Monday, March 29, 2010

'We want to die together, and love will do that for us.'

(Photo: My great-grandfather Ernest Detmers)

Five years later, Ernest must spend time away from his wife. I'm not sure why she's back in Southern California, while he stays in Exeter. Maybe she's just visiting her relatives for a short time.

Ernest misses Mamie as much as when she was still with Clarence. It also appears she's having trouble conceiving. At this point, they have already had at least one child.

The line that strikes me most: "When we do die, we want to die together and love will do that for us."

This comment is meaningful when you know how the two sweethearts met with their respective deaths much too early. I will explain soon.

Exeter, Calif.
June 28, 1925

Dearest Lil Sugar Plum –

Thought I’d better write or you might think I was sick. But I’m not sick. Wish I could do something while you’re away and surprise you, but honey it sure takes the money and time. If it wasn’t for coming down again, I might have about 50 cents extra to spend for paint to paint the house inside and out, and the garage and chicken coop. Was up town with the intent of buying a pair of light pants, whip cords or something, but saw the oil on the rear wheels, so I guess I’ll have a new rear axle put in Lizzie instead. Was going to write to you the other night, honey bunch. My thoughts were rather dormant though from fatigue in the shoppe. Didn’t wish to worry your delicate organism with a carload of mush without no sugar on it. Believe me you.

I went to the dam yesterday. Sunday and Earl, Mary and the Hustons were there. Went in for awhile. Sure refreshing. Wish you could have been there. Mary sure did have fun with some of the other tots with a tied boat.

I’d like to come down the 4th, but I doubt I will have the money, and it’s still pretty hot here. Guess I’ll write back not to come, as one has to come through several spots that are about a million times hotter to get here.

Well, sweetie, I have to go to town and (?) that piece that has the set screw on the plunger rod fixed. The threads in it are stripped. So bye, and I’ll continue this letter in the next... Hope you had a good time in the hills. Yes, the folks sure have a time in their place. If Pa could just get well, they ought to get rid of the home place and just keep the (?) and the corner place and put it to bulbs and walnut nursery or something.

Bye dearest and dearie. XXXXX
As ever, your darn fool hubby,

(Envelope addressed to Mamie A. Detmers, care of H.J. Harvey, RI Ontario, Calif.)

Exeter, Calif.
June 30, ‘25

Dearest Sweetie of mine –

So you are having lots of company. Shouldn’t think you’d be lonesome. Yes you ought to send for Mattie. Tell him about it. That would give you a good excuse to have me come down for you so they wouldn’t be so crowded. I could leave here Sun. eve. I don’t want to come as though I wasn’t sent for. Might make them feel bad. But if you think you’d better stay and help with the cats, let me know. But use diplomacy, see kiddie, don’t have a fuss.

Sr. Mabel gave the 5 back well she had a visit with you, and she also knows we aren’t stingy. I wrote Fred to phone Hank not to come. It isn’t worth the trip just for a day.

Well I don’t know much of news. Wish you were here tonight. I’d sure love to chew your ears, you darn lil piece of mutt you. XXXX

Don’t worry about your condition, kiddie. There will be other families, but not as pretty before the game is over. And if we take our medicine gamely and lovingly enough, we will escape the ravages of age that many a childless couple suffer. Let’s just surprise them all honey. You do your part and I’ll do mine. We’ll surely have enuf family for a dishwasher then. Get it on time, ha ha. I saw a couple, Frazer Milligan and his wife, in the restaurant tonight. I used to think she sure was pretty a few years ago, but now she is gray as a bat, wears glasses and they say is crabby as the dickens. They have no kids.

I guess I’ll send for some pep tablets and give Earl a few for Mary. And I’ll bet she slips it over on him for another one or so. Honey, if you can just cultivate that secret of love life, we can fool them all and I know it. Please honey! When we do die, we want to die together and love will do that for us.

Well dearie, it’s time to go to bed, so quit your reading and come on. Too bad about the quake, huh?

