Posts Tagged ‘Norma Harvey class of 1917’

27 years have passed since that awful December of 1917. A lot of things have changed in the little Melrose family: Dale’s father, Philip G. Melrose, died in 1934. Little brother John grew up and got married to Emma Ada Robinson, and together they have three little girls: Phyllis, Donna, and Mary Lou (my mother). There are no letters relating back to Dale between 1918 and 1944 – and then…

004The script is large and precise, with a flair for the artistic. A photograph is tucked into the envelope, carefully wrapped in the stationery.

It is a letter from Norma Harvey, that girl from Newberg oh-so-long ago. It is this letter that makes me sit up and say, “oh!” Dale’s death broke more than the hearts of his immediate family – it forever changed Norma’s life.

Newberg, Oreg.

Sept. 24, 1944

My dear dear Mrs. Melrose,

     I can not begin to tell you how moved I was at the sight of your writing or how touched that you remembered after all these years. I can not forget your beautiful script; – an 005envelope that you addressed to me early in 1918 is here in my dresser with a lock of Dale’s hair and his baby picture.

    As you see, I never married. Twice I almost decided to, but thoughts of Dale’s ways:- his cleverness, ambition, kindness, and devotion made other men dull and uninteresting, – yet, was I wise?

    We still live in Newberg but since 1925 ( have taught in Portland coming home for holidays and week-ends.

    One Friday evening <on the bus to Newberg> some years ago, I fell into conversation with a man who used to know you in Perryville.* He had lost touch, he said, 006but he believed that you had moved to Eau Claire. I do not know the man’s name.

    Newberg has not altered greatly with the years. Many of the Presbyterians who were active in the church while you were there, are still functioning.

    Miss Jessie Britt – you remember her? – is as active and indispensible as a person can be.

    Mrs. Maggie Patterson, (very deaf, even in 1912) celebrated her eighty-ninth birthday yesterday and taught her Sunday School class today.

    Mr. and Mrs. Craw <and Violet> are both dead, but the younger daughter Nellie teaches in Newberg.

007    The Sandermans continue active or were until this spring when Mrs. S. broke her hip.

    Ethel Andrews is working in Portland, – has a civil services job and her own apartment. She will be glad to hear of you.

    My parents are living, but Dad aged 87 is not well. He, until last year, was brisk and hearty in every way but early in June he had a slight stroke and hasn’t been like himself since. His memory is so poor. Right now I am greatly worried over the problem of finding a woman to help Mother.

    I am very sorry about Mr. Melrose. Was he ill for long?

    How strange to think that little John has a family!

    Write me again, won’t you? A week from Tuesday is Dale’s birthday**, isn’t it?

    Very lovingly, Norma

*Perryville? I think she means Caryville. ** Not a question – Norma knew Dale’s birthday: October 3.


July 1944       This is Ella Best (white hair) and I, taken at Jessie Britt’s Home. Ella was in the group to which Dale and I belonged. She now teaches in Winnipeg, Manitoba.



The following is a long thank you list to all who helped me put these letters together:

My brother, Terry, who researched Whitman College, Dale’s theater professor, and more. He also hunted down information on Norma Harvey:

Her photo upon graduation from Pacific College (now George Fox University) and upon being crowned May Queen in 1917.

The Coronation News. Remember that she asked Dale not to congratulate her at the time.

Location of her grave in the Friend’s Cemetery in Newberg. She died on November 9, 1970. I snatched a photo of her headstone from Find A Grave. 1893-1970.


Terry also found the military photo on Ancestry.com. It was attached to a ‘steenth cousin’s family tree – I need to go back and email the gentleman who posted it to let him know we are related. He has a more comprehensive tree than I do.

Thank you to my Aunt Donna, the middle daughter of Grandpa John Melrose. She pointed out to me that photos were not common “in those days” and it was “unlikely” that there were any of Dale. I didn’t think about that. We forget so much of how our ancestors lived just a century ago!

