Saturday, November 28, 2009

Love me until Clarence comes back

We haven't heard from Mamie for awhile. She tends to write one letter for every two or three of Ernest's love notes. Either that or her letters are missing. Maybe they are tucked away in the jacket pocket of the clothes he's buried in. I wouldn't be surprised. He epitomizes lovesick. My heart bleeds for him because we've all been there: You are away from the one you love either because of distance or circumstance, and you think about that person every second of every day, and you ache because you can't be next to the object of your affection. It's a painful, yet obligatory experience. A rite of passage. Necessary torture. Typical.

The next letter is something I need to ask my grandma about: Who are the people being discussed? My guess is the writer, Sarah, is someone in Ernest's family, as are the others she mentions. I just don't know how they are related at this time. My favorite line comes toward the end of the letter. You'll know it when you see it. It makes me want to scream, "Too late!" It's a done deal. Ernest is in over his head.

Los Angeles, CA
October 18, 1918

Dear Ernest:

I wrote you a letter last week and failed to mail it. Isn’t that a fine thing to do?

Did you see Agnes? She hasn’t come home nor written so we don’t know anything about her trip. She went to Santa Ana Sunday, phoned Mama from there that she was going to stay a few days and we have not heard from her since.

Alex quit his job and came home Wednesday. He would like to get in the army as a flyer. He inquired about it and was told to report for physical examination Saturday. If he passes his examinations here, he will be sent to Berkeley. He also is thinking of going in the Signal Corp instead of waiting a long time for a commission in the aviation. He isn’t just settled in his mind what to do, but he’ll decide tomorrow.

Fred has been reinstated in his city job. He started work this AM at $125 a month.

We haven’t heard from your dad. He had a sore hand when he left here and that and the influenza epidemic has Fred worried about him.

Aren’t you ever going to give us a Sunday anymore? Please don’t fall in love with the other fellow’s girl!!!!

Dave is recovering from a very bad attack of influenza. He had a temperature of 104ยบ for several days!

Come see us soon, won’t you?


A $125 a month! Times have changed. Can you imagine surviving on that in Southern California now? That's slightly more than a third of my car payment.

Here's a juicy one from Ernest to that "other fellow's girl" around the same time:

Aero Sqdrn A.
October 1918
Riverside, Calif.

Dearest Darling of Mine…

Rec’d two of the loveliest letters from the dearest girl. There I won’t say any more or you won’t love me anymore. O girlie I just love you oodles anyhow, anyway and then some.

No, what you said wasn’t that I’ll tell you about it when, when I see you again dearest. They are talking of lifting the quarantine at the end of the week. But one can’t figure on anything in the army. But here’s hoping! I’d sure shout.

Dear, when you spoke of me loving you till Clarence came back, I didn’t understand you honey, either. I thought you meant we would have to part then forever and dearie, it just made me feel like saying I don’t know, and then some.

Yes! You did make me feel worse, since you are engaged and I love you sooo. I knew if I were to go allll the way and then lose you, O how awful awful punk I’d feel afterward. But dearest! I just want to see you now and just go all the way. Sure was glad to hear from you and that you feel scrumptious and spiffy.

Dear! Let me get one of those things for you. Haven’t you got another birthday now? Xmas is almost here too. Won’t you girlie? When a fellow does want to get something, it’s generally something useless and he doesn’t know what in the Dickens to get. Gee, I hope we get off this weekend.

This is only a short letter but will write another tomorrow and if I don’t mail this right away, it won’t reach you for another half day.

So with lots of love and I’d love to kiss you O sooo tenderly right now. Night! Dearest girl of mine.

And don’t forget where I live.


Whoa! Slow down there, Ernest! "Going all the way" with another man's fiance is probably not a wise decision, even if you love her. I wonder what he means by "one of those things" he wants to get her for her birthday. The most telling line of this letter alludes to Mamie wanting him to love her in Clarence's place until he comes back. Where is he? How can she justify Ernest as merely a placeholder? I'm not in her position, so I don't know what's going on in her head, but it does seem as if she's just toying with Ernest. Does she really love him? Does Clarence have any idea there is someone else? So many questions.

