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How Grand!

 

Addressed to:

Miss Mary Potter

312 Washington Street

Jefferson City, MO

Postmark Columbia, MO

April 10, 1930  10:30 PM

Dear Mary-

Gee honey, I’m sorry you have to be sick now, just terribly sorry.  I had hoped that you could get by until you had time for an operation before you had any more trouble.  I hope it doesn’t last long this time.  Tell your mother to be sure and write me just how you are.  I don’t know why, but when I got your letter this morning I just felt that you were really sick.  That is why I called.  If you want me to come over Saturday or Sunday, I can stay with Henry and not cause your mother any trouble at all.  I can come tomorrow any time if you would like me to, so just have your mother call me or write or any way you want it.  I’ll do just want you want me to, honey.

Don’t worry any about that dance.  Your mother said today that you wanted me to go on without you.  Well, if I am in Columbia, I’ll do that, if it is what you want me to do.

This weather is really too hot for comfort today.  I have been suffering from the heat since noon.  Your room shouldn’t be so hot though so I guess the heat won’t be bothering you any.

I think I made it fairly well on the examination I took yesterday afternoon.  I hope I did, anyway.  I had a letter from home today, and mother is expecting you Easter.  She said that she might try to arrange a small bridge party for you Saturday afternoon.  She isn’t sure about it yet.

Oh yes, did you get to have your club last night or did you call it off?

Say, I think I’ll have a way to ride to Jeff City and be back tomorrow evening, just for the evening, so if you want me to come, have your mother call me between 4:15 and 5:45 tomorrow afternoon at 4593.  I’ll be here all that time.  Don’t think that I am attempting to hint for an invitation, because that isn’t the case at all.  

This town is really all upset.  The school election comes off tomorrow and everything is in full swing.  There are going to be mass meetings and serenades and everything else tonight, and of course tomorrow will be a large day.  This time we don’t have any posters stuck on the walk and the red campus is free of signs.  Thank heaven for that.  I must sign off.  I surely hope you are better by tomorrow.

Love,

Jim

Finally!  A letter to Mary from Jim!  How grand!

Sounds like a big weekend at the university in Columbia.  Mass meetings.  Serenades.  Elections.  A dance.  But, it seems Mary is not well enough to make the trip to Columbia this weekend and the dance.  This news is not so grand.  She must be so disappointed.

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

April 14, 1930 7 PM

Dear Jim:

Well I’m feeling lots better today.  I have slept and also had a meal at Noon.  So I am getting alright.  I have had a long rest this afternoon and think surely by tomorrow I can teach.

I haven’t any thing to write about as I have been right here at home and the doings are nothing interesting.

This weather is ideal.  I wish I could sit out and bake in the sun.

Mother and I are going to take a drive and we will come back by Dr. Clark’s office.

Jim be sure and write your folks and tell them if it suits we will come in a few weeks.  I hate it because I can’t go.  Really I do.

If you hear about the dance write me.  I hope it was a big success.  

Well I’ll try and write more next time.

You were sure mightily appreciated this weekend–and were grand to me.  I hope I can get through being sick soon.

Love,

Mary

How grand!

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The Case of the Missing Lipstick

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

April 8, 1930 7:30 p.m.

(Two letters in one envelope…)

Read this first.  I wrote this at school in case someone saw it they wouldn’t think it was a letter.  

Dear Jim: 

I can’t find out from Dad yet what I can do about driving our car over Saturday.  He thinks he might want it.  I am about ready to go to sleep.  I can’t get enough it seems.  Tomorrow night I have bridge club and I’ll be glad when it is over believe me.  Somehow I am not so fond of the girls as I am the other bunch.  Next week I am going to have another club.  Then I’ll be through for awhile.  Please excuse this paper but it is all I have at school.  I might not get home in time to write one.  I am going to see Frances.  She is at home now.  I really am anxious to go.  She has something interesting to tell me.  George had his folks came see her Sunday.  Mrs. F said “She was glad George was going to marry such a good woman.”  Frances said she thought that was a funny way to express her feelings. 

Jim, I have a slight cold today but I can’t blame you, can I?

The weather is so pretty I wish I could get out and walk about two or three miles.  I might get some energy.

Well I must quit.  I’ll finish when I get home and read your letter.

