Signed “Yours Till Victory”
History is not just remembering a bunch of old battles, dates, and documents no matter how important they are. History is remembering people who lived their daily lives just like we do now. Since the founding of the little village of Royalton in 1818, people who lived here wrote in diaries, journals, and letters. Often they included little snippets of news from home and community that were included in the letters sent to men and women serving in the military at the fighting front during all our various conflicts. Letters from the home front were and still are as important to military morale as decent food and warm socks.
Young Elwood Mayer served in the Navy during World War II; he saved each letter he received from parents, brothers, sisters, and friends as they wrote about the news from home – North Royalton. Those letters were carefully saved in a shoe box tied with a sting and stored in his basement for almost 70 years. Elwood’s daughter-in-law, Connie Mayer, Secretary of the North Royalton Historical Society, organized them, put them in a binder and donated them to the Historical Society in 2019. A wealth of life, love, and family connections waited to be rediscovered, and it was.
North Royalton High School teacher, Mrs. Marilyn Orseno, had her Advanced Placement US History class “wrap up the end of the year with a “History Lab” project, where they conducted research as a historian and museum archivist would. Thanks to the generosity of the North Royalton Historical Society and the Mayer family, students were able to interact with primary source letters from WWII collected by Elwood Mayer (NR alumus) during his time serving in the Navy on the USS Yellow Tavern.” The rest is history.
Mrs. Orseno said, “Students worked in groups where they digitized, transcribed, and interpreted their assigned letter from Elwood’s collection.” To show the students how to curate the letter properly, Mrs. Orseno arranged a video call with the curator of the WWII Museum in New Orleans, who instructed the students how to handle a document and store the data digitally for analysis. She added, “As a result, the students were able to catalog more than 30 letters, in addition to creating maps that identified the letter’s origin, destination, and any other references to places mentioned in their assigned document.”
Connie Mayer, Elwood’s daughter-in-law says, “The students’ first challenge was to translate or transcribe the letters from cursive to printing as they were all written in cursive and fancy handwriting, which many of the students had not learned to read.” Using their technology tool, students discovered how they could use social media and Google to look up old documents that recorded where the writer of their particular letter was living at the time. While using the 1940 Census, many students were surprised that those writing the letters and fighting in the war were the same age or only a few years older than the students reading the letters.
Connie added, “One team of students discovered that one woman from North Royalton, Ester Trout Dornbrook, was never recognized as being part of those from North Royalton that served in the war because she traveled to different bases with her military husband. Ester joined the Women U. S. Marine Reserve that was disbanded shortly after the war ended. These students are making it their goal to memorialize Ester for her service as a North Royalton resident.”
The students were surprised to find that the letters said V-Mail, victory mail, not voice mail. Special stationery could be purchased from the Post Office specifically for sending to a service person. Each piece of mail to and from the fighting front was read by a censor who would black out or cut out any word or phrase that might give a clue to the enemy as to what the military was doing. Almost all the letters were signed “Yours till Victory,” so Mrs. Orseno decided to use this as the name for this and ongoing projects.
To add to the hunt for information, students looked for the Royalton Hometown Hero banner and grave of Elwood Mayer. Two students found the banner and shared a photo of themselves near the banner located at the intersection of West 130 and State Route 82.
The students’ final “History Lab” digitized projects will be submitted for future reference on the North Royalton Historical Society Website. Mrs. Orseno added, “It was an awesome experience to be able to watch the students experience history ‘in action,’ and I look forward for the next group of AP US History students to continue the work in the next school year!”
Remembering those who serve, honors their service and the home front that supports them. “The North Royalton Historical Society would like to thank Mrs. Orseno and students for their help.”
The North Royalton Historical Society James Buckingham Museum in the Smith-Rutledge House is located at 13759 Ridge Road, North Royalton, OH 44133 website: https://nrhistory.org
By LINDA KWARCIANY