Friday, September 29, 2017

August 25, 1943: Nazis, Archie, and Grape Juice

Letter from Opa to Grandmother
(instead of commenting at the end, I'm going to comment throughout the letter)

August 25, 1943


It won't be long now till school starts, and am I ever looking forward to it! This summer has gone by so terribly fast; a blitz summer. The day when I went up Bluemont Hill last spring to study for the finals seems like yesterday. (I was rudely interrupted in my  studies that day, though.)

Woah- hold up here. I had suspicions that Opa and Grandmother's courtship was a quick one before they got engaged. Now I know it was super quick. They met while Opa was studying for finals in the Spring. So- May? Let's give them April. That means in a couple of months Grandmother had broken off her engagement to Archie and accepted Opa's proposal. Then she went home for the summer. No wonder why Grandmother was questioning everything (and her family was too)! Yet Opa had such a sure confidence! 

I am so glad that your religious activities are so copious, and I can just imagine how deep and orthodox your conversations with Mister Preacher must be. On the other hand, though, I have been converted to such a degree as to acknowledge that there might even be some preachers who are good for something; so why don't you try exposing a fraction of your inner-most psychological and physiological disturbances to Dillinger?

Opa is being a stinker here. Grandmother was a lifelong Methodist and likely took her problems to the pastor, asking for sage advice. Opa teases her about it and then makes some jokes about Dillinger (who by the way, was a pretty notorious gangster in the Midwest in the 30s). I kinda don't get the joke. Unless he's talking about someone else that they know. 

Naturally, I am a little worried about Archie's coming to visit you. I figure, however, that if you pass this test, you will always be true to me; if you should go back to Archie -- well in that case you probably never really loved me. Please let me know how things come out, and be as frank as you always have been.

WHAT?! Grandmother?! What on earth is she thinking? Man she is trailing these boys HARD. My guess is that Archie asked Grandmother if he could visit her to try to convince her to come back to him. I don't know- but clearly it was not successful. I'm sort of amazed that she stood firm with Opa- they hadn't known each other that long and he really was so (literally) foreign to her! They really were a magical match if a couple of months could withstand family pressure and the ex-fiance begging!

Right now, I am a first-class bachelor. Herb, before going to C.P.S., went to Iowa to see his girl friend; Zimmermans, all three of them, went to California to see one of their sons. The only survivor of the Zimmerman mansion are Micky, a cat, and Tom. The three keep looking after each other; Mickey, especially interested in the upping of the good morals, insists to watch Tom even at night, for she insists on sleeping under his bed. The cat is interested only in the  culinary parts of the household; anyhow, she appears only at supper time for her dish of milk and disappears again for the rest of the night, trying to stir up a couple of tom-cats. Mickey got his first taste of horsemeat, and boy does she love it! I did not tell her, though, what animal the meat came from. She knew I bought it Musil's, and what is good enough reputation for her.

I thought Mickey was the cat, but I think Mickey is a dog. A really cute, loyal dog who sleeps under Opa's bed at night. I love this scene of Opa's living arrangement. He lives with the Zimmerman's (we've been able to chat with the descendants of this family!), who have a boarding house for college students, and it seems like a really nice place to be. They trust Opa enough to leave him in the home while they make a trip to California. He seems to be in charge of the animals in their absence. Not sure how they would feel about a dog eating horsemeat. Either way, Opa has the run of the house and seems to be enjoying his "bachelor" pad. 

Another thought- Opa mentions Herb going to C.P.S. which is   "Civilian Public Service" camp. I did a little research and this website was one of the best I came across. The negative experience of conscientious objectors during World War 1 prompted religious groups to work with the government to create a system of camps that could utilize CO's for community service in lieu of military service. If you visit that website and look at the list of camps you will see many are sponsored by the AFSC, The Church of Brethren, Mennonites, and other pacifist faith traditions and groups. If you look up Herb, you find a name listed there but it says he did not serve in the camps until February of 1945. I'm not sure if they missed some information or if he was able to delay his service.

Last Sunday, instead of lying around in the sun or wasting my precious time in church, I sawed wood for a book shelf (so I have room to put my Bibles on) wrote four letters and finished three correspondence lessons, besides cooking three meals, going to one show and in cooperation with Kent and Jerry, undertaking a quantitative and qualitative analysis test on a bottle of grape juice and a bottle of ginger ale.

This made me laugh in spite of myself. Opa is definitely not trying to win Grandmother over by changing himself. Ha. He continues his teasing of her religious fortitude. He made a book shelf. This isn't the first time Opa constructed some piece of furniture for himself. Where on earth is he getting the wood from? And just how rudimentary are these one-day-built pieces? He was pretty productive! He built a bookshelf, wrote four letters and did three lessons, watched a movie, and got drunk with friends! I love how he calls wine grape juice and beer ginger ale. He's catching up on lost time from his sober McPherson experience. I genuinely believe he followed their rules of no drinking, dancing, or playing cards. Now that he's at the big university- he gets to play a little. I don't blame him for indulging.

