Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Beauty Parlors and Weddings

We are going back a few years in this letter, to the time before Sylvia moved into her apartment in the Brooklyn Navy Yard projects. This letter is particularly gossipy and entertaining. There is no mention of anything here except the beauty salon and a wedding that Sylvia attended. I wish we still had the pictures that Sylvia refers to here. I’d like to see her and Adrienne in front of the Hudson River, the water that I looked at everyday growing up from my apartment.

Sylvia talks about going to get her “hair set” in this letter. I’m not even sure what that means (though I can imagine it involves a lot of hairspray and chemicals). Her referral to Alex’s mother as “Mom” and her attachment to Serena comes through with clarity in this snippet of everyday life for a woman who’s husband is away but who has, in his stead, a whole new family.

September 10th, 1944


Received these pictures today and am mailing them to you. Doesn’t Adrienne look adorable? The water is the Hudson River. The calf we ate a few weeks later. Horrible thought.

I have a lot of work packing. Oh how I wish you were here. As it is, I’m anxiously waiting for your cable assuring me of your safety.

I’m expecting 2 more rolls to be developed and you’ll see the results as soon as I.

Your mother and Serena were here and

Serena gave me $15.00 for the rent. Isn’t she wonderful? They were here Saturday – and when I went to the beauty parlor to have my hair set for Emma’s wedding, Serena and Mom came along. Mom had her hair set and Serena had her nails done. I looked wonderful darling, and how I wished you could have been there with me. It was a nice wedding and my cousin Emma good, for her. Charlie Winter says she’s the only ugly bride he’s ever seen.  I’m enclosing the menu .The liquor was lousy- but the food was good. The groom is skinny and gawky and ugly. But they will be very happy.

Cookie is downstairs with Mom and I’m supposed to be packing. It’s such a headache! But once I’m settled in the new apartment, it’ll be O.K. Darling, kiss me as long and as often as you can when you come home. And dream of me tonight.

I love you, sweetheart.

All our love,

Sylvia and Adrienne

The note that Serena gave Sylvia money for rent caught my attention. There are any number of mentions of the family giving each other money but today what I noticed is that this $15 was for rent. America is at war during this time and in just a few years, with the return of the G.I.s, America will enter of economic prosperity and the expansion of the white middle class. Yet here, just a few years earlier Sylvia cannot even afford her rent while her husband is away at war. Sylvia is lucky to get an apartment in the projects — the housing shortage in New York will not be addressed for a few more years — and the letters just after her move are filled with concerns about the cost of moving. I particularly relate to this letter because of my own spatial (but seemingly temporal) relocation. It seems that I myself have moved to the 1950s. More on that in another post.


One comment on “Beauty Parlors and Weddings

  1. Jo
    September 18, 2012

    I remember my mum going for a “shampoo and set” every week – hair washed, setting lotion (liquid hair gel) combed through, rollers in, toast under the drier until purple in the face, rollers out and back-comb, liberal application of hairspray! What an ordeal 🙂

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This entry was posted on September 12, 2012 by in Apartment, Beauty Salon, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Family, Hudson River, money, Rent and tagged , , , , , .
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