COLLECTION GUIDES

1909-2016; bulk: 1940-1945

Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The Gordon-Eaton family papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least two business days in advance via Portal1791. Researchers needing more than six items from offsite storage should provide additional advance notice. If you have questions about requesting materials from offsite storage, please contact the reference desk at 617-646-0532 or reference@masshist.org.


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of the papers of Arthur K. Gordon and Aldene Eaton Gordon of Danvers and Rowley, Mass., primarily the couple's daily World War II correspondence from May 1942 to September 1945. Also included are personal papers, correspondence with family and friends, Arthur's military papers, Aldene's writings, and various printed material.

Biographical Sketch

Arthur Kendall Gordon was born on 22 February 1909 in Rowley, Mass., the son of William Kendall Gordon (1866-1937) and Mabel Johnson Gordon (1870-1969), and the brother of Ervon Johnson Gordon (b. 1896), Thalma Haven Gordon (b. 1898), William Maxwell Gordon (b. 1899), Mary Gordon Harvey (b. 1903), Vida Hildreth Gordon (b. 1906), and Kingsley Gordon. Educated in the Rowley public schools, Arthur graduated from Essex County Agricultural School in 1929 and received a degree in floriculture from the Stockbridge School of the University of Massachusetts in 1930. He owned and operated Brookside Floral Company in Rowley for almost 40 years, retiring in 1972. During World War II, Arthur served as an Army Air Corps staff sergeant in Denver, Colo.; Wichita Falls, Tex.; and in the China-Burma-India theatre for one month at the end of the war. His public service included 55 years on the Rowley school committee and 39 years on the Rowley Municipal Public Light Board, as well as the volunteer fire department and as town clerk. He was a member of the Rowley Grange for 70 years and served as a past master.

Arthur married Aldene Eaton on 25 July 1943 and had three daughters: Maralyn Gordon Doyle; Kendra Gordon Cooper, and Dale Johnson Gordon. He died in Rowley on 21 April 2001 at the age of 92.

Aldene Virginia Eaton Gordon was born on 18 January 1919 in Peabody, Mass., the daughter of Raymond C. Eaton and Ruth Porter Eaton, and the sister of Nathalie G. Eaton, Merle Eaton Dustin, and Bruce Porter Eaton. Raised in Danvers, Mass., she graduated from Holten High School in 1936. Aldene worked as a secretary at United Shoe Machinery Corp. in Boston and Beverly from 1938 to 1945, and at Surrette Storage and Battery in Salem in 1945. During World War II, she volunteered with the USO, and took classes to become a nurse's aide. She later worked as a legal secretary, an executive secretary of New England Water Pollution Control Association, and as a reporter for the Newport Daily News, the Lawrence Eagle, the Ipswich Chronicle, and the Salem News. Her public service included two terms as a Rowley selectwoman, in 1957 and again in 1985, as well as terms on the Municipal Light Board and the library board of trustees. An accomplished cellist, Aldene performed with the McDowell Group under the direction of Arthur Fiedler in the 1940s, as well as her own Starlight Trio and Kammermusik String Quartet, continuing to perform into her nineties. She was a member of the Danvers and Rowley Grange and the Order of the Eastern Star. Aldene died on 2 March 2016 in Aroostook, Maine.

Collection Description

The Gordon-Eaton family papers consist of four record cartons of manuscript and printed material spanning the years 1909 to 2016. The bulk of the collection is comprised of the near daily World War II correspondence of Arthur Kendall Gordon and Aldene Virginia Eaton Gordon from May 1942 to September 1945. Their letters document the couple's courtship, engagement, and early years of their marriage, as well as their reflections on local and national politics, the home front war effort, and 1940s domestic life. Aldene's letters chronicle her daily life and family activities in Danvers, Mass., her work at United Shoe Manufacturing Corp. in Boston and Beverly, her social activities at the Danvers and Rowley Grange, her cello performances with various musical groups, her visits to Arthur's family in Rowley, her work with the USO, and her training as a volunteer nurse's aide. Arthur's letters describe his experiences as a staff sergeant in the Army Air Corps and his daily activities in army camps in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Denver, as well as his brief deployment to India at the end of the war.

