The Folks

Folks on the Home Front: Letters from the First World War by [Griffin, Margaret Porter]

I wish I could have known the grandparents on my mother’s side of the family like I did on my father’s side.  Having older relatives to mentor and dote on you as a child is something that can never be replaced.  But I came close to getting acquainted with their lives, at least a part of them, when I transcribed and typed around 400 letters they wrote to each other when they were courting.  I thought, “This is a wonderful story.”  So I’ve edited and published their correspondence in a new book.

Its working title was “Miss Maggie and the Captain.”  The era was World War I, and he (Jesse) was in a Mississippi training camp while she (Margaret – yes, I’m named after her) taught school back in northeastern Indiana.  But I thought it should be called something to do with the times, so I settled on Folks on the Home Front: Letters from the First World War.  The term “home front” was actually first used in 1917.

As I say in the synopsis on the back cover, things took more time then: corresponding, cooking, cleaning house, and traveling.  But we do much of what they did, one hundred years later.  We work at home and school.  We look at the new cars coming out (although these were really the new cars, the first that families bought).  We like to watch baseball games as they did.  And we get together with our friends, eat, tell stories, tell jokes.

There was a frightening World War in progress, and the United States was gearing up for the effort.  Everyone was concerned, pro or con; and many like my grandfather involved directly as soldiers.

To make more sense and to connect my grandparents’ story to what was going on around them, I researched World War I events for quite a while.  In the library there are many books on the Civil War and on World War II, but not so for World War I.  I hope that this book will help fill in a bit of the gap.  And that readers will enjoy their expressions, their experiences, and their devotion to each other.

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The young family at home on the farm in the late 1920s.  My mother, who is the baby in this picture, would save all of their letters; Jesse and Margaret had ten children in all.

Folks on the Home Front (175 pages; Dogear Publishing, Indianapolis, 2017) is available by ordering on Amazon or contacting me personally.

I am available for presentations on the book in general and have compiled activities for classrooms on locating primary source material.  I’d love to tell you more about my Folks on the Home Front.


From Our Century to Yours

My fingers are pleased by the embossed ridges of the two-dimensional card.  Its reds, greens and golds are still bright.  “A Christmas Greeting” is printed beneath a snow-covered country scene framed by a wreath, bow and holly leaves.

On the other side is a one-cent stamp and postmark: Warsaw, Ind. 9 a.m., December 2, 1910.  It is addressed to my grandmother at her home in Syracuse, and signed by “A Friend – Z.A.”  I can imagine girlhood laughter between the eighteen year-old and her chum.  They may have gotten together for a sleighing (bob) party in the wintry woods.

According to, this one would fall into the golden era of Victorian postcards, 1898-1918.  The most collectible of these show St. Nicholas in colors other than red.  One German artist made mechanical cards with movable puppets, and there were also “Hold-to-Light” cards, in which Santa popped out of a chimney when held up to the light –  probably powered by candle, kerosene or gas.

Getting ready to write your annual Christmas letter, place an order for photocards, stick on personalized address labels?  Or maybe even cyberpaste some pictures on a funny dancing JibJab e-card?  The media has changed, but the sentiment hasn’t.  It is the season for letting others know we care and think about them, even if they’re a grandma we got to meet only in stories, photographs, and letters saved.



Notes on Book Notes

Last week, in the middle of spring events that seemed to whirl like blossoms from our pear tree, I gave a talk about my book for the Indiana Chapter of the Theodore Roosevelt Association.  I’d been looking forward to this for a long time.

 Is eight year-old Teedie listening from his chair on the screen?

Listeners ranged from age 9 (our grandson) to 94 (the lovely mother-in-law of our chapter president).  I tried to remember the first rule for talking in public: what your audience is doing is as important as what you are saying.  Because the TRA members already possess quite a bit of knowledge on my subject matter, I knew I had to throw out material they hadn’t heard before.  So I showed several photos in a PowerPoint, including “scoops” yet unpublished.

I was “dee-lighted” that two excellent Roosevelt re-enactors, Gib Young and Larry Marple, were in the audience.

It was great fun.  The only problem I had was choosing which information to share.  It was easy to digress from my chiseled-down notes when I was reminded of a Roosevelt family story.

 The University Club in Indianapolis provides great atmosphere for fare and conversation.

I displayed some letters of encouragement I’ve received from Roosevelt scholar/writers: Edmund Morris, Geoffrey Ward, David McCullough, Ken Burns, and my late history teacher, John Fiandt.  And it was gratifying to talk with everyone who came to get a book signed.

For the record, I am available to give more presentations about The Amazing Bird Collection of Young Mr. Roosevelt; if your school, organization or book club is interested, please say so in the comment section.  And there is a 20-page study guide, free for the asking.

Photo Credits: Drew Manges