For those of you playing along, "Gee, I hope we get off this weekend" refers to him not working. Get your mind out of the gutter.

More to come,

The Grammar Nazi

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Gee, I think I'll have to learn to smoke."

September 25, 1918
Aero Squadron A.
Riverside, Calif.

Dearest Girl!

Just read your letter over, didn’t really have time this noon. Anyway I love to read your letters. Makes it seem as tho you live right here (almost!) Gee you have presence of mind when you can throw a comeback like that in a restaurant. Fellow keeps cool in a critical situation sure wins. Psychology you know. Is that deep too – did I? what!

Brother and sister – yes, but dear girl. I have a sister and you have a brother. See one can’t have two nowadays with everything so high. I just wrote her a letter tonight were I to put her letter in your envelope and yours in hers, she wouldn’t understand and you wouldn’t either honey!

Wish I knew what else to write. I’d love to go to the LA Orpheum Sun. night tho with you. If. I can’t figure out anything definite in the army.

I must do some laundry. Can’t get it back in time from the laundry and they don’t do it like we soldiers do.

And O, I must write a dear aunty of mine in Ohio a letter. She is always sending things and things and things. So, night honeybunch. And write soon. E.D.

Aero Squadron A.
Oct. 3, 1918

So! Dear girl:

Forgive me for writing two to your not any. It’s been raining all afternoon, was through work early and I don’t have to stick around like most of the fellows till 5: So I didn’t have anything to do to keep from thinking. Been studying this eve. O, on aerodynamics. They just brought in the maid and there was none for me. Um hum. I just turned away and said “darn it” and everything just like that. I hardly know what to write. I only know I want to come to Ontario awhile Saturday eve. May I?

We were to have been paid yesterday eve, but the PM was away and didn’t come back till after nine. And we were all dolled waiting in the dark. They called it off and we went over this morning before 5: It was either then or – later. The other squadrons will have to wait. We won the relay race the other night and a game of ball so the K.O. felt pretty good. Gonna have a special feed soon.

The movie bunch has gone. They will show the pictures for the first time in the Y.A. in about two weeks. Dear, dear girl wish you could see them. They ought to be fine. Gee, I think I’ll have to learn to smoke. The other fellows are writing, smoking and writing. All I can think of is sweet music and you. They keep the piano busy. M-hmum! And how are you? Bet you rec’d a letter from him [Clarence] and he says he has no other girl. O Mamie dear, I want you anyhow.

It’s Friday again tomorrow and inspection and everything. But I can’t be bothered. Hope we get through early Saturday. This morning one of the machines kissed the ground. No one hurt. Had trouble with several of the others. Same circus, bunch of sparrows, etc.

Mc. Jimmie just asked, “What are you doing Saturday? Writing to her?”

It’s mailing time, so night dear.

Writing something anyhow. Will you hunnie?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Letter in Pencil

Ernest's last letter was a whopper, huh? I have so many questions. How was he rude to her when he felt "bunk"? (I love that word.) What is this about my great-grandmother considering the convent? We are obviously not related. She couldn't have been seriously considering it. She was engaged and flirting with another man!

What the heck is a fourflusher? Wait. I'm going to Google it. Be right back.

Okay, I'm back. Thank you, Wikipedia: A four flush is a poker hand that is one card short of being a full flush; a four flusher is a person who makes empty boasts or bluffs when holding a four flush.

I learn something new every day.

I wonder why Ernest has decided to quit going to church, and why the heck he doesn't drink. Surely he'll start now that he has given up organized religion.

Another new favorite word: "aviatrixey." An aviatrix is a female aviator, but he added an 'ey', which makes it sound like she would be his arm candy while he struts around in his flight gear.

He refers to a place called 'B,' but I'm unclear where that is.

The way he talks about being bothered by the guy next to him is funny; Ernest sounds younger than his 30 years by 2009 standards. That's one of the things I find so fascinating about 1918 language: It has an undertone of youth and innocence you don't find these days in adults.

Last, what a great phrase "the movie people" is as well. It makes film appear so "newfangled" and "mysterious," which it was.

Now if Ernest could quit beating himself up over Mamie, but alas, there's much more.

