Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Who’s On First?

Darling,

We are on our way to N.O. and sure Uncle Sam is treating us O.K. We are receiving an air conditioned Pullman and we slept in the sleeping car and eat in the diner.

I was sleeping with another fellow and it would have been nice if instead of him it were you.

We are on our way and instead of going straight South we are on a line that goes a little round about right now we are in South Ohio but we all are anxious to get there so as to know our fate.

***

Alex and Sylvia have both moved since I began this blog and now, this week, I moved to a different apartment in Brooklyn. I’m living with two wonderful friends from college (that’s also why I haven’t been able to post). I re-read what Sylvia wrote when she first moved into the apartment in the Navy Yard projects. (Found here: Mapping Progress) She was excited and nervous, liberated and a little frightened.  When I think about Sylvia, a lot of the time I can’t help but focus on how different our lives at the age of 24. For the most part the emotions are something we share. The eagerness to create a welcoming new home along with the loneliness that can creep up in any new place. Still, the differences are big. I, for one, don’t have a baby or a husband. She moved from living with her parents to living with her husband and this “in between” time that 20-somethings now have simply didn’t exist. A few days after arriving in New Orleans Alex wrote the letter below. He was 33 in 1945 and he is still figuring out how to be youthful and still be a dutiful husband, father and son.

My darling,

This morning I sent you the $10 I hope you receive without any mishap.

As I indicated I’ve made application for the house and the caretaker said that I’ll get it in two weeks. When I get it I’ll send you a telegram and you go ahead and come down. I’d like to have your opinion on the question of the baby. I think it is not advisable because the long ride, and also you would be enslaved and unable to see the town and have a good time. I hope your mother or mine will be willing to take care of her for the period you decided to stay here with me. I think the instructions I’ve sent make it quite clear just what is what.

I still haven’t gone into town. I have no ambition until I am definitely settled down here. Till this date, they haven’t given us bunks and we just sleep on the one’s that are empty, and our clothes are in out bags. The heat is terrific and I have my usual troubles with the rashes you know where.

I am waiting to hear from you. Right now I am going to conclude because I am going to see a movie, Abbott and Costello… so you know me.

Darling, you know how much I miss you and love you. I hope we will be successful and have another little time together.

With all my love and a million kisses from your adoring husband,

Alex

Does Adrienne still remember her daddy? I wonder, after the rough times she had with me now and then. Give her a big kiss for me.

Love to my and your folks.

***

Just before the end of the war Alex was re-stationed to New Orleans. Alex seems lonely in this letter. The letter is about planning Sylvia’s trip to visit New Orleans. The soldiers are not settled. I don’t really want to address the rash Alex mentions “you know where.” The letter is short but at the end of it Alex keeps adding that he sends his love to different people at the end of the letter.

Alex mentions that he is going to see a movie. There is something that I find charming about a letter that puts my grandpa in a group of American soldiers who fit into the clichéd ideas we have about them. Alex writes that he is going to see an Abbott and Costello movie, two of the most popular entertainers from the 1940s and 50s. This is the kind of situation that I have trouble envisioning my grandpa being a part of. Abbott and Costello had just released “The Naughty Nineties” in the summer of 1945, which included their famous “Who’s on first?” sketch. I don’t know what, if anything, Alex meant by the “you know me…” after he wrote that he was going to see the movie. Does that mean that he didn’t enjoy their fast talking comedy? Was the English word-play lost on him in some way? Was he simply playing along when he joined in on this kind of activity? I think that soldiers and sailors looked to distract, entertain and occupy themselves in whatever way they could. And every once in a while they were able to enjoy themselves.

The post script of this letter is sad. Alex is clearly so torn. He asks Sylvia’s “opinion on the question of the baby.” In the body of the letter Alex is encouraging Sylvia to come to New Orleans alone, leaving Adrienne with one of her grandmothers. He wants to go out on the town with Sylvia and argues that she would have no rest if she brought the baby.  But in the last lines of the letter he wonders, “Does Adrienne still remember her daddy?”

I think the answer is that you just can’t forget Alex!

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3 comments on “Who’s On First?

  1. Dad
    August 20, 2010

    Great post, as usual!!! Wow. Aug 11, 1945 –a few days after the bomb. Four days later Japan will surrender. He must have been terrified that he would be sent from N.O. to the Pacific front….

    • kathy
      August 22, 2010

      …. re-reading the first letter I see that he writes that all the sailors are anxious to get to N.O. to find out “their fate.” It’s in July, before the war in the Paciifc is over so they must have been terrified that they would be shipped to the Pacific.

  2. Dad
    August 20, 2010

    another little “factoid.” I wonder if Alex thought about the fact that he was in a Pullman car and that his father had a job in the 1930s of working in hte Pullman yards in Chicago putting in the air conditioner units (ice!) in those cars! Accoroding to talks I had with Dad that was the job that grandpa found really degrading and which drove him to the news stand… I wonder if he thought about the fact he was riding in a luxury Pullman that his own dad may have worked on….

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This entry was posted on August 20, 2010 by in Uncategorized.
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