Oct. 13, 1960: Dear Femme Fatale (Russ Hates “Red China”)

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October 13, 1960

Dear Femme Fatale,

I have high hopes for this letter, you guys.

This is the letter I mentioned in the typed “essay.” It was in my lecture notes folder, and that’s why I couldn’t find it right away. I put it there with the intention of working on it during my lab yesterday. An intention which obviously did not materialize.

I listened to the Kennedy-Nixon debates this evening. Sen. Kennedy disappoints me. He is still beating the drums for leaving Quemoy and Matsu for Red China when the smallest aid to the Nationalists could stop it. He advocated supporting “only our commitments.” This means for a big bloody war on like North Korea only on Formosa.

Russ. Russ, Russ, Russ. How do you lure me in with the promising start of “Femme Fatale” and end up making me Google the long-forgotten Cold War flashpoint of Quemoy and Matsu? It’s fun to confirm that the news of the night rarely matters in the long term, isn’t it? But! Let’s take this as a learning opportunity, shall we? Come with me, nerds (more here):

The Quemoy-Matsu issue was first raised in the second [Nixon-Kennedy] debate on October 7, 1960. Disagreement between the candidates was instant. Unlike any other single issue, Quemoy and Matsu continued to be a bone of contention well into the third and fourth debates on October 13 and 21, 1960. Throughout the debates Kennedy reminded the American people that Nixon might actually risk military action to defend Quemoy and Matsu even in the absence of an all-out attack on Taiwan. By pointing out that Nixon would commit the United States to defend the offshore islands as a matter of principle, Kennedy was able to paint Nixon as dangerously dogmatic and unyielding in a very uncertain situation; he also emphasized that Nixon’s position was inconsistent with the Eisenhower Administration in which he was then Vice President.

The American people, concerned about the potential for war, understood the divergent positions on Quemoy and Matsu offered by the candidates and this understanding contributed to their acceptance of Kennedy as a calm and thoughtful leader they could trust.

So, what did happen to Quemoy and Matsu? Fifty years after the Kennedy-Nixon debates, Quemoy and Matsu are still in the hands of the Republic of China on Taiwan. Because of the relaxation of tensions between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan [side note to this side note: twelve years after Russ writes this letter Nixon will usher in normalization of relations between the U.S. and the PRC], the military presence on both Quemoy and Matsu has been reduced substantially. Both islands have become destinations for tourists from both the mainland and Taiwan. And, as a reminder of those turbulent times of the 1960 presidential debates, the extensive fortifications and tunnels constructed to defend the offshore islands are now major tourist attractions. Quemoy and Matsu, flash points during the Kennedy-Nixon debates, never flared up.

I never expected to learn that this week. Neat! But back to Russ:

Not even Kennedy’s running mate, Johnson, agrees with him. Kennedy just wasn’t able to find a leg to stand on. Several times he called Nixon a liar and proceeded to support Nixon’s viewpoint.

This is also a fun spin on the idea that those who listened to these debates on the radio thought Nixon won and those who watched on TV thought Kennedy won. No question TV changed things. There’s no getting past the fact that, since 1960, New Hotness always wins over Old and Busted.

Kennedy also repeatedly asks everyone to “look at the record,” but only from 1952-1960 when the Republicans were in power. Eight years and they haven’t been able to clean up the mess. But the mess was caused between 1932 and 1952 when a Democratic administration gave Germany everything and then gave the Russians the same thing and threw in the kitchen sink. While Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and East Germany, to name a few, wanted to be and were free and independent countries we, led by the Democratic administration, allowed the Russian forces to occupy these countries. Countries which were not even deserving of occupation.

Wait, which countries are deserving of occupation? Unclear, but something tells me that Russ is a Republican and, at this point in his life, quite a partisan. Just a guess! But it’s funny how, even in 1960, a partisan has to reach back several years to make sure their rival party are The Ones Who Caused All These Problems. Some things never change, I guess? 

They took no part in the war and certainly should not have been placed under domination. West Germany and Austria are free and independent. And we have backed out over and over again while communism grows bigger and bigger and we get closer and closer to war. 1942 all over again, only twenty years later. Just about 1962 Red China and/or Russia will really get in gear. Conditions are just about what they were in 1940.

Let Red China have Quemoy and Matsu. Then they’ll be satisfied. Sure they will. It’s about time the United States threw some of its weight around and illustrated some of its superiority. Enough politics.

Indeed.

No mail today. I’m going to have to start sending out my letters daily. Like the beginning of this one could have been mailed out. I am going to adopt this policy. You, of course, will be the first to find out.

I caught up on some of my other correspondence also. This will result in more letters which will put me further behind. Sort of a vicious circle. Maybe I’ll just limit my letters to you.

That way, I’ll only have one letter to write per day. I do write to you every day even though you don’t receive one every day. That’s something anyway. Will find out what my Chem. hourly performance was last Wednesday tomorrow in my quiz section. I’m hoping for the best. This one I want to make good on. If I can pull a “B” I’ll be happy. If I can pull an “A” I’ll be overjoyed.