Arthur's personal papers include correspondence with his family, friends, and business partner. Of interest is a letter from a Rowley friend who describes his observations of the Buchenwald concentration camp shortly after its liberation. Military papers document Arthur's service in the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command, and biographical material includes an oral history interview of his World War II experiences. Aldene's personal papers include correspondence with family and friends, as well as 1942 correspondence with seven World War II servicemen. Her letters and writings describe her April 1942 trip to Washington, D.C. and her impressions of the wartime capital. Printed material contains shipboard newsletters from Arthur's 1945 deployment to India and his return, as well as articles and commendations that chronicle the couple's long-time public service for the town of Rowley.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Dale J. Gordon, Sept. 2016.

Restrictions on Access

The Gordon-Eaton family papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least two business days in advance via Portal1791. Researchers needing more than six items from offsite storage should provide additional advance notice. If you have questions about requesting materials from offsite storage, please contact the reference desk at 617-646-0532 or reference@masshist.org.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Arthur K. Gordon-Aldene Eaton Gordon correspondence, 1942-1945

Arranged chronologically.

This series consists of Arthur and Aldene's daily correspondence while Arthur served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, from May 1942 until September 1945. Their correspondence chronicles their courtship as they learned about each other through their letters, plans for Arthur's infrequent deferments, their engagement and plans for marriage in July 1943, and practical considerations of creating a life together after the war. Letters occasionally reference news of the war in Europe and the South Pacific; national events such as the 1944 presidential election and D-Day; and President Roosevelt's fireside chats. The two wrote to each other daily, with few exceptions, averaging five handwritten pages from Arthur and two to three typewritten pages from Aldene, who retained copies of her letters.

With wit and great detail, Aldene discusses the daily life and activities of her family in Danvers; her social activities at the Grange; her work at United Shoe Manufacturing Corp. in Boston and Beverly; her cello performances with the United Shoe Orchestra and the Starlight Trio; and her frequent visits to Arthur's mother and sister in Rowley. She also describes the home front war effort, including air raid blackouts, USO shows, gasoline and sugar rationing, and her training as a volunteer nurse's aide.

Arthur describes his daily life in the army camps of Ft. Devens (Mass.) from May to July 1942 and Buckley Air Field (Colo.) from July 1942 to February 1945, where he was in charge of landscaping and helped to prepare troops for deployment, including his November 1943 loss of a finger in a training injury and his subsequent operations. His letters also chronicle his 1945 transfer to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas, his concerns about being shipped overseas, his July 1945 passage on the U.S.S. General A. W. Greely to Calcutta, his September 1945 discharge, and his return home of the U.S.S. General J. H. McRae. His August and September letters also describe some of the poverty and poor conditions he found in India.

Carton 1SH 1A36
May 1942-December 1943
Carton 2SH 1A37
1944
Carton 3SH 1A38Folders 1-63
January-September 1945

II. Arthur K. Gordon papers, 1909-2006

This series includes letters to Arthur from friends, family members, and business associates, largely during his war service from 1942 to 1945; military papers related to his service; and biographical material, including a transcript of an oral history interview about Arthur's war experience.

A. Correspondence, 1939-1949

Arranged chronologically.

Correspondence primarily consists of letters to Arthur from family and friends while he served in the Army Air Corps in Colorado and Texas from 1942 to 1945. They include letters from his mother Mabel Gordon and his sister Thalma Gordon in Rowley, Mass.; his sister Vida Gordon in Little Rock, Ark.; his brother-in-law Bruce Eaton; other relatives; Rowley friends; and fellow servicemen from Colorado. Letters from Arthur's business partner, Eric Streiff, discuss matters related to their business at Brookside Floral Company in Rowley. Of note is a letter from Randy Emerson, a Rowley friend serving in France, who writes on 20 July 1945 about witnessing the Buchenwald concentration camp a few days after it was liberated.

Carton 3SH 1A38Folders 64-73

B. Military papers, 1940-1945

Arranged chronologically.

Arthur's military papers are related to his service in the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command, 380th Air Service Group from 1942 to 1945. They include draft cards, a notice of classification, a certificate for Good Conduct Medal, military orders about his 1945 overseas transfer, a ration card, discharge orders, several programs from Buckley Field in Colorado, and a narrative of Arthur's 1942 trip to Texas escorting troops to their deployment.

See also shipboard newsletters from July to October 1945 in Series IV, Printed materials.

Carton 3SH 1A38Folders 74-75

C. Biographical material, 1909-2006

Arranged chronologically.

Included in this subseries in a small book about Arthur's first year, filled out by his brother Ervon in 1909; a transcript of a June 1992 oral history interview containing Arthur's reminiscences of his World War II experiences; obituaries; and memorials.