Wish I could write a carload like you can. Tonight xxxx wifey of mine. As ever your dear friend Ernest A. Detmers.

125 S. 1st st, Exeter, Calif.

Have been trying to find the Sears Roebuck catalogue. Wanted to send for some perfume, but couldn’t find it.

Thanks for my shirt honey.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Year-and-a-Half Later

Here's another letter from Mabel in the fall of 1920. What I find most important about this gossipy letter is that Mabel is pregnant, and Mamie has already had her first child, my grandma's sister Onah.

My great-grandparents had five children together: Onah Mable Detmers, Doris Marie Detmers Valterga, Donal Maynard Detmers, Jack Bayer Detmers, and Zella Patricia Detmers Drysdale (my grandma).

When my grandma talks about her childhood with four siblings, I envision Our Gang. These little rascals got into plenty of trouble, sometimes at the expense of poor Onah. Children can be cruel without realizing just how cruel they are. Onah was in a wheelchair. The stories that stick out in my mind about her are when her siblings left her in a neighbor's yard with a pile of oranges from the neighbor's tree sitting in her lap, as if she'd picked them; worse, my grandma said they used to put her wheelchair on train tracks and tease her that they were going to leave her there. They didn't, of course, but the trauma must have been overwhelming for that little girl.

The story I like much better is the one in which Mamie took her children out of school to go to the beach. Apparently this happened on multiple occasions. They wouldn't tell their father, Ernest, keeping their hooky playing a secret.

My grandma always says, "My mom was so much fun." Surprisingly, she says Ernest was a strict father. You'd never know it from these letters.

Los Angeles, Calif.

Sept. 22, 1920

My Dear Mamie:

I received your letter some time ago and also received the jar of figs in just fine shape. Thanks ever so much. They surely do look nice. I’m going to save them until later on.

We have been having real summer weather again for 2 or 3 days. Today however it is cloudy and cool again. Sunday we went for a little ride and it was so hot we didn’t enjoy anything.

Well I’m looking anxiously forward to the time when you folks are coming down. Be sure and come to see us. We haven’t an extra bed here, but the landlady has a little room upstairs all furnished nicely and she hasn’t rented it all summer so if it isn’t rented then, which isn’t likely, I’ll want you to stay at least one night and as long as you can.

I have been sewing a little here lately. Have a pink bluebird crepe night gown almost finished.

I suppose you saw that Vernice Kistner died. It was very, very sad. They phoned and wanted me so bad that I went out and sang for the funeral. She was operated on for ingrown goitre at the Pomona Hospital on Thursday, but she was too weak before they had it done, so died on Monday, Labor Day. She was in the same condition as Judge Pollock and you know he had an awful hard sight to live at all. The family seemed to think so much of Vernice and Glyda, just that Vernice was the only one. Glyda wrote me since and she said it just couldn’t be true, that she wake up and find it wasn’t true. We can’t always understand and know what’s best.

You know Warren Wass? Such a funny looking fellow. He married Marie Podrasnik. She sure has terrible looks too, but she has the money. Seems a rather funny match.

Well I guess I’ll have to tell you the news at our house. I haven’t told anyone but the relatives. I’m preparing a little baby layette at my house for a little angel that’s coming early next April. We’re as happy as can be now.

Right at first I didn’t want it, for I had such a bright opportunity this fall in music here, but I decided we never could be quite ready so now was the time. I’ve been real well. Have been some sick in the mornings but not as bad I guess to what some women are. I am taking general osteopathic treatment twice a week for a woman doctor here and I feel I’ll just get along fine. She says these treatments will help me a great deal at the last. I’ve always heard these treatments were good. Sarah advised it oh! so much. She said she had so much easier time.

I haven’t many things made yet but have plenty on hand to do. Aunt Nell and Leona both said they had some second-hand things I could have. Both their babies have outgrown a number of things already. Because they’ve been worn some and washed doesn’t hurt them one bit.

