Wednesday, April 16, 2008

August 8, 1926 - Brooklyn


New York Aug. 8. 1926.

My dear Jeanie:

Something funny
happened to me yesterday, after
eating a good steak Thursday night
I was stricken with terrible pains
at 2 o'clock after midnight, It was
very strange as it never happened
to me before however since I was
alone I decided to go to a doctor
and I did manage to find one
at that hour of the night,1 after giving
me the once over he decided that
I was suffering from appendicitis,
and advised me to run home at once
and start putting ice bags to my side



for 24 hours.

By the time I got home I
felt better but I decided to follow
the doctors instructions, I notified
my sisters and they kept busy
arranging ice bags which I kept on
putting on my side, oh it was so

In the afternoon I first came to
my senses, Not feeling any pain
whatsoever all day long, I decided
to call an old reliable doctor to
look me over as it seemed very
funny to inconvenience myself any longer.

Well he came and the laugh
was on me he said that the
first doctor knows as much about
the medical proffession as I know
about cobblery.3 I had not the


slightest trouble with my

Now imagine I lost a
days work and confined
myself to bed for almost 24 hours
and then the ice.

Well automatically I got well
released myself from my self
imposed prison and celebrated
later my quick recovery. -- 4

Everything is all right
in your family, Rose told me
that she wrote you a letter yesterday
and will write another tomorrow,

Please write me about
yourself I am more than anxious
to hear from you and dear Mother

I am closing with

Love and Kisses



Matt's Notes

1 - If you're going to be struck with fearsome pains at 2 in the morning, a Lower East Side tenement, circa 1926, is probably not where you want it to happen. Papa obviously didn't think it appropriate or prudent to visit an emergency room while in distress, though I'll have to do more research on New York's hospital system in the 1920's to find out why (as always, dear reader, please share whatever you might know).

2 - So, how did Papa find a doctor at that hour? Did he call an operator and ask for doctors in his neighborhood, or did he just open the phone book and start dialing? Did he walk around and knock on doors? And who was the doctor who misdiagnosed him? Was he some kind of stubble-cheeked miscreant who had only just returned from an opium den? Or did he, perhaps, own a share in his brother-in-law's ice delivery business and therefore prescribe excessive icing for every ailment?

3 - I really enjoy how Papa uses"cobblery" as an example of something he knows nothing about, not only because I rarely read the word "cobblery" in any context, but also because it demonstrates how important the garment trades were to Papa's frame of reference.

4 - I often wonder what certain episodes in Papa's life would mean if they had appeared in a novel rather than in personal writings, and in this vein I think the onset of Papa's gastrointestinal non-emergency is worth an extra look. Remember, three days earlier he had exchanged letters with my grandmother about her own stomach ailment, acquired while she was on vacation in the Catskills. Is it a total coincidence, I ask the writer of this story, that Papa had a bout of stomach pain so soon afterwards? And if not, why did it happen? Was Papa, like The Empath in the worst-ever Star Trek episode, relieving my grandmother's pain by assuming it for himself? Did he report on his illness to arouse her sympathy or to make her feel like he was somehow keeping her company?

Update: My mother writes:

I think you hit the nail on the head with paragraph #4. It occurred to me as soon as I started reading Papa's letter. I can just imagine the competition between Aunt Clara and Aunt Nettie as to who could take care of Papa better.


  1. I know you didn't mean e-mails when you wrote that; it just caught my eye as comical.

    I firmly believe in empathic connections between individuals who are separated. I hope your grandmother didn't get sick again... or maybe she was not yet as fully connected as he was.

  2. The comment above refers to a mistake I made when I initially published this post (I said Papa exchanged "e-mails" with my grandmother instead of "letters".) I've since corrected it. Thanks to Harriet for pointing it out.

  3. With reference to the 'cobblery', the English still use the expression 'you're talking a load of cobbler's' to mean you're talking nonsense. BTW: I haven't been on the site for MONTHS, so have to catch up on all the letters, which I shall do forthwith...