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Letters Ray To Shirl: Video Blog: a Historical Bio Documentary Project

This project was begun in 2018. There are over 200 letters. Please donate to help with the cost of software and display expenses. All videos are free to view. and more are available at the playlist on my youtube channel at: 


see the newest episode!  a youtube serial - a true story as told documentary style with letters and artifacts.


A record cut by a collaborative effort for service men during WWII to send home to their sweethearts. There was some information on these years ago. My dad found ours for his dad last night. Played it, at least tried to. and recommendations on how to hear this thing on apparently a one sided 78 is very welcome contact me at the best sound I got so far is with a hand made aparatus involving a pants coat hanger, a phonograph shaped platic cup, and a size 11 peyote stitch beading needle. The hair clip is for balance and attached with hair bands. Painter's tape secures the angle of the beading needle and gives the reverb refraction a stabilization at the back of the cup. it is a two arm job to use the thing, but my cheapo little record player does not have a belt independent of the arm placement and the record stops spinning before the good part. I think we heard it once while he was alive in late 80's and we had quarters taped to the arm. In the second pass of the handmade player dad and i think we hear his tone for a 3 count before the whistle. he's speaking but the record may just be damaged or it could be as simple as we are not playing it right. I understand grooves are different in different production qualities. Would love to hear the whole thing clearly. Hope to find mention of it in the letters. I read the letters entirely once in about 91 before returning them to grandma. I found them after we moved into their house and she moved down the street about a year after he died of skin cancer. I wanted to read them to see if the story would upset her. I hadn't known if they broke up or were just together or anything. She had dated during the war one other I know of, but they were both young. When i found nothing crazy in them, I told her I found them in the way back of the downstairs closet. Grandpa had been staying in that room before he passed. I think he hid them for her. He loved to write. Nobody much ever took notice of that. I had his wings. She gave them to me. My ex returned them, but I still don't know where they are. They had their wedding rings and engagement rings engraved: one said how high was the sky, the other said How deep is the ocean? Grandpa once told me in a foggy memory: you have to ask the question how much. I probably touted back We already know you love her. A late note and foggy memory of hearing the record once in the 80's or maybe after he passed and we found it:  I think he omits her name and says "Hey there sugar plum"  This part of the record right before the whistle seems unintelligible. If it was there at all.





I still have her wedding dress. It was altered. I wore it in my first wedding 1994. Packed in papers and boxed. Hasn't been opened since. And the veil We also have the veil. The wedding ring she had combined with her engagement ring somewhere around her 40th wedding anniversary. I have that too. I still remember her showing it off when I was a kid. His band was worn and removed after the end of my first. Complicated. Amicable. But complicated we are over here. What I'm interested in now, is telling it as a story. How do you sum up a set of lives like that so it's both true and makes sense? Letting the letters do the talking seems like the best approach. Luckily I had about 20 minutes of editing tutorials back in 4 d time arts class way back in the dark ages when people still used film splicers. Got to try my hand at sound and video on some machines then. That vhs disapeared. Software is so easy to come by now, thought I'd give this project a go. Since I first read the letters in their entirety in about 91, I have been wanting to do something with them. They seemed important and for all intensive purposes, Grandma and Grandpa Konen were the only real stable relationship example I can remember growing up; so it seems like a good idea to find out why that was...considering my own personal struggles.



This strange little bottle was left in my grandfather's box of things as well.  Looks like some tiny little Crown Royal bottle. Looked good behind that little chocolate wrapper.  It is about the size of a Hershey's kiss.  There was residue in it.  I didn't check the smell though.  I may be off the mark a bit, but I think this had something to do with stress and the air...and coming down from it abruptly; both with, and without the plane.



Grandpa Konen circa after 1947Grandpa Konen once went to a Library opening for former president Harry Truman, where President Truman played the piano for him, his son (my dad) and 7 or 8 other people. neato. I wonder what this is. It has been hanging here in the house since grandpa owned it...then we moved in. Nobody seems to recall. It is very heavy, made of bronze or something.


I have a lot of work to do plus keep my business going.  I am very interested in the veteran materials in my family and making what they kept worth something intrinsically to the knowledgebase of others. What seems most important is that he was a person in love in a time that made love difficult.  And he made a life with her. Anyone only ever sees a snapshot of a person's life. This is what I saw in them, but couldn't decode it.  These letters were their backstory. They at least timeline the sets of emotions that built them their relationship that I saw when I was a kid. I look at people and try to guess how they got to be who they are. These letters just give a little hint.  I have 8 reels of 16 and 8 mm footage waiting to be digitally sent to me from imemories at a cost of over $200.  I don't know what was on those tapes.  Just mailed em in in case we moved and they got lost. I can't even afford a proper record player right now, one with the arm independent of the belt that will play a 45 all the way to the blank part.  I can't actually hear the good part of the service record mini printed pepsi vinyl sent home.  The arm stops the belt right before he comes on. That might be around 120$  I have a little $36 record player right now. My grandfather's first job really after the war was a record distribution salesman for a company that had an office in Chicago.  That job got him his first house. When I was a kid, oh would he smile when I asked if we could play HIS records. He was signal corp. Said something about his zippo being important once. I have such a hard time bring these things up.  I was a little kid he was talking to.  He didn't TALK to ANYONE about the war unless someone like me, like under 10 years old brought it up.  By the time I was started to seem more serious, like it bothered him. Dad has his own set of memories of him and they mostly involve weekends in the suburbs.  They bought that house in oak Park, then bought a patch of land on a hill up in lake county, and another place.  Went camping on the weekends. Every weekend.  He also built a boat, by hand, in his garage, for the chain-o-lakes out here in northern Illinois. My dad used to drive it after the adults could no longer remember the proper sequence of shore side bar-lights to navigate back to docking.

This is them camping in the 50's.  City folk.  Seemed afraid of bears or something.


This is also them camping in the 50's.  This is how he had to relax after the war.  Go off to find more space in the wilds of northern Illinois.  This was lovingly called "the doodie house"  By my father's friends and family.  It was where they slept, in large groups, while "camping".  They built that on a spot of land they had for a bit.  Took a drive about a decade ago and dad said.. holy begeez.. it's still there.  Some house next to it.  It is not far from where we live now, but I couldn't find it for the life of me.  

Me, I use tents.

Money would also help with the purchase of basic information books for a kindle read so I know what I'm writing about.  I have little WWII era knowledge and was thinking of starting with Brokaw's books on letters.  I also have another potential project in the works,  I found a box of letters my father sent home from Vietnam drafted years. He was state-side, but He might read them for me, as they were to his mom and dad.  Found a lead on my grandmother's side for a relative that fought in the Revolution.  I need to triangulate that in a bunch of places.  we will see.  Jacob Moore 1730-1795 (supposed grandfather to Maragret Moore 1792-1858-- a KNOWN proved relative):  If you are interested. It was written on his headstone, in a known relative's grave area with the same surname and connected in other family trees on ancestry.  Ancestry research costs 20$ a month.  The ordering of proof documents for vital statistics offices various tends to be 10-20$ a piece.  any donations made through this site will be applied towards these tasks.  --a note from the family archival engineer.  (cindy)  Why do I do this?  Something about being proud of our freedom.  Freedom of Expression.  here is further information on my family: