Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fickle Girl Not So Fickle Anymore

The Harvey House, Valton, WI, 1918 (Mamie's birthplace)
Thank you to my distant cousin, Jeanne, who found my blog and sent me photos.

Ontario, California

Feb. 25, 1919

My own dearest love:

I hope you can ever forgive me for pestering you with my letters after I am supposed to forget you, but if your heart aches like mine, I’m afraid you’d want more than a letter.

Ernest, I am the unhappiest girl in the US. I ought to be the happiest, but never will I be happy until I am Mrs. Ernest A. Detmers. So there! Please don’t think me bold dear, will you? It is just because I love you better than my own soul, and I believe that. You still love me as much, even though you don’t write to me. Dear, if you do still love me enough to be my husband, for God’s sake, tell me! Because there is a chance now for me to go with you, if you still want me. Do you, dear? God knows how I need you! I can’t think of anything else since you’ve gone. I see you all the time, here, with me. I hear your voice always speaking tenderly to me. And I want it all forever! I am most unhappy with Clarence, and he knows it and he isn’t happy about it either. He said, “Mamie, I know you still love Ernest the best, and if you will say the word, I’ll give you up.”

That was Saturday night. I told him you had gone and probably would never come back. He said he was sure you would if I would tell you about it. So dear, I am telling you that here is the chance. We can live over, again, that wonderful Saturday night when I told you I would be yours!

He said that if I couldn’t be true to him six months, I wouldn’t be true to him a lifetime because I don’t love him enough. He said he would give me another chance to show my trust, and if I failed, he would never wish to see me again. We have postponed the wedding indefinitely. Perhaps a year or more. Thank goodness! We’ve had some hot old arguments here lately, and he claims all the time that he is altogether right. Of course, as usual, I am always wrong. I know I have made a fool of myself in most people’s minds, but the majority have a little sympathy. Mable, for instance, still sticks by you, dear, and always will, and so will I. Always!

The folks say lately that it’s absolutely up to me. Pa said he would give his consent to you now, if I felt that you were the one. And I know you are dear. With all my heart. I can always be true to you because I love you. And dear, I feel that I always have been true to you. I chose Clarence against my true feeling, but only out of a sort of duty to him. I wish now that I had stayed by my first choice. I have in my heart, dear. These three weeks have been agony for me, and they have seemed about 3,000 years.

My darling boy, has it been agony for you too dear? I would have spared you all the pain if I had only realized that my love was all for you. I was so upset and so near all in that I wasn’t capable of doing the task set before me dear, and since then, I have realized the mistake. Dear, I love you with all the life and soul and heart in my body, and I’m yours if you want me.


Isn't it always the case that we realize how much we love someone when we understand on a gut level we may have lost him? In Mamie's case, it was a fun little game until Ernest suddenly went silent and had had enough of her back-and-forth nonsense. He made the right move. He backed off. Bravo, Ernest! You really do know how to get the girl after all. Make her sweat a tad. Take the driver's seat. Make her beg for you to come back. That's better than pining for her while she stares at two different diamond rings and acts as though she wants to keep both of them. How long will he make her wait?

Side note: I found out that Mabel is a close friend of Mamie's. I thought she might possible be family, but she's not. Later you'll read a letter Mabel sends to Ernest about Mamie choosing Clarence. It's a great way to get an outsider's perspective on the situation.

Your friend,
The Grammar Nazi

Monday, February 22, 2010

'Our Fair Castles Have Fallen'

The above photo is of my great grandmother Mamie (sitting on the horse) with her family in Wisconsin (early 1900s.)

This letter is attached to the previous one in the same envelope, but it looks like a continuation of the last one with no date on it and no greeting, so I'm not quite sure when it was written. I do know it's in the same couple days because the next one later in February expresses a turn of events. This one, however, is focused on how much Mamie will miss Ernest, and how she still plans to marry Clarence, mainly from the pressures of her father. I'm still not sure why he wants her to marry Clarence instead of Ernest, but her parents are adamant, as you'll see.

