To The Letter Episode 12: Wounded in Action

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Previously, Joe was wounded during the invasion of Normandy. Wounded again, we dive into what Joe’s medical experience might have been like.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was played by Tracy Cook.

Letters featured in Episode 12 are available below:

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V-Mail from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Feb. 9, 1945

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Feb. 11, 1945

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Feb. 14, 1945

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Feb. 22, 1945

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, March 8, 1945

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, March 9, 1945

We learned so much researching for this episode! Tune in next time to learn more about what Joe’s been doing in the military. Have questions or comments about this week’s episode? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 11: Peace on Earth

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It may still be summertime around here, but in Episode 11 we are all about the holiday season!

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was played by Tracy Cook.

Letters featured in Episode 11 are available below:

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Dec. 16, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Dec. 28, 1944

 

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Jan. 18, 1945

 

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Jan. 24, 1945

 

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Jan. 30, 1945

What do you think of Christmas traditions from WWII? Have questions or comments about this week’s episode? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 10: Remembering the Bad Times

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Episode 10 dives into souvenir-taking and how soldiers wished to remember (or forget!)  the war.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was played by Tracy Cook.

Letters featured in Episode 10 are available below:

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Oct. 13, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Oct. 22, 1944

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Oct. 23, 1944

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Oct. 24, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Oct. 28, 1944

Does your family have any souvenirs from wartime service? Have questions or comments about this week’s episode? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

 

To The Letter Episode 9: We Will Always Have Paris

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In Episode 9 we focus on what’s going on in Paris during the war.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was played by Tracy Cook.

Letters featured in Episode 9 are available below:

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, July 31, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, August 7, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, August 11, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, August 20, 1944

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, August 27, 1944

To hear the clip of the Liberation and related speeches, check out https://www.history.com/speeches/liberation-of-paris. 

It was so interesting to learn more about Paris’ role in WWII (and had Leigh, at least, thinking of Casablanca…). Questions? Comments? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 8: Wounds Received in Action

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Joe and Agnes’ story continues in Episode 8, where we delve into injuries sustained  and awards given to soldiers during combat.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was voiced by Tracy Cook. Special thanks to Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at GVSU, for co-hosting with us!

Letters featured in this episode are available below:

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, May 12, 1944

This letter from Agnes features her trademark vibrant lipstick!

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, June 27, 1944

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, July 4, 1944

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V-Mail from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, July 4, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, July 6, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, July 13, 1944

If you are a veteran or a veteran’s family member and are interested in learning more about replacing medals, awards, and decorations, check out this resource list courtesy of the National Archives.

Additional information on military resources can be found at: https://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/military/veterans-related.html Happy listening!

 

To The Letter Episode 7: Going to the Chapel (And They Are Gonna Get Married!)

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HE PROPOSED!

It isn’t the world’s most romantic proposal, perhaps, but Jackie and I are thrilled to pieces that Joe took the plunge! In Episode 7, we jump into what weddings and honeymoons were like during the war.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland.

Please note: We did jump around a bit in the timeline between Episodes 6 & 7 for purposes of clarity in our research. We wanted to group letters having to do with the movies and the engagement separately. Apologies for any confusion.

Letters featured in Episode 7 are available below:

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, April 14, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, April 16, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, May 7, 1944

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, June 14, 1944

Are you as excited as we are that Joe’s proposed? Let us know! Send questions and comments to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 6: Going to the Movies

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In Episode 6 we’re going to dive into one past time that’s been popular for years – going to the movies! Some truly notable films came out of this period, and many revolved around current events.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa is voiced by Kevin McCasland.

Letters featured in Episode 6 are available below:

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, April 22, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, April 23, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, April 27, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, April 29, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, April 30, 1944

We were fascinated to learn more about how going to the movies worked during WWII and what films were on Joe’s radar overseas. What 1940s films are your favorites? Send questions and comments to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 5: Raising Morale

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After a long hiatus, we’re back! We appreciate everyone’s patience as we worked through some technical and staffing issues, but now we’re ready to get back to it! It’s been a while, so feel free to refresh your memory on Joe and Agnes’ story in Episodes 1-4.

