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Collection of letters chronicling life in the 1940s presented to SKCTC Archives

Margaret Edds, right, presented a collection of hundreds of letters written by her mother Sara recounting life during the 1940s. Theresa Osborne accepted the collection on behalf of the Appalachian Program and Archives located at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.

(Photo by Chris Jones)

Archive at skctc

Margaret Edds was overjoyed when she and her sister, Rachel, discovered a cache of hundreds of letters written by their late mother Sara. The letters chronicled the daily life of Sara as she worked in the thriving coal town of Lynch in Harlan County prior to World War II and later when she returned to her native Tennessee and began working for the U.S. Government at Oak Ridge, the location responsible with manufacturing key materials used to make the first atomic bomb which subsequently ended the war.

Travelling from her home in Richmond, Va., Margaret made the trip recently to Cumberland and to Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College with the collection of over 300 letters penned by her mother.

According to Theresa Osborne, program facilitator and folklorist for the SKCTC Appalachian Program, the letters provide snippets of what life was like some 70 years ago. The collection will be processed and scanned and digitally preserved for future generations to study and learn about life from a bygone period; one of record coal production in Americas biggest coal town, and of the efforts of Americans to win the horrifying war and of the life enjoyed by Sara and her husband, Tom.

It was extra special for the daughters to have happened upon the letters since their mother, Sara, had died in 1951 when her youngest, Margaret, was only three years of age. Finding the letters gave me the opportunity to get to know my mother, and I am extremely pleased I was able to do so, Margaret said. Mother was a prolific letter writer and wrote several letters each week to her family in Tennessee as she described life as a secretary in Lynch and later as a worker at Oak Ridge.

The collection will be housed in the Edsel Godbey Appalachian Center located on the SKCTC Cumberland campus. It is such a remarkable gift we have received from the Edds family, said Osborne. We are honored the family has chosen to give the collection to us where it will be available to be enjoyed and studied.

The letters have also been a source of inspiration for Margaret as she has written the book: Finding Sara: A Daughters Journey. A former newspaper reporter for the Virginian-Pilot located in Norfolk, she was born in Lynch and upon the death of her mother the family moved to Lee County Virginia and then to Nashville. The book was published recently and is available at various outlets and weaves a colorful tapestry of the life lived and enjoyed by Sara through her letters. Now, her life will live on, Osborne said.

For further information about the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, contact Mrs. Osborne by phoning 606/589-3136.