History of World War Two Told Through Letters
Happy New Year! To kick off 2011 I will post a letter written on January 4th, 1945. I do realize how weird that sentence sounds.
Even though the Times Square New Years Eve Ball Drop isn’t really an event a lot of New Yorkers go to, I want to mention that the tradition began in 1907. In 1942-43 the ball drop was replaced with a moment of silence at midnight due to the restrictions on electricity use during World War II. (Today we can use all the electricity we want because there’s no harm in leaving the lights on, right?)
I apologize for the long break since the last post. It’s been a busy time here in Brooklyn and I guess that I, like or unlike Sylvia (depending on whom you ask), have trouble writing consistently. This blog is going to have some interesting developments this year. So stick with it, reader(s)!
Back to 1945.
First, I’m going to give you a small excerpt from the opening of Alex’s New Years letter. It helps explain Sylvia’s response. Alex is away at sea while he writes, and obviously missing Sylvia (especially due to her supposed “letter writing strike.”)
Dec 31 – Jan 1st
This letter was begun in 1944 and will be finished in 1945 a whole year to write a letter! It breaks your records!
So as you can see our New Year is coming to us while at sea. The routine goes on as usual. I just finished my watch and am waiting for the bells to chime in the New Year. Also my humor has become better, and I was tempted to ask for my last letter and not mail it. But it will, so at least you may get an idea of what ges on in my mind during your letter writing strike.
I like Sylvia’s attitude in this letter. She’s cheeky, honest about her “rut,” and the brief post script is the only part of the letter that contains some concrete news about what is going on around her (and was instigated by her). She even makes (what I read as) a sarcastic remark about their neighbor donating blood to the Red Cross as a gift.
Darling husband, I’m over my misery (really not quite but I love u) because of your letter of this morning and have decided I’d feel the same way in your shoes. Anyway, know this, you lug, I love you – but don’t be so rough next time … Adrienne suffers for it. Our next door neighbor donated a pint of blood to Red Cross as a gift in your name. Isn’t that wonderful? You’ll probably receive notice of this. Oh you lucky boy. Darling, listen to this exciting news –
tomorrow (Friday – I’m bringing Adrienne down to my mother’s and not collecting her until Sunday morning. Just think of it, dearest, I can have some time to myself to go downtown to have a drink, to see a show, to have a drink, to have another drink – and another – boy, I’m in a rut. It sounds as if I might get drunk – and believe me, hon, I think I will (following in your footsteps). Anyway, dearest, I think I might have the plaid suit made up for me out of that $80.00 you sent and then I’ll buy myself a dressy skirt so that a change of blouse will make it look like a new dress and then I’ll be spiffed up for
your homecoming and you’ll be proud to take me out !!!! I want to be beautiful for you sweetheart and so try to make me forget some of those beauties you may have met in Europe. Take care of yourself, honey, and come home soon – very soon. All my love to a stormy sailor Sylvia P.S. Vergi (?) will drop you a note too.
P.S. We might get telephones! The tenants association met with the management and gave him the petition for phones from 133 Navy Walk (guess who started it). He didn’t say no (as he usually did) but said he’d take it up with the tel. co. Sounds good, not? Love, S.
Even though this letter shows a relationship that is fraught with tension and anxiety, it doesn’t feel so heavy. Sylvia needs a drink, as Alex apparently also did. Sylvia plans to get “spiffed up” since Alex is meeting European beauties and Alex needn’t be so “rough,” (even calling him a stormy sailor). Still, Sylvia is casual, affectionate and jokey.
In an age when phones have become so individualized that now each person has their own number and the house phone is a dying phenomenon it is hard to fathom that the tenants association would be involved in petitioning for telephones. One of the first posts on this blog was about telephone party lines. In the 1940s, even though telephones were available to the consuming public, it was not a private or intimate way of communicating. I’m surprised that by 1945, as America neared the end of the war, Sylvia’s building still did not have telephones. The tentative and distrustful relationship that the family will develop with the telephone in the years after 1945 will make it seem almost ironic that Sylvia started a petition to have the phones put in.