Have you ever wanted to see these letters in person and not just online? Now you can at BLDG92 – The Brooklyn Navy Yard Center! Two of Sylvia’s letters are on display along with other exciting artifacts from women who were involved with the Navy Yard during WWII! What I find most exciting about this is that these letters are now being shown just blocks away from where they were written.
Go to bldg92.org (twitter: @bldg92, or http://www.facebook.com/bldg92) to learn details about visiting hours. They have exciting and interactive displays that will show you what has been going on behind the Navy Yard walls all these years!
In honor of Valentine’s Day Alex and Sylvia’s love letters are being spotlighted by BLDG92 this week, so stay tuned this week as I write more about the letters that are currently on display: http://bldg92.org/exhibitions/gallery-92/current-exhibit/
This sexist postcard is a fascinating artifact.
A cross eyed, angry, large, curvy woman stares right out from the image. She assumes that her goofy, malicious sailor beau (framed behind her) has been unfaithful to her. Sylvia selected this card and writes that it is unfunny and untrue, simply handy. However, she still chose quite a threatening and unflattering card. There is no stamp or postage marking on it so I wonder whether it was actually ever sent. There is not much to the content, so the postcard seems just to be for it’s own sake. It was made in Boston and Alex is in Sampson, New York at this time. According to the address, he is in the Gun Unit of the Navy at this point. What year is it from? Family members with a better idea, please let me know! Sylvia writes about her choice to send this card on the back. At the end of the writing there is a dot, a line and two more dots. The meaning of this, is a mystery, too.
Darling – This unfunny, untrue postcard was so handy, – and you have to suffer for it. But if you get this card before the letter, never read it. Cookie send her love to her daddy and so does mommy. But don’t be a hog – S.
Below is a V-Mail from this day 69 years ago. Sometimes, what I can learn from one casual line in these letters simply astounds me.
This V-mail was sent to Alex via the Fleet Post Office in New York on January 26th, 1944. Sylvia sent it from her family’s home on Jerome Avenue.
Cookie was [sic] to the doctor’s today – and she weighs almost 22 lbs. and is almost 30” tall. For a seven ½ month old baby, she’s a little horse! She can take plain milk now – no more formula! Hooray!! The sterilizing of bottles keeps up for another few months. Slowly I’m to start her on chopped foods – she’s to get cottage cheese three times a week. I’m to return in 4 weeks and that’s when she’ll start getting her Diptheria injections. And baby, am I scared of that. I wish you were here to hold my hand- or to hold Baby while she gets the needle. Your mother and Edward were here today – and mom brought Cookie two dozen fresh country eggs. Wasn’t that sweet and thoughtful? And it’s so timely, because it’s the end of the month, and it’ll be a week before the check arrives. Your mom is very thoughtful, honey. She and everyone else is well. They’re all going to an affair for infantile paralysis this Sunday. You remember, the drive is on again and it’s the President’s birthday ball too. Mom watched Adrienne clap hands in two languages and then she sang her a little Hungarian rhyme and Adrienne clapped hands at that too. (cont’d) Sylvia
Unfortunately, I don’t have the attached continuation of this letter but this one page alone is full of so many interesting details. The check arrives at the beginning of each month. Adrienne will eat cottage cheese three times a week! She will get multiple Diptheria injections. Alex’s mother brings fresh country eggs. Where was she coming from? I love the idea of Adrienne clapping in “two languages,” and clapping along to a Hungarian rhyme.
The mention of the “drive” and President’s ball refers to the origination of the March of Dimes. In 1938, Roosevelt created the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. According to the FDR Library website, “To increase awareness of the campaign, radio personality and philanthropist Eddie Cantor took to the air waves and urged Americans to send their loose change to President Roosevelt in ‘a march of dimes to reach all the way to the White House.’ Soon, millions of dimes flooded the White House. In 1945, the annual March of Dimes campaign raised 18.9 million dollars for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis…” The Birthday Balls helped raise financial support that led to a polio vaccine. “Although the Birthday Balls ended in 1945 with the death of President Roosevelt, both of their legacies live on in the March of Dimes.”
This is an amazing example of how a nationwide movement, spurred by one inspiring leader, can have an enormous effect. Even when many Americans awaited the checks at the beginning of each month for their survival, as Sylvia did, people attended these balls. Even immigrant families in Brooklyn donated what they could to finding a cure for Polio.
The organization continues today to promote infant health: http://www.marchofdimes.com/
Eleanor at FDR Birthday Ball at the Statler Hotel in Washington DC, with Red Skelton, William O. Douglas, Lucille Ball, John Garfield, and Maria Montez. January, 1944. FDR Library Archives, NPx. 72-18:325
This letter from 1943 is written by Sylvia pretending to be Adrienne. It’s quite funny and, of course, mentions farting a lot. Sylvia (or, Adrienne, in this letter) also notes that Alex may be mad at her, but it is unclear what happened during a phone call that is mentioned on the last page. The mysteries continue. Sylvia is still living with her family at this point. She hasn’t yet gotten the apartment next to the Navy Yard.
Envelope addressed to:
Daddy Alex Rosner (Backward S on the envelope)
You are the dearest daddy in the world. Mommy said I should write to you. Now that I’m so smart.She says you’d like to hear what I do all day.
I do nothing but eat and sleep. But, you know, daddy, Mommy says I take after you because I like to fart. You should see her face when I give a good loud fart – especially when company is around! Mommy and I have signals for each other – when someone’s in the house whom I don’t like, I fart only once – but if there’s someone I do like, I fart loud and long (and stinky too, mommy says…) because I like to show off.
