Authors: Barbara Bretton
Tags: #World War II, #Women-HomeFront, #Romance
Did you ever get the photos I sent you? They really were terrible, weren’t they? No wonder you stopped writing! But seriously, let me know if they got through. If they didn’t, I’ll ask Aunt Pat to hurry up and make more copies and we’ll try again.
I’ve cut my hair a little since I last saw you. Maybe you should forget all about the way I looked at the Stage Door Canteen that night. (It seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?) There just isn’t time to fuss with curlers and rouge these days. I bet if you saw me now you’d think I was as serious as a librarian! Not your type at all, I’ll bet.
Things at the factory are booming. I think Dad will be very happy when the year-end financial statement is calculated. (I just sat back and reread this letter. Is that really me writing about financial statements? It’s hard to believe that only a year ago I didn’t even know what a financial statement was! It sure proves you can learn anything in this world if you really have to!)
I hope you and my father have a wonderful dinner. We’ll say a prayer for you and thank God that both of you are well.
P.S. Enclosed is a small present. Hope it sees you through the cold winters in—C.
December 31, 1943
Your letters reached me a few days before Christmas. I guess Tom told you we’ve been moving around a bit. You were right about the Thanksgiving turkey dinner, right down to the cranberry sauce and candied sweet potatoes. That was about the best meal I’ve had in years. (But I still have my fingers crossed that I’ll be having that breakfast with all of you before too long.)
I hope you and your mom and Nancy have a Happy New Year. Sergeant Munson got some whiskey on the black market and we’re going to toast 1944 in style.
One year ago I was in Atlanta welcoming in 1943. Boy, did twelve months bring a lot of changes. Makes you wonder what we’ll all be doing this time next year, doesn’t it?
Maybe we’ll be lucky and we’ll welcome in 1945 together.
Who knows? Anything’s possible, right? Maybe we’ll even get to dance together again. Even with your new haircut, you’re probably the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.
P.S. Thanks for the scarf you knitted for me. Next time make it a blue one. I’ve seen enough olive drab to last me the rest of my life!—J.
January 15, 1944
I’m afraid we didn’t have a very exciting New Year’s Eve around here. No one had much enthusiasm for noisemakers and confetti, especially not on Hansen Street. Aunt Edna and Uncle Les tried to put a good face on it, but it was hard to make merry when we’ve lost someone so important to all of us.
This is the first year my mom has ever spent without Daddy around. Did you know they were childhood sweethearts? They grew up right next door to each other in Astoria. Mom says she knew she wanted to marry Daddy from the first second he peeked into her crib. It’s so hard for her to be without him, but she never says a word. Never complains about anything. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a changeling. There are times when I just want to scream at the top of my lungs about how unfair this war is and how much I hate it, but then I think about the terrible things that are happening in this world and I feel so selfish I’m ashamed of myself.
What a terrible letter this is! And here we’re supposed to be cheerful when we write to our servicemen overseas! I promise to write again tomorrow and tell you the funny things that have happened at the plant.
By the way, you said you wanted a blue scarf, right?
Hope you like it!
P.S. The traffic lights are back on at night! The dimout seems to be ending. Do you think that’s a good sign?
P.P.S. I’m glad you liked my picture.
U.S. SHIPS AND PLANES HIT ATOLLS
IN SAVAGE ATTACK ON MARSHALLS:
AMERICANS BOMB GERMAN CITIES
New York Times
February 14, 1944
Happy Valentine Day, darling!
I’m curled up on the window seat in our bedroom, watching the snow fall. The radio says it’s the coldest day of the year so far, but I’m nice and warm under the quilt your Grandma Alice made for our wedding present. Hard to believe that was almost 25 years ago!
The girls are both at work. Nancy has been complaining about the bank a lot the past few weeks. She says her boss is a cranky old lady who hates young girls, but I think it’s more than that. Nancy has many good qualities but punctuality isn’t one of them. Sometimes I think if I didn’t make it my business to see she got out of bed in the morning, she’d still be asleep come dinnertime. I wish you were here to give her a good talking-to.
