Monday, November 10, 2008

February 26, 1930 - New York City


Feb. 26, 1930


I called you this evening at home
and left a message with Sylvia. 1

I gave in your dress to the cleaners last
night figuring that I'd get it back on Friday
but passing by this evening the man called
me in and explained to me that his dyer
was there during the day and told him that the
material of your dress would shrink considerably
if dyed, you see it has to be boiled in dye for
a half hour.

So I've decided that rather than spoil the
garment I'll have it pressed only unless you
still want me to have it dyed.2

I got another string of beads in exchange
for the others, should you not care for them
I'll get a credit slip for a dollar.

I have seen some real nice suits I
wish you could see them before I decide to
get one.

Since you told me that you would go to
the dentists tomorrow (Thursday) I'm sure
that you will forgive me if I'll take the
privelege to meet you in front of the building
at 6:00 P.M. (at 100 W. 42nd St.) 3


I've got my first weeks salary in this new
season so I can buy the things I need.
I had hoped that you'd come to the
store this evening after the court session
but I'm certain that somebody took
you home safely.

I may call you before I meet you
that is if I can manage to get away before

Beloved: I am so longing for you
I know that I shall be impatient tomorrow
but happy in the thought of meeting you
in the evening 4

For the present

Au revoir

Your devoted faithful and loving



1 - I’m not sure who Sylvia is, but my mother thinks she may have been a boarder my grandmother’s family took in as their financial situation worsened. (As we’ve previously discussed, my grandmother’s father died unexpectedly in late 1929, leaving behind an impenetrable tangle of business interests. The start of the Great Depression was obviously not the best time for this kind of thing to happen, and not surprisingly the financial stability of my grandmother’s family fell apart with the rest of the country’s.)

2 - What was the cleaner’s shop like? Was it a Garment District storefront, its front room bright and clean and filled with paper-wrapped packages of laundry? Was its back room contrastingly dark and humid, concealing a pessimistic dyer who muttered his predictions over vats of boiling clothes? I’m looking for photos of Prohibition-era laundry shops, so send ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.

3 - My grandmother’s dentist was fifteen blocks from Papa’s workplace (the Lion Costume Company at 13-15 West 27th Street, near Broadway) so Papa may have taken the Interborough subway line (the blue line in the illustration below) from 28th and 4th to Grand Central Terminal at 42nd and Lexington, grabbed a crosstown train to Fifth Avenue, and walked a block west to 6th Avenue, where my grandmother was waiting at 100 West 42nd Street. It's more likely, though, that he took the BMT (the orange line below) from Broadway and 28th to to 42nd and 7th and walked a block east.

4 - When Papa met my grandmother, he felt like he'd been waiting for her his whole life. (For those of you just joining us, he courted her for five full years despite her and her family's efforts to dissuade him. She had only decided to marry him a couple of months before he wrote this letter.) As I've mentioned before, though, what I really think he was waiting for was the chance to take care of someone like her, to see her happiness and comfort as his responsibility. Thus, no everyday domestic errand, from taking her clothes to the cleaner, to exchanging her necklace at the jeweler, to waiting for her at the dentist's office, was too mundane to seem like less than a "privelege".


Image source: 1930 Subway map from

1 comment:

  1. This was really interesting to read . My own grabdparents were married in the year 1926 in colo.