Wednesday, July 16, 2008

August 6, 1928 - New York City


N.Y. Aug 6. 1928. 12 P.M.

Mon cherie amie Jeanie:1

I worked very late today and then had
to go to a meeting,2 and now is my only chance
to write you a few lines, I expected to find a letter
from you today, but evidently the mail carrier must
have saved it to deliver it to me in person tomorrow
morning3. Everybody [at] home is O.K. the card is the
only means of writing to you as I have no stamps in
the house. Tomorrow I will write a letter.

Regards to the Wise girls and good night Dear.

P.S. It's nice and cool here now.4




1 - Papa’s given this card a French accent, addressing it to “Mmle. Jean de Pollack” and adding the salutation “Mon cherie amie Jeanie”. If such levity seems out of place on this site, it’s because Papa’s diary and letters focus so much on his melancholy, his most difficult personal changes, and the narrative of his romantic frustration. Every so often, though, it’s good to be reminded that he was not some kind of brooding wretch, but was actually quite energetic, optimistic and even capable of a little schtick.

2 - Papa was a labor activist, a dedicated member of the Zionist Organization of America (he had been a delegate to its conventions in 1926 and 1927) and a co-founder of "The Maccabean" chapter of Order Sons of Zion (a.k.a. B’nai Zion) a Zionist fraternal order and mutual support society, so he frequently found himself at organizational meetings and other sorts of events after work. He found these activities to be deeply fulfilling and stimulating; perhaps the satisfying work he did earlier in the day accounts for the relaxed and cheerful tone of this card.

3 - Papa punctuates almost every piece of correspondence to my grandmother with some plea for her to write more often. I suppose this little joke about the mail carrier holding her letters is another sign of his chipper mood, but he truly felt disturbed by her indifference toward communicating with him.

This joke tells us a little bit about life in 1920’s New York, too, by reminding us that mail came twice a day back then and that there would have been some kind of inherent familiarity between people like Papa and their mail carriers. By contrast, I rarely find myself hoping for any mail delivery except, say, the next installment of “The Wire” from Netflix, and I almost never see my mail carrier.

4 - In his last letter, Papa described a “strange spectacle at midnight” on the beach at Coney Island, with “thousands bathing in the tall waves of the ocean while tens of thousands were sleeping on the sands” during a dangerous heat wave. Temperatures finally broke on August 6th, as Papa notes above, and dropped from the 90's to the 70's.



1 comment:

  1. You poor deprived soul! We've lived in this house for 37 years, and my oldest daughter, now 38, has been on a first-name basis with all our mailmen since she was three.