Elvira and Ray – 1920, March

Vermontville, MI, March 2, 1920

 

Ray's envelope insert

My Dearest Elvira:-

Have been wondering what the reason was that you didn’t post the letter you wrote on Sunday the 22nd until Friday?  It sure was one sweet letter and made me love you all the more, and also wished I could have met you in Lax that night.  Oh, baby, don’t tease me like that, but you just wait until next summer, and then perhaps if all goes well we can make that dream of yours come true.

Yes, I am going to drive through in the “Olds,” and the old boat is good for 60 per any old time, that is if you like to ride that fast.  personally, that is just about my speed.  Am thinking some of buying myself a Ford Coupe, I think they are a keen little car to play around in.  Have a friend in Hastings, who is manager of the Gas & Electric Company, and he has one, and I like them so well think I will invest.  What do you think about it?

Am going up there again next Friday afternoon and finish up my Dental work. Had a big day today, and think I made enough to buy gasoline for a day or two anyway, and perhaps enough left over to buy some silk lingerie for —————-.   Perhaps you don’t like to have me talk like that? But anyway, you remember what I said about nice clothes for my “wife.”  Now don’t get insulted but I feel in a gay mood this evening (the sun is just setting) and must get it off from my mind.

Speaking about songs, here is one for you “It makes no difference whose sweet sweetie you were, you’re my sweet sweetie now.”  Try that on your piano, but don’t let that new operator sing it “Comprenez”.

Well “sweetie” it is my supper time so think I will close the joint and beat it.  Wish you were here to sit across the table from me — how about it, now answer that, you never do answer anything I ask you.
Now be darn careful who you love and keep on with lots of letters to your
Ray
Big kiss * for you
(Ed: smiley face)

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Vermontville, MI, March 7, 1920
My very sweetest Elvira:-
Since receiving your last letter I feel you are closer to me than ever before.  Honey I can’t help but love you, but hope I haven’t caused any trouble for you.  Yes, I remember Jack Horne when I was there, guess he was going with some girl out in the country for he used to come in the office and talk awhile, when he got back, some where about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Not a bad sort at that.
Do your folks know the reason?  If they do evidently I don’t stand very high in their estimation.  Wonder how they will use me next summer?  Any way we don’t care, it is not them I am coming to see but you my dear.  Any way would rather have their good will than ill will.  I wish with all my heart I could be there now and love my little sweetheart and tell you just how much I love you, and we wouldn’t care what they said, would we?
Have been skating all afternoon.  Had heavy rain the other day and then froze up again and the flats are one solid peice of ice and just as smooth as glass.  Some sport, wish you were here, would show you the rounds, that is is you like to skate.  First time I have had skates on for five years, last time was when was working a trick at Dexter on Michigan Central just out of Detroit.  Expect I will be some lame in the morning.
Was up to Hastings Friday night and finished up with my teeth, am I not lucky?  Stayed all night with Mason, (He is in that picture I sent you, the one with the cap on I believe) and we went over to John Nobles, only been married since last year, for dinner (He is the young fellow with the hat on in the same picture, see if you can tell who I mean) and sure had one swell time.  Kept thinking of you all the time though, and wondering when our happiness such as theirs would come. I’ll leave that to you, when will it?
Absolutely nothing of much interest going on around here.  The agent and myself are going down to Jackson again next Thursday evening, work in the Lodge you see.  Like to go there for so many of the boys that work on the road, I know, belong there, and they sure treat us fine.
Honey, remember that I love you all the time with all my might, and think of you all the time.  So good night sweetheart and remember me in your dreams.
With all the love and kisses I have, your for ever and ever.
Ray
*(arrow) Big Kiss.

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Vermontville – March 14, 1920
My Dear,
Am awfully sorry, it has been a whole week since I wrote you, but I really have been so darn busy, just seemed as if I couldn’t find the time, but honey will never let it happen again, for if I thought you looked forward to my letters as much as I do yours, I never would stop writing –
Spring weather today and a peach too, for today “the sun went wooing and the earth just reached up and kissed the sun, bringing intimations of spring time, when all of the world’s a song.”  (or a lover) (rather poetic, is it not?)  Why is it that we must be so far apart on such beautiful days when we should be enjoying them together?  Especially after such a wicked winter.  This time of year you know makes one feel like rambling over the country and through the woods at random and just enjoy awakening nature.
Have seen any number of people out today just walking around (little too muddy for cars) and just wish and wish that you were here so we could be together and just peer around.   You know the feeling one has this time of year (when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to love) and today is that lonesome Sunday you spoke of in your last letter.  Wonder what you are doing now?  I am with you in thought anyway – next time when you feel like reading, turn to page 25 in “Hearst’s” for March and read that through.  Something for my sweetie to think about –
Whenever you read until 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning just think of me, for that is a habit I have.  I never think of going to sleep without reading for an hour or two, so now I know I am not alone when I read that late, and will be with you in spirit if not in body –
Mon, 3/15
Well, sweetie, how are you this swell morning?  Bet you are not up yet? – 7:45am – just got over myself but must finish this, but to save my life can’t think of a thing to say.  Am going to send the car up to the garage today and have it overhauled, won’t be very many more moons before the road will be dry again and it is very necessary that the old bus is hitting on all eights.
Well old sweetheart, can’t think of a thing more, only that my love for you grows stronger and stronger each day.  And I look forward to the time when I can prove it to you – and in the meantime consider yourself loved and kissed with all my heart.
Ray

