Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Archive for February 2011

Valentine’s Day

with 5 comments

In a special (and somewhat risqué) Valentine’s Day post I give you two letters. One from Alex on Feb. 14th and one from Sylvia the same day in 1945. Alex’s letter is written during a sleepless night and recounts the grueling and mundane schedule of life on a Naval ship. Sylvia’s letter is… racy! Maybe it’s better that I’m getting to know her as a 20-something year old woman instead of as my grandma. This letter, by the way, is not even the most scandalous one I’ve read. But, hey, it’s (almost) Valentine’s Day and you have been warned (I wasn’t).

So here’s to love!

Dearest Love,

Today was Valentine’s day and my thoughts are with you. If you only could see me now! I am writing to you sitting on the toilet seat. It must be about 10M, but no matter how I tried to catch a little sleep, my mind is just wandering around, of course most of the time back home to you!

I am on the very much hated dog(day?) watch on this trip. It’s quite a grind. We get up about 11:15PM and take over our watches at ten to twelve. Then its 4 hours on the go at four we get relieved and we have a few hours of sleep till about seven. At that time we have the costumary dawn watch to which the whole ship’s company turns out. This lasts for an hour then breakfast and a few hours till 11:15 AM sleep. At ten to twelve noon we take over our watches again till four int eh afternoon. Again a few hours sleep if one can and we have dusk watch which also is traditional in the Navy. When that is over sleep again if one can and I can’t.

I can’t write on my bunk because I don’t want to disturb the rest of the boys in their well earned slumber.

Darling wife, how wonderful feeling it would be if this watch would be taking us back home. There is nothing that would be more cheerful than that thought. And perhaps it will soon! I hope!

We had a little excitement aboard before we left port. Some of the boys wished to get the last glass of beer, or kiss their newly made sweethearts in this place, so when the ship was already restocked they went ashore. Of course you can’t get away with it most of the time, and they didn’t.  A bed check was made and six were caught absent. And of course disciplinary action was taken. Fortunately it is not too severe. Well, so far I managed to keep out of trouble and I’ll continue if you give me a letter in couragement [sic], with a constant stream of mail.

Their isn’t much else to write about. We have ideal weather. The sky at night is really beautiful with all the stars. I elarned how to calculate what time it is by observing the position of the big dipper in the sky. During the day we have beautiful sunshine and the air is mild like in the spring. The afternoon we stood watches without our warm jackets, only sweaters, which is doing OK at sea.

Well darling wife I’ll write again in a sleepless night I’ll try again to dream of you. My love and kisses to the little angel and to you, sweetheart.

** Meanwhile…Sylvia wrote**

This is the second of two or three letters she wrote that day. In the first letter she wrote that she had not received any letters from Alex for a few days and was beginning to imagine that he was coming home. Then she received 4 letters at once.  The “Rankin” that I believe Sylvia refers to in recounting her conversation was Jeannette Rankin – the first woman elected to Congress and a pacifist who voted (alone) against the US entering WWII. No other woman has been elected to Congress from Montana since she was. Excuse my use of Wikipedia for this research but reportedly she said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else. It is not necessary. I vote NO.” As it turns out women didn’t need to go to war for war to come to their homes.

Sylvia moves the discussion from Trotskyism to sex pretty smoothly in this one page letter and for that I tip my hat (and then block it all out).

Darling- Decided to make up for not writing you everyday as I had intended. In one of those 4 letters rec’d this afternoon, you sent me Valentine’s Greetings. It made me feel good to see you thought of it. You might have received my Valentine’s card by now! Like it? Sorry the record didn’t (couldn’t) go out, but when you come home, we’ll both make a few for each other to keep during the next inevitable separation. This letter was interrupted by some friends who came by for a short while this evening. They’re swell guys- he’s a sailor (Yeoman) and expects to be shipped out in a few months.  He’s been here in NY for about two years and she realizes she’s lucky, but is getting sick at the thought of his leaving. Besides discussing Wallace, Trotskyism, Rankin, etc. we discussed one of our friends whose husband is a defense worker- anyway, the poor gal is sex-starved! Imagine that!!!! That’s something that can’t happen to us when you get back home! Baby, remember those showers we took in mom’s house last August? Sweetheart, I’m crazy about you! Hurry home, but don’t have any affairs while you’re hurrying! Because if it’s good enough for you, it’s good for me!

All my love,


Written by Molly

February 12, 2011 at 8:30 am

It’s not as classy

with 2 comments

Darling Sweetheart,

This the stationery I mentioned I had ordered for myself and your mother about three or four months ago. It was delivered just the other day. It’s not as classy as the advertisement stated it would be. But one gets used to anything.

Anyway, Cookie and I are just fine – especially Cookie. She HAS A NEW TOOTH! THE FIRST. To me it looks like a little hole in her lower gum, but Mom says that that’s because the tooth has pushed through finally. She isn’t too cranky or feverish. She has only one disturbance, and that is that she won’t go to sleep until about eight in the evening. I’ll have to continue this in pencil as Cookie isn’t quite asleep and I don’t want to disturb her.

This is just a very short note, but I’ll write you at greater length tomorrow. Did I tell you that Leon’s on a weeks furlough? I think I did. Betty Lampel is coming to dinner tomorrow Bertie Schneider wrote asking what happened to me?

I received your pictures and they’re wonderful. You’re beautiful on all of them. Especially the large one which is tinted. It’s framed and stands on our table! I sent 4 of them to your mother. One for her, 1 for Pauline, 1 for Anna and 1 for Serena. Haven’t heard from her so far, but probably will tomorrow. I’ll send you a long air mail letter tomorrow. Did you receive the package I sent you? Baby darling, there wasn’t too much in the package, as I mailed it before I received the check which came today. I’m going to insert an ad with the NYTimes for work. I also wrote to Jimmy G., A. (?) -, and Nila – a short friendly note and mentioning that I was looking for manuscript work or any typing. Hope you haven’t any objections? Please forgive my haste, but Cookie is stirring and I have to shush her. Please hurry home, and don’t worry about any gifts – this is war and people don’t expect any. All my love, my darling,



This is a short and simple letter that serves mostly to give us a glimpse into the daily life of Sylvia.  I’m sorry I don’t have the photos that Sylvia mentions here. Money continues to be a prominent theme in these letters.  I really like the line, “Please hurry home, and don’t worry about any gifts – this is war and people don’t expect any” because it so succinctly links the personal lives of everyone on the home front with the war. Sylvia wavers between expressing her wishes for new furniture or a new item of clothing and her pragmatic fiscal responsibility. Did she just ask if Alex had objections to her looking for manuscript typing work? I suppose any smart independent woman knows not to bruise a man’s ego by taking too much initiative!

Written by Molly

February 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

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