My compliments to the fine culinary skills of the K__ household. You must have had some part, a large one, in the making of these goodies, which I am again sampling while I write this. That’s why they taste so good. I know something that tastes even better, however, but is not filling in any way.

Is there a more perfect avatar for Russ than Milhouse Van Houten?

HEY NOW.

But you have to be here for those. Can’t get enough, though, my appetite for ’em is never satisfied. Yum-yum. The supply is much more bounteous also. Enough or I’ll leave for Chicago tonight. Believe me, the temptation is very strong.

WELL, I think we have a better idea of What Happened at Homecoming, and I’m gonna go ahead and forgive him for that “yum-yum” business. If you can’t, I won’t hold it against you.

Well, the sandman calls and I do have a couple classes tomorrow. Good night, sweetheart, sleep tight and if you dream, dream of me. Take real good care of yourself.

Love always,

Russ

I wonder what Russ did when he finished this letter. I bet he took real good care of himself.

Oct. 13, 1960: Russ Hates Rock and Roll

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This letter is not marked 2 of 5 but it falls in line in terms of date and is the only one not marked with a number. 

It is also a very long letter written on a typewriter and riddled with misspellings. I tried to keep his misspellings in but it got confusing, because I couldn’t figure out what were my misspellings and what were his and I do not currently have an intern for this project. 

October 13, 1960

Dearest “K”,

I’m trying out someone else’s typewriter, and I thought that it would be most fitting that I should type something important, therefore I am writing you this letter. I hope that you don’t mind that fact that it is typed and not written by hand. Some people have an aversion for this kind of letter and feel insulted. I am also making more than my share of mistakes.

Imagine feeling insulted by a typed communique? Adorable! Also, anybody else hoping it’s Bev’s typewriter? I’m very into this side plot point that I made up. 

I should also be honest. [I’m typing this on Bev’s typewriter. Kidding!] My typing is not so good as this letter may indicate. This is an electric typewriter and the keys naturally all strike the paper with the same pressure, something I have not been able to master on a standard typewriter (I have a legitimate excuse for this line however. The lever that controls the spacing between lines is located exactly where the carriage release is located on my typewriter and I hit that during the previous line.)

HIGH TECH!

I kinda, sorta, like this typewriter even though it is a Smith-Corona.

He’s very fussy about brands. I am going to start a list of Things Russ Doesn’t Like. So far it includes everything and everyone except Karen and college football. 

However, I think that I would like any electric model. They’re great for speed and a better looking job. I’ll have to save my pennies and buy an IBM machine someday.

The weather has been great. I know that talking about the weather is rather trite, but it has been worth remarking upon. It has almost been hot, but in being hot, it has attained the perfect temperature. It’s great, really great. However, this kind of weather is not exactly conducive to studying. I hope it holds out until Oct. 29, but that is probably to much to hope for. WPGU is also playing all my favorites and today I feel like I’m on top of the world. Obviously last weekend has not worn off yet and I hope it never does.

What Happened at Homecoming!? PLEASE TELL US.

I’m afraid that for some reason this letter is beginning to sound rather formal in an informal way. (A contradiction? But that’s the best that I can do to express the ridiculous impression my letter would make on anyone. You’ll just have to put up with it because there is nothing I can do about it.)

You make me jealous. Your letters are always so much better than mine. How do you do it. I have not learned the skill. Probably I lack the intelligence. Maybe I can read books on the subject.

Sneaky background info on Russ: He lives 30 minutes from my house and when I read this part it was the first time I went: WAIT, would it be weird to call and ask him if he kept Karen’s letters? I would give him $20 for the box, no haggling, just like I did at the flea market to get these!

I put the introduction and the first entry into my “diary” last night. You will be the first one to read it, I hope. Then I will hope for the best regarding your reaction to the fantastic things it expounds upon. The first entry is probably typical. The writings of a madman! Better not let my enemies get the bloody thing. Enough about my “diary.”

Did Karen give him a diary? It sounds like it. Why else would he be writing in it with her in mind?

My roommate likes the idea of going to Chicago the 29th. He will probably stay at my house Saturday night and with some of his friends Friday night. We won’t be coming together because he wants to take the later train. This should result in some rather interesting complications when it comes to meeting each other. Either we can meet each other or I could give him directions on how to get to my house and let him shift for himself. But that wouldn’t be fair. I live too far out in the back woods to let him try to find his way out there alone. He’s liable to be captured by the natives and offered as a sacrifice to the gods. Or the alligators might get him.

I wonder just how the alligators are doing since they filled in all the swamps with gravel and tar and provided drainage. They’ve probably invaded the sewerage system. We have very hardy alligators. They can live anywhere. The swamps of Evergreen Park are gone! There are still some untamed parts of the village left though. For example, in front of the high school. That is how the old alma mater keeps its enrollment from getting too large. Freshman are required to negotiate the Great Swamp everyday of their first semester.

