Technology has brought us closer together than ever before.
Friends and family are now just a “click” away through modern technology. It’s even possible now to talk “face to face” through such new innovations as Skype. It’s easy to connect with family or friends virtually anyplace in the world, at least anyplace where electronic reception is possible.
Some of the younger folks today, yes, even some of my own grandchildren, may be surprised to learn that communication from far away once took at least minimal effort by both parties.
Fifty years ago, for example, just about the only way to communicate from far distances was by one of two means — a letter, which took several days or more, to reach the recipient, or a telephone, which was almost instantaneous, but sometimes quite expensive.
By 1967, I found myself in what was then West Germany (yes, young folks there was once an “East” Germany, as well as a “West” Germany, the result of an agreement reached at the end of World War II). That brought about another interesting problem regarding communication. Of course, I could write a letter, put it in an Army Post Office, and send it away in hopes it would arrive home in a couple of weeks. That’s exactly the method used by myself and a vast majority of my Army mates.
Of course, there was always the telephone. But, that was expensive, even in those days of the 1960s. Still, around Christmastime it was a communication option used by many. There was a special $10 rate, as I recall, that came into play at that special time of year. Still, even though $10 doesn’t sound like much in today’s world, in 1967, it was quite a hefty sum for those of us living on less than $200 a month. It was often a question of whether or not a phone call home was worth more than sending gifts to loved ones at Christmas.
There was one other option — air mail. For a few extra cents, a letter could be marked “air mail” and it would theoretically arrive at the destination more quickly. It was financially reasonable to use air mail to send letters home. Packages, though, were a different story. Those, normally, would be sent by regular mail, would find their way into the belly of a large trans-oceanic ship and ride there across the Atlantic Ocean, then would be deposited in a mail car to be hauled by train to a depot nearest their final destination.
Today, of course, there’s no differential on mail being sent anywhere in the world. It all goes by air.
Soldiers of today can’t understand the days of anticipation spent awaiting a package from home. In 1967, of course, we all knew they were coming, or at least hoped they were, and so the days of waiting were rewarded with an even greater joy once the package from home finally arrived.
I was no different than most others serving in a foreign country. I always was waiting for a package from home, even when one hadn’t been sent. In fairness, there were some with whom I served who never, ever received a package from home. I felt sorry for those young men. On the other hand, those of us who did regularly receive packages from home, spent perhaps too much time anticipating the arrival of the next package.
We called them “care” packages. My own packages from home arrived pretty much monthly and normally contained goodies that were eaten almost before they were removed from the package. Of course, I had plenty of help. I always shared with my Army buddies, who’d all gather around my desk and dig in with eager hands that would deposit those goodies into smiling mouths.
It was fun to be the hero of the day.
Normally, my “care” package would include a large cache of no-bake chocolate cookies. There was no chance of them spoiling in the two or three weeks they spent in the belly of a ship, but they always arrived pretty beat up. I can imagine my mother or my aunt carefully placing those beautiful new cookies into a box for shipment, carefully packing them securely inside thinking they’d find safe passage. Once opened, though, the box contained a bunch of smashed up chocolate pieces that once were no bake cookies.
It didn’t matter. They were still wonderful and a small chunk of chocolate cookie was better than no cookie at all.
Every time I received a “care” package from home, I was quick to write a “thank you” note. Of course, I regularly wrote home — that’s what soldiers do, you know — but I’d make a special effort to quickly acknowledge receipt of every single “care” package.
I’d send off the note and that would begin another cycle of waiting. Every day, I’d head to the base post office and about once a month my disappointment of many days would turn into joy when another “care” package arrived.
Those wonderful pieces of chocolate made the whole deal more bearable and certainly made the time away from home pass more quickly.
Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News-Republican and Dallas County News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.