Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Frances recounts an awkward but enlightening encounter on a night out on the town

We are slowly getting to know Frances' circle of friends, and today we hear again about Tom and Betty Lemly (if only peripherally).  We meet a new friend, Blanche, and hear about an interesting encounter on a night on the town.

Jan. 19, 1945

Dearest Darling,

Tonight Bryant and I took Blanche Victory out to dinner.  We were going to take Betty, too, but Tom came down with the flu.  Blanche arrived last night and today Tom is in bed with the flu.  So, Blanche went with us by herself.  We went to Herren's Restaurant, across from the Ship Ahoy behind the Rialto.

Paul Wright was in there with Mr. Green, the treasurer of Southern Bell.  I asked the waitress to tell Paul to come over to our table.  She went to wrong man and then thought all three women were trying to make a quick pick-up.  With that, Bryant strode over and asked him if he knew me.

He came over to our table and I could see what he'd spent the afternoon doing -- the usual thing telephone people do when they come to Atlanta.

Anyway, when he and Mr. Green had finished dinner, they both came over and sat with us until we finished.  Paul kept talking about his expense account.  Two or three times he asked me for the check.  Then he said he'd put it on his expense account and I let him pay it.  I think Blanche and Bryant thought I was plumb loco, but I figured you'd have done the same thing under similar circumstances.

He is back as an engineer -- drafting.  He is in Atlanta and has been here since September trying to get a place to live so he can get Louise over here.  He has been staying in hotels, changing every five days.  He was making $500 as a full colonel and is only making $290 now.  He said that he was riding his expense account for everything he could get out of it because that was the only way he could make ends meet.

He told me to tell you that you were pretty lucky to still be in the army and that he'd surely be back in now if he could.  He got out on a physical disability discharge and so he can't get in again.  He advised you to stay in as long as you could or until things leveled off a bit.

He said that unless the telephone company could locate him in a town where he could get a decent place to live, he was going to look for another job.  He was certainly fed up with things.  And I think many of the fellows feel the same way.  Too many are getting out at once.  There is a terrible bottleneck in business and housing.  In Atlanta the housing problem really is acute.  I have never seen a market as tight.

When we finished dinner, Mr. Green, quite inebriated, invited us up to Paul's room for a little short one.  We all declined, left them and went to the Grand for the show.  Paul felt better after eating and was much embarrassed at the way Green was behaving!

The only wisecrack that Paul made was in a conversation about our children.  He said that he had three, two girls and a boy, and that he was through.  I replied that I still wanted a boy.  "You want a boy, and Bill is still in Japan!"  It seemed like such a mild little joke, not up to Paul's usual form.

Emily has been sick with a cold for several days.  She doesn't have any fever, but a deep chest cough and sore throat.  Monty is back to her usual vigor and Martha has a happy smile for everyone.

Darling, I don't mind taking care of the children, trying to adjust insurance claims, rent your mother's property, balance my bank account nor figure where to put our stuff when it comes.  All of this seems like child's play.  My one big trouble is trying to get along without you.  Our love has been so complete and satisfying that it is torture to be separated from you, my darling.

All my love,



Herren's Restaurant was a long-time dowtown Atlanta landmark on Forsyth Street, opened in 1934 by local prizefighter Charlie "Red" Herren.  In 1962 it became the first Atlanta restaurant to voluntarily desegregate.  As a result of the steady demise of the downtown business district in the 1970s, Herren's finally closed its doors in 1987. 

View of Forsyth Street looking north, 1956.
On the left is Herren's Restaurant.

"The Grand" that Frances mentions in the letter is the Loews Grand Theater in downtown Atlanta.  It was built by the DeGive family in 1893 as a traditional theater, and it was later fitted with film projecting equipment in the 1920s by the Loews company.  It is most famous as the site of the world premiere of Gone With The Wind in December 1939.  Shortly after being placed on the National Register of Historic Places (thereby prohibiting its demolition), the theater was severely damaged in a suspicious blaze in 1978 and subsequently razed.  The Georgia Pacific Building now stands on the site.

The most famous photo of the Loews Grand Theater,
on premiere night, December 15, 1939