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Vermontville, MI, March 23, 1920

Elvira Dear –
See Honey I don’t like to wait so long for your letters.  Now believe me, so don’t you dare wait like that again, please forgive me, but really you don’t know just how busy I have been and when night came thought of you all the time but just didn’t get to write.  You see it has been such fine weather and the farmers could get in, so naturally I was some busy.
Just one year ago I landed in Paris for the fourth and last time.   Was there on a 3 day leave but managed to make it five.  Some of the boys from my old outfit were telegraphing there, and of course I had to look them up and we promptly set out to look the town over again.  And some place too, as perhaps you have been told.  Can see it just as plain right now — and by the way am going down to Detroit this week end to see some of these same fellows. They are working in the postal there.  Wish you were here to go along.  You ever been in Detroit?  Don’t think you have — I worked out of there over a year on the Michigan Central.  This mans town is only 3 hours ride from there so not far at that, and manage to get down once in a while to revive old acquaintances.
So all your old friends are getting married are they?  Same around here, but seems as if some of them are pretty darn young to take such an important step — now take my case for instance ???? (smiley face), and you ——- just you wait until summer comes rolling ’round again.
Took the old bus up to the shop the other night and am having the valves ground and new piston rings put in so it should run better than ever again.  Roads are getting so good am getting a little anxious to get out on the state roads once more, and “step on her” a little.  ‘Spose you have had the “Jitney” out already.
Say, hasn’t this been the finest spring weather?  Makes one feel sort of “loggy” and not over ambitious.  No, I have not been “capped” by any one else.  How could I when I know how you feel toward me? But where do you get that “pal” stuff?  Can’t you think of any thing stronger to say than that?  Now come on Honey and loosen up and show me how much you love me.  Please please please???
And how about a picture you would send one if you thought i wanted it bad enough, would you not? (yes, you would not).  Well honey, will kiss you GN (although it is only 5:30pm) and a great big squeeze.
Yours
Ray

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Vermontville, MI, March 31, 1920

My little one sweeheart —
First of all I have not returned all of the pictures you sent, but if you really want the rest I can send those back too, but would like to keep them if I can, please say yes.
Isn’t this just the finest day?  Can’t hardly wait until we get the car out of the shop.  Am having the valves ground, new piston rings and new wrist pins on the pistons so the old boat should be in first class shape again.
Just back from lunch.  Now don’t you wish you were here?
Say Honey wish you would stand in front of the depot and have your picture taken, like your big “Sis” did.  Would sort of like one like that -how about it?
Was in Detroit over the week end, and had fine time, but would have had a much better time if I had had you with me.  Don’t you think so?  Also stopped over Monday afternoon at Ypsilante and looked up some old friends (used to work there).
Honey, I don’t blame you, in a way, “for not sitting down and writing me just the way you feel,” for I realize you don’t know me as well as you should know a person, to write one’s intimate feelings to, and I admire your good judgement and love you all the more for it.  For seriously, a girl shouldn’t write those things unless she were sure, that is certain, but sweetheart some day I hope you will feel that ou have faith in me and trust me enough to do so. Then Can I expect all the unfinished sentences to be completed, that I have had to guess at?  Kiss me ’cause I can!
Now please don’t take exception to what I said about calling me “Dear old pal,” but you know I want to be something more to you than just an old “pal.”  Comprenez vous?
Notice by the paper that the old Mississippi is on a tear (?) up around Lax, Winona.  The cyclone that raised so much hell up here in Michigan just missed this town.  Maple Grove where 5 people were killed is only few miles south west of us and several buildings were blown down within a mile from here, but I was in Detroit so missed it all.
You tell that sister of yours that if she don’t stop bothering you when you are writing to me, that I will attend to her case when I am out there this summer.
Now little sweetheart believe me, that I love you and I haven’t forgotten you (you know darn well I haven’t) far be it from such.  (It was 3 years ago when I was there too).
So remember I am yours for ever and with all my love to my sweetie.
Ray

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Elvira and Ray, 1920, February

Masonic Temple EnvelopeVermontville, MI, Feb. 1, 1920
My Dearest Little Sweetheart,
Now I know you wouldn’t believe me if I told you that you had written my address wrong, so am enclosing your envelope just to show you.  Don’t do that again for that delays them you know and I want all your letters as soon as I can get them.
Am real busy these days keeping 5 men busy.  You see my Dad was drawn on the jury in Gr. Rapids that is to try the Newberry Case, so that leaves me alone, but don’t I wish that you were here though.  Something makes me think of you all the time Honey surely that must be love, can’t think of any thing else to lay it to.
The agent and I went down to Jackson last Thursday night to Lodge work in the 3rd Degree.  Certainly had one fine time.
This is Monday – Couldn’t hardly say “Blue Monday,” either for it is such fine weather, but am lonesome for you.  Last night thought and thought of you and wished could be with you, Had nothing to do only go to the picture show again.  Now what did you do?  For some reason I don’t care to go with any of the girls around here any more, only once in a while to a dance or something like that.  Have been away from here so long it seems as if my friends were all some place else, scattered all over the United States, as it were, but especially Wisconsin.   Now tell me the truth – do you believe in love at first sight?  I almost believe I do, I feel toward you, as if I had known you for ever, although it was only a few hours almost.  But you know when a person once does meet some one they like, it is rather hard to forget them so soon, “Nest ce pas?”  Can you copy that?  Ask any soldier that was in France.

