This post originally appeared on WFMU's Beware of the Blog.
Somewhere in my collecting travels, this reel of tape came into my collection. On it, the recipient of (what I'm sure were) countless audio letters from her sweetheart, collected four of them, splicing what were originally three-inch reels back to back onto a seven-inch reel.
The sender, as the tapes make clear, was at the time a soldier stationed in Thailand. The month was June, and the days of the week mentioned (i.e. Saturday, June 19th) would indicate that the year was either 1965 or 1971 (assuming as I do that the tapes were made during the '60s or early '70s).
The tapes begin on June 7th, but most of that tape seems to have been lost over the years, so I've included the fragments (the first two minutes of side one and the last two minutes of side two) at the end of this post.
The meat of the audio here are three tapes from late June -- on the 19th, the 25th and the 27th. The first tape is nice to hear, but to me doesn't contain as much of interest as do the other two tapes. In between the tapings on the 19th and 25th, the man speaking and a cohort took a lengthy trip to Bangkok, and the sites seen during that trip, and another shorter trip make up for the most interesting parts of the audio letters from the later in the month.
The tape from the 25th describes the drive, and the endless farm fields, as well as some particularly interesting temples. The tape from the 27th has my favorite moment, in which he talks about a bike ride he took with another soldier, and how they were invited into one of the temples, at the virtual insistence of the monks, the reasons why, what happened once they were inside, and... well, you'll hear it, as well as his explanation for why he believes they acted in that way.
In between all that are descriptions of life on the base, discussions of the oppressive heat, random observations on other things, and many, many tender expressions of his love for the girl he is missing.
Finding recordings as like the one on this tape is among the biggest reasons I spend my free time delving into the contents of old reels, and I'm sure there are others out there who will enjoy this just as much. Here are the three main recordings, split up into the two sides as they originally would have been heard on the small reels:
Here are the fragments of the earlier recording, as well as a scan of the tape itself: