Long ago, in another lifetime, people didn't instant message, text or email one another. We had to rely on the phone, which we thought was a wonderful thing - other than we couldn't afford to call long distance very much. So those calls were limited to holidays and special occasions - or the occasions no family wanted to share: The funeral.
I remember watching my dad work at his desk writing. There were old writing tools inside the desk: Pens that required ink fills. There were no ball point pens when I was a kid. But to have an ink pen that filled with ink was progress, as before that, people were using pens that needed to be repeatedly dipped into an ink well. We had those things, too. Likely used by my own parents or perhaps their parents to write letters.
I could hardly wait to learn how to write. I would draw endless lines of connected e's in varying lengths. Then I'd go to my dad and ask him if I was 'writing.' He would glance down and tell me 'yes.' I was so proud of myself! And why e's? Because that's what cursive writing looked like to me...long connections of loops that were large and small. So looping continuous e's made perfect sense to me.
But before you could write, you had to print. So began my formal education in a classroom with a round rug, toys at the side and a large room with sandboxes and paints with another even larger room to another side with pretend stores, schools, tricycles and very large balls. On nice days, some of those things went onto the playground. On rainy days, we all gathered in those large rooms to play and to also take naps.
By 4th grade, the world of cursive was finally taught. I looked at my childish handwriting and looked at my parents line of loops and thought there was no way my penmanship could ever be as beautiful as theirs: Particularly my mother's. Her handwriting was graceful curves and looked like artwork to me.
To encourage our writing skills, we were also encouraged to gain pen pals. Those were other kids we wrote to and asked questions of. It was a combo geography/history/writing exercise. My pen pal was from England. My younger sister drew a girl from South Africa. Such an exotic place! And I was secretly jealous of not getting an equally exciting place as South Africa. England? Pssshhh! We fought them, for heaven's sake! I was NOT impressed! LOL!
Of course, that idea of history, culture and geography was quickly tossed off to the wayside because we were still kids. And we wrote about what kids liked! Just like today, I'd imagine, we talked about our daily lives, our vacations, and what music we were into at the time. I loved Nancy Drew. My pen pal did not. I like jeans and sweat shirts. My pen pal liked dresses and girlie things. To say we were mismatched would be an understatement. LOL!
But we wrote and sent Christmas cards and that sort of thing. I liked looking at the stamps and used filmy paper where I'd write very tiny because I only had the inner area and the back of one flap to fit all my thoughts and feelings on life. It was a self-sealing letter/envelope and they always were blue. There were no color choices, so blue it was. And frugal it was. Every penny counted.
Indiana actually decided to drop cursive writing from the required curriculum. After all, no one wrote any more. Really? I was among those who thought that was a VERY stupid idea because NOT teaching cursive meant an entire generation would be cut off from reading a history of our people. Not only journals, but those old and long ago letters - the few that somehow are saved and hung onto and survive fire, flood, moves and flat out trashing them.
I don't have many old letters, but I have a few. The whole point about today's topic is one of those letters. The one I'm looking at is 90 years old and comes from an era when my aunts, uncles, mom and dad were all young: July 24, 1923. It's written by a distant cousin living in Los Angeles, California....and addressed to my Aunt Hall (Ethel (Madden) Eldenburg in Beardstown, IL. (Refer to another family history to understand THAT last name. LOL) I left the spellings as they appear in the letter:
'Dear Niece: -
This sure was one big surprise to get a LEtter from my Little Niece. How did you happen to Write to me once? You surely did surprise us both. I couldn't immagine from who that Letter could be. I had to Look at the address first. You say you was but a Baby when you saw me last. Well, I should say so. You sure was a cute Little Gireley. I have always wondered why the Boys never would write to me because they was larger then you. They can remember me better. Now You write me soon again and tell me how old you are by now. I think (but not sure) that you are about 15 or 15 years old. (Aunt Hall was actually 14) You write and tell me for it seams that it is only a short time sense I was in New York City last and seen you. (Aunt Hall was born in 1908 in NYC)
Your Mother when writing to me has never told me how you was getting along so now I want You to tell me all about yourself and the Boys and tell them to Write too, and tell me how far you are getting along in school for you sure Write a Nice hand so plain any one can read it, so must say we have our Home in Riverside, Calif that is 58 milles (miles) East of Los Angeles. We are Just renting here. My Wifes Father lives on our property there and Two Boys and the Youngest Girl are there Liveing in the House. Mr Bartel My Wifes Father is 83 years old. He looks after Everyting (everything) there and the children all Take care of themselves. They are all grown up. The oldest Daughter is 31 years old. She is Married. Her Name is Mrs Hahn. Her Husband is a News paper Printer. he Makes good Money and the youngest Boy is with them. He works in a Print Shot too. They Live at Long Beach, Calif. 22 Miles South of Los Angeles. So Aunt Bertha and I are all alone Now. We live Happy alone. We can get along so Nicely. So on our little Place in Riverside, Calif. we have 36 Orange Trees, servel Aprocot, GrapeFruit, Peatches, Gif and Apple Trees. It is a very nice place to Live, but I haven't got the Work there that I have here in Los Angeles.
So you think you will come to Denver, Colo. soon. Well that will be near California so you can come and see us and stay as long as you like. It is quite hot here now. It has been so cool this spring up tel (till) July 1st. It's Making up for the Lost time. Now I have been working out in the hot Sun for servel (several) days and it's sure Hot. So now I have told you about all I can think of. Now you Write me soon and I shall Write you more. So will close. Hope to hear from you REal soon.
Lovelingly Your Aunt and Uncal Carl and Bertha. Mr & Mrs C.F. Eldenburg 3814 1/2 Wall St. Los Angeles, Calif.
In beautiful curvise, a very large P.S. shows, followed by date of July 26, 1923.
I forgot to Mail Your Letter so I must add and say this was another Warm day but not as hot as it has been for the last few days. But, here it Matters not how hot the days are. The Nights are always Cool and by Morning some Nights it gets real chilly so a person can ware (wear) a coat or sweeter (sweater). So we can always get a good Nights Rest So again its getting late so must close. Hope to hear from you real soon. Your Unc C.F.E.
The envelope, post marked Los Angeles, Calif on July 27, 1923 was stamped at 11:30 AM and bears a 2 cent US Postage stamp. It's addressed to:
Miss Ethel Endenburg
308 E 2nd St
Beardstown, ILL - with a notiation c/o C. Madden