Carton 3SH 1A38Folder 76

III. Aldene Eaton Gordon papers, 1919-2016

Aldene's papers include correspondence with her family and friends, as well as 1942 correspondence with seven World War II servicemen. Also within the series are writings that describe Aldene's concert performances and her 1942 trip to Washington, D.C.; newspaper articles and letters to the editor; a small amount of personal and financial papers; and an autobiographical essay.

A. Correspondence, 1940-1947

Arranged chronologically.

Correspondence in 1940 and 1941 is largely related to Aldene's relationship with Denton Winslow Crocker, including their brief engagement in 1941. Included are letters to Aldene from Crocker, his parents, numerous female friends, and relatives, as well as retained copies of her letters to them. The bulk of correspondence dates from 1942, when Aldene worked as a secretary at United Shoe Machinery Corp. in Boston and played the cello in several ensembles. Her letters discuss social activities, gossip about her friends and coworkers, her music lessons and recitals, and everyday life during World War II from a young woman's perspective. Her April 1942 letters describing her trip to Washington, D.C. to visit potential suitor Linwood Michael give a detailed description of the wartime capital. From February 1942 until her engagement to Arthur Gordon in July, Aldene corresponded with U.S. servicemen, many of whom she knew at United Shoe or through her musical ensembles, including Richard Balzarini, Lester Wallace, and Edwin L. Gorten. Other service correspondents include Arthur R. Bradstreet, Paul E. Williams, Wilbert W. Hemphill, and British sailor James W. Barker. Later correspondence was primarily to her brother Bruce Eaton; Arthur's mother and sisters; and other family members.

Carton 3SH 1A38Folders 77-101
1940-April 1942
Carton 4SH 1A39Folders 1-30
May 1942-1947

B. Writings, 1941-1996

Arranged chronologically.

Aldene's writings include her short essays "First Orchestra Rehearsal" (1941) and "USMC Concert" (1942) describing her experiences as a cellist with the United Shoe Concert Orchestra, as well as "My Trip to Washington, D.C." (April 1942), a descriptive account of her visit to the capital in April 1942, and "Arthur’s Furlough" (January 1943). Also in this subseries are letters to the editor, the bulk from 1942 related to sugar rationing and price gouging during the war; undated poems; and other miscellaneous writings.

Carton 4SH 1A39Folders 31-36

C. Miscellaneous papers, 1940-1956

Arranged chronologically.

Included in this subseries are financial papers, membership cards, ephemera, knitting instructions, and a list of job responsibilities related to Aldene's secretarial position at United Shoe.

Carton 4SH 1A39Folder 37

D. Biographical material, 1919-2016

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains a copy of Aldene's birth certificate, autobiographical notes written on her 90th birthday (8 January 2009), notes on Aldene's life written by her daughter Kendra, a 2010 magazine article featuring Aldene's participation in the women's fitness organization Curves at age 91, obituaries, and memorials.

Carton 4SH 1A39Folders 38-39

IV. Printed material, 1938-2009

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

Printed material includes several marriage and family planning publications; U.S. Army guides to China and India, most likely issued to Arthur in 1945; and a 1943 annual report for the town of Rowley. Also included are shipboard newsletters of the U.S.S. General A. W. Greely from 30 July to 22 August 1945 and of the U.S.S. General J. H. McRae from 26 September to 15 October 1945. The series also contains awards and commendations to Arthur and Aldene for their wartime service, as well as newsclippings and ephemera chronicling Aldene's service as a Rowley selectman, Arthur's service on the Rowley school committee, and various town celebrations in the couple's honor.

Carton 4SH 1A39Folders 40-55

Preferred Citation

Gordon-Eaton family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Eaton family.
Gordon, Aldene Virginia Eaton, 1919-2016.
Gordon, Arthur Kendall, 1909-2001.
Gordon family.

Organizations:

Danvers Grange (Danvers, Mass.).
Rowley Grange (Rowley, Mass.).
United Shoe Manufacturing Company (Beverly, Mass.).
United States. Army Air Forces.

Subjects:

Concentration camps--Germany--Buchenwald.
Courtship.
Danvers (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Family history, 1900-1949.
Musicians--Massachusetts.
Rowley (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Washington (D.C.)--Description and travel.
World War, 1939-1945--India.
World War, 1939-1945--Massachusetts.
World War, 1939-1945--Participation, Female.
World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American.
World War, 1939-1945--Public opinion.
World War, 1939-1945--Social aspects.
World War, 1939-1945--War work.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Gordon-Eaton family photographs, MHS Photo Archives.