I went down town yesterday and Mrs. Stewart phoned. She wanted me so badly to come down and they got me a lovely big coat to wear this winter and also some blue silk for a dress. They got Leona the same things – coat and dress. But I never thought of them getting anything for me. My coat is a soft mixture material of dark blue and gray and is very pretty.

Mother came in a week ago yesterday and canned some prunes for me and made butter too and a few pickles. I sure did appreciate it too.

I saw Pearl Paxson in L.A. last Friday. She doesn’t look like the same girl. Her skin is so clear and her eyes so bright, and she’s very much thinner. She had an operation, you know, for female trouble. I don’t know if they removed the uterus or not, but Pearl said the Dr. said it was infantile uterus. It had never grown. Then the appendix was very much affected. She’s had two attacks of appendicitis you know some time ago. Then there was about four inches of her intestine that was decayed and poisoned. The Dr. said she couldn’t have lived very long with that. The poison was going all through her system. She says she never had a headache since the operation and before that, she wasn’t free from one for five years. She says she feels like she’s walking on air, she feels so well.

You probably know Gordon has a baby boy. They call it Gordon Donald. I sure don’t like the idea of calling the baby exactly after the parents. Use it for a middle name is all right, but not full name like that.

I suppose you haven’t taken any pictures of the baby yet. I’m so anxious to have one to look at once in a while.

Harold is well and busy. He hopes to sell out that business any day now. My! I’ll sure be glad when he does.

There are a bunch of men down there that aren’t worth a snap of your little finger and haven’t any honor about them. Harold has just been lucky not to lose all he had in that place. When he gets out he doesn’t know what he’ll do, but I hope, at least, he can get into something a little more decent and decent people to work for. We hope to buy a house when he sells and we get a little money. This place is so small. We haven’t a place to put anything.

Well, I’ll close. I’ve written two big fat letters lately, so I hope I’ll hear soon.

Your ever lovingly,


A kiss for baby Onah and yourself one too. My best to Ernest.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

To Mr. and Mrs. Detmers, Love Grace and Mabel

(Exeter, CA - Between Fresno and Bakersfield - the newlyweds' new home)

Remember Grace? She isn't mad at Ernest anymore. She sends her well wishes:

Somewhere in MO.
March 25, 1919

Dearest Mamie and Ernest:

Well I’m on my way to dear old California and you. Hope I can find you when I get there. If I stay in Riverside, maybe you can come room with me. Ha! Ha!

Well, when I get to California and settled, I will drop you a card so we can find each other. I never answered your [letter], for I thought I would see you soon.

Oh, I sure was tickled when I heard Earnest had won, for he sure loved you Mamie. I was so glad I sent a letter to G. Couldn’t wait till I arrived home to tell him.

Wish I was married and settled, but can’t be [done] now. It is 5:35 PM now. I arrive in K.C. 12:40 tonight. I start some time tomorrow and arrive in Calif. Friday or Saturday. Then I will round you up.

Love and best wishes, ever and always your sincere friend, Grace

You can look for a card or letter in about a week’s time.

By May, Ernest and Mamie are married and settled into their new home together. According to Mabel, marriage is in the air! It amazing how one can go from barely engaged to married in a matter of a few months:

817 W. 40th Place
Los Angeles, Calif.

May 12, 1919

(Envelope addressed to Mrs. Ernest A. Detmers, Exeter, Calif. #492)

My dearest Mamie:

I must answer your letter today or you’ll think I’m never going to write. I haven’t been feeling very well here lately, so haven’t written to anyone, only Harold and not to him as often as I should.

I’m so glad you’re so happy and like your new place so well. I knew you would. You two could have a good time anyway. We kids went down to Venice last week and we thought of the time we went with you kids. Gee! We sure did have a good time. I always enjoyed being with you and Ernest anyway.

Harold is in the 3rd army Corps, the army of occupation and has moved to Cobleng (Germany) on the Rhine. He says he would be home for 6 mos. at the least and possibly longer. I do so wish he could come home and we could have a home of our own. Sometimes I think I can’t stand it here any longer but then I have too. I am trying to see what I can do to get him home, but it seems I can’t do anything unless I’m sick.