Through some interesting and successful application of my Jewish ancestry, I talked Professor Helander, head of the Mechanical Engineering Dept., into selling me his record player, an R.C.A. Victrola which costs anew around 10 dollars, for the shameful amount of three dollars. When it plays it sounds as though you scratch a compact mirror with a fraternity pin, but, nevertheless, it plays and I can connect it to the grid of the detector tube (a 12SQ7 tube) of my radio.

Opa played the Jewish card. For once it seemed to have gone in his favor. Who knows what he's doing with it - but he seems pleased.

I have been together quite a bit with Walter Dawley, Bob's uncle. (Difference in age between Walter and Bob is smaller than between you and your nieces) Walter is a very intelligent and fairly well educated chap. He has the unrecommendable quality of enjoying to tell stories whose foundation, to say the least, might be questioned. However, he tells these stories in such an interesting and fascinating way that you don't care whether they are true or not. He is a fairly good writer, and so I contracted him as a columnist for next year's Engineer. He will take care of a column "Engineering Digest."

To give an idea of the age gap between Walter and Bob- Grandmother's older brothers were much older, therefore she wasn't much older than her nieces. I love the roundabout way Ops tells Grandmother that Bob's uncle is a bit of a liar, but too interesting to be worried about it. 

Another interesting guy I met, also through Bob, is a certain John Eckardt. John (his real name is Hans) was born in Germany, lived most of his life in France, Switzerland, North Africa and Italy, arrived here in the States about the time I did; he entered under the same uncertain circumstances, namely a visitor's visa. He, however, did not succeed in getting his visa changed or in making other decent arrangements for his stay, so, a year or so ago, he was deported to Mexico. Mexico, showing the good-neighbor-policy, took him to an internment camp. He had to stay in that camp for several months, and hated it like the devil. The conditions which existed in that camp are unbelievable. It was a camp for Germans; both Nazis and emigres. Since the Nazis (captured or interned sailors, etc.) were in the vast majority, they not only had the run of the camp, but were practically in charge of its administration. The highest-ranking German officer was was appointed "Lagerfuehrer", camp leader, and under his command the camp operated. He decided how much money the prisoners should receive. He divided the camp into two parts, one for the Nazis, one for the rest, who called themselves "Freideutsche", Free Germans. These latter ones were in the vast minority, about one to ten. The Free Germans had to live in a separate part of the camp, were not allowed to talk with the other prisoners, did not receive any money, had no access to the recreation facilities, used different mess halls, different toilets, different working places. The camp commandant, an officer of the Mexican army, was bribed by the Nazis and therefore cooperated. As long as the camp has existed, none of the Free Germans was ever released; many of the Nazis have been. John, who, on the advice of friends among the Free Germans, posed as Nazi, was released after a few months, which he could never have done if living among the Free Germans. I believe this story, because John does not appear as a guy who makes things up. We consider writing a little story about these conditions and sending them to the Reader's Digest or some magazine like that, for I do believe that it should be revealed. You will meet John when you get back to Manhattan. John is going to take Electrical Engineering, if he passes an entrance examination. One of his greatest mistakes is that he intends to return to Germany after the war is over, and for that reason keeps his German passport. I tried to get him to burn all bridges and throw the passport away, the way I did it, but I guess he considers that too big a risk. (That risk saved me from being interned twice, but some people will never learn.)

This story is insane, and brings us back into focus of the war that is raging around the world. In MEXICO the Nazis are bullying people. MEXICO. If I were John, I'd be so angry- how far do I have to go to get away from those bastards?!

This story also reminds me of how close Opa was to having been deported himself. I had always thought since he was not able to be deported back to Germany (once America had joined the war)- that he was sort of safe by default of having no where to go. But Mexico took America's deported Germans?? Why? The Good Neighbor Policy that Opa refers to a sort of revolutionary agreement among the US and Latin and South America. I did a brief little search into it and didn't find much by the way of specific policy points, but more that the nations would try to relate in a give-and-take way. This seems pretty giving by Mexico. 

Once again we see that in war time, you can't survive on principles alone. John takes the advice of friends and poses as a Nazi, which offers him freedom in just a few months. That was a risk, but to Opa, the greater risk is his insistence on holding onto his German passport. 

As I tried to tell you in that "simple" German sentence I wrote the other day, I quit my job at the Wareham. I have no more study hall, therefore no afternoons to do my correspondence etc., and the Wareham job not only took too much of my time, but also did not pay enough. So, I quit that and am now looking for another night job. I shall probably do some drafting for Kloeffler, which is a job that I could do at home. I am also sticking my feelers out for some good job for next fall, for the Signal Corps deal will be over on September 11, when we graduate the last bunch. I am really sorry about that; I liked that job more than any I had so far, and I liked the boys, too. I shall apply at the Physics Department for a teaching position with the Air Corps students. 

Opa kindly translates his German paragraph and let's Grandmother know about his job search. It sounds like he really enjoyed his time with the Signal Corps- perhaps he has a little of his mother's teaching gift.

Too bad you are no longer a high school student; Manhattan High School starts on the 6th!



P.S. Guess what I bought: a pocket knife with a bottle-opener to it. See???