Mamie seems to be resigning herself to her supposed future, and she's naive to believe her troubles will be over if she marries Clarence and moves out of her parents' house. If she thinks she'll forget about Ernest once the paperwork is signed, she's mistaken. It's the same if she marries Ernest. She can't just wash her hands of her feelings for Clarence, if they are indeed as strong as she says they are. Can she?

I find it very interesting what she says to Ernest about their future as pen pals (and maybe more from afar).

I keep thinking about how she referred to her relationship with Clarence since he came back from the war as more friendly than romantic. It makes me want to go back in time and knock down her door and scream, "Don't do it!"

Luckily for me (and Ernest, of course), she changes her mind. What causes her to do so? Maybe we'll find out at the end of February 1919, but first, enjoy this correspondence:

Feb. 8(?), 1919

There are a lot of hard things in this world, and we have to get used to them as we grow older! I feel about 20 years older now than I did a month or two ago. I only wish you could forget me and be happy again. I can see you now as you were last Saturday night. Oh! You were so happy dear, and so was I, but our fair castles have fallen down and crushed into the ground!

I hate to close things this way, for your sake dear. Clarence wants to give you a fair chance – but the folks absolutely shut down on having anyone else come to see me except “C”, and just because they would lie awake at night and worry. “C” is highly disgusted with them for making such rules, but what can we do? Pa said the other day that he would consent to no other marriage, only to Clarence, and that if I married you without his consent, we would wish we were in “hell with our backs broken.” He said he’d make trouble for us as long as he or we lived. Isn’t that a nice way to do? And yet he called Clarence a “son of a bitch” the other day. Not to his face, but to mine. He said he’d shoot the son of a bitch if he ever caught him at his old tricks. We can’t seem to make them believe that we have reformed. Oh it hurts me to have them say such mean things about men I love so dearly, and I don’t dare say a word. They would knock me flat if I did. I will be glad when I can have a home of my own and nobody to quarrel and fight with. It’s not far off. We probably won’t get married for a few months yet because he will not have much money to start in on yet.

How long does your furlough last, dear? Or did you go back to camp? I don’t know where to address your letter. Camp, I guess.

Ernest dear, will you promise me one thing? That you will write to me same as ever, only perhaps not so often. I shall cherish every word of the letter you write dear, and I shall always want to know all about your life and what and where you will be after you finish army life. Dear, will you promise me that? Please!

I will try to be part your wife anyway, dear, even though we will not be united in marriage. I shall always feel that I partly belong to you, and I shall always be interested in your affairs and welfare.

I shall keep all the pictures too, dear. I’ve got several framed and on the wall in my room, so you see, I have not tried to hide you from me. Well dearest, it’s getting late and I’ve got plenty to do tomorrow to get ready for that gang Sunday. I could talk to you all night if you were here, but it’s hard to write things I want to say.

I guess it is all said, I mean, my feelings are expressed in that song, “It’s Never Too Late to be Sorry.” And God knows I’m sorry for you, dear! It will be sweet memories of the past. Won’t it, dear? Our short, but beautiful romance! We were so happy, you and I, but now I feel like I could cry because I hate to lose you. I’m so used to you now.

I’ll say goodnight before I do break down dear. I’m trying to be brave for your sake, and if only you can forgive me, dear boy, it won’t be so hard then. Can you?

Your lost little wife, Mamie.
I can feel your sweet, tender, loving kisses now and forever! Oh! Oh! Oh!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

'The Worm Has Turned'

This past weekend, we celebrated my grandfather's 86th birthday. I asked him about Granny's parents (Mamie and Ernest), and he mentioned that Mamie and Clarence continued to see each other even after Granny was born in 1926. They'd go on picnics with their kids, without Ernest. I will always wonder if that arrangement was merely friendly, or if it was something else. My grandparents are suspicious. My grandfather said a few days ago, "She really was in love with both of them at the same time." That reality is no more evident than in the letters to Ernest below.

