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I’ll Have Another

This past Saturday was the 138th Kentucky Derby.  The thoroughbred I’ll Have Another won the run for the roses.  The winner of the 56th Kentucky Derby in 1930 was Gallant Fox, who went on to win the Triple Crown.  Gallant Knight finished second and Ned O. finished third.

This is correspondence Mary wrote to Jim on her trip with her Dad to the Fairmount Derby at Fairmount Park near St. Louis.  The winner in 1930 was Gallant Knight.

Wondering if Mary bet on Gallant Knight with Jim in mind?  Either way, she clearly picked the winner and wouldn’t have another!

Postmark St. Louis, MO

May 16, 1930  10 PM

Friday

Dear Jim:
Well, I am about half gone I think-I wrote you a letter today and lost it somewhere.  You get it but again you may not.

Jim-Henry is going home tonight.  He is driving down with some boys.  He has talked to me twice lately.  He will be with Helen alright.  I think maybe Henry is in a good humor now.

Jim-I am writing this while waiting to leave for St. Louis.  

We have a nice big Drawing Room on a special car.  So, we couldn’t be fixed better.  I hope we have as big a time as we are counting on.  Dad and I are pals when it comes to sports.  Mother just looks on and says nothing.

Margaret Enloe couldn’t get a pass.  So she didn’t come.  She sent some money for me to bet.  I am not going to put up much just enough to say.  I have won or lost on the Derby.

I surely wish you were going.  We would have a big time.  Henry wants me to call him tomorrow night and I think he wants to take us for a ride.

The party last night was grand such good food and so much fun.  All the girls were really happy for some reason and it was a gay party.

I hope that you have a grand time at home and don’t have to work too hard at school next week.  I’ll write or send you a night letter for Sunday.  I may send it to Columbia.

Remember me to your Mother and Father and Bill.

Love,

Mary

Postmark St. Louis, MO

May 18, 1930  9 PM

Sunday

Dear Jim:
We are on our way home.  It was certainly a grand trip.  We won on every race a little-but one-it was all so much fun I didn’t mind the loss of 2.00-

It didn’t rain but a little and wasn’t hot either.  The weather was fine for a good race.  I called Henry about 9:00 P.M. also at 7:30 Couldn’t get him.  Finally when I did his father said he had gone down town.

Jim-I am going to a party every night this week I think unless I turn down the one Wednesday.  

Have you heard from Henry?  I think he is alright now-but believe he is angry at his girl-because he wasn’t going to be with her that all.  I couldn’t find out.  Please don’t mention it to him though.

I imagine you will be plenty busy this week.  I’m sure I will.  If you don’t hear it is because I couldn’t get time to write.

This weather today looks bad for May.  Maybe I won’t have to take the children out for a picnic this year.

It’s almost train time so must quit. 

Love,

Mary


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From the Scenic Limited


From The Scenic Limited Missouri Pacific Lines (St. Louis, Kansas City and the West)

Sunday February 9

Dear Jim,

I will try and write a few lines while going home.  The train is a hard place to write believe me.

We have had a grand trip and everything seemed to come my way.  My aunt gave me a real old silk quilt.  It is lined with blue satin and along the sides it has blue velvet.  It is really an odd thing but very pretty.  I have always like it but didn’t dream she would get so big hearted as to give it to me.

If this train would slow down I might be able to write.  I don’t seem to be able to stay at the desk hardly.

My aunt is so old and sick.  She is just a pity.  She shouldn’t be so helpless but on account of being in several wrecks or accidents in her life she has had about all her bones broken and that has aged her so much.  

Jim, what about the tickets for the game?  Tell me and Dad will give me a check for you.

I guess you have had a big weekend.  I hope so.  

I’ll really do better tomorrow.  Excuse this writing.  The train is awful.

Love,

Mary

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THE Letter, Part Two

No envelope.  No postmark or date, just the heading gives the clue that it was written on a Wednesday night.  August 7 and 14 were Wednesdays in 1929. Mary pens the letter from the train on railroad stationary.  As the Scenic Limited rolls along the tracks through the Rockies toward Missouri, Mary writes that she is on her way home.  Indeed.

Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad

En Route Through the Rockies

Wednesday Night

Dear Jim:
I am on my way home from California.  We left Long Beach Sunday and went to San Francisco by boat.  I started a letter to you last night and wrote for a long time, but the train was so “rocking” I couldn’t even read it well, and it was so crazy I thought I will try and do better tonight.