Aero Squadron A
September 25, 1918
Riverside, Cal.

Out in the field.

Not on a pink scented note paper, but on an empty stomach. Almost time to go to mess. Wish it was dinner with you. Was some busy this am. Motor’s on the blink all around.

Gee girl! I feel that I was mean to you Sunday. Dear sweet girl I just want to kiss and make up. Forgive me? I’ve asked you that lots of times already, but I guess I’m the big enough dickens to have to ask you dozens of times yet. Such is romance, huh!

But girl of girls, you did torment me toooo and everything. But I wouldn’t have missed being with you Sunday for anything.

Hope you are feeling scrumptious whatever that is. And will please please pretty please write when you can and I do want to see you Sun. M-may I?

Well here comes the circus and one ship missing, so bye dear. May have time to write a line later and may not. Wish the ship came down near there instead of anywhere over here. Bye! E.D.

Some ride bumpy, went over rough road. Yes the highways are rough sometimes.

P.S. Just need your dandy letter. I write too this week. Will have to mail this immediately with lots of love. E.D.

So they saw each other, but he's begging to see her again and begging for a letter, and just generally begging. I don't remember the last time a guy begged me for anything. It's somewhat sweet and somewhat annoying. Don't you think? What is this about him being mean to her again? However, as he mentions, and as you'll see, she does torment him. Here's a letter from her on the same day:

Ontario, California
September 25, 1918

My dear Ernest,
I’ve got 20 minutes before I go on duty at 5:00. The thing to do is I’ll just scribble a line to you.

Hope you will excuse the pencil dear. I left my pen at home.

How are you getting along dear? I expected a letter from you today and went to the post office especially for one—and didn’t get it. I was disappointed.

Dear when you come over next time, (Sunday), I’m not going to let my emotions get the best of me like I did Sunday. It’s my fault dear. I have no business sharing so much that I care for you. I’m going to love you just the same as ever, but it won’t show so much in my actions – if I can help it. Perhaps it will be easier for you then.

I haven’t heard from Clarence yet. It has been an awful long time but …

Today has been a hard day for me – as was yesterday. Had go for dinner each day between 12:00 and 1:15. I didn’t know whether I was living or dead. Both I guess. I’m thinking seriously of quitting but I want to have another job first. I want to talk to you about – something too. Something you spoke about Sunday, dear. I won’t go farther. I am quite tired tonight. But if you were to be here, I wouldn’t be tired at all.

I’ve just been playing this music box – the song you played Sunday. I hope to lose you and it makes me feel sad dear Ernest boy.

Well, it’s 5:10 so I guess I can’t say much more. That (bad girl) I told you about Sun. night just went by and looked in for me and [unclear word] comes her victim, the barber. He’s trying to draw me in too since “B” (the girl) told him a lot. I went to SD with her. I hate him dear. I wish I wish I wish I could be near you. If I could only go to Riverside – away from all these people!

Dear, I know I promised you I’d quit and I will, but I may be there Sunday so call in here when you come over and I’ll try to get the machine and we can have a good time. (I’ll tell the folks this time dear. No mischief. Ha ha ha.) Well, bye-bye dear, with love.

(Come as early as you can.)

Okay, let me get all this straight: First she apologizes for using a pencil. Who does that? Nowadays, people barely use pens!

Second, Sunday's meeting must have been hot! She let her emotions get the best of her. I wonder what that means? I bet there was some smooching going on. In the next breath, she mentions Clarence, just as a reminder to poor Ernest that he's not the only one wooing her. And so begins her awful teasing. This letter is full of mixed signals. She hopes to let him go, but she also wants him to come over again. Make up your mind, lady. Stop toying with the poor man. Last time he came over, the parents weren't involved and there was "mischief," but not next time because she's a good girl, and because it will help HIM if she doesn't succumb to her feelings. Sure...

I'm really confused about the bad girl and the barber, but that story is clearly not applicable to our saga, just intriguing.