I am having one awful time getting this letter written.  Yesterday, Monday, was one busy day, but that is when the money comes in, and the money is what we all are after, “Got to have money you know to get all the things you want” – Yes, for you I mean. Wait until you know me better then you will take me seriously, I am not so bad as I might be, but am far from being an angel.
Last night (Monday night) I was with a select few, the agent being one, and say we had some party.  First one I have been on for 2 or 3 months, that is a good one like that. One regular time with one regular bunch, that’s us.
Have to go to Charlotte again tonight and get the last degree in the Commandary and then, Oh Boy.  Get the Shrine in couple weeks in Grand Rapids.
You are not a very good guesser when it comes to cigarettes are you?  “Lucky Strikes” are the only cigaret for me.
Say what do you mean “not acquainted with those kisses I sent you?  Well get next to this one and see how you like it *   Just you wait until next summer and then ———–.  The back seat in that old bus of ours, an “Olds Eight” is large and roomy—-
Now Elvira don’t think I am too forward or any thing like that.  Write often.
Yours for Ever and Ever, with
Lots and Lots of Love & Kisses to my sweetie,

Ray

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Phoenix House, Charlotte, MI, February 3, 1920
My Dearest Sweetie,
Gee Honey but I could love you to death right now – Seems like I want you more and more all the time.  Think about you night and day.  I want you and need you a little bit more every day.  You say what it is – Love or what?  If I could only see you and talk with you.  Give anything in the world to do either right now.
Just got through up at the Lodge and say, some work in the Temple degree, nothing like it, only can’t tell you anything about it.  The farther I get in Masonry the more I like it and on the 20th ( I found out tonight) I get the Shrine in Grand Rapids.
Getting cold around here again and how I hate it.  Has been warm for a couple of days, like spring.  You know, “when your thoughts lightly turn to love.”, that’s me right now — get me?
This you understand is only a note, just to tell you how much I love you and the memory of those few golden hours that I have not and never will forget.  If ou only know me better and could believe me without the least doubt in the world — Remember I am yours with a world of love and oceans of kisses.
Ray

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Typewriter
Vermontville, MI, Feb. 10, 1920
(Ed: Written on a typewriter)
My Dearest Elvira,
You don’t mind if I use the old mill just once, do you?  Rather quiet this morning on account of very bad weather.  It is snowing and blowing again, I suppose just to let us know that spring is far away. But, my, won’t I be glad when old summer does come.  Then, look out.  You once asked me if I knew “O, What a Pal Was Mary.”  I do, you know, in fact, they played it to death up here to all the dances last fall, at that it is some waltz, “Nest ce pas?” What made me mention it now is, that it keeps running through my head all the time, you know, when one wants to sing or whistle it all the time. Suppose you have the “Vamp” too?  That sure is some foxtrot, don’t you think?
This is the 11th.  Got rather busy yesterday and didn’t get a chance to write any more, as much as I wanted to.  Just got the mail down, and here I find your sweet letter, and that makes me want to write you more than ever. This morning when the mail come down and I failed to hear from you I was rather disappointed but this makes up for it now.  You don’t know how glad it makes me when I read your letters, for some reason it just seems like I have known you forever, and that you are the only one for me.  I don’t care what you think but I am telling it to you straight from the shoulder.  When I say I don’t care what you think I mean that I certainly do care, and hope you feel toward me as I do you.  Why, every time I get a letter from you, it gives me the  nicest little thrill, ever have ’em like that?  And this one today, some perfume, makes me think you are right here with me.  But just you wait until next summer and then I will make up for all this long distance between “here and there.”
I sure wish I happened to be doing a little extra work in Ferryville, now that you are the agent.  You wouldn’t have any trouble finding help to take care of the mail, express,etc.  How do you like agent’s work anyway?  Great stuff?  That is something I never did care to learn, too much grief attached with it, but I am one of the finest little helpers that ever worked on that streak of rust called the “Q”, so if you get desperate for help, just slip me a little line and over I’ll come, “Bug” and all.  I have a Vibroplex 4 that was issued to me in France and I sneaked it through, and it’s a peach too.  Just like that one I had when working there but I sold that one to the wire chief in LaX.  So if you are real good maybe I will let you have it, can you use one?  Believe me we had some hot wires in France and we had to use them all the time or we couldn’t keep above the table.  That is where you should have been, some experience working on the Paris Orleans R.R., hot stuff.  By the way I worked next to a fellow named Brenner, from Pra du C, and we used to chew the fat about the “Q” real often.
My I never answered the phone so many times as I have in the last few weeks, everybody wants coal, and we have none, and don’t seem able to get any.  Trouble is they reconsign all of it to some railroad on the way up here, and the only thing we get is notice that it has been reconsigned, and the people continue to “holler.”  Have sold over 300 cords of wood and now just about out of that, don’t know what people around here will do, freeze to death I guess. The only thing I feel bad about is the money we are losing by not having the coal, and that is what makes the horse go, and that is what we are after, and all we can get too.  Don’t you think it’s a good idea to get enough of that stuff together so no cause for worry later on?  You know that is what buys silk underwear, silk stockings, etc. etc. , and when my wife walks down the street people will say , “There goes the best dressed woman in town! Notice the mistakes in the last couple lines?  Well, that kind of talk makes me awfully nervous…
No, didn’t go to the show last Sunday night, for the very simple reason that the films didn’t come.  Good enough reason?  Don’t suppose you have a show in Ferryville do you?  I don’t go very often, only when no place else to go, or nothing to do.  Was up to Hastings last Friday.  They had a big “blowout,” and of course we couldn’t miss that. You know when the Masons start something they always finish it, and do it up right. Think I will go over to Charlotte tomorrow night, as they have some work in the chapter, and just to prove to you that is the reason I will enclose the card for you to see for yourself.
Sorry for your father, as the “flu” is most certainly a bad thing to get mixed up with, I guess. But so far I have escaped.  It is getting bad around here again, but in some of the towns around, so we are still in luck after all. Now you be careful and don’t get it again for you know what the result could be.  (Love me? Then kiss me ’cause you do.)
Now “Honey” write me real often and don’t wait for a letter from me every time you do write either, for I just write every time I get a chance and you do the same…
(Handwritten)
With All the Love in The world and a great big bunch of Kisses
to my sweet Elvira from Ray.