You will be surprised to hear from me, but really Jim I have wanted to write you sooner but didn’t have the nerve.  You will be glad I am sure though to hear that I have decided not to ever marry Willis.  He is still sick and when if ever he does get well, I couldn’t think of ever marrying him.  I guess it is all for the best and I’m trying to feel that life isn’t all bad just because I have had hard luck.  I haven’t been able to be myself for a long time and I hope you understand.  I haven’t aimed to treat you wrong Jim.  Perhaps I have been cold and distant but I couldn’t be otherwise.  I have worried and worried over things but now after being away from things this summer and getting my mind off things about Willis I have decided to teach this Fall again and go to the university a year from this Fall.  Perhaps we can graduate together. Willis is at present in the state institution’s care.  He is working there and also being treated.  I haven’t written to him for when I left for the West, I told him goodbye.  He said he didn’t want the ring back but I’ll put it in the bank I think until he is able to take it back.  I really hardly know what is the best thing to do.

I am writing you this because even though I am sure you are not worried as to what I might do, you have always been so true and have understood me so well.  I just wanted to tell you that.  I have never known a boy that had higher ideals than you and in my mind you are surely placed the highest.

I am not writing you this to begin courting or fall in love.  I have had all I want of that for years to come but at least we can be good friends.  I really feel that you got angry at me the last time you were in Jefferson City.  I tried to call you that Sunday to have dinner but couldn’t find you.  I really decided you had gone until I saw you later that week.  I then decided you were off me for life but I am going to send this letter and try and square myself.  If I made you angry I am sorry Jim.  I didn’t want to do that at all.  I just couldn’t get myself together until now.  (This train is awful.)  

Jim, Mother thinks I’m asleep and so does Helen.  We each have a berth so I can stay up a long time.  It was so hot yesterday coming through the desert and this morning the salt beds.  However, it is cool tonight.  I am in my berth with my beach coat on to keep warm.  If you could see me-my face all covered with cold cream and my hair pinned back, I’m a real old mail.

When you come back to school come over and see me or write me some time.

I’ll be coming over to Columbia real often to football games.  Dad always gets season tickets. 

I hope you are not angry with this letter but please forget how I acted in the past year.  I couldn’t be myself.

It is late and I must stop.  Write me when you can and be sure and come over some time this fall.

I have had a grand trip but will be glad to get home and see Dad.  He just returned from England. 

Good night and Good Bye for this time.

Sincerely,

Mary

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THE Letter, Part One

All of my life I have known the significance of THE letter.  This special correspondence is pivotal in my family history.  A single piece of mail is the catalyst that brought my grandparents together and is the true genesis of their relationship, a relationship that endured more than 70 years.

My grandfather, Jim, relished in telling the story of THE letter.

Mary and Jim met sometime during 1927 while they were both students at the University of Missouri in Columbia.  The details of their meeting and their first date were never highlighted.  These particulars were never all that important, at least in Jim’s mind.  All that mattered to him was THE letter.

They dated, briefly, but then, as Jim puts it, “Mary quit me for another boy.”  Mary dated and, in fact, became engaged to someone else.  She also quit school, which I find interesting because dropping out of school would have been forbidden to me.  The idea of quitting school would have been forbidden.  Thinking about the idea of quitting school would have been forbidden.  Still, she dropped out of the university and began planning a wedding.

As it happened, the love affair between my grandmother and this other unknown man had a really unhappy ending.  It was so traumatic that her father, who was an attorney for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, sent Mary, her mother and her best friend on a trip to the Pacific Coast.  He put them on a train in Jefferson City, Missouri bound for California in the summer of 1929.  Her father figured that the distance and the sunshine and fresh air of California would help to heal her hurting heart.  He was right.

Somewhere  along the way home, Mary wrote a letter, THE letter to Jim from the train.  She was writing to inform him that the engagement was off and that she had told the other boy goodbye.  She wanted to know if they could be friends again.  We all understood this to mean more than just friends, but boyfriend and girlfriend.  Jim liked to tell it that “she wanted to know if I was still interested in her and would take her back.”  Which he did, of course.

My grandfather would always get a little teary eyed recounting the story.  (Turns out real men do cry.)  He would also always point out that this piece of private correspondence arriving in his mailbox forever changed his life and was the origin of our family.

Somewhere in the stacks of bundles is THE letter.  I sort through the envelopes, searching postmarks and addresses for clues.  Most of them are stamped 1930 or later.

It is exciting and wondrous to think that somewhere amid the hundreds of envelopes in the letter box is one that holds the most important family communication of all.  What is really in that letter?  What exactly did she say?  What were the words that melted his heart?  What other secrets might she reveal?  I suddenly realize this is very personal, to them and to me.

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