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Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

April 17, 1930  11:30 PM

Tuesday

Dear Jim:

Well, I got along real good today.  The children were rather wild. After a strange teacher  has them they often get some bad habits.

Frances got her ring.  I didn’t go out to see it but will tomorrow.  She isn’t going to wear it until after her announcement party which will be the 26th of April on Saturday.  I can hardly wait because so many people are going to be surprised. Just about four people have been told.  The rest of the girls think she is about to make up with Louis.

My shoes came from I. Miller today.  I guess I’ll keep them.  They fit fairly well.  At least feel good, that’s a lot.

I have been feeling real good all day.  Tonight, however I’m a little tired but I expected that.

Mother and I went to the Missouri [Hotel] for lunch today.  I ate quite a lot for me.

The doctor said I was run down and needed to rest a lot and not have any responsibilities.  Lots of fresh air and sleep.  My tonsils are not all to blame he doesn’t think.  He said he would give me some medicine to take before meals and whatever I do not to work hard.  If I have to quit and forget about it.  So I guess I will mind him, if I can.  He said when I built up he would say whether or not my tonsils should come out.  Must stop and eat dinner.

Love,

Mary

Some things change.  For example, the practice of medicine.  Tonsillectomies were routine surgery beginning around the 1930s.  Mary’s chronic colds and sore throats indicate the possibility her tonsils must come out. But Mary is not at a healthy weight to have an operation.  The prescription?  Fresh air and rest and something to help her throat so she can eat good meals.  Today, tonsillectomies are rare.  Chronic colds and sore throats are still common but the prescription is much different.

Another interesting change is the way things get announced.  In 1930, an engagement was announced at a social gathering.  It was usually a big surprise to everyone at the party.  Frances has been engaged for a few weeks and only a few people know.  Mary hasn’t even seen her ring yet.  Today, when there is a change in relationship status, it gets announced through social media.  My daughter’s friend Kathryn recently became engaged.  She posted pictures of the engagement and her ring just hours after the proposal.

Some things stay the same.  Students behaving differently (or even wildly) for a substitute teacher.  Also, a girl can never have too many pairs of shoes.  Mary ordered a pair of shoes from I. Miller, a shop dedicated to beauty in footwear.  The shoe store has an interesting history.  Israel Miller began his career designing and making shoes for theater folks performing in shows in New York City.  The flagship store was located on Broadway in Times Square.  I. Miller’s fashionable shoes soon became popular with a variety of women throughout the late 1920s until the early 1970s.  Before he became a pop artist, Andy Warhol was a commercial illustrator and he drew advertisements for I. Miller.

You can still buy I. Miller shoes from online vintage sellers on Etsy.  The ones below probably cost less than $10 brand new in 1930; today they are $70 plus shipping and handling.  Oh, and they’re used.

Some things stay the same, but some things change.

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Big Things Happening

A month has passed.  No letters to be found written from Jim to Mary. What few letters from March 1930 are written from Mary to Jim.

It seems that they are spending more and more time together.  Jim visits Mary at her home in Jefferson City.  Mary attends a dance with Jim in Columbia.  Big things are happening!

Mary has her hands full teaching school.  She has 32 energetic students in her class!  This leaves her with little energy to make date bars and fudge or attend her bridge club.

Jim is studying hard.  Heat Machinery and other classes have been giving him headaches.  Mary worries about this.  Henry worries Mary, too.  He’s been telling her Jim’s parents are worried he is “going too much.”  Now she is worried that Jim’s folks don’t want him to come over to Jefferson City very often.  Big time worry!

Worry for nothing, it seems.  Among the news in this letter is that Jim has been inducted to Tau Beta Pi, the second oldest honorary society (Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest) and the only honor society for engineers.  Buzz Aldrin (astronaut), Frank Capra (movie director), Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are notable members. Guess he must have come out alright on that quiz!

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

April 4, 1930 6:30 PM

Tuesday 2:30 PM

Dear Jim:
It looks as if I can’t ever get time to write a good letter.