Here's my question, what did Grandmother say about the last letter?! What will happen during Archie's visit? It seems Opa's life is filled like most college students in the early 40s: with Nazis, Archie's, and grape juice.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

August 22, 1943: Yours, Mama

Red Cross Letter from Ella to Opa


22 August 1943 (received Jan 5, 1944)
My boy, I am healthy, miss you all. Annchen on vacation in Bavaria. Uschi getting married. Where are Frau Herz, Helga? Where did Hanna see you?
Heartfelt greetings, kiss!
Yours, Mama

These short Red Cross letters do not give us much to go on. Again, Ella's task is simply to let Opa know she is still OK. Annchen is Opa's aunt (his father's sister) who has been a friend and help to Ella. Her absence may actually be a negative thing, especially if Ella has received any assistance from her. I was recently talking to Renate, Opa's cousin, when she said that her mother (who was not Jewish) would buy food for Martha (at this point, Martha has already been murdered in Auschwitz) and Ella with her "food cart" (I'm assuming like food stamps for rationing). Jews were not considered German citizens, so their access to German services or food through the ration cards was limited if not completely inaccessible. Ella and other Jews depended on the kindness of close friends - and very often such friends were impossible to find. It was a great risk to do this.

Uschi is Martha's daughter (Opa's cousin), who had escaped to England. Uschi likely had no knowledge of her parents' deaths, or even that they had gone missing.

I don't know who Helga or Frau Herz are, certainly don't know where they are. I'm guessing a long shot that maybe Herz is referencing Hirsch- which are the extended relatives that Ella has who live in New York. There is no chance now of her leaving Germany to go to the US now that the US and Germany are at war. Maybe she's asking if they've been in touch so that he can rely on them for help if he needs it? No idea.

Hanna is a relative that I think Opa might have mentioned seeing, or Ella is trying to urge him to contact out of familial connection. 

Again, a short postcard from Ella leaves us with more questions than answers. We know she is alive. We don't know what her living conditions are, or how it is that she is still living at her apartment with Jews being shipped out by the thousands. All we know is that for one more day, Opa can take a bit of a breath. As always, she is "Yours, Mama."

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

August 20, 1943: People Live in Small Places

Letter from Opa to Grandmother


August 20, 1943

Dearest Margie,

Naturally it is hard for me to look at your troubles objectively, because I am too deeply involved. You know that I love you and that I want you more than anything else in the world, but your happiness should be taken into first consideration.

I believe that you should disregard present difficulties, either one way or the other, and think of what conditions will be like after you have been married for several years, live in a peaceful world in which national prejudices will be reduced to a minor role, and in which troubles will be more of an economic, financial kind. Think of your children and their life; of a home, built and kept by you; of evenings, when you are sitting in front of the fire, talking about the events of the day; of trying difficulties and dangers; of illnesses, may be times of unemployment; of deaths in the family. At such a time and under such conditions, whom would you like most to have nearest yourself?

People who oppose the idea of our getting married are people who live in small places; their ideas; their conventions; their social standards have been created, developed, and are dominated by the clans, cliques for whom the World spells Mainstream; for whom the words foreigner, adventurer, and enemy are synonyms. These people are not the world; they have good intentions and think they are doing the best for you, but there are things which they cannot and will not see until the proof becomes obvious. It would be impossible to let such people see how wrong they are before our marriage; we can and will prove it afterwards, though. 

I think I can imagine how hard it is for you to receive letters from Archie’s mother and sister, and from himself. It brings back memories of former hopes and plans and probably makes you feel guilty and treacherous. These feelings are temporary, though, and are so much to be preferred to the helpless repenting and the deceived hopes of a disappointed married life. 

I don’t know Archie, but from what you told me about him, I doubt if you will be happy with him, especially after the changes of this summer. If you love him, you should go back to him anyhow; if your reasons for going back would only be feelings of guilt, the urge of members of your or his family, or pity, I believe it would be farsighted to stay away. 

You will probably have to make a decision before long. In making that decision, please don’t let feelings of pity or sympathy for me enter, but also don’t let third persons shape your future life for you.

In my opinion, you are free to do whatever you want. If you really make up your mind. stand firm to your decision and let your folks know that this is what you are determined to do — they will, I am sure, stand by you and let you do it.

I am thankful that you wrote to me so openly about the matter, and I hope that this frankness will continue between us. Margie, I have faith that you will use wise judgment and do the right thing. We knew that these weeks would be the test of our love, and I hope and pray that we will pass it.

As ever,

Confession: this is one of the first letters I read when we first found the box of letters under Grandmother's desk. I can't remember if it was on top of the pile and that's why I found it- but I wouldn't blame Grandmother for returning to this letter. I have been waiting so long to share it with you!

This. is. a love. letter.

It's a love letter to us all. 

Let me give a little bit of context. Opa and Grandmother are geographically separated for the summer. She is home with her family while Opa (who has no family in the US) is on campus working and taking correspondence classes to keep his goals going. His letters that we have been reading are the first letters of their relationship, letters written during the summer break after a whirlwind spring romance. At some point in the spring into summer, they got engaged. 