Work has been Cathy’s salvation. She is the first one in the office in the morning and the last one to leave at night. She has put her heart and soul into helping out at the factory and I’m certain the men all appreciate her efforts.
She’s become best friends with Eddie Martin (remember him?—you hired Eddie just before you left to handle the shipping department) and the job the two of them are doing would make you proud. But don’t worry. We’ll keep everything running smoothly at the plant. You just worry about keeping yourself safe so you can come home to us soon. More than anything in the world I want things to be the way they used to be.
The hot water pipes nearly froze last night. We had to hurry down into the basement and wrap them with blankets the way you told us to. Coal deliveries have been cut back. Mr. Russo promised me we’d be first on his list next week.
Did you get the sweater I made for you, and the cookies? Mr. Fontaine at the post office said the cookies would arrive just fine if I wrapped them up right. They’re your favorite kind—chocolate chip. Sugar and butter are hard to come by these days so I may not be making cookies again for a while unless I can trade ration coupons with someone on the block. You wouldn’t believe the wonderful vegetable casseroles I’ve concocted—we don’t even miss roast beef!
I don’t mean to concern you, but Nancy has been talking about finding a job out on Long Island, near your sister. She and Cathy haven’t been seeing eye to eye lately. I suppose it’s inevitable—how can a girl as young as Nancy understand what it’s like to lose the man you love? As much as I don’t want Nancy to leave home, perhaps there is something to the notion of allowing her the chance to be young and carefree. At least as long as Anna and Frank are nearby to keep their eyes on her.
I hope the army is taking good care of you. I worry that you’re not eating well or getting enough sleep. In Johnny’s last letter, he told me the food there is really quite good, but I’m not certain he’s not saying that just to ease my mind. You ease my mind and send me a snapshot of the two of you as soon as you can so I can see for myself that you’re fine.
The snow is drifting against Edna’s front stoop. Last night she covered her rosebushes with newspaper and twine to keep them safe. Right now they’re buried under the show. I hope they survive. I can’t imagine spring without Edna’s roses.
The girls bought me a tiny heart-shaped box of Fanny Fanner chocolates and Nancy promised to make supper tonight for all of us. Macaroni and cheese. I wish so much that you were here with me, Tom, darling. The house is so empty and lonely without you.
God bless you and keep you safe from harm.
I’ll write again tomorrow. I miss you and love you more than you’ll ever know.
March 1, 1944
Hadn’t heard from you in a while, but then eight letters came from you today. Also three from Cathy and Nancy, and one each from Edna and my sister Grace. Best haul I’ve had in almost a year. I wish the stinking post office could spread the bounty out a little better but beggars can’t be choosers. Some guys here don’t get any mail at all. I almost felt embarrassed to be so lucky. (But don’t stop writing!)
I’m glad you and the girls are writing to Johnny. He’s a little rough around the edges but he’s a damned good kid and a real friend. He has a lot going for him, but his temper keeps getting him in hot water. Nancy’s Christmas poem made him laugh and I swear he only takes Cathy’s green scarf off to shower. I suppose you saw that crazy-quilt-blue one she made for him after Christmas? The guys laughed so hard, they cried. There must have been every shade of blue in the rainbow in that scarf. Nobody laughed harder than Johnny. Don’t tell Cathy that the green scarf is glued to him. He’ d probably be embarrassed if he realized I’d even noticed. Somehow I don’t think anybody’s ever knitted a scarf for him before. Or done much else for him, either, if you want to know the truth. I don’t know what it is about that kid that gets to me—maybe he reminds me of myself at his age. (Was I really that pigheaded, Doro? You always used to tell me that my head was harder than an iron skillet!)
Have you gone down to the bank yet to talk to Paul? I told you before I left that I wanted to make sure you and the girls would be provided for. I know you don’t want to hear it, but it’s important. Paul has the papers. He will explain everything. If you love me, Doro, you’ll take care of this.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about home. When I first came here I worried about the business and all the fellows whose jobs would be affected by my decision to enlist. I knew you and the girls could cope with anything life threw your way. You’re a strong woman and you’ve raised strong daughters and I don’t deserve any of the credit for the way they’ve turned out. The credit belongs to you.