Tuesday

Dear Jim:

I was surprised to get your letter.  I mean the kind you wrote.  You are really grand to me and I am so glad you have the ideas and ideals you have.  I hope my actions are always like you want them to be.

I have been out to Frances’ house for about an hour and half talking hard and fast.  She is up and walked out to the car to meet me.  It was been eight days since she was operated on.

I was glad to get my lipstick.  I couldn’t decide just what I did with it.  I really didn’t think you took it back with you.  

Well, I am glad you wrote the nice long letter.  It was a real surprise.

Love,

Mary

The letter box is full of mystery.  This letter has mystery galore.  Starting with the furtive note written during school on manilla art paper with a pencil; so no one might suspect she was jotting a letter!

It is important to pay attention to the clues each letter holds.

Mary is hostessing her bridge club tomorrow.  Who will attend?  What about favors and food? Given the date of the letter, I was able to locate this newspaper item about the party.  I am guessing the girls listed have no clue Miss Mary Potter is not as fond of them as she is the other bunch.

Frances and George Furtney are engaged.  Whatever it was Frances had interesting to tell Mary has their tongues wagging.  No clue.

Mary has a cold.  Her suggestion that she perhaps should blame Jim hints that they’ve been close enough to share one another’s germs.  A kiss?  The missing lipstick is another mystery that might provide the proof!

The grandest mystery is the letter Jim wrote to Mary.  I have not yet stumbled upon it to open up the secrets it contains.  The ideas and ideals he shared.  The thoughts and feelings that make her want to make him happy and proud.

How I hope now she gets to drive the car on Saturday!

 

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The Letter Box

My Grandparents' Courtship Correspondence

The courtship between my grandparents took place largely in letters.  An old-fashioned, romantic notion for those of us who live in the modern information age of technology.  Most of our interpersonal communication is electronic.  Cell phones, email and text messages were conventions barely known to my grandparents. Their social media consisted of stationary, a fountain pen and a two cent postage stamp.  For nearly four years, from 1929 to 1933, Mary Potter and Jim Kunkler wrote letters to one another every day when they were not together.  Sometimes twice a day.

Some years ago my mother happened upon a bundle of letters while cleaning out the basement of my grandparents’ home in Ohio.  It wasn’t surprising.  My grandmother was a saver.  She kept everything.  We found trunks filled with all kinds of stuff like World War II ration stamps, old baseball game programs and powder puffs still in their original packaging.  Newspaper clippings with names of people she knew were tucked within the trunks of items for someday use or reference.  The bundle of letters, though, were a valuable find, a true keepsake.  Further sifting and sorting.  More letter bundles were discovered.  My mother had uncovered virtually all of the letters my grandparents’ wrote to one another during their courtship, along with some additional assorted correspondence.

My mother boxed up the letters and gave them to me for safe keeping.  She also urged me to “do something with them someday.”  I put them in the attic.

Someday came a few weeks ago when I realized that this treasure might be too easily lost forever like a deleted email.  This cherished piece of family history, the story of Mary and Jim and their letter writing courtship needed to be shared with my children and preserved for future generations.  Now was the time to do something about the letters.

So, I climbed up in the attic and began to rummage around the cardboard boxes and plastic bins.  Our attic is a repository for cardboard boxes and plastic bins.  We have a varied and extensive collection of cartons from such moving companies as Mayflower, United Van Lines and U-Haul as well as numerous shapes and sizes of Rubbermaid containers. (I guess I must be a little like my grandmother.) Finding the box with the letters was going to be a challenge.  After an hour of searching and almost giving up that they were gone, I found the box.  Behind the Christmas decorations, next to our daughter’s American Girl Collection and underneath a box with my high school yearbooks and memorabilia was the box of letters.

This correspondence has been read by only two people.  Until now.  As I read these personal letters, my twenty-something grandparents are both well known and strangers to me at the same time.  The letters are like reading a conversation between two people that loved each other and that I happen to love, too.  I just didn’t know them then.  Strange but not fiction.  How I wish they were still here to ask about the friends they mention and the funny anecdotes they record!  Still, like any great mystery or adventure, there are clues to be explored to point me in the right direction that somehow will lead me to understand, just maybe, a little more about them.  And perhaps myself in the process.

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