I’ll try to take my recess period for it this afternoon.  Some one will just about get their nose hurt or fall down.  That always happens when you don’t want it to.  

The school board is supposed to visit this afternoon.  I guess they will land some time soon.  My children will probably act like wild animals for them.

I had a grand time last night and I got to ride out in a new Packard Sedan.  The car really is a beauty.  It is so big and the engine is perfect.  Lillian Tweedie drove it.  It belongs to her father.

I am thrilled over Tau Beta Pi.  I guess Henry won’t say you didn’t study from now on.  He just used his imagination too much along some lines.  He took a girl to a dance Tuesday night.  She is just an infant and I have always thought her rather fast at least she has that name however she is cute looking.  Henry is sure hard for me to figure out in some ways.

Mother and I are going to be busy tonight getting linens and spoons and things ready.  I’m glad we only have this once a year.

The little boy that was hurt is getting along fine.  He will be back Monday.

I am having my club next week on Wednesday night.  I am going to a party Thursday night, I think, so I’ll be real busy.  This week has been rather quiet.  It is almost five minutes past my recess.  I must quit for now.  I’ll add some to this after I get your letter this afternoon.  I. Miller sent me some grand shoes but the heels didn’t match.  I can’t imagine why.  I had to send them back.  They were real pretty.

5:00 PM

It will be alright to come over Saturday night Jim.  You can call me about six.  I think the folks will all be gone by then.  You could stay at Henry’s until then, couldn’t you?  We won’t have dinner at home I’m sure but you understand why.  So it is alright to call me and if they have gone soon enough maybe you can eat dinner over here but I doubt we can get through in time.

Love,

Mary

This letter is full of big news.

Big visit from the school board.

Big ride.  A 1930 Packard Sedan…

Big honor for Jim.

Big date for Henry!  Although, it sounds like the girl has a pretty big reputation.

Big party to prepare for.

Big mistake with the shoes.  Mismatched heels might lead to a big trip up.

Big weekend coming up!

Even bigger Spring ahead…

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Lucky Girl

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

March 3, 1930   10 PM

Monday Night

Dear Jim:
I hope you didn’t freeze going back last night.  It seemed so cold for you to ride in an open car so far.  I surely hope you didn’t catch cold.  Dad and Mother thought it was so bad, they just knew you would be sick from it.

I went out to see Frances Millspaugh, the girl that writes to George.  She was so thrilled over you knowing him.  She said when George comes we can get together.  Frances is a lovely girl and from all accounts George hasn’t always been as good as he might be, however he says he is acting better now for a few years he was in a “don’t care state,” and I guess was really wild.  Frances has known him for five or six years.  She has been sick with an attack of appendicitis and is still in bed.  She will have to be operated on but is waiting until George makes his visit.

It has been so cold today.  My room wasn’t warm all day.  Just about 64 this afternoon and about 50 this morning.  

I sure hope you got along alright with your quiz today.  I will be to blame if you didn’t.

Jim, I had such a good time in Columbia Friday night and I enjoyed having you here so much-really I’m getting spoiled with so much attention.

Love,

Mary

Mary had many friends.  One her good girlfriends while she lived in Jefferson City was Frances Millspaugh.  They both taught at Broadway Elementary School.  Frances was the daughter of Missouri Congressman Frank Millspaugh.  Mary writes Jim and Frances writes George, who apparently was a wild and crazy guy.

Who is George? Why is she waiting on him to have her appendix taken out?  Where is he coming from?  How does Jim know George?

Jim knows George Furtney from engineering school.  George graduated and went to work as an engineer for Wired Wireless Radio Corporation in Cleveland.  He is getting his act together.  George is going to ask Frances to marry him.  How do I know?  Time and more letters will tell.

