Tuesday, April 13, 2010

'Kinda Hobo Style'

(My grandma, Zella Patricia Detmers Drysdale, born 1926)

Here are all the letters I have left, including a really interesting letter from Ernest's dad in 1925. The Southern language in this missive is spectacular!

The first two letters are from Mamie about her father on his death bed. She talks about their "kids" plural, but I don't know how many they've had by now. She also says her father "can't stand the kids," but my guess is he is only annoyed with them because he's so sick and they won't leave him alone. Our tale ends here, sadly.

July 1st
Dearest daddy daddy,

Just a note tonight. I’m tired and Pa just ordered Uncle E and I to bed. He’s been awful sick today and was real bad at noon. Quigley was here. He had been to Anaheim to see this Dr. Johnston, the cancer specialist that Pa wanted Ethel to go see. This Dr. said Pa had only a slight chance of getting well and that was to take him down to this hospital and they would feed him through the bowels and get him in shape so he could stand an operation.

Ma was so mad to think Quigley went, she wouldn’t even listen. Uncle Edward [?] something else had to be done right away too, but still sticks to C. Science or having Mrs. MacPherson come up. He won’t listen to an operation. But I know what will be done. Nothing but what they are doing now. Caley and Ma and Zella long for Nance, so what can we do? Uncle E. said he’d bring his old sewing machine down and attach it to Pa and it would do as much good as the rattle box. Ha! Ha! And said they would take out his stomach entirely or cut it in two and change the tubes to the other side and he could probably live a year that way and then would have to have the whole stomach removed. He said the Abraham Cure was a fad and only warmed the stomach and then the cancer would spread worse. He said the vomiting was a forerunner of death and after about three weeks of it, there wasn’t any chance of curing. He said he was too far gone to rely on this Abraham treatment now, that it might have helped a little in the beginning. He said whatever we did, to do it quick.

Wish you were down here. The kids just drove him crazy today and they weren’t bad at all. But the baby fusses a lot. So I hiked them all up to Duell’s all afternoon.

Well I’ll go to bed and finish tomorrow night Darling.


Thurs. Morn.

Well, I’ve washed some more diddies and got the kids quiet for a few minutes so I’ll finish this. Caley was up and he and Uncle E. just went to town. Uncle E. wants Pa to let Mrs. MacPherson come. Pa is disgusted with it. Wouldn’t let Ma finish the treatment this morning. Told her to take the damn thing away, he never wanted to see it again. Oh they’ll just let him be there and die. Nance says it might be a little softer and maybe not quite so big. Spit on him.

Pa has vomited all day and such awful stuff. No sleep for two nights and so weak he can’t turn over and says he is so sore and achy all over and wants his feet rubbed with cold water. I’m afraid he’ll get paralyzed pretty soon. He couldn’t talk today, only mumble. Was a little clearer tonight up or else Mattie, and Pa only say he might yet before he gets through. It makes me so mad. Edward says, well it’s all his own fault and if he wants help himself it’s none of our business, so guess it will be up to him. Hope you can come down Sat. I’m going to get out as I want to be here and get in a fuss. He can’t stand the kids and I can’t get them away all the time. We’ll make up the money business some other time.

Bye honey and lots of love,

Camden, Ark.

My dear Ernest:

Your letter just received. Glad to hear from you. Well Mr. (?) folk arrived today, and I will pull out in the mornin’. Goin’ south is all I know. Lost the opportunity to cash in on the Florida boom. Too late now. There’s a chance for another one in S. Mississippi and S. Louisiana. May look ‘em over. I could sell some lime in the oil field this fall yet, but don’t much feel like getting into a hard jam just now. Am going to take down the big road, and camp where I happen to be when night comes. It’s a great life. Kinda hobo style went down through the oil fields last Sunday to El Dorado and back 66 miles. Walked maybe 5 or 6 miles. Will let you know where I’m at occasionally. If you ever have blood poison, don’t forget antiflogistine. It’s great stuff. Have been helping my renter here until his wife got here, and now I guess I can travel some. It ought to do me good. My boils are some better. Used antiflogistine on ‘em. We sure missed it in Taft. Threw a fortune away. Just got a letter from Hank Pete and family. Gone fishin’ and huntin’. Hope they get back okay. Well, still have a chance here for a room. Hope it’s just loose when I’m gone. Thanks for your article. Believe I told you of making Hire’s root beer and ginger ale, and selling it out of 9 oz. bottles 70 to 5 gallons. Cost me outside of a little trouble 1 cent a bottle. Good profit and good stuff too. Well, next summer you can bet I’m in the game some place. Either lemo or root beer barrel or fountain. Just according to my finances.