I surely need him if anyone was ever needed. If I wasn’t married, it would be different, but I’m not independent now.

I have my new red taffeta dress done and wore it yesterday to San Bernadino. It surely is pretty.

I saw Sam Collins, Gene Nesbit and John Collins – they look about the same, only Sam is fatter and looks older. Gene looks the same as ever.

I guess Sam and Marjorie Reynolds will be married soon – that is – if she can really settle down! Oh! My!!!!

That old hen that owned our other flat that we had to move out of so quickly has her sign out “For Rent,” “Flat,” “Furnished.” I hope somebody goes in there and scratches her things all up. It sure made me sore when I saw the sign. She said she’d never rent it again. Oh Shucks! Such is life.

I must close now and get to work I guess. So write soon and tell me everything. My best to you both and all!

Yours Devotedly,

I think your wedding announcements were the cutest thing. I’ve always forgotten to tell you so. XXX.

(Written on the side of the letter: Mable H. Stewart)

Thursday, March 18, 2010


This one speaks for itself. The reference to a cow is a nice touch:

Feb. 29, 1919

Oh Ernest Darling! I have just told Clarence goodbye, and I am free again. It was hard, but he understood and told me to tell you that it was okay with him. He felt terribly bad, but said he’d be happy if I could, and I said I could, so it is all okay now. I had a talk with the folks this morning, and they said they would gladly give their consent – to you. Come dear and let’s be happy as we were that eve three weeks ago.

Come over Saturday night or Sunday early, if you can, and then I’ll know that you are really my husband.

I must try to get some sleep, as I have to milk the cow in the morn. Folks are gone ‘til Friday night.

Night dearest and loads of love.

Your “wifey chum,”


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mabel's 'Heart Aches'

Here's a photo of my grandma's family at the end of the 20s/beginning of the 30s. My grandma is the little blond girl in the top row, fourth from the left. Mamie, her mom, is third from the left.

If Mamie would have married Clarence, this photo would look much different.

Below is an outsider's perspective: an outsider who is one of Mamie's closest friends. Girlfriends always know what's best for you and have enough perspective to see what's really going on. Mabel hasn't yet found out that Mamie has decided to be with Ernest after all, so this is her sad letter to Ernest about Mamie and Clarence.

Feb. 26, 1919

Dear Ernest:

I’m just going to drop you a line now to let you know that I’m coming to March Field the 28th this Friday night to give a program, and I sincerely hope that you’re in camp and that I’ll see you.

I’ve intended writing to you for some time, but I’m so busy right now. Ernest, Mamie wrote to me and told me some, but not all. I can’t understand, Ernest, why things turned out as they did. I’m only praying Mamie won’t marry Clarence right away, and if she doesn’t, I’m quite sure she never will.

Ernest, Mamie loves you more than Clarence or anyone else in the world, and it’s awful wrong to marry someone else. Ernest, let me tell you that you have my deepest sympathy, and my heart aches for you, for I know what a heartache real love can cause. It’s indescribable. Ernest, just hope, pray and trust God, and I believe things will come out all right even yet.

I haven’t time to write anymore, Ernest, but do take courage. My heartache can never be remedied. At least I can see no possible remedy now, as I knew not the real love until it was too late. Oh! I don’t want Mamie to suffer the heartache I have. I know she still longs for you, and she said in her last letter she did so want to see you that she was in LA and looked for you all the time, and even she said when she’s with Clarence, she’s thinking of you, and it’s different when she’s with you. Such cannot go on.

I hope you’re back to camp, and you’ll be at the YMCA Friday night. I’m to sing at the hospital first, and I’ll be at the YM about 6:30 or 6:45.

With sincerest regards and deepest sympathy,

842 W. 40th Place
Los Angeles, Cal.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

'I Love You More for Losing You Awhile.'

