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.

1 comment:

  1. My husband's father was Donal M Detmers. So somehow you and he are related. Second cousins?