With love to all as ever, your affectionate Dad.

My great-grandmother Mamie Harvey Detmers was born May 30, 1899 in Valton, Wisconsin, and died on August 24, 1944. She had five children in her short 45 years. My grandmother was 18 when her mother died, and says Mamie had some sort of cancer related to the female organs.

My great-grandfather Ernest A. Detmers was born Jan. 1, 1889 in Trinidad, Colorado, and died Sept. 21, 1947, only three years after his wife's early demise. My grandma says her dad was never the same after Mamie's death, and when he came down with pneumonia at 58, he fought going to the hospital. His family forced him into treatment, where he decided he'd just stop eating. He gave up because he didn't see a reason to live with his true love gone.

I'm happy they had 25 years, give or take, to spend together, and five children to show for it. It truly is a sad tale, however, as my grandma did not have her mother around when her own three sons were born.

At the age of 84, my grandmother still has fond memories of her parents and siblings, and I will continue to cherish the time I spend listening to her childhood tales while she's still here telling them.

I now need a new topic for my blog! Ideas are welcome.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Soldier Husband

Donal and Onah: two of Mamie and Ernest's future children.

Both of these letters weren't dated, and somehow they were out of order in my notes. The first one is after Mamie leaves Clarence, but before she and Ernest get married. She is begging him to marry her now. Begging. He sure needs a woman to sew buttons for him. (I would think that would be at the bottom of the list of reasons why she wants to marry him right now!) She mentions they've been in love for eight months. Is that all?

The second letter is from Ernest when Mamie is still with Clarence.

Mon. Eve. 9:00

My dearest hubby chum!

Oh, I am so happy dear! All on account of you and your love for me! My sweetheart! It was so sweet to hear your voice tonight. All for me. Your sweet words thrilled me so deeply and believe me it makes me happy!

All I want now to complete my happiness is marriage, dear, to you. It seems as if I can’t wait until you are out of the service dear. I want you now. It would be so lovely to be your bride even tho we couldn’t have a honeymoon until after you are out. Maybe I am building air castles dear, but I love you so much and it seems now that I can’t live so far away from you. I just love to be where I can see you often and do things for you. Oh I think it would be wonderfully sweet dear. Just you and I alone. Dear, can’t we do it soon, please? I’d lots rather get married now than 5 or 6 months from now. Since we are so sure of our love and are mates, why should we keep writing indefinitely, dearie boy? Why not marry now and then let things go as they please. We will be so happy! We are as near ready as we will ever be, dearest. I am anyway. I can’t settle down to sew or anything else, I am so happy and dreamy. And if I was in my own little home and belonged to you, then I could settle down long enough to start house keeping for you. It’s great to really be in love dear isn’t it??!! Really dear. You need someone to sew buttons and take care of you in general. Right away too! And that someone is “wifey chum.”

Mable says we would be much happier if we married right away. But it’s all up to you dear!

Of course dear I am just telling you the way I would love to have things turn out, but I don’t wish to make you feel like you had to do it just to please me. You probably will have the responsibility of securing a place to live and license and preacher and witnesses, etc. Ha ha! And I want you to do things up and please you!

Dearest, I have wanted all the time to marry you while yet in the service. My Soldier Husband. See? But maybe it’s just a foolish little whim of mine. Dear, it might help you to get out quickly too. And we could have so much more time together, nights and all, instead of just a few hours once a week. We would enjoy it all so much, dear! Don’t you think so? Please, Ernest! I am so hungry for you! I wouldn’t be lonesome, dear. I would be busy and happy and so would you!

