Monday, November 25, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 25 - My Thots for Today...

"Something funny happened tonite so thot I would start another letter and keep writing a little at a time until I get one from you which should be tomorrow or next day.  Well, I went uptown this evening to get a magazine to read.  I saw a pair of scales, it was one of these fortune telling kind and I put it at 'What work am I most suited for,' and dropped in a penny.  The hand came up & said 'Raising a Family.'  I don't see how I'm to do it all alone tho do you?"

While Grandpa clearly had an excellent grasp of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and spelling, there were some words in all his letters consistently spelled incorrectly.  That being said, I feel like they were actually abbreviations he used rather than misspellings...

  • thought = "thot"
  • tonight = "tonite"
  • though = "tho"
  • through = "thru"
Besides the climate change from Iowa to California being favorable, I think Grandpa really appreciated and enjoyed all the fresh produce.  His letters often mentioned fruit...

"I just got thru eating a pear.  They're just getting ripe, and my dressing table is covered with pears & peaches, prunes & plums."
Definitely explains why he and grandma had several fruit trees on their acreage throughout my growing up years.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 24 - What's in Your Cigar Box

In Grandma's letter to Grandpa on July 31, 1927, she writes:

"Your letter was waiting for me when I came home from work yesterday noon.  Was rather surprised but I always look in the mail box (or rather cigar box) every day."

In Grandpa's letter back to Grandma on August 5, he responds:

"You always want to look in cigar boxes dear so that you won't be surprised--sometimes it's hard on the heart and I don't want my little girl to have heart failure you know.  Besides you can't always tell what you will find in cigar boxes, you might even find me there some night." 

I did some checking and could not find any reference to a mailbox being called a cigar box.  So I can only assume this was an inside joke between the two lovebirds.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 23 - ...fame AND Fortune

Yesterday I mentioned finding fame in the family line, but I would be remiss in not mentioning fortune as well.

Grandpa's letters were not only steeped in an all-consuming love for Grandma from the very beginning, but they were RICH in poetic prowess.  The eloquence in every letter articulated not only his true adoration but his insecurities.  Reading his letters is akin to watching a Broadway musical.  He blends humor with honesty and quotes from great works of literature right alongside bits of scripture.  Sprinkled throughout for effect are lines from songs of the era.

At this point, I'm afraid if I tried to incorporate a story to go with the letters, I would not do the character justice.  The letters speak louder than words and perhaps just need to stand alone as a collection for the family genealogy records.

Here are just a few of the songs which Grandpa used lines from in his letters:

[**my apologies to those of you reading this blog on a tablet that doesn't support Flash, as the following YouTube videos are apparently done with Flash**]

"Gimme a Little Kiss, Will 'Ya'? Huh"

"Let Me Call You Sweetheart, I'm in Love With You"

"Yearning (Just For You)"

Friday, November 22, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 22 - Romance, History, and Now...Fame

Yesterday got derailed... daughter and I declared the day as "unplug Thursday" no electronics!!

...our lawn service guy hadn't shown up to take care of the leaves, so I was frantically raking the leaves to the street for the LAST day of the city's leaf baler pick up.  I raked like a mad woman for three hours finally getting at least the front yard and sides of the house done before my legs felt like jelly and my hands would no longer grip the rake.  With snow predicted, I knew this was my last opportunity and pushed myself to the brink of a heart attack.

...the contractor we hired is finally getting around to our request for putting in an egress window.  Unfortunately, I have been using the room in the basement where we want the egress window as my "letter transcription room."  So....had to move my operation to the furnace room.  Yes.  You read that correctly...I'm relegated to the furnace room.


...I had signed up for an evening art class that I was looking forward to that I wasn't even sure I would be able to stay awake for after my day.  It ended up being a good night, though, and I came away with a new Christmas decoration for the season.

As you can imagine, every muscle I didn't know I had hurts today.  It even hurts to breathe!

So, it was a perfect day to just sit and immerse myself in long ago...

Of the cousins Grandma went to visit in North Carolina in 1926, there was a family by the name of Seats.   Today I transcribed a letter from cousin Sallie Lee Seats to Grandma after Grandma had returned to Iowa from her visit.  I'm having a hard time keeping all the names and relationships straight.  My mother tells me each one of those Carolina relatives had a nickname...

