Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » In His Own Words: Arnold Ga—n, 1950

In His Own Words: Arnold Ga—n, 1950

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 16, 2009

Early in 1950, Addie Cannon Howells, editor of The Children’s Friend, received an unusual letter from a 12-year-old boy in Germany who had unexpectedly found a copy of the magazine.

Dear Editor Adele Cannon Howells:

Excuse me of my letter! I got a magazine “The Children’s Friend” from July 1948 years which I find in forest, when I was seeking old iron. Maybe a soldier of U.S. who was in forest of hunting lost it. It was torn, but for me a fine magazine. I read it and it was for my shield-soul a refreshing. So much poems and news and educations, methods and true words I never find in a German magazine.

Dear American lady, this children magazine would be very good for German children. So much children in the world no difference, and I think we can all be friends, because the future a peace world stay in the hands of youth! When I will become a man, I shall work against the wars. I shall work for a better life. The folks must play music, sing, do care of flowers, farming, do care of corn, vegetable, animals.

I am proud of American soldiers which played in the world war II, the best role and gave us now, 5 years peace. Gen. Eisenhower was a fine general, also the Lucius Clay was for Germany a big man and have done much for to save us, children in Europe. We children in Europe had a cruelty time. We experienced very much danger, grief, and was all ways suffering, in need of food, not to speak of clothes. our childhood was destroyed. The Americans do very much for German children health and education. In Germany Americans houses, organizations and women sociate. The American Military Police every day do looking for children on the streets. Much boys from 2-11 year smoke cigarettes. We see now in big German towns neglected, dirty, hungry children out of home. 1946-1947 in all German schools the pupils got American breakfasts, it was tasted, fine and good, what we children don’t had all the war time. Now in Germany, in all shopping windows, much more, also made in U.S.A., but it is very expensive. I can’t buy it my life.

I am pupil of 7th grade. I get always high marks. My best subjects, math., history, geography, piano play, song, drawing and cut-work. After my school I go in the village forge, so I earn something. I seek also old iron and sell it to collecting depot. The money what I earn I buy books, copy-books, paper, pencils, blades. Outdoors I go in my small vegetable and flower garden in my self-made cottage. There-in I have much tools, and I make airplanes, ships, children play things. I am diligent and ever busy. Before the cottage is a small brook, therein can only swim ducks, geese. In the evening hours I play piano, sing. I like American folk songs from Foster.

I am 12 years old, born [edited] 38; boy, blond, blue eyes, 1 metre 52 cen. tall, 85 pounds, true, and cute. I don’t never lie, cheat. I am thankful for the Heavenly Father, which gave my mother courage, health and love in heart for to educate me, for a good character boy. I love my mother, she is my diamond in the world! My mother is a practical woman, sew, knit, crochet, make nice ladies clothes, models, paint, can do darning, was a society woman. Know 4 languages, write short true novels, stories, play piano, sing. She was a daughter of a book printer. Traveled through much world cities, Africa, India, Russia, U.S.A., Northern States. She is born in city Riga 1903, January 3. A beautiful woman. My sweetheart. My father is potter-master, builder, also farmer and know much work, is born in City Riga, 1881. A strong healthy man.

We are from northern-East Europe, refugees. Through the Russian communists territory my parents lost all his fine nice happy home, farm, potter-job. We fled away through Germany and were billeted in a small village. We are not D[isplaced]. P[ersons]. but German-citizen. My father is 5 year out of work and get a little rent for us which is to less for live. My daddy help some people to make caskets, barrels. My mother is gathering scrap of material, rags, and sew pillows, gloves, slippers, doll-garments and sell those on market. So she earn some for day buy bread! Sometime I am hungry, sometimes I am satisfied – Never mind!

My parents have got from American Consul in Germany emigrate quota numbers, and we hope sometimes for a voyage to U.S.A. We have not relative there, nor a sponsor or missionary who could help us to come to U.S. – to a farm or other job.