Gee, this sounds like a proposal. Ha! Ha! But it isn’t; it’s just from me to you. I just can’t bear to think of another long engagement.

We have loved each other for 8 months now, and can’t we complete things instead of waiting? I’ve grown tired of the long engagement, dear. Altho, I am willing to wait for you until you are ready. You are old enough and ought to know and understand things more than I, dear, and I shall always look to you for advice, etc. I have just tried, dearie, to express my wishes and it would make me so much more contented and happy to be your wife now instead of – I don’t know when. Don’t worry about the folks. It would soon be O.K. They really expect such to happen.

I’m so sleepy, dear, and so are you, so night dearest love and hubby darling. And lots of sweet kisses on your deary face and lips from mine. And please, dear, come over as soon as possible (Wednesday). Call me if you don’t come. I am always your own lil wifey chum.


March Field

Riverside, Calif.

Barracks 3

Dearest Mamie –

Well I …sent a gram to the PO Master a while back, but he never sent my mail. Instead, it was all sent to the hospital. He must have had a hunch as to how I felt. Came back last night, had to rustle a bunk in the dark and everything. Spent several days in LA and the rest of the time with my chum and his folks quietly holding my breath, flitting away a perfectly misspent furlough. Three weeks! His mother certainly is some princess to me.

I rather hated to come back to the field. Believe me – honey! Gee-dear. Your dearest of letters sure were full of everything, but happiness. O for the time in your sweet life when you may say, “I am so happy.” Please God.

So your dear Dad is on a high horse. I remember him saying he didn’t know a thing about my lineage, etc.

(Forgive me honey) I have to smile at him. Girlie, with me – if I loved a girl I wouldn’t care what her lineage was! Because I’m not a blind lover and darling, I can’t cease to love you!

And he wishes us all those things. Ha ha. Honey of mine, I don’t care what he wishes. Dear, I hope true love finds its way for your sake! No dear, if you marry him, I will not promise to write – because I will not! Because you must forget. I’ll manage to know how you are, etc. But I shall not write. Dear, as it now is, you are going through the awful acid test and may the result prove 100% pure. No matter what the world thinks, your folks think or I think, use your own sweet head – honey! Sing Birdie, sing! Reminds me when I was at friend chum’s. I spent part of my time teaching their beautiful Polly Parrot to talk.

It’s a wonder you and C. didn’t bump right smack dab into me in LA. Was around there somewhere at the time.

And … you think I wasn’t glad you didn’t get busted in the real bump you had. We were nearly smashed into coming out, rained and rained and there were flocks of machines coming in from the Berdu show.

Was just wondering – will you get this letter. A missive in a hostile camp…40 Redskins bit the dust.

Gee I wish I was out. Didn’t fly today. Too much wind! And – the time didn’t fly either.

Yes, how I’d love to hold you o so close and kiss you more tenderly and sweetly than ever. O girl! A thousand times – I’d love to. I sure was at the height of happiness that eve. And fell into the dark depths – on the wrong side. Pretty please, with sugar on it. Curses! … and please forgive me dear, dearest of all girls. Yes, I too could talk all night with sweet lil you!

But why torment and lacerate a hurt heart more. Coming through Ontario last eve, I sure had to grit my teeth. Huh! Well I better stop before the wire that I sewed my heart up with bursts. Valentine’s – certainly was a dickens of a reminder. And my chum’s little nephew insisted I draw him some Valentine’s to give to his friends. When I finished them, he wanted to keep them. Ha ha. It’s late once more and a big long lonesome night for yours truly.

Hope you are well…Night dearest darling, and I hope you sleep like a log. Hope dreams aren’t always pleasant. You can’t trust them. So I wish you no dreams. XXXX

For ever and ever. E.D.

This is an awful bumpy letter, but my heart goes bumpy bumpy, so what can you expect?

By gollie, I haven’t any but a Y.A. envelope, and if you don’t get this then it’s fate.

I wish I was in H. with my neck broke too.

Yes I’d like to see Mable and if I can, I will.