Everybody laughs, so I laugh too. As a matter of fact, I always laugh at everyone. They all act so silly when they see a baby. They make faces, and talk baby talk and say goo-goo, like Uncle Eugene.
Daddy dear, I doubt if mommy understands me. Very often just when ‘m ready to fall asleep, I hear a noise and lift my head to see what it is – and when mommy sees this, she pats my back and says “go to sleep, Cookie.” Really, daddy, will you explain to my old-fashioned mother that times have changed? A girl my age has to keep her eyes and ears open; she has to know what’s going on in the world.
I’ve tried to explain this to mommy, but she doesn’t seem to understand, so won’t you tell her?
I’m very anxious to see if you’ve changed daddy dear. And also, mommy tells me that you and she once had a farting contest at three in the morning… and you won. But I bet I’ll win if you have one with me when you get home.
I exercise a lot during the day. I turn this way and that way, but I still can’t turn over. It won’t be long now. Maybe I’ll do it by the time you come home – and please take a shave if you’re gonna run your face on mine the way you used to.
And now you can’t spank me the ways you used to – I’m a big girl now, pop. I can take it… and can give it, too! Mommy’s really a swell gal, dad, isn’t she. And you’re really a swell father. I have the 2 most wonderful parents in the world – and pardon me for saying so, you two have the sweetest baby in the world. Please hurry home soon, daddy dear, as i want to learn how to sail a ship and to tie a sailor’s knot around –(?)’s neck.
Adrienne (Alias “Droopydrawers”)
P.S. My vaccination’s fine. How are you?
P.S. Daddy darling, mommy said if you’re mad at her, then you should write to me (if you’re angry and won’t write to her.)
My package went out today – and I hope you like what I bought for you.
P.P.S. Won’t you forgive mommy? She loves you very much, and is very downhearted since you called.
Below is a letter to Alex that everyone in the family contributed to on New Years Eve, 1944-5. Some are written in Hungarian and Sylvia wishes for victory and the end of the war.
Here’s to a happy start to 2013, as well.Darling, everyone’s up including Adrienne and drinking to victory in the new year. You can’t believe how much I missed you – dearest husband, let this be just a New Years wish – to have you home shortly, safe and sound, and for our brothers and friends and all the boys fighting those bastards, a decisive victory in the New Year and let them all come home safe. I love you, dearest, with all my heart, Sylvia Come home soon in good health and Zai gezunt. [Stay well in Yiddish] –Your mu-in law. Dear Alex – Happy New year and lots of love. Your sister Serena We are all together wishing you good health and to see you soon here Your brother in law Renato Wishing you a happy new year and hoping that long before the next celebration we wll be all together in good health. From your old friends Alicia and Adalbeil Fiace Dear Alex:
It is the New Years Eve – in 2 hours and ½ we are in 1945! We all came here early this afternoon – and enjoyed very much dear Adrienne’s company. She is beautiful and so adorable and I am proud that she has a preference for me – Before going to bed she kissed us all – now we are waiting till the clock (radio) strike 12. Well, I send you the best wishes in the hope to see you here soon in very sound health. Your’s affectionately, Anichad(?)
Hurricane Sandy left a trail of destruction along the East Coast of the United States. Oddly, and poetically, the hurricane also washed up a box of love letters written during World War II. See the story here.
In forceful and eloquent words Sylvia describes the ways that her life has been changed by war. She angrily tells Alex that she, too, is at war. She is responding to a letter from Alex in which he must vent to her and tell her not to take on too many activities. I have not found which letter she might be responding to yet and it occurs to me that it so angered her that it was not saved with the rest. As I mentioned yesterday, there is a previous post with a letter from Alex in which he does get angry at her here. Despite their distance and the war — or perhaps because it has so deeply impacted her life – Sylvia rightfully does not back down from this fight! Unfortunately, I do not have the entirety of this letter but the 3 pages that are here speak volumes.
April 26, 1945
After receiving no mail from you in more than a week, I rec’d four letters from you this morning. You wrote these before you sailed to your new part where I presume you are at present. In these four letters you again bawl me out. It’s getting so that that’s all I expect in your letters to me! You yell in one sentence and in the next ask me to try and understand! I realize you’re letting off steam and I’m the poor sucker who is in the path of your wrath—I realize you’re anxious to be home with us—
I realize how prisonlike the ship must feel by now—I realize many things! But what you don’t seem to realize is that I’m at war too! Do you think that just because I’m in N.Y. and not in Europe that I’m not in the war? Isn’t having my home uprooted, and torn apart being in the war? Isn’t having my husband in the Anti-fascist struggle being in the war? Isn’t raising a baby who doesn’t know her father being in the war? Isn’t living on a stinking $80.00 a month being in the war? Isn’t having 2 brothers in the Army being in the war? And do you think with all this, that I can sit idly by and do nothing? Do you want a wife who folds her arms and does nothing in times like these? If so, you married the wrong gal! All right, I know what you’re going to say and I’ll agree that maybe I have been over-doing it – and what I’ll have to do is cut down a bit on my activities…
I’ll continue with the paper and with the organizational work of the women’s day group… and maybe with the Thursday night current events groups—but that’s all, I think. Possibly I’ll hand over the second or third item to someone else. – However, none of these activities I’m engaged in separate me from Cookie. As she’s asleep by 6 P.M., they all keep me occupied after that time. I’ve discovered that to attempt to read or write during the day with Cookie around is murder. She won’t let me do it! And before she fell ill….