Tag Archives: Great Depression

Reading Between the Lines

 

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

February 11, 1930 10 PM

Tuesday

Dear Jim:
I will have to do like you did yesterday, make my letter short.  Mother and I want to go to the show and I will mail this one as we pass the post office.

You should be proud of your grade in Heat Machinery.  I knew you would get along alright.

Jim, I can’t seem to find a date for Henry, but maybe Friday the girl I wanted will decide to play cards with us.  She thinks her friend from out of town will be here.  She won’t be sure until Friday.

One of my little boys who has a bad shoulder is coming to Columbia tomorrow to the Crippled Children’s Hospital.  He is very poor and the state is going to pay for his operations and treatments.

I was surely surprised when you called last night. It seemed good to talk to you.

Jim, if you think you have too much work to do this weekend and should stay in Columbia we can go to Clinton later on.  I don’t mind waiting at all.

This weather is sure grand.  I love to be out all day.  I have to eat lunch at school this week.  I have charge of the lunch room.

Well excuse this short note.  I’ll do better next time.

Sorry you had to go clear downtown to mail my letter.  If you don’t have time, mail it in a box.  I’ll get two letters the next day.
Love,

Mary

Deciphering some of these letters is an exercise in reading between the lines.  This letter is an example of how the subject matter is open to interpretation.

First, there is the subject of the post office.  Based on the opening and closing sentences of Mary’s letter, mailing correspondence from the actual post office seems preferable to dropping notes in mailboxes  (which, by the way, were green in 1930).  Otherwise, why would Jim walk clear downtown to mail Mary her letter?  Their attention to collection times adds to the urgency of their correspondence.  Neither one wants to miss a day, a moment of what is happening in the other’s life when they are not together.

Then there is the good grade in Heat Machinery.  What do I know about heat machinery?  I have a gas stove, a convection oven and a microwave in my kitchen.  There’s the clothes dryer in the laundry room and my hair dryer in the bathroom.  Do hot rollers count?   That’s about the extent of the heat machinery that I operate.  (Notice I didn’t even mention an iron.)  Jim was an engineering major at the University of Missouri.  I had to do a Google search to figure out what in the world the class he got a good grade in might be about.  Heat machinery has to do with steam engines.  What’s a steam engine, you say?  Like most things they’ve been generally replaced with the more modern…unless you happen to be in an old building that still uses a boiler to force heat in the winter.   I’ll spare you the details of turbines and internal combustion because when it comes to reading between the lines, there is only one necessary engine to know and study:  Google.

What to do about Henry?  He is this elusive fellow who always seem to be lurking about the edges of their life.  Is this the friend who introduced Jim to Mary, Mary to Jim?  Clearly, he needs a date.

The little boy who needs surgery for a bad shoulder could be suffering the effects of polio.  He is surely suffering the effects of the Great Depression.  I read this and I am worried for him.  Reading between the lines affects me.

She mentions the phone call and their conversation.  Reading between the lines, they must have discussed visiting Jim’s parents who live in Clinton.  Reading more closely between the lines, could they have been discussing Mary’s first time to meet the parents?  It sounds like the meeting will be postponed until a later time.

Lunch room duty.  Mystery meat.  Quivery green Jell-O.  Spilled milk.   Enough said.

Ready to read some more between the lines…

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