After Grandmother met Opa, she broke off her engagement with a man named Archie. This man and his family are now writing to Grandmother in an effort to guilt/win her back. Grandmother's family has been peppering her with questions all summer long about whether or not she really should be marrying this German boy. Opa has been answering questions and trying to help her convince them that he is not the spawn of satan or at the very least a foreigner with whom she has nothing in common with. Apparently the pressure is becoming too great and Grandmother really is at a loss about what to do. I think Opa saw this coming but hoped against it. So he writes her this letter. It's a love letter, a pep talk, and a public address to all the people who live in small places.

I will show this to my children one day when they are trying to decide if they are with someone they want to marry. It is SUCH good advice. When things are good or very bad- at the end of the day when you put your feet up by the fire- who do you want close to you? I've only been married about 12 years but I can say that this is incredibly wise coming from a man who had no serious relationship under his belt, and very little by way of parental example. He had few examples of a good marriage and yet here, he captured it! When everything goes right or wrong, who do you want to talk to about it at the end of the day?! For me it is still my husband- without a doubt. 

Then he tells Grandmother (likely not for the last time) to listen to her own heart, not the guilt and small-mindedness of people outside. Grandmother always had a problem with guilt. She never wanted to hurt anyone or be a burden to anyone. I can see her struggle so clearly here, and I know Opa probably understands. However, he's cheering her on to make the right choice. He has an inkling that HE is the right choice, but he wants her to be the one to choose. Not him, not Archie, not Archie's mom, and not her own parents. She must choose. 

Then this paragraph, my God we need to hear it everyday don't we?
People ... who live in small places; their ideas; their conventions; their social standards have been created, developed, and are dominated by the clans, cliques for whom the World spells Mainstream; for whom the words foreigner, adventurer, and enemy are synonyms. These people are not the world; they have good intentions and think they are doing the best for you, but there are things which they cannot and will not see until the proof becomes obvious.
Again and again and again I need to see that. And the proof? Opa and Grandmother (not without their own struggles) were married til death. They faced geographical separation, moves, deaths in the family, illnesses, and so much more- and they proved Mainstream dead wrong.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

August 15, 1943: Sun of a Beach

Letter from Opa to Grandmother


August 15, 1943

Heil Hitler:

Having gnashed my pearly teeth with a peculiar, undulating motion, I have forgotten my anger. Ah! What a ghastly sacrilege: What a smelly desecration: The man hath cast aspersions on this Holiest of all Aly Books, Mein Kampf; a great book, which, if filled with pictures of bathing beauties, would be more widely read. By the way, have you ever read Esquire?

If my sentences seem to ramble, please attribute this unprecedented phenomenon to the effect of the quart of Ginger Ale (unmodulated) which, single-handed, I have wrested from the glassy grave wherein it lay, and wrestled into the innermost recesses of my hitherto practically virgin stomach. I am, for your enlightenment, going to tell you my reaction to this mocking stuff. I have looked upon it when it was whole and untouchable; and now I am deliciously drowsy, not to mention being obsessed with a strongly accentuated sentimentality and a slight feeling of nostalgia at the multifarious miles which separate me from that movie star whence cometh my strength, the great and, thank Heavens, only, Micky Mouse. 

Just to test your German progress, let me write this brief thought in German language, and you will see how valiant a progress can be made in just the few Sundays which you have dedicated to the Master language. Here we go:

Ungluecklicherweise hat die Arbeit, die ich, wenn ich mich recht erinnere, eigen Sonnabend im Wahrnahm Kaffeehaus angenommen habe, und die, wenn meine Hoffnungen mich nicht Lügen strafen, mir ein sehr anstaendiges, wenn auch nicht als eine dauernde zu zeigen erwiesen, da ich, nach Heranziehung aller bezüglich Ansichtspunkte, hauptsächlich jedoch dessen, der sich mit der Frage des Geldes und der damit untrennbar verbundenen langen Arbeitsstunden beschäftigt, mich entschlossen habe, dieser Anstellung durch Kündigung ein kurzes, doch schmerzloses Ende zu bereiten und mich dadurch einer anderen, besseren und mehrbezahlenden Arbeit widmen zu können, die höchstwahrscheinlich darin bestehen wird, technische Zeichnungen für einen Professoren, der mit einem Kollegen von Chicago an einem neuen Buche, das von Kriegskursen in dem Ingenieurfach handeln wird, von dem ich mir allerdings nicht allzu viel verspreche, zu machen und dadurch nicht nur mehr Geld verdienen, sondern auch bedeutend mehr Zeit zu haben.

Google Translate of the German:
(Unfortunately the work which, if I recall correctly, I have accepted Saturday at the Wareham cafe, and who, if my hopes do not reproach me, promise me a very respectable, if not pompous, salary, I have decided, on the basis of all the points of view, to deal with the question of money and the lengthy working hours which have been inseparable from it, that I have made a brief, but painless end to this appointment by means of notice To devote myself to another, better, and more paid work, which will most likely consist of technical drawings for a professor who will deal with a colleague of Chicago on a new book, which will deal with martial arts in the engineer's office Not much promise to make, and thereby not only earn more money, but also have significantly more time.)