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Vermontville – February 12, 1920
My Dear Elvira,
Come on now old girl and answer my last letter I wrote you from Detroit last summer?
How’s everything up in Wisconsin?  If it is as cold there as here, you have my sympathy, has been zero weather for two or three weeks.  If it keeps up will have to hie myself back to Los Angeles another winter.  How would you like to go along?  Say the word, that is all.
Seriously though, wish you wouldn’t wait so long about answering as you have.  Don’t know why, but have always had a warm spot in my heart for you and would like some time to come back to Ferryville and see you, that is maybe you are married, or engaged, hope not anyway, don’t know how, or what you think of me, but I am and always have been darn near in love with you, now don’t think me fresh or impertinent or anything like that, but just thought would tell you how you stand with me, and now perhaps you would tell me how I stood with you?
Telegraphing yet?  I never went back on the road after returning from France but am in business with my father, and make more some days than in a month on the road, must have the money and the quickest way is the way.  Have too many good opportunities here to even go back on the road.
We established a post of the American Legion here some time back and I am post adjutant (secretary, as it were) so that keeps me some busy, and I had the senior deacon’s chair in the Masonic Lodge here, you may not know, but your father (he is a Mason if I remember rightly) can tell you that there is some work attached to that which takes care of more spare time, and have been taking the chapter and expect to get the Commandory and Shrine in Grand Rapids this winter yet, and then I will be about as high as most of them can get.
Wish you would write me and tell me all about yourself, all I can say is I am doing this, and doing that, for you know I haven’t heard from you for so long.  How about the young barber that was so sweet on you when I was there, and how is, oh, I can’t think of his name but his father was that one-armed saloon keeper.  How is he and his girl in the country getting on?  And Art, and the rest that I know, suppose they all left town?
Where did you go Christmas?  I spent Xmas day at my grandad’s close by Grand Rapids and then went down to Chicago for a couple days.  My sister left there a week ago Sunday night for Florida, she goes down every winter and she writes that it is fine down there.
Was in Hastings yesterday afternoon and evening having a couple teeth looked over and run across one of the boys I was in France with.  Sure glad to see him and had a good talk with him.
Now listen Elvira I want you to get busy and let me hear from you, what you are doing etc., and don’t forget or I will have to come out and look you up – and then look out, but in the meantime I am anxiously awaiting.

Yours with love,
Ray

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Vermontville, MI, Feb. 16, 1920
My Dearest Little “sweetie”
How is the “old girl” today?  Froze up?  Heavens but this is awful.  Ever since Saturday has been below zero and heavy wind.  I have had just about enough of this Michigan weather.  How about it, still ready to go to Cal. with me?  Now wouldn’t that be just swell if we were there together?
Am enclosing a clipping from the Grand Rapids Press, you see I am even in politics on a small scale.  Even if I do say it and I am not patting myself on the back either, but I have the people of this mans town “buffaloed.”  They think I am quite a fellow, and as long as they don’t know the difference, I’ll let them keep on thinking it.
Even at that, I hold a chair in the Masonic Lodge, am Adjutant (secretary) of the American Legion and am a member of the Country Club.   We are some proud of that.  Only started it last summer, but have built a club house costing $2,000.00 and have fixed up the grounds some but next summer will complete that.  Will have to have you come out some time and will show you one good time.  It is composed of the business man only, and one good crowd too.
Say old dear don’t worry but I will send you that picture just as soon as I have some taken.  Really, I have never had my picture taken in the last few years, not even when I went in the Army but when I get in town where I can have some taken will do that and then send you one, but I don’t see why you can’t send me one of yours, now come on and please do that and I promise on my honor that I will send one as soon as I have it taken.  Now please! Please!
Have been more or less busy all day and now almost time to close up the joint for the night.  Had one awful time last Friday.  The power was off for about 2 hours and had people standing all around with their stuff, but managed to get away with it after all.  We use electricity you know, and when any thing goes wrong with that you are through, but that doesn’t happen very often.
Had rather looked for a letter from you today, but none so far.  The man is up with a load of coal now and I told him to be sure and get the mail, will I be disappointed or not?  I do wish though that you would send me a picture of yourself, and I will do the same, and remember that I love you very, very “muchly.”  Now have a heart about that picture won’t you?
Yours with Love and Lots of if, and one big *
Ray
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Hotel Pantlind, Grand Rapids, MI, February 20, 1920
My Dearest Elvira,
Just think Sweetheart I am now a Shriner, one of my ambitions fullfulled, now you guess what one of the others is!  Am going to meet a couple fellows that I was in France with (they live here) and we are going to have a little feed and see a good show, sort of a small sized reunion you know, but wish you were here instead would try and show you the town.  Some place too. (They are playing the “Vamp” down in the lobby and makes one want to “shake ’em up” a little).
Haven’t had a letter from you for over a week and if I don’t get one tomorrow you better watch out.  Now remember that!
How is everything going at the depot, or is your father better and back to work again?  Hope he is better at least —
My time is limited but simply had to write you a line, write when you can and rememeber I love you, and tell me how much you love
Ray

