Friday, January 18, 2008

April 23, 1925 (7:00 PM) - Brooklyn


[Papa wrote my grandmother morning and night on April 23rd, 1925, the day after he saw her off on a short trip to her cousin's farm in Connecticut. One thing to note before we look at his evening letter: Since his letters are a lot longer than his diary entries, I'm going to see what happens if I comment on his text with footnotes. Please let me know if this works or if you find it distracting.]

April 23, 1925

7. P.M.

Dear Jeanie:

Just arrived from work
to find your wonderful letter, and
I am more than delighted to hear that
you have enjoyed the trip.1

New York was sweltering today
on account of the unusual heat that hit
the town today.

My thermometer registers now
78 degrees, and I don't feel a bit cold
and now I am sorry because I did not
go along with you.2

I am so lonesome thinking
how far away you are, but your image
is always near me, and I feel indebted
to you for the many happy moments
the happiest in my life spent in your

It is a blessing Jeanie dear to have
you as a pal. You are one of a rare
type which is almost extinct.3


This vacation dearie will do you
a lot of good

Take it in Jeanie, take advantage
of all opportunities that the country life
and beautiful nature have to offer.4

I am sure, smart as you are you
will get quickly acclimated to the place.

You are bound to have a lot of fun
you will find the country hicks
regular sheiks beating old Harry.5

I am closing this one now as
I must rush to my Lodge meeting.6

A million kisses to my pal




Matt's Notes

1 - Since I know that Papa courted my grandmother for six years, I've always assumed she didn't show much enthusiasm for him at first. But if she wrote to him on her first day of vacation, she may have been more receptive to his early attention than I originally thought.

2 - It was, in fact, the warmest April 23rd on record since 1886, with temperatures reaching 83 degrees. According to the New York Times, "With the the arrival of sure enough hot weather a number of Summer industries, which had been waiting until the market steadied, launched forth..." including those of the the "penny-a-lick" merchant, the "open-faced orange juice dispensaries" and the "officials of ice cream manufacturing companies" who "erased furrows from their brows and began to beam."

3 - Papa had written in his diary of his disdain for the "wild women" who dominated the dating scene of his day, and his disappointing, unsuccessful romantic experiences with a cigarette-loving "20th-Century girl" and a similarly sassy distant cousin didn't do much for his appreciation of hair-bobbed "jazz babies." He longed privately for "that good type which appeals to me and is so rare among women" (his favorite movie actress, Jane Novak, notably eschewed the bad-girl image popular among screen stars of the day) and my grandmother, who pointedly lacked a lust for sensation, clearly appealed to his old-world sensibilities.

4 - He hoped, of course, she would take advantage of other opportunities life had to offer, particularly the ones he'd provide if she married him.

5 - Papa had hinted, in his previous letters, at his anxiousness over the company my grandmother would keep in the country, but this is the first time he's shown how jealous he is about her other prospective suitors (there was, apparently, a bit of Jewish social scene in the Columbia, Connecticut area where she was staying.) I assume he calls these rural Lotharios "sheiks" because it was a popular expression of the day, no doubt due to Rudolph Valentino's iconic start turn in "The Sheik."

6 - Papa belonged to a Zionist fraternal order and mutual support society called Order Sons of Zion (a.k.a. B'nai Zion) and was Master of Ceremonies of "The Maccabean" chapter, which he helped form in early 1924. Interestingly, this letter is the only place he's ever referred to it as his "Lodge" in writing; he usually calls it "Maccabean" or simply "the camp" in his diary.

No comments:

Post a Comment