Well, considering the fact that you are just a beginner, I kept the sentence fairly short. I shall be interested to hear whether it took you two or three minutes to translate the above words. 

Since I had some experience in reading telegram style, I found it easier to read that last one of your crimes than you had hoped I would. Just a few comments which I deem necessary in order to comply with the worldwide search for justice. Dean Moore may not wear shorts since said permission was given only to girls. Length of 11.75 inches (29.82 cm) is measured along the side; it is therefore unessential whether the specimen is on or off. What I can’t figure out is how you were able to comment on that part of my letter which followed the part in which a smart person was advised to stop. Probably a case of advanced telepathy. In case you are dying to read the rest of it, thought, you may read it again.

I really had intended to use this Sunday afternoon to let a sun-of-a-beach shine on me; the beach is there, but since it rains, the sun is missing. 

Friday afternoon, when I was supposed to be working in the library, I took your beloved roommate for a ride on Herb’s bike. She is attempting to solve the terrific problem of whether or not to rebuy what she bought for someone else for herself and lost again. Even the fair environment of the Palace did not help her in coming to a decision, though. Last night, when I was working at the Wareham, run down, bent over, broken arches, pale faced, shattered nerves, my eyes cast their shadow upon a soldier-wolf who was preceded by M.K. It might be rather advantageous to her that she lost that circular-shaped piece of metal. Also, she had expressed a theme which made me think that another engagement is on the verge of being broken in the Sloafer family. 
I am glad that you are satisfied to know where I am at nights. This satisfies particularly since you probably know that three of the above twelve waitresses who work at the Warhead are divorcees; that 90% of them use a language which I only in special cases of emergency use in Lee’s presence; that this language is used there at all times and occasions. That most of the girls are pretty wild and considered easy meat. That…well, that will do. Anyhow. I am happy that you are broadminded enough to overlook all these facts. You know about the developments of my work at the wareham, though, from the brief sentence I wrote in German, I am sort of glad it turned out that way.

My correspondence work has stopped temporarily because of the 87 test papers which are to be graded. So far, I received straight A’s in my lessons; they are getting harder, though, and I do not expect to keep this record up. Also, my schedule has changed. We graduated one bunch last Saturday, so now there are only 45 kids left. There will be no more night lab, but also less study hall; Teeter will take care of the study hall, and I shall have lab in the morning and afternoon both. That means eight hours of lab and no time to fool around like I used to during library hours. Well, I may have to work after all.

Herb is going to leave rather soon. His deferment has not been extended any farther and he was reclassified in I-A. He appealed this as a conscientious objector, got reclassified as a C.O. and will have to leave for C.P.S. pretty soon. He does not expect to be here much more than two or three weeks. He had quite an interesting argument with his draftboard about his pacifist stand, which they, of course, did not understand.

It is getting kind of lonesome around this place. I wished September would get here before the end of August, or at least you would. 

Lots of kisses,


It appears that Opa began this letter drunk- and sobered up as he wrote (or gave up and came back to it after he sobered up). I'll admit the Hitler talk in the beginning caught me off-guard. But honestly, you can't be serious and sober (literally and metaphorically) all the time. It'll kill you. Honestly- it's interesting that when under the influence, the stuff that pours out is Hitler and Mein Kampf mixed with some anger. Sounds about right. 

Opa apologizes for his "drowsiness" and describes his mood as nostalgic and missing his "micky mouse" (grandmother). If I were in Opa's shoes, I think I would feel compelled to get drunk every now an then and also be terrified of what would come out of my mind and mouth when all inhibitions are gone. Sweetly, he mostly just misses things.

Then Opa does something cheeky, especially since Grandmother does not have the luxury of google translate (although I'm sure by this point she may have had a German-English dictionary). He writes a fairly important update- all in German. He has quit his job as a bus-boy (which I think is hilarious because he only lasted a week!). He's set his sights on easier and better paid work. Not a bad idea. 

I'm sure his mother would approve- she would not have liked the idea of him being in a bar-like atmosphere working such hard labor for such late hours. "Are you getting enough rest? Sleep?" I can just hear her now- chastising him for working too hard and not focusing on his studies.

Then Opa continues his joke about his new rule on short length, and somehow remembers his last letter told Grandmother not to read past a certain point. I wonder if it was custom to send the letter that you were responding to so that people could follow your response? If not- Opa has a good memory!

It sounds like Opa has a job as a Teacher's Assistant and is managing the lab part. In my undergraduate and graduate school experience, all the TA's were one level up (a graduate student for undergraduate students, a phD student for graduate level). He's just an upperclassman- I wonder if that was a normal thing. 