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Vermontville, MI, February 23,1920
My very dearest “Sweetie”,
So you would like my honest thoughts regarding you? – Well, now I really thought I had made them very plain in all the previous letters, but evidently not.  And you think I have you wrong: why I couldn’t think a bad thought about you.  I don’t remember of ever saying anything out of the way that you could misconstrue like that.  “How do you get that way?”
My very honest opinion is that the better I get to know you the more I will love you, but I certainly love you all I can right now, now what do you think of that.  Does that convince you or not? –
Also think you are the finest I ever knew, even if it only was for a short time, in fact you are my ideal, now if you want any more convincing guesss you will have to wait until summer and then perhaps I can tell you enough so you will believe me, now let me ask you something – Just what do you think of me?  Now I wan tthe truth and I want it right away — Get that right do you??  If you will please excuse me for an hour or more will “high” myself homeward and take on some light (or heavy as the case may be) refreshment.
Back once more – now another thing (this letter is to call you down (?), convince you and to tell you how much I love you, you know very well when I called you “old girl” it was just a little term of endearment, but I’ll bet I can almost guess your age at that.  You are just about 22 – or perhaps 23, how about it?  ‘Spose you can do as well on guessing how old I am? Now if I have won the “aforesaid” cookie, would love to collect.
Was in Grand Rapids again yesterday (Sunday) to see my Dad.  Nothing much exciting going on there either, the most excitement was last Friday at the Shriner meeting.  Say that was the richest, and best, I have ever seen or expect to see.  More fun in those few hours than I thought possible.  Can’t beat it that’s all, and it is more or less exclusive too, not every body can belong there you know and I feel rather proud of the fact that I am in.
Well “Old Dear,” keep the good work up and write me real often, and please, please tell me how much you think of me, or if you ever could, you will now won’t you?  I love you Honey, and have always told you so, and believe me I will make you think so too —
Don’t ‘spose you would send me that picture either until I send you one?  Better had though.  And remember that I love you and love you, and think of you all the time and the time to come, well that’s up to you — I am yours with a great big kiss and Hug.
Ray

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Vermontville, MI, February 28, 1920
My dearest Elvira:-
You win-How you ever knew my age and birthday is a mystery to me, unless I told you, and if I did then I know you are keeping my letters and that makes me sure that you love me a little anyway.  Will you deny that?
Gee honey but am lonesome to be with you today.  Perhaps in the not to far distant future I can be, and every day too, how about it?
Am over at the Elevator again this pm (Sunday).  The people we have keeping house for us have some of their people in from the coutnry and they are not much and I don’t care to stick around where they are.  As I told you before my Dad is on the Grand Jury in Grand Rapids and my sister is in Florida, and don’t know if I ever told you or not but I have no mother as she died when I was only about a year and a half old so you see that leaves me rather alone at the present time and now sweetheart is when I think of you most, and need you most.
Don’t you belive that a fellow likes to have his “one” girl scold him, not much; what I like is sympathy and Love ——now do your worst—-
The farmers are organizing around here and think they will buy us out.  In that case think I will go to school.  Haven’t made up my mind yet, but will either go to the M.A.C. at Lansing, the U of M at Ann Arbor, or Madison.  If I can get what I want at Madison will go there (guess why) butu if not will have to stay in Michigan I guess.
Don’t you think that is the proper thing to do go to school again?  You see when I graduated from High School, didn’t know what I wanted, so went Railroading (and thru it met you) and now have an idea what I would take up and am not so old (as you seem to know) but could well afford to spend few years at the University.  Now what do you think of it.  How would you like to go to school again yourself?  “Aw” come onand be a good sport and tell me just how much you really do love me, if at all, for if you don’t will begin to think you don’t care.  I told you, didn’t I?  And now will have to tell you again, for I do love you, and love you —
How can I help it?  Remember I look for letters every day and when I don’t get one, am disappointed — so nightie Honey —
Yours for ever and ever
Ray

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Elvira and Ray, 1920-January

 

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Ray in loveVermontville – January 15, 1920

My Dear Elvira,
Received your very sweet letter some two or three days ago and sure glad that you feel toward me as you do, don’t know what there was about Ferryville but it always had a warm spot in my heart, must have been because you were still there.  I have a sneaking idea that the more I know you the better I love you.  Funny, isn’t it, must have been love at first sight, on my part at least.

One of the fellows in town is engaged to a girl in Wisconsin and we are thinking very strong on driving out there next summer, now how does that appeal to you?   You see,  could leave him and then come on over to Ferryville, would show the natives a few things for a few days anyway.

