Thursday, January 30, 2014

Salutations and Greetings

Now that the news of the nuptials is known, the salutations are sweeter.

From Grandpa to Grandma the greetings have progressed from "Little Girl" to "Little Wifey"...

  • Dear Helen
  • Dear Little Girl
  • Dear Girl
  • Dearest Little Girl
  • Dear Little Sweetheart
  • Dear Little Sweetheart wife
  • Dear Wife
  • Dear Little Wife
  • Dear Little Wifey
The openings from Grandma to Grandpa include...
  • Dear Florian
  • Dear Kid
  • Dear Little Boy
  • My Dear Florian
...however, the latest pet names have me mystified.  In a letter dated January 21, 1931 Grandma writes to Grandpa "Dear Pudi" and closes "With Love & Kisses, Buji"...

I would love to be able to ask them about the meaning behind these names.  I can find no reference to these names as historical characters, so can only assume they are just cutesy names they made up to call one another.

More later about why there are still letters back and forth now that the two are married...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Cat's Out of the Bag

Apparently Grandpa had to break the news of the secret marriage to Grandma's mother and Grandma's grandfather all by himself.

In the letter dated March 31, 1930, Grandpa tells Grandma...

"Well, it's all over now.  I went over to see your mother.  She said that she thot we were married when she heard they had a shower on you but that she couldn't figure when, so I told her when.  She said that she wished us lots of good luck and I said 'thanks, maybe we'll need it.'  She didn't seem angry in the least, I didn't tell her where we went or who went with us tho.  You'd better pass the candy and get ready to quit Sat."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Looks Like the Honeymoon is Over

If the letter contained bitter words and anger, Grandma's bold, block lettering was a telling indicator compared to the penmanship on other envelopes as pictured below.

I have mixed emotions about sharing the contents of the latest letters.  

The dates of the letters are now post Grandma and Grandpa's elopement, and they are certainly not what I would expect to hear from two newlyweds.  It would appear that they definitely had a rocky start to their semi-secret, impromptu nuptials.  Again, I have to remind myself that the ages of these two individuals (whose letters I'm reading now) were only 19 and 23 at the time.  Florian and Helen were not the 60-something grandparents I met when I came on the scene.

From their letters dated January 28, 1930:  instead of enjoying a honeymoon, the couple agonized over money and job issues, former love interests, relatives, and feelings of humiliation and uncertainties.

Rather than divulging the unpleasant details of these two particular letters from 84 years ago (almost to the day), I will leave you with these findings...

Grandpa used the word "cribbin" in his letter:

"Check out up there this week end.  If you don't I'll know your cribbin on me."
In looking up the word "cribbin" in the online Urban Dictionary, there are several definitions--all of which seem to be slang for more current-day activities.  I did find one definition that could be related to what Grandpa was saying which was Definition #4:  "The act of staying in ones area of residence or comfort zone."

...and then this finding...

Grandpa's first letter to Grandma after they were married was written on Kiwanis Club stationery.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Proposal?

The dates on the letters from today's transcribing are November 11 and November 14 of 1929.  They are still spending every weekend together and writing during the week.  I really wish I could fill in the blanks of what happened on those weekends!

In Grandpa's letter to Grandma he writes:

"There are a lot of things I'd like to ask you so you answer them, will you?"

...but then he doesn't go on to ask anything in the letter!

In Grandma's letter to Grandpa she writes:

"When you said in your letter that there were a lot of things you would like to ask me and for me to answer them, I got already with my answers but found that there were not questions.  Nevertheless one answer is 'No.'  Now I think that is one H _ _ lish of an answer because it should be 'Yes.'  Saturday night I might ask you to be my Husband and wonder what the answer will be."
I can only imagine that on Saturday, November 16, 1929 in Marshalltown, Iowa, one of my grandparents proposed to the other and the answer was YES!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Over the Hump

Some important milestones have been acheived this week.  If you've been following along since November (NaNoWriMo), you know I was posting a daily word count on what I was getting typed of the letters.   Well, THIS WEEK, I surpassed the 50,000 word mark!!  I also got curious and did a count of the number of letters I have transcribed as well.  The answer to that is over 75!!

All of a sudden the goal of having the letters ready to publish by December 7 of this year seems totally attainable now that I have those major numbers under my belt.

