Hong Kong, 1-4-71: “Hi. This is the high point so far. Fabulous city, but you need lots of money, there’s so much to buy…”
Thailand, 1-6-71: “Hi — There are many buffalo here. Have had two great tours and the weather is marvelous…”
Kuala Lampur, 1-8-71: “Hi! Went to a tin mine and a rubber plantation — also around the city. The floods have done a terrific amount of damage…”
Singapore, 1-10-71: “Hi! This is what we saw yesterday. This is a wonderful city — the cleanest and greenest in S.E. Asia. You can drink the water anywhere. Had a little difficulty getting out of Kuala Lumpur due to floods…”
The post cards are addressed to the Ryer family of East Ridge, Ridgefield.
“I think they really made an effort to see things as much as they could,” said Lynn Ryer.
She was speaking of her in-laws, parents of her late husband, Michael Ryer. All gone now.
The post cards and letters were from different locations in Asia, all in late 1970 or early 1971, address to Michael and Lynn and their sons, Michael and Jonathan.
“My boys were 10, 11 — they’re over 50 now.”
Her in-laws, Eugene and Catharine Ryer, had gone to Korea for about a year, a trip with a program similar to the Peace Corps, but for adults with business knowledge to share. He had a foundry business in Baltimore.
“Neither of them spoke a word if Korean. She ended up teaching English,” Lynn Ryer said.
“He had a job and a driver and went to work every day.”
The wives of American businessmen affiliated with the program shown sights, taken on trips. That wasn’t interesting enough for Catharine.
“My mother-in-law had a very curious mind and I admire her for that,” Mrs. Ryer said. “She taught English to Korean ladies.”
The eight picture post cards offer a tour of Asian sights: snow capped Mt. Fuji in Japan, boats crowded into Singapore Harbor with the white city rising behind, — tall western buildings, but not the sky-scrappers of today’s Singapore — and a water buffalo at work in rural Thailand.
“I think the plan was to mail from everywhere they’d been,” she said, “This pertains to their trip home.”
The letters and post cards were found recently by Deirdre and Olivia Basile, when they were sorting books donated to benefit the Ridgefield Library as a National Charity League project.
“I open an old atlas to get a date of publication and out onto my lap spills a stack of old letters, postcards and an itinerary for a trip to the Far East. In 1971,” Deirdre Basile said in a Facebook posting.
“We see that they are from ‘Mother and Dad’ to a family in Ridgefield. Well, I’m not going to throw them out, so we Google the family and find that they still have a business in the area…”
They brought the letters to the business, Ryer Associates real estate in Danbury.
“We were so afraid we’d get a ho-hum response to our excitement. We couldn’t have received a better response. The great-grandson of the letter writer was there to accept the letters … It was like finding buried treasure.”
“They just stopped in,” said Gus Ryer, whose great grand-parents wrote the letters that arrived recently, for a second time — special delivery from 45 years ago.
“I was eating lunch and these two nice ladies came by and said they’d found these letters. They fell out of an atlas, I think, and they just looked us up and found out we were right down the road.”
He didn’t recall hearing his great-grandparents talk much about their time in Asia.
“I’d heard that they’d taken a trip but I didn’t know much about it. It was neat to see the letters,” he said.
“I got a real kick out of seeing their experiences.”
He took the letters to his grandmother, Lynn Ryer, who moved to Meadow Ridge in Redding from her home on East Ridge after the sudden death of her husband, Mike, last October.
“The ladies, when they came by, they said it was an atlas,” Gus Ryer said. “My grandmother, she’d donated a bunch of books when she moved out of the house, and I guess the ladies were sorting them for the library.”
It was a surprise — a pleasant surprise.
“You don’t expect a couple of strangers to walk through your door,” Gus Ryer said, “and hand you a whole package of letters written by your great grandparents.”
Found letters provide a peek at the past