Now the more I think of it, the more decided I am to do that very thing.
Was in Hastings again last night and had one more tooth fixed.  Go back next week Tuesday and then am all ok again.  Not much sport, I’ll admit, but better have them fixed at the start, seems like I always have a date with a dentist.  Even had a few filled while in France.

Just had a letter from my sister, she is in Palm Beach.  Says it is fine there and swimming every day, and is having big time, you see she goes down every winter so knows most everyone there, but think I still prefer California.  After all, pack your bag and I will be right out and we will hit the trail for dear old Cal.

So you have been taking in the dances?  We haven’t had one here for a month, I guess, but I took them all in as they come.  Have fine parties too, get the music “Logans” from Lansing and they sure are there with that “jazz” stuff.  I’ll bet you are one fine dancer at that, although I can get by and not anything extra.

Gee honey, would give most anything to be with you tonight, feel rather lonesome or something, or maybe just to have you love me just a little, or rather a whole lot.  I really believe I have loved you from the first time I saw you. Perhaps I shouldn’t talk like this, but anyway that is just the way I feel toward you so consider yourself kissed right now —

Will have a picture taken of myself and send you one just as soon as I get in a place where I can.  Have a couple snapshots that were taken last summer after I got back from France and if can find them will send them to you so you can still remember me, but as soon as get photo taken will send you one but now I expect one in return from you and don’t forget.

temp.wwi men

(Above not Ray, but just to give you an idea of WWI soldiers in France.)

So you got a diamond ring for Xmas, that’s fine, but be careful what hand you wear it on.  I got a diamond myself, but a very small one though, it is in a Shriner pin I received for Christmas although I can’t wear it yet, as I am not a Shriner, but expect to be one next month.  Am getting part of the Commandory in Charlotte next week and as soon as get through there then can get the Shrine in Grand Rapids next month.  It is costing me about 300 “Iron Men” to go all the way through, but think it is worth it, if you don’t believe it ask your dad, he is a Mason if I remember right.

Well, sweetheart, if you will please kiss me good night will beat it for the feathers.  Write often, and if you are a real good girl to me will sure have to drive out there next summer and have a good old talk with you.
With lots and lots of love to my Elvira,
Ray

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Phoenix House, Charlotte, MI, January 20, 1920
My dear Elvira,
Couldn’t resist the temptation to write you a line or two.  This is the day I was supposed to go to Hastings and have more teeth fixed up, but received notice to be here 4pm today and receive 2 degrees in the Commandory so of course called off the date with the dentist.  Wasn’t sorry either.

Dentist
One awful day this,  heavy snow yesterday and heavy wind today and now it is sleeting.  Getting darn sick of this weather too, but ‘spose summer will be here some time and then can come out and see you?
Can’t hardly wait until that time arrives, for sure think a lot of you and the sweet memory of the short time we had together.
Do you know Elvira I think of you night and day and have ever since that memorable day when I was on 52.  I never have thought of any girl like I have of you.  Must have been providence that sent me the truth, for would hate to have you “kid” me along.  For I simply love you and that is all there is to it.  How can I help it?
How’s everything around your town?  Same as ever I suppose.  Not much happens in these small towns.  I manage to get up to Grand Rapids occasionally and see a good show.  Last one we went to was “Cappy Ricks.”  The stories have been running in the Saturday Evening Post you know, it sure was rich.  Never laughed so much in my life, perhaps you and I can enjoy them together some time?  Now answer me that – Well, sweetheart, remember that I always love you and think of you continuously.

Write me when you feel so inclined.
Yours with loads of love
Ray

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Vermontville, January 25, 1920

My dear Elvira,

Received the snapshots all right and think you make a good looking soldier but don’t think much of the wrap you got on the leggings.  Will have to come out and show you how to do it right. Wish I had a dollar for every time I had wrapped those damn things.  Am over at the elevator this afternoon fixing up some bookwork and correspondence.  If you are a good bookkeeper and stenographer, I’ll give you a good position, come on over to Mich., will show you a regular state.
Guess will have to bring you back with me next summer, so you don’t believe I will be out there? Well you just wait and see and if you have any money to bet just put that up too.
You know I have often wondered what you thought of me, for knowing me so short a time, and I being a stranger, and just a ham operator on the extra list.  I have a pretty good idea of what most people think of an operator just “blowing” into town, and don’t suppose I was any exception but then you being an operator yourself you understand, don’t you?  Well if you don’t then I know I will have to convince you on that next summer too.
Say, you never answered the question I asked you some time ago.  Are you still telegraphing?  If not, why not?  Etc., Etc.

(ed: at this time Elvira was the station agent at the Ferryville Depot, a somewhat uncommon job for a woman.

At the turn of the century, women station agents were in charge of the entire railyard, handling freight shipment billing, keeping track of train schedules, accepting letters and packages tobe put on mailcars. Many were also employed by Western Union and Wells Fargo shipping at the same station. Women often feminized their offices with pictures and plants. The local railroad depot or station was often the gathering place for locals to catch up on the latest gossip.

Sure I will go to Florida with you, if you won’t go to California with me, can’t stand much more of this cold weather.  Have to go to Cal next winter, I do believe, so make all you plans.
Just a year ago yesterday I landed in Nice on leave.  Was over to Monte Carlo and Italy and had one fine time for ten days.  Wish you and I were there now.  Would show you the sights and then go back up to Paris, some town that, take it from one that knows.
What are you going to do tonight? Think perhaps I will take in the picture shows, nothing else to do here, and I don’t want to take any chances on having someone “cap” (ed: cap, as in a woman “setting her cap” for a man) me before I get back to Wisconsin, so don’t worry.
Do you care if I smoke another cigarette now, didn’t think you would so here goes.
Well old sweetheart, get all set for I am surely coming out there.  Got to do it, that is all — so kiss me now, and will write again soon.