If Nancy finds herself a job out in Suffolk County, maybe we should let her stretch her wings. Write or call Anna and tell her our little girl may be heading in their direction. I know she and Frank will make certain Nancy is taken care of in fine fashion.
You haven’t changed anything in the house, have you? When we march, I pretend I’m walking through the house and I can see each room exactly the way it was when I left. Those chintz covers on the divan that we fought about—remember I said they looked too fussy and frilly? I can see you sitting in the wing chair by the window with your head bent over your sewing and your hair drifting across your cheek.
Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a while. I think we’ll be moving camp again in the next few days. Where we’re headed is anybody’s guess. I keep thinking that sooner or later something has to happen, but the days and the weeks pass and still nothing. Sometimes I think this war will never end.
All my love,
Yes, it’s that time of year again!
This small postcard is a reminder that it’s time to plan your Victory Garden for 1944. Our boys at the front need our support once more. Don’t use canned foods that can help provide nourishment for our soldiers and sailors. Plant your garden today and harvest your vegetables tomorrow. Remember: do your share for Victory now!
F. LANGELLA & SON NURSERY
March 21, 1944
I guess it’s just one of those nights. It’s a little after midnight and for the life of me I can’t seem to fall asleep. Maybe it’s the weather. Today is the first day of spring, but instead of the promise of warmth, it is raw and cold and more than likely ready to snow.
Today I thought I saw Douglas. I had worked late and was coming up the subway steps a little after eight when it happened. A cold nasty sleet was coming down and I was struggling with my packages and trying to put up my umbrella. I wasn’t watching where I was going and I stumbled on the top steps, and the next thing I knew a man was helping me up from the puddle where I was sitting. He asked me if I was okay and I looked up at him and just for an instant, Johnny, I thought Douglas had come back to me. It was as if a magician had snapped his fingers and the past nine months disappeared in a puff of smoke! All those months when Douglas was away, I couldn’t remember how he looked, how he sounded. I’d close my eyes tight as could be and try so hard to remember and the more I tried, the farther he drifted away.
But you know what, Johnny? The second I heard he was dead—the very second Aunt Edna said those words—I saw him right there in front of me on the street and I heard his voice say my name just as if he were standing there next to me.
And that’s exactly what happened tonight. For a moment that poor man who helped me up from the puddle was Douglas. He was as tall as Douglas and his hair was the same light blond and I suppose my imagination filled in the rest. For one wonderful second, he was Douglas to me and everything else dropped away and I was happy,
But then he asked me again if I was hurt and I shook my head. He turned and disappeared down the stairs and into the subway. I stood there, clutching my packages and my umbrella, and I started to cry. (You don’t know me very well, Johnny, but I’m not a girl who cries easily.) I didn’t just cry, I sobbed. An elderly lady came over to me and offered me a handkerchief, but I shook my head and just kept on crying for Douglas, and for me, and for the life together we’d lost.
I guess all along I’d been convincing myself that it had never really happened, that there had been some terrible mistake and Douglas was still alive somewhere out there, and one day he would suddenly show up and I would run into his arms and we would pick up exactly where we’d left off the day we said goodbye. Tonight I finally realized that he isn’t coming back. He’s dead and I have to let him rest in peace. Now comes the hard part—trying to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.
It’s after two in the morning now. My mother just tapped on my door and asked if I’d like some warm milk with her. I thank God every night that I have such a terrific family. I don’t know how I would have managed without them.
Thanks for listening, Johnny. It really helped to talk about this. I hope I can return the favor one day.
March 22, 1944
Please forget my last letter. I don’t know what came over me. I never should have unburdened myself on you, especially since we are almost total strangers. Please, I beg you not to worry Daddy with anything I said. Honestly, I’ve made my peace with losing Douglas. I guess his birthday just hit me harder than I’d expected.