Alberta was "Tootsie"

_________ was "Dude"

Charlotte was "Baby"

Tom was "Bun"

Kate was "Sis"

Sallie was "Fat"

Fourteen years after Grandma visited her Carolina relatives, her cousin, "Bun," played for the Big Leagues!  So not only am I getting a sense of the romance that was budding between my grandparents with the letters, but there are so many historical references that I'm finding incredibly interesting, and now to discover we have a baseball player in our lineage as well.  I have never been overly interested in genealogy, but that may change after this revelation!

Thomas Edward Seats
Dodgers/Tigers 1940-1945
Final Game:  September 28, 1945


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 20 - This is Spiraling out of Control!

Imagine my surprise today when I opened up the letter from Grandpa dated August 6, 1926, and found this...

Grandpa was clever in both the WAY he wrote and the way he WROTE.  :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 19 - Tickets, Kisses, & Stamps

The summer of 1926 after my grandma graduated from high school, she traveled with her mother and brother from Iowa to North Carolina to stay with cousins for a month.  She left her new beau, Florian, in Marshalltown to pine away for her and...

...write letters.

I didn't find the letters she wrote back to Grandpa from Advance, North Carolina--only the letters he wrote to her.

One of the letters contained a cardboard ticket which he explains in his letter...

"I weighed tonite 162 lbs.  The ticket sure read funny.  I am sending it to you.  I wonder if I wasn't supposed to get that or is it all B.S."

Grandpa signed one of the letters with a series of "kisses"...

"Can you pick out the different kinds of kisses? Your Rudolph Valentino, Florian"

And just so Grandma would know that any mail coming to her cousin's in North Carolina was intended for her, Grandpa strategically placed the stamp on the envelope...


Sunday, November 17, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 17 - A Girlfriend and a Cousin

Only transcribed two letters from Velma and one from a mystery woman.  The mystery woman signed her name "Wop."  I'm wondering if it is her friend Nadyne.  (I think I'm going to have to go back into the dreaded shoebox and pull out some "Nadyne" letters to compare the handwriting).  There was no name or address on the outside of the envelope, but there were a couple of interesting lines...

"listen - when you come thurs. come to my house after me if I'm not there you go to Billiard hall and 'Gib' will tell you where his house is...What I've got to tell you concerns "Handsome,"  I'd write his name But haven't any Idea How to Spell it."
My grandpa's name is Florian--a very unique name, for sure, and one people probably had trouble spelling.  So, I'm guessing that "Handsome" was referring to Grandpa!

Velma was grandma's cousin from North Carolina.  The letter from Velma was dated June 15, 1926, and talked about Grandma coming out to visit.  Velma couldn't spell grandpa's name, either.  She kept referring to him as "Floren".

As they say in the letters...

"Will ring off now for this time."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NaNoWriMo - More than a Labor of Love

I really don't think I'm imagining the sensitivity I seem to have to the black mold from the letters.  After shuffling through the stack yesterday morning, my throat was raw from the effects...but oh, the finds!!  Letters from Harold, Marvin, and Walt...oh, my!  The question is, do I use them?  Are they relevant enough to the story to further risking my health to sort and transcribe?  The letters from Grandma's girlfriends (Velma, Nadyne, and Inez) are also in the stack and could shed more light on the subject depending on how much Grandma wrote to them about her love interests.

The letters from Harold were from the fall of 1924...grandma would've been starting her junior year in high school.  While I only found five letters from Harold (and he didn't have the best grasp of grammar, spelling, and punctuation), there were a couple of sentences that seriously cracked me up:

"This town sure is the snails antennae for excitement.  All a guy can do is drink and fight or else stick up the bank, and I don't believe they'd wake up then enough to make it interesting."

There were a number of letters from Marvin who seemed to be just as enamored of Grandma as Grandpa was, and the time frame of those letters overlapped with the correspondence between Grandma and Grandpa.  Was Grandma working on securing a "second" in the event Grandpa didn't return from California?  What if Grandpa hadn't returned from California?  I wouldn't be here blogging about it, that's for certain!

Then there was the summer of 1926 after Grandma graduated from high school that she spent with family in North Carolina.  I found several letters written back and forth between Grandpa in Iowa to Grandma in North Carolina.