Yours with love and lots of it and “beaucoup” kisses,
Ray

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Elvira and Ray, 1919 – Home From War

Note from Ray, April 28, 1919 — first note since he left for WWI in 1917. some surprise

 

Hotel Statler, Detroit, July 14, 1919

Hotel Statler, Detroit
My dear Elvira,
Just received your letter as I was about to start for Detroit, and now that I am here, no better time in the world to answer.
Am only down for couple days taking in a Grain Dealers meeting to establish prices for the coming season, and incidentally wish you were in town for I think I could show you around some.
You know when I was at Camp Grant for discharge I thought of how close to Ferryville I was, but you know I hadn’t been home for so long I just simply had to get back but wish now that I had dropped up there for a day or so, but like I said before I thought you had completely forgotten me.
Not telegraphing any more and don’t think I will again unless I go south or out west again.  Can make more money in the grain business by far, and that is what I am after now.
Well “old dear” am in an awful rush so will close right here.
Lots of Love, as ever
Ray

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Elvira and Ray, 1917

enlistment poster

At this point, Elvira is 18, living in Ferryville and acting as an agent at the town depot.
Ray is a telegraph operator.

All spellings are as written in the letters.

Vermontville, MI, Dec. 17, 1917

My Dear Elvira,
Well I “done did it” was in Grand Rapids Mich last week and enlisted in the Signal Reserve Corps for immediate service in France, expect to be called about the first of the year. So you will have a chance to send me some of that candy you mentioned some time ago — that is if you care to — tried to enlist in the Navy but they did not need any wireless operators at this time so I done the next best.

‘Spose you are having the time of your young life this winter taking in all the dances in the surrounding country. Well that is one thing I sure like to do — dance with a swell dancer like I imagine you to be?
Gee but it has been awful cold down here the last week — too darn cold to suit me —

Last evening (Sunday) went to the show and sure wished you was with me would show you one big time — Are you and Jack as thick as ever? Pretty good scout but a little inexperienced —– but he will learn — well “old timer” write me soon, “Merry Xmas” as ever, Ray
Do you know what this is for XXXXX

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Elvira and Ray, 1917

At this point, Elvira is 18, living in Ferryville and acting as an agent at the town depot.

All spellings are as written in the letters.

Chicago, IL, May 6, 1917
My Dear Elvira,
Well how goes everything with you?  Fine I hope.  Say, did you see me when I went by on 52 the other day?  I saw you alright and you know it made me feel pretty dam lonesome too for some reason – I sure hated to leave – wish I had come up and seen you before I did – maybe I would have been there yet – who knows – Did Byron find out that I was up there?  I didn’t see anyone when going to the depot – but he was down next morning – so was A. Johnson and we were talking about it, and perhaps he got next? Am going leave here in four days so if you care to write me address it – Vermontville, MI.

Yours as ever, Ray A.

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Vermontville, MI, November 1, 1917

My Dear Elvira,
You may have thought that I had entirely forgot my old Wisconsin friend but such is not the case.  Really I have been so busy that I am not sure that I am even living.
Suppose that you are going to PD Chien to school this winter?  Certainly would like to be there for a day or so and visit school with you.  There was something about Ferryville that I always liked although I was there only 2 weeks – I know it was small but maybe it was the people – I know every time I think about it I always feel lonesome or home sick or something, I don’t know just how to describe it.
Suppose all my old “friends” are still there?  Does Art Johnson still go out and see Louise?  Some sport that boy but has a big heart.  And the barber?  Still wielding the razor?  I know he was glad to see me depart for parts unknown alright, alright.
Say, isn’t this the most awful weather?  Has rained or snowed around these parts for a month straight.  Now be sure and write me soon and tell me all the “news.”
Yours Sincerely,
Ray Anderson

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Vermontvill, MI, Nov. 12, 1917
My Dear Elvira,
The day I received your letter was on my way to Lansing to get the car fixed, and wished many times that you were along.  Enjoyed myself of course but thought it would have been much nicer is you had been with me but then such is life – “Distance lends enchantment.”
Say it sure must be dead around that burg with everyone gone to war – how did the new operator suit you?  Wish it was me going back –
Did you mean Smeltzer was too slow to catch cold?  but a good guy just the same – Speaking of war – ‘spose I will soon be there myself, then you can send me some of that candy – guess I will come up and see my prairie “Rose” gee wish I could – say how does it happen that you are not going to school this year – take my advise and go – Even I am thinking of going to the University of Michigan.
For lack of space – will kiss you good nite and close with love.
Ray A.

