Saturday, May 21, 2016

LEFT INSIDE: Post-Christmas in Tennessee, 1963

"All of us had a delightful time and hope that cleaning up the wreckage wasn't too much for you."

It's rare that I come across anything for this one time regular feature where I write about things I've found in books. But when I do I'm excited to share it with the world. This letter was discovered in the pages of a copy of Medusa's Head by Josephine Daskam Bacon. I'll be writing about Bacon's supernatural stories later this year, probably in the fall.

The letter was written by Arthur Bushing, a Midwestern American academic, to his parents who lived somewhere near Knoxville, Tennessee. It's an interesting slice of life from 1960 written by a seriously minded man who cares for his parents and family.  His concern for a plumbing problem in their bathroom made me smile.

Click to enlarge in order to read the full letter. I just tested it and it enlarges to a huge, very legible photo.

I like that he signed the letter Son. So old fashioned. Reminds me of my mother and uncle who were never called by their real names in their home by their parents. My grandmother always called them Sis and Sonny. Odd, but folksy and revealing of their backgrounds.
I learned a lot about Bushing from his obituary published on the website for Maryville College.  His father was also named Arthur S. Bushing and this book was owned by his father who stamped his name on the endpapers and wrote his name in pencil on the flyleaf. Both Bushing Senior and Bushing Junior were English professors.  Bushing the son attended Maryville College, graduated in 1943, was hired as a physics instructor (his minor in his degree), then changed to teaching English which was his major field of study. He also served in World War 2 earning some military medals for his active duty in two European battles. He worked his way up the ivy-covered ladder from professor to department chair to Dean of Men and retired in 1996 after fifty-three years at the same institution. Remarkable. This kind of dedication in a career and loyalty to one employer is rare these days.


  1. Fascinating, John. I have never had much luck with finding things inside the pages of secondhand books. What caught my attention was the manner in which Arthur Bushing addressed his parents — "Mother and Dad" — instead of "Mom and Dad." Do you ever think of tracing these people and returning their stuff?

    1. It never dawned on me to think of these items as objects that ought to be returned. It's not like I found a legal document or something truly valuable. It was shoved into a book and forgotten for over 40 years.

      This is the first time that I've posted a very personal item. It's not all too revealing or intrusive. It's just coincidental that the letter writer happened to be a prominent person of sorts. I'm very a cautious about being too intrusive. I once found a photostat of a Social Security card in a book. I still have it, but I know I'll never post that even if I blur out the extremely sensitive information. Can you imagine if a dishonest person had found that? It belonged to a fairly well known mystery writer and he's long dead. Still, it's something I'd never make public.

  2. Delightful post. I also liked finding things in books, but it doesn't happen often. My best find was a poem someone wrote to their partner apologising for a fight. Sweet but funny, as I wouldn't have said poetry was the writer's first talent.