulations on his appointment as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Gramps wrote about Kayoes Mogaji, a Nigerian he had been exchanging letters with after seeing Kayoes' letter in the Saturday Evening Post.
The Governor graciously thanked Gramps for sharing Kayoe's letter and even said he would "do my best to say hello to Kayoe and give him your personal regards." The Governor also said, "if there were more people like yourself helping the "Kayoes" of Africa, I am sure there would much more understanding in the world."

Gramps notated,"but he (Williams) didn't find the time when in Lagos! Kayoes saw "Soapy' from afar! From the street."

Gramps added, "Kayoes Mogaji, 21 in 1959, sent a letter to Editor (Saturday Evening Post), "Ben" Hibbs [editor of the Saturday Evening Post], asking: "Tell us about U.S.A.; from 12 Eiselgangau Street, Lagos, Nigeria. Subsequently, we exchanged a dozen letters--"bearing gifts"--with Kayoes and two others. "Brown, yellow, and black boys"--all members of Lagos Epis.[copal] Cathedral Orchestra."

So my grandfather wrote to members of the Lagos Episcopal Cathedral Orchestra after reading Kayoe's letter in a magazine!

Williams' term as the Governor of Michigan ended on January 1, 1961, at which time President Kennedy appointed him to the post of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, where he served from 1961 to 1966. 

George Pierrot's World Adventure Series

Whenever we were at my grandparent's house we all watched George Pierrot's World Adventure Series,  Mondays through Fridays at 5 pm. The show debuted on October 10, 1948, on WXYZ and ran until 1979. 

I have a letter dated November 29, 1961, written from Pierrot to my grandfather, a response to Gramps sending him a lengthy letter and a clipping of his article "Mindin' Cows and Larnin' which had appeared in the "We Notice That" column in his hometown paper the Lewiston Sentinel. 


Pierrot wrote,

"I had a little bit of farm experience. My father was a doctor in Seattle but he operated an orchard in the Yakima Valley of Eastern Washington. We had no livestock, but summers we had a pony, and drove a team of horses ten hours a day, cultivating and ditching for irrigation. In 1913 when you were ten, I was fifteen and getting reading for journalism by editing my high school newspaper. Later I edited the University of Washington daily and took my A.B. in Journalism at the same University.

"I edited both the American Boy and Youth's Companion. In 1913 the editor would have been Clarence Budington Kelland [later to become editor of the Saturday Evening Post], later to become one of America's most popular magazine writers. I was his protege when I came along in 1922, and he was very helpful to me. As a boy I also used to read Horatio Alger, G. A. Henty, and the rest. You could turn in an Alger and get another one for an additional nickel. I remember par, for reading an Alger book, was from 4 p.m. when I got home from school to 6 p.m. when it was supper time. The skinnier Alger books took less than two hours.

"Well, I'm the only one in my immediate family who isn't a teacher. I am glad that I have always managed to stay in fields where the dissemination of information was the important thing, such as the American Boy. Such as our illustrated lectures. And our tv shows, on the average, are as informative as we can contrive without losing the popularity that keeps them on the air.

"It is always a pleasure to hear from a teacher, especially when he is a former reader of the magazine where I spent fourteen happy years.

"Sincerely, George F. Pierrot"

The second letter from Pierrot to Gramps is dated December 15, 1961. It is more formal in tone.

My grandfather affixed a Detroit Free Press newspaper clipping from February 27, 1971, written by Charlie Hanna and entitled, "At 73, George Pierrot is TV's Oldest Travelor." Hann writes that in the 1930s Pierrot was the country's youngest magazine editor and was then the nation's oldest television star of the nation's first and longest running travel show.

Ralph J. Bunche, Under-Secretary, United Nations

My grandfather was related to Maude Shannon Ramer, whose cousin Rev. James Shannon was the motivation for an international gathering for understanding in Aaronsburg, PA. Mr. Bunche was one of the attendees. You can read about it at my post here.

Upon the Reverand's death, my grandfather wrote to Mr. Bunche, forwarding Maude Ramer's letter regarding her cousin's death.

A June 14, 1960, letter from Mr. Bunche to my grandfather includes a copy of the letter he sent to Maude, who had also written to him.

"I am very sorry to learn that he is gone," Mr. Bunche wrote, "...he was a thoroughly dedicated man who stood for the right, fortified always by the staunch courage of his convictions. It is too bad, in the light of his deep interest in Africa, that he could not have lived to see the exciting developments that have been taking place in that continent, with almost explosive rapidity, during the past three years."

copy of Mr. Bunche's letter to Maude Ramer
Ann Lander

In April 1960, My grandfather sent columnist Ann Landers an article he had written entitled "This is Your Wife" recounting all the things husbands take for granted. Ann wrote back, saying, "If the married world were packed with husbands like you, I'd be out of business."

Walt Disney Studios, Carl Nater, Director

Grandpa had a masters degree in mathematics. In his later life, he taught calculus and trigonometry at Lawrence Technological University. He had developed a cartoon Micky Mouse to explain algebra.
He wrote a letter to Walt Disney Productions and received back a letter dated October 16, 1962, from Carl Nater, Director.

"Your very fascinating letter has been received and I've been asked to answer it for it does relate rather closely to some of our activities. This division is responsible for the distribution of our films which have educational values to the schools and we, therefore, work quite closely with the school people all over the country.

"The use of the Mickey Mouse symbol to explain some of the concepts in algebra strikes us as being most imaginative and while I fear I have forgotten all of the algebra I learned at one time I shouldn't be a bit surprised that it is well received by your students. I have two youngsters at home who are currently struggling with algebra and I'm going to give them a chance to use the "Mickey Mouse" approach.

"It is obvious to us you are certainly a real teacher and I should think every youngster who has been in your classes has had a wonderful and exciting experience with algebra. We are most grateful for your interest in our activities and thanks so much for your letter."

I admit that when Gramps tutored me in Algebra I passed the class.

Roger Blough, U. S. Steel

Gramps had attended Susquehanna University with Roger Blough, who became Chairman of the Board of U. S. Steel. Blough and President Kennedy had a battle over steel prices. Blough's article in LOOK magazine on January 29, 1963, offered his belief that the market, not the government, should set commodity prices.

This letter from Blough dated October 12, 1959, is interesting only for Gramps' note: "Nick" Blough and I were building cleaners, "white coats" (table waiters) at S.U. in the 1920s."


Denis Baly, author "Geography of the Bible

A. Denis Baly was the author of "Geography of the Bible" and a professor at Kenyon College. A December 12, 1961, letter notes his engagement to speak in Detroit, and Gramps noted he was at the lecture, noting, "He's wonderful!"

Baly mentions his upcoming trip to Syria and Lebanon, and to see Abu Simbel "in case they do not manage to collect the money to protect it!" The ancient temple of Ramses II was threatened by the planned Aswan Dam. The money was raised to relocate the temple.

Harold Moldenke, author of Plants of the Bible

When I was a girl my grandfather gave me a thick stack of educational papers in biology, prepared by Moldenke. Moldenke was another Susquehanna U alumni, class of 1929. My grandfather had sent him a leaf for identification
Gramp's note reads, "Hey, Jack! Got the hepatica along his (John Geiger) lake (Dunham!) Now dig up root, stem & leaves; leave to dry, then send that poison ivy (like) plant to the above--you'll know! We (and wives) have been constant pals since 1942! Our kids (4) and theirs (2) grew up together--H.S. (Kenmore, N.Y.) Their kids were grads of M.S.U. and U of M (Roger has 2 A.M. from U of  M!

Had my grandfather lived into the age of social media, he would have been a Facebook addict with thousands of friends.