Dear Mrs. Cannon Howells! I have a request to you, if you can please send me a children magazine “The Children’s Friend” – from the year 1949-50, please, please. I have interest for this magazine, but I can’t buy it. I have no money. I would very much glad sometime to get from a Mormon missionary some Mormon songs what the children sing in Tabernacle-Temple. My mother was a singer, soprano-solo in year 1925-1928. The Russian communist town, and burnt. My mother reach library 300-books in city Riga; there also was much music, songs. We are Lutheran-Protestant, but all people have one God, and we are equal. Dear American Lady! I am hungry for news, and books, but I am so poor, that I can’t buy one! With my gratitude heart to you, I send you my drawings, it is what I can do for thank, and when my mother come home (she is in a farmhouse now and help for two little children cook) I will say to my mother that she will send you a nice needle-work, crochet work. Please excuse me and I hope of your answer. With love to you, and many greetings to you. God bless you!

Arnold Ga—n
Serkendorf 21
u Staffelstein
Germany-Bavaria US Zone


As you might suspect, Arnold got his subscription to the Children’s Friend, and he remained in contact with the magazine for a time — in 1953, he submitted a silhouette to the page dedicated to children’s poetry and artwork:


Arnold did emigrate to the United States, and he lives here now, at age 71. A little internet sleuthing put me in contact with his daughter, and I’ve sent her an invitation to comment. (Should anyone with access to the old magazines happen to look up Arnold’s full name, please respect his privacy by not using his full name or other identifying details. Thanks.)



  1. Another fascinating account; I do hope Arnold’s daughter tells us the end of the story.

    Comment by Alison — November 16, 2009 @ 10:00 am

  2. Me, too. I’d really like to know what other contacts Arnold may have had with Mormons, and how his early contact may have shaped later interactions, if at all.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  3. This is fascinating, Ardis. In only very few cases have materials dug up in the archives led to connections to living individuals. Those cases are to be cherished.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 16, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  4. This was wonderful, thanks. In my mind’s eye, I can imagine this little 12-year-old refugee sitting down after having discovered the magazine and penning this letter, using his best English-language efforts. Thanks again.

    Comment by Hunter — November 16, 2009 @ 11:21 am

  5. I am impressed that this young man reciprocated the kindness shown him by donating a cut-out he had made. I, too, hope that his daughter will tell us more about him.

    Comment by Maurine — November 16, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  6. Wow! What a remarkable young man! Can you imagine the horrors this fellow witnessed as a child caught in the midst of war? Yet he had a bright positive outlook on life and his future. Thank God neither of his parents were casualties. He was not alone in the tragic loss of his home, though. Millions of war orphans lost all that and more. It is good to read that the G.I.’s made it a point to be kind to the children.
    Evidently, our Heavenly Father wanted Arnold to find this copy of the “Children’s Friend” because he knew that it would speak to his heart. I am glad that he made it to the U.S.A. and to Utah. I am certain that his contribution to our society and state was great. Thank you very much, Ardis, for sharing his touching, moving letter!

    Comment by Velikiye Kniaz — November 16, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  7. You capture what caught my attention, Velikiye — his upbeat attitude despite what was obviously a very hard living situation. When you realize that his entire life had been lived during wartime or in the terrible conditions in the first years following the war, that he could be so optimistic, and that he had the education to write so well in English, speak well for his parents and his own temperament.

    (Note, though, that Arnold doesn’t live in Utah, although he did emigrate to the U.S. If he were within reach here, I’d be knocking at his door to tell him what a lift to my spirits his long-ago letter gives me.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

  8. What an interesting letter and story! From time to time I meet a German who lived through that era and always enjoy visiting with them and hearing their memories of that time.

    Comment by Researcher — November 16, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

  9. Thanks again, Ardis! We have another winner!!

    I couldn’t help but think of another little German boy, of about the same age, who spoke just last month of his experiences in post-war Germany. See Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk here.

    It would be interesting to see if he or his family kept any contemporaneous record of those days.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 16, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

  10. This is awesome.

    Comment by Christopher — November 16, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

  11. What a gem of a letter.

    Comment by Amy — November 16, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

  12. I have an overwhelming desire to give 12 year old Arnold a big hug and a huge pot of homemade soup. Here’s hoping he has had a life filled with love.

    Thanks, Ardis.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — November 17, 2009 @ 2:59 am

  13. A jewel, Ardis. You find the most amazing things. Thanks for sharing them.

    Comment by Jami — November 17, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  14. Wow, how fascinating! I love his English and his faith that he’ll get what he asked for . . .

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — November 18, 2009 @ 5:30 am

  15. WOW.

    Comment by m&m — November 26, 2009 @ 2:11 am

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