This week we’re picking up with the topic of raising morale. USO shows were just one way troops sought entertainment and escape from the war.  Celebrities such as Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, The Andrews Sisters, Abbot and Costello, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Marlene Dietrich, Mickey Rooney, Danny Kaye, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Laurel and Hardy, Cab Calloway, Dorothy Lamour, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, Donna Reed, Errol Flynn, Debbie Reynolds, and John Wayne.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Florence was voiced by Cara Cadena, Ollie Olexa by Noah Campbell, and Joe Olexa by Kevin McCasland. The audio clip of “You’ll Never Know” performed by Vera Lynn, music by Harry Warren, and lyrics by Mack Gordon.

Letters featured in Episode 5 are available below:

 

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Letter from Ollie Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent Oct. 10, 1944

 

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Letter from Florence Fournier to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent Feb. 15, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent April 6, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent April 9, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent April 11, 1944

Questions about the USO? Have any favorite USO entertainers? Let us know! Send questions and comments to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 4: An Interlude with Alice

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Episode 4 is here! In this episode, we take a step away from Joe and Agnes’ story to meet one of Agnes’ friends, Alice Gelisle. This is the only letter we have from Alice, but we felt it was so packed with good information we didn’t want to miss it! In her letter, Alice discusses all the facets of her life–working in a factory, playing basketball, rationing, fashion, and going to dances. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Alice Gelisle was voiced by student Katie Newville. Special thanks to Marcia Lee for joining us!

Alice’s letter is available below:

 

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide from Alice Gelisle, sent Jan. 22, 1944

Did you enjoy hearing Alice’s perspective? Let us know! Send questions and comments to rupinskl@gvsu.edu or leave us a review on iTunes! We can’t wait to hear from you!

To the Letter Episode 3: Reading Other People’s Mail

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Episode 3 is all about reading other people’s mail. Many thanks to Lynn Heidelbaugh, a curator at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, for speaking to us about the logistics of the postal system in WWII. Lynn is incredibly knowledgeable about all the complexities of how mail and packages traveled overseas, how censorship worked, and the development of Victory mail, or “V-mail”.

If you’re interested in learning more about war and the mail, we highly recommend checking out the National Postal Museum’s latest exhibit-that Lynn worked on!- My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa is voiced by Kevin McCasland.

Letters featured in Episode 3 are available below:

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Jan. 24, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, March 4, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, March 7, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, March 15, 1944

And as promised, here’s an example of both the full V-Mail sheet and the shrunk down version that would have been what Agnes actually received.

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Letter to Agnes, sent Sept. 14, 1943
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V-Mail Instructions and envelope on reverse of letter
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V-Mail sent to Agnes, Sept. 15, 1943 via V-Mail

The final V-Mail is in black and white and is only a fraction of the size of the original.

Questions about the mail? V-mail? Military dentists? Have thoughts about the broken engagement? Let us know! Send questions and comments to rupinskl@gvsu.edu or leave us a review on iTunes! We can’t wait to hear from you!

 

To The Letter Episode 2: Building a Relationship

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It’s here! After several technical difficulties, we’re so happy to release Episode 2 of the podcast: Building a Relationship. In this episode, we take a trip through 1942 to dive into the developing relationship between Joe Olexa and Agnes Van Der Weide.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa is voiced by former theatre student Kevin McCasland. Special thanks to Archivist for Collection Management, Annie Benefiel, who makes a guest appearance to explain how we got these letters, what we’re doing to preserve them, and strategies to preserve your own family letters!

Letters featured in Episode 2 are available below:

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent by Joe Olexa on May 8, 1942.

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent by Joe Olexa on May 13, 1942.

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent by Joe Olexa on May 16, 1942.

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent by Joe Olexa on June 25, 1942.

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent by Joe Olexa on July 11, 1942.

What do you think of the budding relationship between Joe and Agnes? Let us know! Send questions and comments to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. We can’t wait to hear from you!

To the Letter: Podcast Episode 1: An Introduction to the Letters

We’re so pleased to announce the launch of a new venture here at Special Collections and University Archives – a podcast! We’re trying something a little different, and we hope you will listen!

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU, and a few talented GVSU students. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them.

Join us as we dive into the story of a young soldier’s relationships and experiences during World War II…

Letters featured in Episode 1 are available below:

 

 

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent by Joe Olexa on July 25, 1941.

 

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent by Joe Olexa on August 23, 1941. 

 

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Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide, sent by Joe Olexa on September 1, 1941

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Bonus! Joe’s note to the Postmaster, Dec. 5, 1943

Have you ever been to Whalom Park? Heard “Amen” as a name? Let us know! Send questions, comments, and feedback to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. We can’t wait to hear from you!