A shout out to my cousin, Wendy, one of Aunt Donna’s six children. Wendy shared her online photo  albums with me and I was able to find the same photos in my collection (unnamed) to match hers (named). Because of Wendy, I know I have a photo of Dale as a baby, quite possibly the same photo that Norma Harvey alluded to as kept in her dresser with a lock of his hair.


I am going to take a short break from the blog in order to answer another pressing genealogy question. A gentleman emailed me from Ancestry.com regarding the Palmer side (up my father’s grandmother’s side) and I need to answer his questions – and ask him some!


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Eugene, Ore. July 7, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

      I was wondering what had happened to you folks when i didn’t hear from you, but your letter came yesterday today and I was glad to get it and hear that you were all right.

      We are to leave sometime after the 15th because they are full up at Allentown now. I guess I told you about it though.

     I am studying French, drill, and first aid and having a good time. I am having the best time I have had in years. I guess it is because I have nothing to worry about.

     I may have to get to work before long is we are not called, but I am going to study as long as  possible for a sergeancy (sic). I have great hopes of getting one the longer I work. You know $60 per month will be better than #36 and the satisfaction of being boss will be worth a lot too. “Doc” says that French will be a great asset to us after we get there and I am picking it up so fast that I surprise myself. That is what comes of college training. It doesn’t take long to learn a new thing, no matter what it is.

     I had a letter from Uncle Harry. We won’t be able to come this way before I go. He is not very enthusiastic about this war, and no sensible person is. I’m glad that I am in a position to witness the struggle from a vantage point. Just think of what I’ll learn! Believe me, I’m going to profit by it too, if anyone does.

     I believe I go into a thing with my eyes more or less open, and that is what most of these fellows are not doing. When I come back, I’ll have yarns that will put the old professionally bull-slingers in the deep, cool shade.

     Well, I am going to down to see “Doc” this afternoon. I write more next week.

“Bon soir”


~~~~ Getting feisty there, I think. I think that if his life had not been cut short, he would have been true to his word in profiting from the war and what amounts to a forced enlistment (“beat the draft – enlist”).

Throughout this time of transcribing my great-uncle’s letters home, I have come up against letters stuffed into the wrong envelopes, out of order, or missing parts. It’s a little frustrating. I found yet another such letter in the envelope for the above letter, but this one is a true bonus. It is a letter to Dale from Norma Harvey. Norma attended Pacific University (a Quaker college in Newberg, later changed to George Fox University) and graduated in 1917. My first online search for any information regarding her pulled up that she was elected “May Queen” in 1917, an event she alludes to in her undated letter to Dale. She also embodies the anti-war movement that existed in the States at that time (should any of us be surprised that there was then, is now, and possibly always will be – a group of people to whom war will never be the answer?):

Dear Dale,

     Your letters have of late been so chillingly forward, that were I not possessed of a most amiable disposition, I should write only after long intervals, and might even suggest that since the effort put forth in accomplishing the aforesaid letter was manifestly so painful, you could at your own discretion quit.

     I don’t want to say that tho, and I won’t till I get even a more belligerent attitude toward life that I’ve entertained this week.

     Ethel has, I s’pose told you that thru the political machinations of about 5 people, I was made MayQueen. Please don’t congratulate me. It was a rotten deal anyway you look at it. To be sure, I rejoice that the proletariat are victorious but ~

     You are enjoying spring Vacation now aren’t you? Would that we had another one coming soon. Half an hour’s work tires me to death – I think I shall tell my doctor when I see him next Saturday that if he can’t do more than he’s been doing of late, I’ll have to cease my trips to Portland and save my money for a wake.

     Which indirectly reminds us of war. You won’t, I hope, abandon still further you Socialistic principles and yield to any “Youn man, your country needs you” persuasion – It would be interesting, but I’m infused with either Quakerism or Socialism, to me, it is wrong to kill. Newberg is rather slow in the formation of a company – Mothers of H.S. boys are extremely anxious and I presume those boys can get anything they want now.

I have to go



Will you be up to see us this week?










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