Opa talks about Herb's sort of drafting experience as a conscientious objector (CO). This brings us all back into the context of the war and what it means to be a male in America. Herb was able to defer his draft (my guess is on the basis of being a student) but now his time has come up and he finally succeeded in registering as a CO. This doesn't mean he doesn't have to serve. In fact, CO's often were sent to their own sort of boot camp and training for service towards the war effort in production or other types of support. I guess it didn't really comply completely with their rejection of war, but it was a way for them not to have to carry weapons and act as soldiers. Opa has compassion for Herb's case, as he himself as identified as a Conscientious Objector. Yet, he is invested completely in America winning the war. 

So my two favorite parts of this letter: Opa's little pun about sun bathing: "I really had intended to use this Sunday afternoon to let a sun-of-a-beach shine on me..." I mean- clever right? 

Then of course this sweet line: "I wished September would get here before the end of August, or at least you would." Don't we all have those moments? When we wish we could skip a month, squeeze states or countries so that they are closer together? It's been a while since I had that yearning for someone - it's a bittersweet feeling. You find out just how much you care for them, and in finding out you realize that you really don't care for the distance.

Monday, September 25, 2017

August 11, 1943: That Guy in Wichita

Letter from Opa to Grandmother


August 11, ’43


Dear Miss Mickey-Scarlet-Marg-O’Hara Mouse, 

What do you mean the horizon on the sea is not farther than 10 miles away from you? Even a nearsighted Landratte like I can see the smokestack of a Swiss cruiser when the darn thing is 25 miles away, as long as the sky is blue and the larks are twirling (Why shouldn’t they?) So there’s nothing that Western Kansas has got, that the sea hasn’t. Furthermore, when I got tired gazing at trees, hills, and too many houses, all I had to do was to look up and there was more distance in the vertical than there is in all Kansas in the horizontal. Well, that settles that. 
I had heard about the resignation of Dean Helen Moore; it happened just in between the ones of Mussolini and Hitler. She is to be replaced by a triumvirate, consisting of Mr. Doeppner, Tom, and me. It is expected that the changes in the political setup of the Women Situation at K. State will be drastic due to this change in Administration. The following new regulations have been forecast by unusually unreliable sources: (1) Non-kissproof lipsticks are outlawed. Every time a girl changes lipsticks, the kissproofness of this new lipstick will have to be tested by one of the members of the triumvirate. (2) Slacks are to be worn only on snowy days. Shorts, if not exceeding a length of 11 3/4 inches, may be worn at any times. The use of skirts is permitted in cases of emergency. (3) Every young man who approaches an American girl with the intention of asking her for a date, will be required to produce an identification card on which is marked that he, for the last five generations, has absolutely no Japanese, German, Italian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Finnish, Jewish, Negroid, Southern, Cat, Republican, Dog, Democrat, or Monkey blood flowing in either his arteries or his veins. (Recent experiences on the Campus make this rule a necessity.)
As you have found out by now, I am too tired to write a sensible letter, so if you are smart, you stop reading here. 
Too bad; I really thought you were smart. Well, okay; I go on. Bus boys are called bus boys because they are kept buzzing around all day, as I found out when I started my new job last Saturday night. It is quite an art to load a tray with dishes in such a way that (a) it is not very heavy, (b) it looks extremely heavy, (c) its symmetrical balance is kept, and (d) it can be carried to the kitchen without the loss of any of its inhabitants. It would be an inspiring sight (if I just had a mirror) to watch five finger tips, red and steadily bending backwards to an ever increasing angle, be the only bridge between the unreasonable facsimile of a member of the specie homo sapiens. Now, imagine the whole contraption, i.e. remains, bridge, and facsimile, all moving in one general direction, then disappearing thru a hole covered with rotating wood. And here comes the climax: Slowly and a little shaky, but steadily, the bridge descends. With it, the remains. The bridge loses its red color, the remains are drowned in brine, and the facsimile, after a surveying glance over the sacred dwelling, jubilates in such exulting syllables as these: “Damn, that thing was heavy!” This scene, with slight variations, is constantly being repeated from 5:15 to 11:00pm Monday through Friday, and from 5:15 to 1:00am Saturday and Sunday. Admission free. 
I am afraid you will have to get used to reading my handwriting for there is no typewriter available in the library, and the only time I have at home is during the noon hour which is not sufficient to make use of the facilities of modern civilization.
There are two reasons why I can’t or couldn’t take out my first papers yet, as your cousin told about that guy in Wichita. In the first place, I am here under a student visa and not under an immigration visa, and even thought I could advance (as I did) within my status I cannot change this status. In the second place, since I am here as a student and not as an immigrant, I am still considered an “alien-enemy”; there is a law against naturalizing such animals during wartime. I am not much worried about that citizenship deal at the present time, though; for although I shall do my best to get this matter settled as soon as this war is over, I do not suffer under the present status at all; I get along all right, and any suspicious move taken now is liable to aggravate my chances for after the war. Also, the immigration laws are very probably going to be changed after the war, so I would not even know what steps to take. 
Went swimming with Bob Dawley last Sunday afternoon, we had a good time playing tag in the water; quite exhausting, though. The pool is just too full on Sunday; remember how nice it was that Friday afternoon?
I saw the Clarks the other night. They had your letter. Mrs. Clark is going home very soon; she doesn’t seem to be too happy about it. She is going to write to you soon; at best that’s what she said. 
I just checked out a book which promises to be good. Prof. Brenneman recommended it to me; it is “International Delusions” by G.M. Stratton. I don’t know when I shall find time to read it; will probably sneak some hours from Signal Corps time. 
Be a good girl, Honey!