The Grammar Nazi

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Goodbye, Grace

Okay, first of all, I'm not sure if women make men sweaters anymore as a way to woo them. I think the only women making sweaters are aunts and grandmas. It's sweet that Grace takes the time to do so for a man whom she may be in love with. "With love" sure indicates something, especially since my grandma mentioned she was Ernest's girlfriend at the time. As you will see below, however, a few months later, Grace is not happy with Ernest. His mind is elsewhere, and he "disses" her something fierce. Pauvre Grace. (By the way, I Googled Grace's LA address, and it still exists. She lived northeast of USC.)

In the first letter from Mamie, already we see her working poor Ernest. She's engaged and yet she calls him her "dear soldier boy." Here's a woman who doesn't seem to know exactly what she wants. (I have no idea what that's like. Yeah, right.) She dangles that proverbial carrot in his face because she adores the attention, and she probably truly is in love (or infatuation) with two men.

On the flip side, Ernest is taking the bait and sending her candy, letters and a photo of himself. He may be a glutton for punishment, and a bit of a doormat.

Did you notice the comment about their first day together being "short and sweet"? I wish I knew the details about their initial encounter, and how long before the letters started after it had occurred. We'll just have to use our imaginations.

Another "times have changed" moment in that last letter was when she said she hoped she wasn't "rushing" their relationship by writing him a letter too soon. Can you imagine someone saying that now?

Oh, Mamie. You big tease! "I'm going to San Diego, but I'm not going to tell you why." Just suffer, poor lovesick military man. Suffer and wait.

Here's another letter from Grace. She has been stood up:

July 28, 1918
Dear Ernest:

You don’t know how disappointed I am that you didn’t come tonight. What happened? Next time you come to LA, won’t you call as soon as you get in and come out to dinner? Promise me that you will. I enjoyed your letter so much and your picture is splendid. Many thanks. Maybe you will consider this a letter and answer soon. I hope so.

With love,

Ernest failed to call on Grace, even after she made him a sweater! He also sent her a letter and a photo, just like Mamie. That's just not very nice of him, but as you'll see below, he's all about Mamie, the woman he can't have. Sadly, I believe this is the last we hear from Grace. Their relationship must have fizzled fairly quickly that summer. Hopefully she found her true love elsewhere.

Aero Squadron A.
September 19, 1918
Riverside, Calif.

Dearest Little Girl –

Please forgive me. I feel as though I’ve been rude to you and then some. Yes you did try to comfort me and it did make me feel worse. Well because I care for you. But I had no business showing that I felt so bunk. O girl-girl if I could write a letter like you. (Some letters, full of life & love.) Forgive me for not writing sooner. We’ve put in some long days this week. If it wasn’t for lights out at 9, I too would have written till late several nights. I wrote several letters and then tore them up.

Do I care for you? Yes! Too too much. God I wish there were two of you and you were the one for me.

No dear if you go to a convent I’ll t-t-tear the walls down.

They say all is fair in love and war. Wish to goodness I knew who started that so I would know whether to believe it or not.

Imagine…I cannot. I don’t smoke cigarettes and I’m not a fourflusher. So I can’t fool myself. I do not drink so I cannot get drunk. And I can’t cry! Baby…

I think I’ll quit going to church. Yet when I open my eyes Sun. morning, hope your preacher is a good one.

Sweet girl I don’t know what to say, just sit and think and think till it gives me a headache. Oh why!

Several of us took exam yesterday to go to ground school. If I were put on flying here, would I turn down going to B? I said yes! I meant for the present, but that flunked me. Expect to be put on soon. If I make good I’ll be an enlisted aviator. Wish you could be an aviatrixey. It is some problem to decide wh-what to do. Huh!

Gee I wish I wish I wish. But what is the use of wishing.

It’s almost 9 again and they will not let one write in the washroom. There is a fellow reading the theory of flight and he is just bothering me.

Well dearest girl. Good-night.

Just look at the lovely moon! Ooo. Last night we had hash for supper and I, for the first time since I can remember, talked in my sleep. Nearly woke up several others and every once in a while, someone else would talk.

With lots of love. (Forgive me.)
Yesterday one of the lts. gave me a picture that the movie people took of another fellow and I. They had gone to Edendale and seen the films and it was given to them for me. They said there were five.

You are one girl I’d love to take to see the play when it is released. “Night.” “Lights out.”


Until next time,

The Grammar Nazi