The other exciting factor that is a known in this whole equation is the date Grandma and Grandpa eloped (12/07/1929).  The letter I transcribed today was dated July 22, 1929.  Even though Grandma and Grandpa don't know it (in their letters), I know they will be tying the knot in just six months from that letter.  It's a wonderfully strange feeling as I'm reading the letters knowing that these two lovers will be getting together and will share many years and raise a beautiful family.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some Observations

While the intensity of the letters has cooled off somewhat since Grandpa returned from California, the feelings of love and devotion are ever present.  Grandpa's yearning for home and to be loved and trusted by Grandma have been replaced by his feelings of inadequacy and day-to-day living issues.

I continue to gain new insights into my grandparents' past as well as knowledge about history during the late 20's.


  • Grandpa apparently was sick a lot with one ailment or another--colds, cold sores, boils to name a few.
  • Grandma has always been competitive on every level--not just weight issues but typing speeds and physical strength as well.
  • Grandpa made brooms (he mentions it in two different letters).
  • Grandma's obsession over her hair was ongoing from at least age 19 and probably earlier and continued into her 90's.  
  • Grandpa loved fishing and tinkering with cars.  He mentions test driving a Graham-Paige.
  • Grandma only made $15 a week some weeks at her typing job for Reuben Donnelley and apparently hated the work.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Corn Belt Oil Company and Reuben Donnelley Corp

Only 32 miles separated my grandma and grandpa when they exchanged letters in early 1929.  Grandma had taken a job with a marketing company in Nevada, IA and Grandpa was back at the service station.

From the letters and my mom's knowledge of her parents' courting history, Grandma would get a ride from Nevada to Marshalltown (usually by hitchhiking) most Saturdays and Grandpa would take her back on Sunday evenings.

Grandma roomed with two other girls--one of which was her cousin Velma.  Grandma and Velma would go "to the show" some evenings--a great way to relax after a day of typing.

"Keep well my 'Sugar Hearted Dumpling' until you see your Cherry Hearted Papa."

Friday, January 10, 2014

The MIA is Back in Action!

The holidays took their toll on my letter transcribing project.  Days turned into weeks, and I began to feel like Grandpa must have felt those last few weeks in California...will I ever get back?!?

The hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, family gatherings, New Year's Eve and my 50th birthday celebrations, in addition to the basement room remodeling project sidetracked my letter project.  But I'm back...with a fistful of New Year's goals that demand my attention.  Specifically, I want to transcribe two letters a day until this project is complete!

It felt so good today to sit at my little makeshift desk in the basement furnace room typing out the familiar scrawls of Grandpa's pen.  It was like coming back home.

As of my last blog post (nearly a month ago), we found Grandpa working on a highway paving crew in Iowa in April of 1928 and writing letters to Grandma from Waverly.

Today's two letters were both postmarked "May 25, 1928."  One was from Grandpa and the other was from "Walt."  In my blog post from Nov. 16, I alluded to a letter with beautiful penmanship "oozing scholarly romanticism."  One of today's letters was THAT letter.  Here are a few of Walt's flowery phrases for your reading enjoyment...

"My dear Miss West:  Of all the nerve, you will say, that long-eared, cock-eyed, bowlegged nut writing to me, the Queen of Sheba, or maybe the queen of Iowa, or at least of Marshalltown, that thriving garrulous city in the heart of God's poultry kingdom; but this much conceited and inestimable gentleman is going to write regardless of your feelings which he wouldn't hurt for anything on this green place called 'Hinterland'."

"I was egotistical enough to believe you might write me to come to Marshalltown and incidentally to look over its present color of paint."

"I suppose you think I am about 100% Scotch.  But, never let a little thing like that worry you my dear brown eyes, for I have yet to meet a 'tight' Scotchman.  Usually they never buy enough to get that way."

"At least ye might give the steady a rest for a minute or so, and drop me a line, not too hard now dearest, and tell me just how thy little big heart responds to this scratching of mine pen.  Don't you think that would be fun?  Ain't we got no fun?"

"Perhaps you will pen me a response rapidly if not much sooner than you receive this wretched piece of unmitigated conceit."

I absolutely LOVE Walt's way with words.  I'm sure he had quite the way with the ladies in person, as well.  Why don't people write that way anymore??