Harvey Farm - 1918

Feb. 25, 1919

Gee, dearie, I looked for you over at Arcadia Saturday until I almost fainted, but I didn’t see you. Randall Duell (sp?) said he’d seen you, and was just going to speak to you when this fellow started giving orders about the balloon. He said you were helping put a balloon away. Oh if only I could have seen you, dear!

Clarence wasn’t with me. I went with the folks and met Bessie McC. and we bummed around all afternoon together. Most of the time, we were on the south side of grounds. She asked where you were. Jimmie said you hadn’t been in camp for about three weeks. I said, “I don’t know and I wish I did.” I can’t stand it much longer, dear. What a wonderful honeymoon we could have had if only – ! Well, it isn’t too late yet, is it dear? I’m afraid your furlough will end too quickly now. I don’t know where you are, dear. I forget your Los Angeles address, and you must not be in camp, or surely you would write to me. I can’t believe you have said goodbye for good, unless you despise me, and if you do, then I’ve made a big fool of myself. But I love you anyway, dear. Please dear. Write to me, and tell me the way you feel, and if you still love me. I am almost yours. Haha! I wish.

Honestly, I wish. I cannot be happy without you, dear. Never! Can you?

I feel better now, since I have told you all about everything. I feel that you surely will come back to me and I will try so hard to help you forget the past, and I will try so hard to make the future a happy one for you. And if you are happy, then I am too. See dear? Will you come, dear?

If you answer with a “yes,” I will tell you more about my plans, and then you will soon hold me close in a sweet, tender embrace. Oh! I can’t wait!

I’m ready any time. Gee! Some people will sure be surprised, believe me! Did we once say romance, boy dear?

I’m going to sleep tonight, and not cry, for I feel your answer, and I shall wear my (your) ring all night. I wore it to Arcadia in hopes of seeing you, but I didn’t, although your spirit was with me.

Goodnight dearest, and please write as soon as possible. I am always your own true “wifey chum.”

Night dear, and lots of kisses. Real ones too.


Oh, if only I could kiss your dear lips right now a million times and more.

Sweetheart mine!


(Ernest’s address on the envelope: 3576 Lonfranco St., Los Angeles, CA)

Wednesday Eve

Feb. 26, 1919

Oh my darling Ernest!

How happy I was today when your sweet long looked for letter came. I could have eaten you up if you had been here! Oh! I am so glad you still love me and want me, dear. I feel sure now that in a short time, I can be happy, and what I want most is for you to be happy. I want “C” to be happy too, but of course, he won’t if I leave him. That is, for awhile anyway. I wish I could see you and talk to you again, dear. Maybe we can now. Won’t you call me up some time soon, dear, please! I want to hear you speak, even though it be over the telephone. I wish you could be here with me tomorrow night, dear, as the folks will be in Whittier until the next day – night perhaps, and Zella will be here alone.

I could sure enjoy life then, believe me! Living in your arms! Please God!

I am looking at the different little lights in my – your diamond. Blue-green-orange-red-yellow-white-purple and oh, they are so very pretty!

Oh, I’m sleepy! And sort of contented. This letter is very short, but I want to dream most of the time, and first thing I know, it’s late and no letter finished. I wish I could dream. I’d try my luck at it. That’s a dandy picture, but please draw one that isn’t so sad – next time, dearie. Ha! Ha!

When can you get another furlough? Ha! Ha!

The folks (or 40 Redskins) were gone today, all day, and I was alone – with you. “C” called up and said he had a tooth pulled and it is all ulcerated, and he can’t come over and everything. I haven’t seen him since Sunday night. We had a fight Sunday night, and I wouldn’t kiss him goodnight, and he went home at 9:00 o’clock.

Oh, I guess the best way is to get in the Dodge and run into the train.

There I go dreaming again. I’m going to bed and sleep again. So, ‘night dearest, and please take the wire out of your precious heart, and I will love the pieces together, and then it won’t ever break again, dearie.

I hope to see you soon, dear, to be really close to you again. “I love you more for losing you awhile.”

Night sweetheart hubby,

Your own “wifey chum,”



Mable will be glad, won’t she, dear, to know that we have “made up.”