The letter from Walt in the fall of 1928 is the puzzler, though.  By then, Grandma and Grandpa had come through some of their insecurities and trust issues and seemed to have formed a more solid bond.  So who was Walt? And why did I only find one letter from him?  I haven't read the letter, but I absolutely fell in love with his's just oozing scholarly romanticism.


Grandpa with Nadyne

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Tribute to Our Amazing Dog

I took a break from working on the grandma and grandpa letters to put together a tribute to our beloved pet.  Our Golden Retriever, Buddy, was a special part of our family for 15 years...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 11 & 12 - Time to Get Organized

Got curious today after transcribing yet another one of Grandpa's letters that referenced something from one of Grandma's letters that I hadn't recalled seeing.

Two years ago when I attempted to do something with the letters, I had been taking them out of the shoe box and placing each unfolded letter in a sheet protector along with its corresponding envelope so that I could fit them into a 3-ring binder in the order they were written.  They ended up being so bulky, that I started a second binder.

When I began the project this time around, I failed to remember that one of the binders of letters was not organized in date order.  So, today when I opened the second binder, I found letters that will fit into the sequence of the 15 I've already transcribed.  I have decided before I go on, I will be checking for all dates that are earlier than those I have already done.

I do remember that some of the letters were so riddled with mold that I was kind of avoiding handling them.  Pretty sure they are still in the shoe box and not in sheet protectors yet.  I should probably get them all out and in order before I forge ahead again.

Yet another setback, but at this point, I really want to read/transcribe them in order.


Grandpa was so creative with the way he closed his letters.  I will leave you with one of the closing sentiments I found today.

"With a world of love & every star a kiss..."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 8, 9, & 10 - One, Two--Skip a Few; Three, Four--Missed Some More

I may have missed updating the blog a few days, but I did get some transcribing done in and around taking care of some family things.  Had a couple of tense letters from Grandpa, but things seem to be on the mend (for now).

Their words and phrases seemed to obfuscate their intentions.  So many things left unsaid in their letters makes me wish I could ask them now to fill in the blanks.  Grandpa indicates he wishes he could leave Calif sooner, and Grandma alludes to the circumstances surrounding Grandpa's need to leave Iowa in the first place.  I asked Mom if she was aware of any reason other than the fact that Grandpa just wanted to travel and see some of the west coast, but she was not.

Apparently there were a lot of outside influences.  Grandpa had people telling him about things Grandma was doing while he was away and Grandma also seemed to have some information likewise with regards to Grandpa's extra-curricular activities.  Their letters seemed to be a series of unfortunate miscommunications and fishing for the truth.

In and around accusations, Grandpa would quote from Tennyson and Shakespeare and Grandma would close her letter "Tu es amor."  The mixed signals make my head spin.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 7 - Grandpa Calls Himself a Coward

My heart just breaks for Grandpa.  He was trying so hard to push Grandma to give him a straight answer and make her trust him even though the miles between them made it seem like they were worlds apart instead of just half a nation apart.  The waiting for the next letter must've been agonizing to say the least.  They didn't just pick up the phone to make a long distance call unless it was an emergency. 

Either Grandpa truly had a low self esteem as his letters seem to indicate or he was looking for sympathy.  I keep picturing the older, wiser gentle-man I knew as my grandpa writing these letters when in reality he was only 21 and was just really beginning to experience all that life would throw at him.

Grandpa's letter I transcribed today was a long one...hence...


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 6 - She Was Only 18

I did the math today...Grandma would've been 18 years old and Grandpa was 21 at the time these letters were exchanged. would be two years before they would elope and subsequently hide their elopement from Grandma's parents for a month.

After reading and transcribing Grandma's letter from Aug. 19, 1927, it's a wonder Grandpa ever returned from Calif.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 5 - Beans and Gloves

Two more letters transcribed today...a typewritten letter from Grandma to Grandpa, and another handwritten letter from Grandpa.

I adore the handwritten letters!  Even though they are faded and sometimes hard to read, the familiar stroke of the penmanship is reminiscent of the many, many greeting cards I received from Grandma over the years where she would sign her and Grandpa's names with love.  I can almost hear their voices in their handwritten words.