Today is Friday the 13th.  I’m not one for superstition.  I’m not around ladders enough to walk under one.  We crossed paths with our black cat, Minnie, for 13 years.  Double trouble?  Actually no real trouble.  She caught a mouse once and brought it to the back porch.  Unlucky for the mouse…and for me who had to dispose of the deceased rodent.  Lucky for her, though.  I’ve broken plenty of mirrors so I can’t even begin to count how many years of bad luck.  Mental math isn’t my thing.  Plus, I figure if I don’t know it doesn’t really matter.

There is one superstition I can’t help wondering about today.  In 1903 University of Missouri engineering students decided Saint Patrick should be their patron saint.  The shamrock became a symbol and emblem for the school.  A stone with the three leaf clover is embedded in the sidewalk in front of the classroom building.  Tradition says that if you walk across the shamrock stone, you’ll marry an engineer.  Did Mary walk across the shamrock stone?

Mary is being spoiled with so much attention from  Jim.  Lucky girl.  But it sounds like Jim is going to need good luck on his quiz.

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Meet the Parents

Since the last letter suggests that Mary and Jim are spending part of their weekend together visiting her parents and Jim’s parents in Clinton, I figure it’s time to meet the parents.  Or, in the modern generation vernacular, the ‘rents.

 

Ira and Ethel Kunkler.  Jim’s folks.

Ira Stuart Kunkler was a contractor in Clinton.   In fact, Jim worked some construction sites with him.  I don’t remember too much about him.  What I do recall were his great, big bear hugs.  I also remember hiding behind his chair when my Uncle Joe came over to their house.  Uncle Joe lost two of his fingers in farming machinery and to my small child mind that was kind of scary.  My great-grandfather was my protector.  Unfortunately, he died when I was only three. The night after Christmas he sat on the bed, leaned over to untie his shoes and passed away peacefully.

 

Ethel Josephine Turk was his wife.  She was a teacher in a one room school house when they met.  I have lots of great memories of Jim’s mother.  She lived until she was 98.  What I remember most was her cooking. She could kill, pluck and gut a chicken and then fry it to perfection.  She made biscuits that were a mile high.  Her cinnamon rolls were life changing.  She baked cakes from scratch.  In fact, she made everything from scratch.  A pinch of this and a dash of that.  I think I only saw her use a recipe once.  She clipped one from a magazine for Baked Alaska.  It was a two day endeavor.  I have a motto for my kitchen, “love people, cook them tasty food.”  She shared a lot of love from her kitchen.  I also remember that she was skilled at playing Bridge.  She played in tournaments.  And won.  Bridge is a card game that I never learned to play.  I think I will add this to the list of things I want to try.

 

Jim and Mena Potter.  Mary’s parents.

Mena Maughs Proctor is Mary’s mother.  She was the youngest daughter of an influential businessman and politician. Sadly, I never knew Mena, who my mother called Mayme.  She died of ovarian cancer.  What I have been told, though, is that she was a wonderful hostess who entertained frequently.  She was civic minded and a caring and compassionate woman.  From her pictures, she was also quite fashionable.  I think I would have enjoyed shopping with her.

 

Mary’s father, also Jim, was a prominent lawyer.  James Arthur Potter began his practice in Aurora, Missouri before moving the family to Jefferson City, the state capital. He was appointed the state’s assistant Attorney General to Robert Otto with whom he later formed a law partnership.  He also lived until he was 98 so I remember him well.  He visited us often and every summer my mother and I visited him on our yearly trip to Missouri.  He was my best “patient” when I got a toy nurse’s kit for Christmas one year. Every afternoon he would take me on his daily “constitutional,” which was a walk around the block.  He liked to smoke cigars, or rather chew on the ends of them, which I don’t remember smelling bad because of the strong odor of menthol camphor ointment he wore on his hands.  Actually that didn’t smell so great, but better the memory of that than a stinky stogie.

 

Here is Mary’s letter to Jim the Tuesday after they spent the weekend together and visiting with the ‘rents.

 

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

February 18, 1930 6:30 PM

 

Tuesday

Dear Jim:
I am afraid you will not have much of a letter tonight.  I just got in and it is six now.

