Thursday, May 20, 2010

Frances tells of the goings-on at 992 Washita

This letter should be titled "Atlanta Confidential," since it's probably the most the most personal of Frances' homefront portrayals thus far.  The onus of the letter is Bryant, Frances' younger sister, who is having a lot of trouble adjusting to life without her husband, Carl, and life at home with her parents.  She and Frances would apparently have their rows, which would almost be expected in any family living in such tight quarters.  This dynamic is definitely news to me, because as I was growing up, Frances and Bryant seemed very close as sisters, and we would always visit Bryant and Carl when I spent vacation time in Atlanta.

I should add a few brief explanations of some things you will encounter in this letter:  North Fulton Park is now called Chastain Park, and Walter Pascal turned out to be quite a well-known Atlanta radio personality in the 40s and 50s, mainly on WSB.  He was also a popular emcee at local events.  Helen Mankin was the second woman to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of representatives, even though her term in office was less than a year.  She served out the unexpired term of Rep. Ramspeck (which Frances had mentioned in a previous letter), but lost later in 1946 in the Democratic primary for the next term.

Feb. 17, 1946

Dearest My Own Dearest Lovely Dovely Sweetheart,

I think you are so sweet that I'd love to give you a great big hug and kiss.

Isn't it wonderful that you are learning to ski!  I can hardly wait to see you.  Have you skied like the cartoon?  [She draws a picture of a skier with the ski tracks behind him going around either side of a tree].  I'd like to take some movies of you so I could show them going backwards, too, like Thompson did.

Write me about it.  Did you really get the feel of it?  Did you make a leap?

My things are coming out Monday.  They arrived Feb. 14, but I didn't get a notice until the 15th.  The Army Transportation Department will pick it up tomorrow from the depot, deliver it and uncrate it for me.  Isn't that just wonderful!  I can hardly wait to get my washing machine set up and working again.

Last week I took a training course in Girl Scouting and was gone some of every day.  Friday the class went out to North Fulton Park to a scout cabin and cooked out.  I enjoyed it more than anything I've done since I've been home.  My group cooked my one pot meal of corn, tomatoes, onions and meat.  We built our fire, cooked, ate and cleaned up before the other three groups had finished cooking.

Friday afternoon, the three girls, Margaret and I went over to see Connie Shumaker Garrett and her daughter Gwen.  Another schoolmate of ours was there with her daughter.  We had a fine time reviewing the last twelve or fourteen years.  Of course, I thought my children were by far the most outstanding (the others of course have their own opinions!)

Connie's husband is in politics.  His candidate, Tom Camp, lost the election to congress.  Bryant's one, Mrs. Helen Mankin, won.  Connie was disappointed but said her husband was already looking around to see who threw their hat into the gubernatorial race.  The election for that is this fall and Arnall, the incumbent, cannot succeed himself.  Talmadge has already said he was planning to run.

I am making arrangements for the children to take dancing at Emory --  that is, the school is in the little business district at the entrance to Emory campus.  Emily will take dancing during the week, and on Saturday mornings, she will take ballroom dancing for no extra charge.  Since she is not going to NAPS, I think she will meet some nice children this way.  As yet, she hasn't found anyone she especially likes.

Uncle Ossie, Father's uncle who was in the foundry business, has a granddaughter, Shateen, who is eleven.  She had Emily out to a party the other day.  Emily likes her quite well.

Monty has a constant shadow in Margaret.  If Monty has to gargle her throat, Margaret (who hates to usually) begs Mother 'Cile for a glass of salt water to gargle her throat.  Monty called Margaret a baby Saturday and Margaret cried and ran to her mother.  Such things happen when the two get tired, but usually they play nicely together. 

I did too much last week and as you will know my temper got the upper hand.  I flew off twice at Bryant for very "logical" reasons at the time.  Since I've been here, we've had several spats because she harbors her grudges and I get mad and spit.  They've always cleared the air and we've ended friends again.  This one Saturday was similar to the terrible night in Chicago when we both were at the breaking point.  I am sorry it happened, for Bryant may not love me as deeply as you do, and it is not her policy to forget.  We are amiable and she is most polite.  I am afraid it will take much on my part to bury my one blunder.

She is really having a hard time mentally and emotionally.  At least the family say that she was a real problem to them until I arrived.  I think our spats have made her get over her grudges quicker.  Between times she talks to me.  Getting angry at me has lessened her resentment with Mother, too.  I feel that all told I have been much help to Bryant.  At present she might deny that I have.

Bryant is a good manager, neat, orderly, methodical and quick.  She has been an inspiration to me.  Margaret is a most attractive young child.  She is sweet, responsive, well-mannered and alert.  She loves me and I consider her my fourth child.  We always take her out with us and include her in everything we do.

The other night at the Thursday night supper at the church, the pastor asked me how the Major was and if I'd had any letters from you.  He was in the pulpit when he asked me that.  You see, you are a graduate of the U. of Va. in law to him, and he thinks that is marvelous.

Bryant didn't go to the supper Thursday because she was out somewhere else.  I didn't tell her about the preacher asking me about you because she is extremely jealous.  This morning at church someone told her and she has been upset all afternoon.

She likes the preacher, admires him and, up to this point, she has defended him against the family's criticism of him.  They contend that if a member is rich or from Virginia, the preacher will pay attention to him.  Otherwise he casually shakes hands with them and never remembers their names.

Bryant maintains that he recognizes worth when he sees it and is quite a brilliant man.

I heard both sides of the story before I met the preacher, so when I did meet him, I filled him full of Virginia, the Montagues, Richmond, Williamsburg and the University, and he fell for it hook, line and sinker.  He has been three times more cordial and friendly to me than the rest of the family -- and Bryant.

Friday night Bryant and I went up the street to call on Walter Paschal, his wife and mother.  Walter and his mother have lived in the neighborhood as long as we have.  He is quite a brilliant young man.  He is a few years older than I am.  He is a news reporter for the Journal over WSB, gives lectures, writes, etc.  One of his hobbies is collecting Oriental art.  I went up to see his Chinese brass.  He has several nice pieces, but my brass is far superior to his.  However, he has a wonderful collection of gold medallion Canton china that is museum stuff.  If you see any of that, latch on to it.  He has studied and knows good Chinese and Japanese art.  He is coming down to see my brass next week.

He and Liza, his wife, asked Bryant and me to attend a lecture on Chinese art on February 28 at Agnes Scott.  He suggested that I take several of my pieces out for the lecturer to see.  Your visit to the junk pile afforded you much pleasure and opened new vistas for me!

I can hardly wait to go to the lecture and to get some books from the library to learn more of the treasures you sent me.  This is much more fun than anything I've done since we closed our metal shop.

Another thing I have become interested in is camellias (or japonicas).  They are red or pink or variegated.  They resemble a rose but they have waxy green leaves like a rubber plant, only about 1/3 the size.

Several weeks ago Mother bought tickets to a camellia show. No one around here could go, so I went with her.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  The Cragons were there.

Father has a camellia bush in the front yard and it is in full bloom now.

The paper today ran several pages of color on camellias. Walter and Liza had a bowl full the other night.  Everywhere I go, people are discussing "Pink Perfection," "Il Tramonte." or "Mississippi Hastie" in as casual terms as a cotton man on Front Street would us "staple," or "middling to fair," etc.

This has been a long letter and I am glad I wrote it.  I feel better for discussing my problems with you and sharing my new pleasures.  It is such a great help to have a pardner like you to confide in.  Of course, it would be much nicer to talk to you, but this is next best, darling.

Always the pride of my heart is you and to you I send all my love.