Philosateleia
Kevin Blackston
PO Box 17544
San Antonio TX 78217-0544
United States of America

Philatelic detective work: who was E.C. Goodrum?

One of the most fascinating things about stamp collecting, to me, is the historical aspect of it. Postal history, in particular, seems to provide a link with the past, a connection, if you will, to something that happened long ago.

I’ve been researching an old World War II-era cover that I acquired as part of an accumulation several years ago. The original letter is unfortunately no longer enclosed. The cover bears a very common stamp—the 6¢ transport plane stamp that was ubiquitous on airmail of that time—and a “Passed by Naval Censor” marking that’s also not particularly uncommon. In short, it looks like a run-of-the-mill piece of mail sent by a service member during World War II.

Goodrum cover
Goodrum cover

The return address bears the name of the USS Theenim, a Coast Guard-operated attack cargo ship that was used in the Pacific theater during the final year of the war. One thing that caught my attention was the postmark: August 5, 1945. That was the day before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

Who was E.C. Goodrum?

The return address indicates the sender was E.C. Goodrum, and the recipient was Dan Stone of Bowling Green, Kentucky. My next puzzle was to see what I could find about Mr. Goodrum.

A bit of searching online revealed a newspaper article from the early 2000s that revealed that Mr. Goodrum was a radar operator on board the USS Theenim, and that he later co-owned a funeral home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, before moving on to other pursuits. I even ran across an obituary indicating he died in 2007.

Finding a home

While an interesting piece for the aforementioned reasons, this cover doesn’t exactly fit into my collection. At the same time, the stamp is common, the markings are common, and there really isn’t a great deal of philatelic value here. I decided to see if I could track down Mr. Goodrum’s family.

Once again, an Internet search came through, and I found information that allowed me to make contact with Mr. Goodrum’s widow. She was nice enough to speak with me for a few minutes yesterday, and I plan to send the cover to her this coming week.

Ruminations

I have to admit, it was pretty cool to find someone with a connection to a cover mailed nearly 70 years ago. There was a time when I would have had no way of finding out what I did learn, and certainly no way of tracking down a family member of the sender. I hope Mrs. Goodrum will enjoy it.

Published 2014-04-05

Comments

Fabio G. (2014-04-07 10:54):

Wow, that was a nice thing to do, well done Kevin! That is one thing I like about the US.. here, noone would ever, ever think about doing something like that

Kevin Blackston (2014-04-07 22:14):

You’re very kind, but I have to admit the idea was not entirely original. Several months ago I read somewhere about a woman who had run across a personal letter, and managed to track down either the original sender or recipient. I guess you could say that story kind of inspired me to do the same thing.

Fabio G. (2014-04-08 07:25):

Even if it's not an original idea, it doesn't change the fact that hardly anyone here would have bothered to do so :\ this "community" feeling you have in the US is something I really like

Linda W (2014-04-08 10:17):

I loved reading about what you found out about an ordinary piece of mail in 1945. You've inspired me to do some investigating of my own. I recently purchased a stack of old letters. When I opened the bundle upon returning home, I found there were 27 love letters written by a gentleman to one lovely lady in 1949-1950. I'd love to learn if they indeed married, had children, where they lived, etc. Ahhh...how sweet to have written letters from decades ago that give us glimpses into lives in years past. That won't be the case for future generations about us. Where will be the e-mails and cell phone calls that could tell about us????

Kevin Blackston (2014-04-08 22:30):

Yes, research those letters—and let us know what you find out! I personally send as much mail as I can justify, but I think you’re right: there won’t be as many physical traces of us (letters, etc.) left when we’re gone as there are of some people from the past.

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