Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Dead Letter Chair

The following is an article written by Jack Hicks that I found in a newspaper in 1992. I've been saving it with thoughts of writing a story based on what happened. The truth is, I can't make this stuff up ... well, maybe Stephen King could!  
"A living room chair. A vacuum cleaner. A yellowed letter, postmarked June 1, 1943.
Those are the elements of Jane Biondi’s baffling and peculiar mystery.
Mrs. Biondi bought the chair in November 1990 from Maas Brothers, a department store in St. Petersburg, Florida where she lives. As Mrs. Biondi moved it to vacuum recently, the letter dropped out. The chair is one of those big, overstuffed loungers and the letter apparently fell from the chair’s innards.
“I’d moved that chair probably every week since I bought it, and here it just fell out. This is so weird, so puzzling,” said Mrs. Biondi.
“A 50-year old letter in a brand new chair? I thought, I’ve got to get to the bottom of this.
But she may never, because no one seems to have a clue how the letter might have ended up in her chair.
The letter is from Sgt. James Warman, addressed to his mother, Mrs. Jack Warman, 409 W. Eighth St., Covington, Kentucky.
The letter was unsealed, so Mrs. Biondi peeked. What she read was from a soldier to his mother, mentioning family members, pay allotments and such. Her curiosity aroused, Mrs. Biondi called her local newspaper which gave her the name and phone number of The Kentucky Post. She called to ask if the Warmans might still be alive. And, she wondered, how in the world did the letter get in her chair?
Mrs. Warman died some years back after living into her 90’s. But her son is alive and well and living in Boca Raton, on the opposite coast of Florida from Mrs. Biondi. Relatives in Covington provided his phone number.
Warman was as amazed to hear Mrs. Biondi tell him about his lost letter. His wife, Marjorie, joked, “Your mother’s up there playing tricks on you!”
Warman and his five brothers were in the service during WW2. In June 1943, he was stationed on New Guinea in the South Pacific as a flight engineer on a C-47 in the 5th Air Force, Mrs. Warman wrote faithfully to all her sons, Warman recalled, acknowledging that he was sometimes lax in writing back.
After the war, the Warman brothers returned to Northern Kentucky. James managed several taverns and for 25 years, operated Suburban Chevrolet in Florence. After he retired, he moved to Florida.
He does not remember the specific letter but like Mrs. Biondi, he can’t imagine how her new chair became a dead letter office for his 1940’s mail.
Maas Brothers could give Mrs. Biondi no clues. The Stratford Co. of New Albany, Miss., manufactured the chair, called a StratoLounger. Tom Jones, an official for the company, found the story of the letter “intriguing” but said he is as puzzled as everyone else.  The company has plants in California and North Carolina, but Mrs. Biondi’s chair was probably constructed in Mississippi, James said.
The conclusion of everyone associated with the incident is that someone could have placed the letter in the chair at either the manufacturing plant of the store, or somewhere in between after Mrs. Biondi bought it.
But why? And how did that mysterious someone in Mississippi or Florida come to possess a letter mailed from the South Pacific to Kentucky?
The case even baffles the U.S. Postal Service, which has encountered plenty of long-lost letters. Ralph Stewart in the agency’s Philadelphia regional office said an entire bag of letters from WW2 surfaced awhile back.
As the story goes, a sailor collected letters from his shipmates when going home on leave, but then forgot to mail the correspondence. Somehow letters ended up forgotten in a relative’s attic and were only recently rediscovered.
The Postal Service attempted to deliver as many as possible or to locate the sender through the return address.
The Postal Service got a second chance with Warman’s letter, too. Mrs. Biondi sent the letter on to Warman in Boca Raton. This time, it got to him."

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