Lots of love, 

Opa is in a real funny mood for this letter. First he teases Grandmother about her love of the Kansas horizon. I'm sure she's defending the flat lands, and Opa won't stand by and let her win that argument. He's right though, the sea has the flat lands of Kansas beat.

Then Opa moves on to his fantasies of running Kansas State as the new dean, with certain requirements for the women to wear kissable proof lipstick and short shorts. I'm loving this window into Opa's young boy mind, with his witty little quips and flirtations. I wonder if Grandmother's ex-fiance was this witty and cheeky. Probably not.

Opa's description of himself bussing tables had me rolling. I love the image of the hand bridged backward underneath the heavy tray, with Opa impressed each time he manages a heavy load. That's hard labor!

Opa explains his visa status in response to Grandmother's cousin that knew "that guy in Wichita." Poor Opa and Grandmother- how many cousins and well-meaning friends "new a guy who did..." and asked questions with their limited anecdotal knowledge that had nothing to do with Opa's situation? Opa was patient though in explaining it.

Opa mentions a book, International Delusions, which Jason bought for me to read. I'm with Opa- I'm not sure when I'll find the time to read it. ;) 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

August 6, 1943: Lincoln-Douglas Debate on Love

Letter from Opa to Grandmother 


August 6, 1943

Dearest Mickey Mouse,

Due to an excess of B.T.U.s, the library has become an arsenal of lethargy, with the reading of Esquires, the catching-up of sleep, and the occasional writing of letters being the only aims which offer possibilities at being achieved.

Got two of my correspondence lessons done; they are a little tougher than I had expected them to be, I must confess. I shall probably not be able to get one done per day, as I had originally intended. 
I just checked up in the new catalogue of K.S.C. about the requirements for a degree in Chickology. To my great surprise and consternation, I found out that among the prerequisites are listed such courses as German I, II, III, and IV, Advances A.-C. Machinery IV, Engineering Physics, and 34 hours of Human Nutrition. You probably knew about that, didn’t you?

Had quite a surprise Wednesday, when I received a Red-Cross letter from my mother! It was mailed November 11; took longer than most messages have so far. She is all right, had news from my dad and hopes to join (?) me soon. I can’t quite make that out, unless she means that she expects a quick end of the war, so that she can come over here. I knew that my father had always planned on going to the United States after the war; that my mother wants to do the same, was a pleasant surprise for me. Strangely enough, I got her letter on her birthday, August 4th. I went down to the Red Cross Office immediately to send a message off to her. It is not time for it yet, since the necessary two months from my last letter had not yet elapsed, but my mother will enjoy having a letter dated on her birthday.

Have you ever talked to your brother Ray about us? Do you think he might help a little? You must be having quite a time with your folks; I hope it does not spoil your vacation. Needless for me to go into all the objections your folks mentioned since we went over them so many times before, but I am glad that you wrote me about them. I definitely don’t agree, though when your folks say that we have nothing in common but education. You know that is not true; there are things like common interests, similar temper, and even common ideals, although it will be hard to make your folks realize that. Well, I guess we will have to let the March of Time do its part for us. 

Please remember that they will always have enough so-called reasons and “scientific” proofs to show how it would never work out. In the first place, though, there are at least as many and certainly better logical arguments on our side, and in the second place, the criterion as to whether or not a marriage would be successful is nothing that can be solved by a Lincoln-Douglas debate or a contest in dialectics; factors like love, the will to get it done and the joy in challenging prejudices, and, most of all, mutual faith are of much greater importance. Don’t let them reason you into or out of things, but let your own feelings and your own better judgment be your guide. I hope I did not appear rude in what I just said, but I love you so much that I know that we must and shall find a way!

The war news makes me feel funny; I can’t figure it out anymore. Victories in Munda, at Orel, and even in Catania. What is Badoglio waiting for, and why don’t the Allies go ahead in Italy instead of letting the Nazi’s get there first? I am very much afraid that Badoglio’s regime is just another Vichy, and that the English are falling for the trap the same way they did in August and September of 1940. I don’t think that they should invade Italy now unless they are ready for it, but why don’t they keep the bombing up? same thing in Germany. Even though I would hate to see Berlin get the fate of Hamburg, it would be the smartest thing for the Allies to do in order to weaken German morale. Well, as soon as you and I are president, we’ll show ‘em!!

Bob and I had an idea of taking over the Avalon and making a little money by giving 15-centers and renting the room out to Frats and for banquets, but we seem to be unable to find out who owns the joint. Furthermore, the Army will probably take it anyhow, so we don’t have much hope. 

Herb went home over weekend, so I am fully-pledged bachelor these days, a peculiar feeling. Went to a show with Miss Roberts last night, we saw “The Amazing Mrs. Holliday.” It’s a screwy combination of tragedy with Hollywood-millionaire style; ends up with quite an interesting and different climax, not worth very much, though.

