Life Advice



Ask Amy: Letters should go to the archive, not the shredder

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My mother is 90 years old and is now considering shredding letters from our dad that he wrote to her before they were married. Dad was in the Navy.

My sisters and I would like to keep them when she is gone.

She reread all 174 letters recently and said there was nothing racy in them, so why not keep them for us?

What is your opinion on this?

— Upset Daughter

Dear Daughter: My opinion is that these letters — and any letters from anyone of this era — would be wonderful to have and to read.


Because of her own perspective, your mother might not quite grasp that even quotidian accounts of life from 70 years ago would be of interest to people today.

Naturally, you and your sisters would be interested in accounts of your own early lives and the comings and goings of long-gone relatives, but it would also be cool to read about something as ordinary as, “I’ve been thinking about getting one of those Philco television sets,” or, “I can’t believe gasoline costs 30 cents a gallon!”

Accounts of people serving in the military add another dimension to the importance of these letters.

Researching your question, I read a story in Smithsonian Magazine about a remarkable man named Andrew Carroll and his heroic effort to found the “Million Letters Campaign,” with the goal to collect one million letters from military members for the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University (search for the center at


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