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. 

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