The P.T.A. met this afternoon and I had to stay until they all left.  I have to talk to all of them about their child and it gets so tiresome.

I went down to try on my dress and it was not like I want it.  If I ever get forgiveness for having this made-I’ll be satisfied.

It is hard for you to be away over the weekend and not get any studying in but maybe you won’t be busy after awhile.  I hope your hard course gets easier.  

Your folks are not going to disown you and I’m sure I won’t so why worry?

Dad is feeling better and left tonight for St. Louis.  He can’t eat very much but said he guessed he wouldn’t starve if he could get some milk to drink.  He was sorry not to seen more of you too.

This weather is grand just like spring.  I would like to get out and walk about a mile.  If it keeps this up I think I’ll get the spring fever.

Jim, I surely did enjoy the weekend with you.  It seems hard to settle down and just work without doing anything else.  I was tired but the trip didn’t make me because I was about worn out when we started.
Well don’t work too hard and write soon.

Love,

Mary

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It’s A Surprise!

Postmark Jefferson City, MO January 30, 5:30 PM

Thursday

Dear Jim:

I was surely surprised yesterday when you called me.  It was sure thoughtful of you.  I was quite thrilled.  If we broke the line I can’t imagine how we did it -can you?
We had a long teachers meeting this afternoon at the college.  All the teachers are in town.  Our superintendent really was angry because some teachers have been late so often and others leave too soon after school  I usually get to school on time but often leave before I should.  We are supposed to stay ten minutes after school is out.

Dad is taking Mother and me out to dinner at the Hotel tonight.  I’ll have to make this short-so I can get dressed up.  Some men are giving it.

Jim I haven’t heard from Henry since you left.  I guess he is alright.

I have a surprise for you in a few weeks.  I decided the other day.  You can guess all you please-but I won’t tell.  I’ll just surprise you some time.

I hope everything is alright at school.  You will come out with your usual good grades in the end.  One always feels that the first week is awful hard.  I will be proud of you when you finish even if you haven’t made the highest grades.  They don’t always count the most.

It has been trying to snow here all day.  I hope it doesn’t.  I am so tired of bad weather.

Your letter written Tuesday came today.  It was mailed at 10 AM the 29th.  If you mail a letter at night at the post office I get it about 10 the next morning-mail your letters at the co-op-they collect more often there, I think.

Love,

Mary

 

A surprise.  How fun!  With all the cold and snowy weather, could it be a stocking hat or warm gloves or a wool scarf?  Maybe a sled?  More candy, or perhaps cookies?  I wonder what it could be?  I wonder how long Jim will have to wonder what it could be?

I’m a sucker for a good surprise.  As it turns out, I happened to be married to the world’s all time best surprise giver.  Ever.  Sure, I have been the recipient of flowers for no special reason, funny doodads and shiny trinkets.  But, my husband is at a totally higher level when it comes to creating surprises.  Think stratosphere.  Once I learned our travel destination at 35,000 feet.  I immediately regretted packing the sweatshirt and hiking boots for a trip to the Virgin Islands.  He has also been known to mastermind events with family and friends all across the country.  He employs many accomplices.  One memorable Valentine’s Day he surprised me with a catered dinner and a harpist…in our very own dining room!  On the other hand, I am not very good at giving surprises.  For one, you must admit that the bar is set pretty high.  Yet, it also happens that I am married to a champion surprise finder outer.  He utilizes his sleuthing super powers to read my body language and the tone of my voice to determine if I might be up to something.  He engages me in conversation that inevitably leads me to make a slip of the tongue.  He has also been known to coerce others to gain information.  As I said, he has many accomplices.  It doesn’t help that I get so excited about the surprise and the element of surprise that I can’t wait for the perfect moment to catch him off guard, which is never since he is always on guard so this makes it next to impossible.  You see my problem?

I guess the thing that makes a good surprise is that it comes unexpected, for no reason other than wanting to give the other person joy.  A moment of pure grace.  Like I said, I’m a sucker for a good surprise.

What’s a memorable surprise you’ve received or given?

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