The thought has crossed my mind more than once, and more so now, that I almost didn't exist. Really. It was so close to never happening. It's a miracle that I am here writing this blog right now. My existence is, among other reasons, was at the whim of a young girl in love with two men. Imagine if she could have imagined the chain reaction of her decisions. Imagine if we could all foresee what our decisions would cause.

Up until now, I have been frustrated with Mamie's indecision, but these letters below actually made me angry. If I were Ernest, this is about when I would have given up, but I'm so glad he didn't because I would never have been here if he would have walked away like any other crushed man would have.

February 4, 1919

Dear boy, don’t get your furlough yet, please. “The worm has turned” and we will have to wait – indefinitely. Clarence wants another chance and says he can’t give me up. So dear, let’s wait for awhile. Pa won’t concede yet. I’m sorry, dear, as you are. I am up town now. “C” is down home helping Pa with the cesspool. I got your letter today and was sure glad. I hope “sis” is happy. Maybe you better not come tomorrow, dear. I’m crazy to see you, but wait till I let you know how things are coming out. I’ll try to be as happy as possible and same to you, dear. I hope to see you soon tho. Heard from Wallace and Mable too. Gee!

We’ll say bye bye now till later. I am yours.


February 8, 1919

Thurs. Night 10:30 at Home

My Ernest Boy!

How you must be hating me, dear. If I could only see you, I could explain things and then pray that you would not despise me for what I have done. My heart aches for you heavy and I could go and die rather than to break your heart. But, the folks are behind all of it – telling “C” not to give up, etc., and of course he really didn’t want to give me up, but would have done it if I chose you after he had had another chance to win me back. Oh! I can’t write it all! I’ve got to see you some way! And the folks have forbidden me to see you again. Isn’t that unfair for you tho?!!! They are so mean now-a-days. They say sarcastic things all the time, and I go nearly crazy. Clarence is awfully good to me tho. He treats me like a queen and is so glad that I have given him a chance. He went to LA today and brought me a sweet little diamond ring. Not as large as yours tho, but his whole love is behind it anyway. He hasn’t much money now. Will have to go to work soon. Dear, I’m too slight to write anymore tonight, and I have lots to do tomorrow. I hope dearie that you are not too broken up that you would cease loving me because you know that it isn’t my fault and that I still love you as a husband. Even tho I shall probably have to go to Clarence after all. Oh! Oh! Oh! I will have to return your beautiful ring too, and oh, it will hurt me and you too. I want to visit you soon tho. Night dear and with lots of love, yours.


My question is this: Why do Mamie's parents want her to choose Clarence and not Ernest? Why don't they see him as a viable mate for their daughter? At first I thought maybe it was money, but then she even says he's broke.

So many questions! She is feeling serious pressure from all sides, but why would she tell Ernest about Clarence getting her a ring and treating her like a queen? Unknowingly cruel little girl.

Now I'm really curious how she's going to turn things around and marry Ernest after all. The back-and-forth just never seems to end.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

'Your Lil Wifey Chum'

So Mamie told Clarence everything about Ernest, and yet, he was still coming to visit her. What's next? You guessed it: She's now calling Ernest her husband. Surely they didn't get married since the last letter three days ago. Let's see:

January 30, 1919

My own dearest husband:

Just a note tonight, as I am freezing to death now. I have been sewing tonight, making some very interesting things. Ha! Ha! But while I was sewing, I was also thinking very hard. I do lots of that lately, and it doesn’t get me any place either. Same old thoughts all the time. I am so anxious to see you Saturday. I can hardly wait. I know we will feel like never leaving each other again. I have longed for you all the time, even thought I have been with “C”. The folks accused of us of doing bad things last night and you know our promises and you know also that we wouldn’t break it. They got pretty sore about it. He stayed till 10:30 last night, and they thought it was 2:30 I guess. They still think we would do those things, but __!