_____________________________________________

Vermontville, MI, Nov. 22, 1917
My Dear Elvira,
Say, this awful weather – snowing and blowing just something fierce – I sure feel sorry for the poor soldiers out in this storm and that reminds me – was the barber drafted?  The reason I ask is that if he was – he undoubtedly is at Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Mich, and you know I am only about 30 miles from there and as I know several there, I thought I would look him up, might help some you know.
No, I wasn’t drafted but I only missed it by 3 days – you know every one that is between 21 and 31 had to register on June 5th and I was 21 on the 8th – so you can see I was lucky – but I am figuring on going back to the pacific Coast and enlisting in the navy.
You know you said in your last letter you were going to take some pictures – now please send me some.  I didn’t know there was a show in Ferryville – must be something new?  Next time you go to the show with Jack, or at any time for that matter, tell him I am still among the living.
Have you had the “Prairie Rose” yet?  They had a high school play here the other night which was very good – for you see I helped drill them so why shouldn’t it be good?
No, I never hear from Art.  I wrote him once but never heard from him.  Suppose you and Louise talk about him every once in a while?  So you don’t care much for the new operator –  well guess I will have to come back.
Say Elvira there is a big dance on here Thanksgiving.  You better board the train and “come on over.”  – will show you a big time wish you could.  Don’t forget the pictures –
With Love, Ray A.

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Elvira

This is a story that starts with this house in Ferryville, Wisconsin on the Mississippi River that my husband Bill and I had admired in passing for 20 years on our trips up to the river, where we have some property and too many boats. AH, full view

It had always seemed abandoned, covered with mayflies in the summer and surrounded by fall leaves or snow in the off-season. No cars, no people, no movement at all.

We wondered, but never went any further until one day we noticed a banner outside saying the property would be auctioned off at the end of the month down in Prairie du Chien.  Friendly neighbors told us that the owner, a 93-year old man, had passed away recently.

The little family he had left had come up and taken the things they wanted, and then had tried to get Goodwill or another charity to take the rest but, as the man was a true hoarder, the offer was refused and the house was full of old magazines, old newspapers, old clothes, old bottles and other closely held treasures.

We went through the house and it was rough by any standard –  the walls and ceilings were peeling, the upstairs rooms were reduced to lath by water leaks and the house had not been cleaned, or really even touched, in probably 30 years.

The neighbors reported that they’d tried to help, cutting the grass, shoveling the snow and checking on the resident, but he had refused to move even after some serious health episodes; he wanted to be in the house until he died, and in the country if that’s what someone wants, that’s what happens.

It was in looking through the upstairs that we came upon this pile of letters in a cardboard box full of old newspapers and yellowed window blinds…AH love letters2f

As we looked through the box, there were more…and more, all addressed to the same woman.  All from the same man. Several seemed to be unopened. Upon pulling out one or two, I discovered they were love letters. The time they were written covered her life from age 18 to about 30.

As I looked at them, several thoughts ran through my mind:  1) They did not belong to the deceased owner, bearing a different name and being postmarked in Wisconsin in 1929 (he bought the house in the 80’s) and probably not relating to his family since no one in the family wanted them.   2) No one, not even charities, would take anything, so once the cleaners got a look at what they were up against, the letters  would surely end up in a dumpster  3) The nice neighbor had predicted that the house would be torn down.

This is the room where he spent his days…note the photos that broke my heart, although the neighbor said he never seemed unhappy, just wanted to be left to himself. But that’s another story.

AH, dresser, photosF

So yes, we took the letters.  We honestly didn’t think anyone cared– Ferryville is an beautiful but unsentimental hunting and fishing town– so were surprised and embarrassed when the man who was acting as caretaker of the house mentioned the theft to Bill.  Bill confessed, explained that we thought we were saving them from the town dump or a bulldozer, and the caretaker, who it turns out had lived in Ferryville all his life and knew the lady of the letters in passing, gave us permission to keep the letters and read them.

Like us, he was curious as to what they might reveal about Ferryville and its surroundings in the early 1900’s, and had been afraid that someone had taken the letters merely for the possible value of the stamps.  I, of course, was far more interested in the epic soap opera that lay before me. The letters I have read are no-holds-barred gushers; these men thought nothing of declaring their everlasting love, desolation at being separated and hopes for a lifetime of marital bliss. The real mystery here is Elvira herself.

Over 170 letters, around 60 from a man named Ray and, later on, over 100 from another named Arthur, plus a few miscellaneous Lowells and Bills.  A slog through ancestry.com gave me the bare bones of the characters: Ray (letters from 1917-1925) was born in 1896, had grown up in Michigan, married someone else in 1925 and lived a good long life, passing away in Palm Beach.

Arthur (letters from 1927-1930),  was born in 1904, the youngest of a large local family, had never married or had children, died in his early 40’s and was buried in Lynxville,  a nearby river town.  Elvira was born in 1899, had never married or had children either and had died in Ferryville in the early 80’s, keeping to home in the Ferryville cemetery.

I did, of course, get more complete information, but thought it best not to be too detailed about names and birthdays lest the letters (which I have not finished) contain information that family members, though I couldn’t find any, might not feel comfortable seeing in print. Unlike our neighbors on the coasts, Midwesterners do not confuse drama, even hundred-year-old drama, with achievement.

A dozen years worth of love letters (and those were just the ones I found).  Arthur never married. Neither did Elvira.

Fighting down the impulse to go straight to the end, I’m starting to type them up from the beginning, usually by postmark although sometimes by dates on the letters, and will publish them as I go along, stopping where it seems right and maybe adding a little commentary here and there.  I’ll never be too far ahead of you, since after I type half a dozen or so I have to stop. Hope you enjoy.

PS.  We did go to the auction.  We did bid on the house.  We went double on the amount that we swore would be our limit.  We were outbid.  Thank God.

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