One of the lines from Grandma's letter challenged Grandpa to tell her the truth by using a little humor..."You may string beans, but you can't kid gloves."  She also ended her letter with, "Yours till the Kitchen Sinks and The Marble Walls."

Grandma definitely had a quirky sense of humor mixed in with her mean and spiteful spirit...quite the combination.  Pretty sure I have that same mix.

From Grandpa's letter today, I learned the exact date when he left Iowa to go explore California - June 20, 1927.  It's just a trip he felt he had to make while he was still young and unmarried.  Too bad his time there was tainted by letters from back home.


Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 4 - It's Just Another Xanax Monday

I need supervision...I need medication...maybe both!  Perhaps I need an an intervention.

There are 168 hours in a week, and it is taking nearly an hour just to transcribe one this rate I will be 86 years old by the time I get them all done!!

I WILL stay strong and keep pushing through...Grandma and Grandpa kept pushing through the hardships and it was so worth it.

In today's letter that I transcribed from Grandma to Grandpa, she rambled on and on for another 8 pages not really saying much...except for ONE paragraph somewhere in the middle which was the fodder for Grandpa's tirade in the letter I did yesterday.

At this point, it's hard to tell whether Grandma was just trying to coerce him into coming home early or if she really was uncertain of his feelings for her.

As I share each letter with my mom, she will interject related information or recall for me how various people that are mentioned fit into the time frame.  I really need to be taking notes when she recalls certain names and places or I won't remember later.  I also need to keep a list of the dates of the letters as I get them done in case I run across one later that would fit somewhere in the sequence.

Now I'm beginning to ramble...must be genetic!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 3 - All Saints Day

The church honored all saints today--known and unknown.  I feel like this journey I'm on piecing together my grandparent's courtship is a type of honoring to both of them.  They were both true saints in my eyes.

There were some tough words in today's letters.  Finally hearing from Grandpa on the trust and truth issues he had all those decades ago was so heart wrenching.  The long distance relationship definitely took it's toll on both of them; however, maybe it also made them stronger for it in the end.

A quote from Grandpa in one of today's letters was:  " often burns those that use it as a plaything."


Saturday, November 2, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 2 - Only One Letter Transcribed Today

Grandma sure could write a lot without saying very much!  Today's letter was 7 and 1/2 pages long!  Thank goodness Grandma had beautiful penmanship.

I started wearing Grandma's engagement/wedding ring today.  It has been in my jewelry box, and I decided it was time to start wearing it again now that I'm working on the letters again.  Reading and typing the words Grandma wrote 86 years ago makes it seem like Grandma is still here.

I don't think there is any way she will ever be forgotten.  Her spirit and memory lives on in each one of her relatives.  I see her in my mom, my aunt, my sister, and myself.  And no matter what deep, dark secret I may learn from these letters, it won't change her in my eyes.  She is and always will be the most wonderful and beautiful woman I grew up getting to know as my Grandma!

Today, I will leave you with the Post Script quote from the letter:  "If words brought "A's" I would sure get a double triple one for this theme."


Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 1 - And So It Begins

I'm off and running!  Armed with goggles, mask, and gloves and with the window open for ventilation (brrrr), I removed the old moldy letters from the freezer and began to transcribe.   My daughter called me Darth Vader when she saw me in my getup -- guess I missed dressing up for Halloween by one day!

At this point, my focus is just to get all the letters transcribed.  Once I get them all typed, then I can cut and paste to get a definite chronological order and try to fit the letters in that have no dates whatsoever.   I know I will have to do some editing of the letters to only leave in pertinent information relevant to the story, but for now, I am totally enjoying the language and historical references and can't imagine cutting anything out.

Of the two letters I worked on today, Grandma mentions a "tent show" with a clown...did she mean a circus?  She also talked about a trip she took on a train and getting "pinched" 15 cents for a sandwich.  The dates on today's letters were January 1926 and July 1927, and given the context of both, I have a lot more questions than I do answers.  I shared the letters with my mother and she could fill in a little information about certain names, but not much else.  The suspense is definitely going to push me to work on this project as often as time allows.

That being said, when I post my daily/cumulative word count, just know that those are words transcribed and not necessarily words I have written.  So while I may not be holding true to the National Novel Writing Month's intention, I am accomplishing MY goal of getting Grandma and Grandpa's story retold.

WORD COUNT = 2,285