Laura Jean, that high school girl I told you about, had been pestering me quite a bit during the last week. I settled the account with her yesterday, though, by making her so mad at me that she will probably never want to see me again (I hope.) It was about the only way of permanently getting rid of her, since she won’t take hints. I tell you details when you get back.

From tomorrow night on, my evenings shall be taken care of very nicely. I accepted a job at the Warhead Coffee Shop as busboy, which will keep me busy from 5:15 till about midnight. That way, I shall save all the money I would otherwise spend on shows, and make some on top of it. We shall need it, for I still haven’t given up hope that there will be a wedding next year. 
Poor Signal Corps boys… They haven’t been the same since you left. The last quiz I graded, the average was 81. (To make you feel better, though, the quiz was written one day after you had left, and the news of your absence had not been around yet. Just one guy knew about it; he wrote a 46.) Lately things haven’t been running so smoothly. One expensive book and one slide rule have been stolen within a few days; that’s how disappointing children are. And here you keep talking about twins. 

I haven’t been able to keep a good eye on Marjorie, although she probably did on me. I never saw her with a soldier, yeah, not even with a civilian. She must be taking a vacation. If she were still living at Mrs. Paustain’s, I would ask her for a date, but unless Mrs. Paustain would get a chance to see it, there won’t be much fun in it. 

Quoting the Kansas State Collegian: Goebbels says that bombing will never affect the German morale. It must be an inspiring sight to see Heini go whistling about his work, just as though the factory were still there. 

In Liebe,

I learned something new today: B.T.U. means British Thermal Units. The amount of heat it takes to raise one pound of water one degree fahrenheit. There ya go! So the lethargy in the library was because of the heat of the summer. Opa mentions correspondence lessons, which are sort of like what we would call online courses today. The student completes assignments and receives instruction through the mail.

Opa mentions receiving a red cross letter from his mother, one that had been mailed a while before and only just reached the US. I didn't realize that the letters had to be two months apart, what torture that must have been to have to wait and then mail them. It seems that you could write earlier, but that they wouldn't be mailed until a certain date. I thought it was sweet that Opa knew Ella would enjoy having a letter postmarked on her birthday. Opa seemed to be genuinely surprised by his mother's words that she hoped to join him soon. He didn't know that she wanted to join him in the United States, but I wouldn't have doubted it. I don't know why this was so surprising to him. I also wouldn't have taken her words so literally as to imply she specifically wanted to have a reunion in America. I thought it was more of a general "I want to be with my child." 

I love Opa's defense of his and Grandmother's love. He is frustrated that her parents only think they have their education in common, but he seems pretty confident that they will win them over letting the "march of time" do the work. I'm not sure why Ray would be a source of help (Grandmother's brother), but the thought is sweet that big brother might be able to put a good word in. Opa feels for Grandmother as she spends her summer at home with parents who disapprove of her engagement. 

My favorite part of this letter is when Opa writes poetically about the true nature of love, and how a debate of cold facts on either side cannot be the deciding factors. It's almost like a pep-talk to Grandmother to stay firm in their love and not let herself be convinced otherwise. He's straddling the line between fighting for their love and telling her to not listen to her parents. I can tell he wants to be respectful of them. This line though:
the criterion as to whether or not a marriage would be successful is nothing that can be solved by a Lincoln-Douglas debate or a contest in dialectics; factors like love, the will to get it done and the joy in challenging prejudices, and, most of all, mutual faith are of much greater importance.
That's good stuff.

Opa talks about the war, which I can imagine he follows extremely closely. He can't make out exactly where it is going, and is confused by what is happening in Italy. I was confused too when I looked up some historical data on the time period. Italy overthrew Mussolini for a hot second and then he came back? I honestly need to go read up on that a little more, but it seems the Allies were making a little headway there, but perhaps not as much as Opa thought they should. His wish that the allies keep up the bombing did come true. In November there was a bombing campaign focused specifically on Berlin. Throughout the year on special days intended to embarrass or interrupt the German leadership- there were bombing raids. The one in November was particularly devastating and affected Charlottenburg where Ella lived. Of course Ella never mentioned the bombings, and luckily she was not one of the civilians that were killed. I wonder where she went during the air raids. Did Jews have to go to a separate place, or were they too afraid to even go to a shelter? 

Opa switches to more happy topics, like movies and getting a high schooler to stop pestering him. Ha. I wonder how she kept pestering him? Was she interested in him or was she being rude because he was German? Either way- he seemed to take care of it. 

Opa reflects a little on the German people as he mentions that Goebbels was quoted as saying that bombing would never hurt the German morale. Opa knows better. How angry he must be at the people who flaunt their power and pride with little regard to the people they are stepping on in their march. Opa does already talk about Germany a bit like a place from his distant past. He wants them to be bombed, even though he does tuck in a little word of kindness for his hometown of Berlin, it's just an aside. 

I think above everything else, Opa is ready for this war to be over. What will he do on the other side? Right now his plan is to stay in America and marry Marjorie- whether her family likes it or not.