I wish we weren’t going to have company Sunday. I want to be with you you you! All day! But I will have to help get dinner and entertain “the gang,” and “C” wants me to go to Pomona at night, and I don’t want to because his folks are going, and I’d lots rather be with you, dearest. We will be together Saturday afternoon and eve anyway, and we will have to make up for lost time. Oh! I want you so! I can just feel myself held close in your arms right now, and your sweetest of kisses!

Mable is home, but haven’t seen her. Agnes was here today awhile.

Bye-bye till Saturday. Come just as early as possible.

Your own Mamie.

January 31, 1919

Dearest Hubby of Mine:

When you get to Ontario Saturday call me up, and I’ll come up to meet you so we can go to LA through, and save all the time it would take for you to come way down here. Will you, dear? This is just a tiny note. I’m just getting up. Ha ha! And Zella is going to school. She is to mail this. I am fine dearest, and oh so happy, and thank you so much for calling me up last night. I always feel 100% better after I talk to you dear. You are so good to me! And I love you so much darling.

Well, bye-bye dear until I see you Saturday. We can get a fair start from here if we do that way dear. Can’t we, dear?

Bye bye sweetheart and all my love,

Your lil wifey chum.

Oh we will have a glorious time alone together, won’t we?

Okay, so it looks like Clarence gets weekdays and Ernest gets weekends. When will that stop? When she's officially married to Ernest? Soon, I hope. I want my great-grandparents to stop living in limbo and get on with it. Clarence's days are numbered. He better enjoy his time while he has it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To Marry the 'Caveman,' or Not to Marry the 'Caveman'

Ontario, California

January 27, 1919

At Home

My Own Ernest Boy:

I wish I could see you right now, but Clarence is coming tonight, so perhaps you wouldn’t enjoy yourself very much. I have so much to say, but I can’t write it dear. I want you to be sure and come over next Saturday afternoon and evening. I will say this much tonight dear. I have told all to Clarence. I told him I loved you and wanted you for my husband, and oh, it hurt him, but he was so nice to me, and he said he knew he hadn’t treated me like a gentleman should treat “a little lady” and was awfully sorry, but he had realized that his love for me was the very deepest, only after he had left me. He said if it hadn’t been for me, he would have stayed in France in the Secret Service, but his longing for me made him come home, expecting to make a happy home for me.

He called himself a “caveman” because he had been rude to me, and also said that if I decided to marry him, he knew he could make me happy and would give me the deepest love in the world, but he said he would willingly give me up to you if I loved you the best, and would try to forget, but he would never cease loving me and would never marry. But he said his sole thought was to see me happy. I told him I could marry him and do all in my power to make him a happy home, but I could never forget Ernest. And I said I can marry Ernest and never forget him. He told me that it was all up to me, and he wanted to do the right thing. Oh, he is so good and unselfish, just like you!

Now what shall I do? I want to see you Saturday and talk things only with you dear. I love you oh so dearly, and I hate to lose you, and I want to do right by “C” now that he has been so true to me. He promises never to “touch” me until married, and believe me, that’s a whole lot for him to say when he is so “strong.” He had resolved that soon after we parted six months ago, and I know he will stand by his promise.

Now my dear boy heart of mine, don’t feel blue and sad dear. I want you to be happy because remember, I haven’t said I would choose Clarence yet, and I love you better than anyone else in the world. So have good cheer and think about next Saturday night.

I’m feeling a little better tonight. My throat is awful sore and swelled and mighty uncomfortable, but it will soon be OK. Thanks dear for calling me up, and I wish I could talk more like I want to, to you over the phone, but there are so many “ears.”

Mable is well and will be home Wednesday. Agnes is home and called me up tonight. I am anxious to talk to Mable. And you! “C” hasn’t come yet, and it’s 8:00. Never arrive on time. Ha ha! But he always makes up for it.

Well dearie, I’ll kiss you goodnight and with my sweetest love. I am yours. Come Saturday. Your own Mamie.