Tuesday, June 17, 2008

July 29, 1928 - New York City


N.Y. July 29, 1928

My Dear Jeanie:

I could have gone on some
excursion with my friends but
I wanted to be here so that I could
call you at 5 P.M. as we made up,
But to my sorrow you seem to have
forgotten to wait on the phone on the
appointed time.

Now, you wanted me to call and
I did, and am disappointed now,

I left a message for you to
write, and please do write in
detail of your trip and everything

If you recall at first it was
understood that I call you at 6:00



but before you left we changed
it for 5 o'clock, I don't want to
critisize you, little mistakes are
bound to happen, but I hope
it won't happy again.1

I you do sincerely wish me
to call please state exactly the
time (it must be in evening when
I'm off) and I'll call.

I called up mother and Mrs. Weiss
and told them of your safe arrival

It is still Sunday and I cannot
get any stamps at the P.O. so I'm
sending you now 2 stamps that
I have with me.


If this letter was any harsh
blame it on my dissappointment.

First now dear after having called
you I can go away, and the only
place to go alone is the
C.C. Stadium the heaven of good music.2

So dear I'll bid you
Au revoir

Your dissappointed (but not peeved)



Please pardon my funny
script as I write in a hurry at
the Drug Store.




1 - Though it's been a full year since Papa wrote his last letter to my grandmother, its contents might have well been written the next day. He is still dutifully writing to her while she vacations in the Catskills, still sending her stamps, still patiently campaigning against her other suitors. Meanwhile, she still keeps him guessing with displays of casual indifference, though it looks like he's decided not to take her to task for such things anymore. As you may recall, his last attempt to address her lack of enthusiasm for communication (he gently reprimanded her when she called herself “too lazy to write” substantive letters) caused some unpleasant backlash so, no matter how irritated he might feel, “dissappointed (but not peeved)” is the most he’ll admit to.

2 - City College Stadium, also known as Lewisohn Stadium, was located at 138th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and played host to a popular summer music series that ran from 1918 to the mid-1960s. Papa, a classical music aficionado, had been a fan of this “heaven for good music” since at least 1924; we know this because he mentioned his intention to bring a date there in his August 18, 1924 diary entry (he wound up taking her to a concert on the Central Park Mall instead).

If Papa went there on the night he wrote this letter, he would have seen one in a series of New York Philharmonic concerts guest conducted by Frederick Stock, who at the time was in the middle of his 37-year run as Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The most interesting part of the program for Papa was probably the Stadium premier of Charles Sanford Skilton's four-part Suite "Primeval," a modern work inspired by Native American themes. Here’s the evening’s complete program, according to the New York Times:

- Overture, "La Patrie" (Bizet)
- Symphony B flat major (Chausson)
- Suite "Primeval" (Skilton)
-- a. Sunrise Song (Winnebago)
-- b. Gambling Song (Rogue River, Oregon)
-- c. Flute Serenade (Sioux)
-- d. Moccasin Game (Winnebago)
- Baccanale and Finale of Overture, "Tannhaeuser" (Wagner)

I was about to say Papa must have also enjoyed the evening's selection from Wagner's "Tannhaeuser" because he was a big opera fan, but then I remembered that it was probably the first time he’d seen “Tannhaeuser” live since attending a performance at the Metropolitan Opera in November of 1924. Remember, late 1924 was a difficult period for Papa, marked by feelings of deep loneliness and a lingering sadness over his beloved father’s relatively recent death. We know that memory, as it does with many people, exerted a powerful influence over his moods and outlook, especially when reminders of his Eastern European boyhood and far-away family filled him with longing for happier times (he would get particularly blue around birthdays, Jewish holidays, and other milestones).

I wonder, then, if a performance of “Tannhaeuser” in 1928 might not have reminded Papa of those darker days, if he found himself wondering why my grandmother’s typically disappointing behavior (because surely this was not the only time she’d ever blown off a phone call with him) affected him so strongly, why he inexplicably felt, on that lovely summer night, something so like a late autumn chill.



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