Fortunately, when I was a luckless Freshman, I was not required to do this. Otherwise I might not be here today and the world be a poorer place for the lack of my esteemed self. (i.e. Everyone would be happier.) I’m really very humble. I just don’t let it show too often.

I just feel good – – – good – – – good! Actually, I have all kinds of studying to do and I should do some of it this afternoon, but on the other hand, I know that if I were to start it wouldn’t do any good because I’d get nothing done. Therefore I will continue writing this letter. (the above mess was caused by the fact that I put in the page number and while rilloing the paper back to the top of the page I managed to mess up the alignment. Typical.)

As someone who has worked in publishing nearly 20 years and once used an electrical typewriter? I have no effing idea what he’s talking about at all.

What else shall I write about? That is a fatal question. This is because when I ask it I am required to really come up with something to write about and that is impossible as you know from my past letters and the bulk of this one. Can’t help it though. My Rhet. Instructor the first two semester down here had the same complaint. Say what you mean and mean what you say. (Patents pending for Sigma Phi Gamma on that expression.) “More or less” is also to be patented by the one and only “club.” SIGMA PHI GAMMA forever.

Sigma Phi Gamma is a sorority. Karen might be part of the sorority? 

(One may pay occasional, if not more frequent, homage to that organizations of which I am the one and only officer (Secretary-Treasurer).)

There must something important to say in a letter. Something of great and grandiose proportions.

And if I don’t have that, I’ll just use grandiose verbiage!

Something which will strike awe into the hearts of men. I intend to write the “Letter of the Century.” (I have a great of unfounded faith in myself. Nobody else has any faith in me however, and probably with good reason.)

The other guy in the room with me here thinks I’m writing a love letter. He should know what this group of inane words is. I don’t think I good write a love letter that would make sense. It takes a great deal of skill to write a good love letter and I have no skill at letter-writing.

Someone is “oinking” on the radio to the tune of some rock and roll piece. You’ve probably heard the song. It comes very close, if it does not actually satisfy the conditions of being the epitome of “Rock and Roll” played on the radio. Anyone’s immediate reaction is disgust, which is good. Someday, however, by process of repetition, this type of “musical” masterpiece will become the norm and everybody will have a “fine appreciation” of “Rock and Roll.”  When that day comes I want to be one of the non-conformists. Enough complaining about people. Where would the world be without them ———-?

FUN FACT: The Twist by Chubby Checker debuted in 1960 and was a monster hit that fall.

No space will allow for an answer as the answer is obvious — in a way. That question is just like the group of question represented by: “What color is red in the dark.” Think about that one for awhile if you haven’t already done so in the past.

Deep, Russ. 

The Pirates beat the Yankees, 10-9. Good news. Tremendous. The Yankees should never win another World Series. I do not like the Yankees in any form, shape, or manner. They beat the Sox. That alone is enough to make a “good Chicagoan” hate them. Maybe someone will start spending money on the Cubs again and they’ll recover from the indefinite slump (?) they are in now and and have been in longer than I can remember. Maybe they’ll even get out of the cellar.

I’m terrible at sports trivia and even I know the future has some good news and some bad news for Russ. 

Of course, cellars are genuinely cooler and they don’t like the summer heat. Next step— Winter Baseball — in Chicago. A new first for Mayor Daley. How is the old crook. Is the Daley Party still in power———-I mean absolute power. The citizenry of Chicago will have to start an uprising. There’s something you can do in your spare time. Organize a revolt. Another Joan of Arc. Then I could come to Chicago and help and also protect my family and my favorite person — one Karen K.

And now, after wasting four pages, I’ll get to something which really is important. Your letter wasn’t bad at all. What was wrong with it? It was great! And what was wrong with your hair? You are going to have to stop raining these insults upon my favorite person. I cannot allow it. There is no excuse for it. How would you like to be sued for liable? Ok, then, I have your word that I will have no more of this.

I thank Beau for her concern. I don’t know if I will be able to withstand her welcoming me back. I’ll definitely need your moral support, your physical support, a get-away route, and a towel. Already I’m thinking ahead to the time (Oct. 29) when I see my second home again.

Also give my love to your mother. This and my thanks is all I have to give for her for the food she sent me. Naturally, I am still working on what I got from everybody. I am indeed lucky to have people who think of me, at least once in awhile.

I can’t really decide if his self-deprecating is low self-esteem or cheeky knowledge that he’s an arrogant smarty pants. Maybe a combo of both. 

Now Pappa must have a very good sense of humor. All you have to do is find it. Maybe he just wants attention. This is always a good procedure to follow. Everybody likes attention. Makes them feel loved, and that is a feeling everybody, without exception, enjoys. Send him a real “mushy” card for Father’s Day or for his birthday or something and see what happens. Patience and understanding. At least you can be friends. I love you anyway, so don’t feel unloved and unwanted. I don’t mind saying so and showing it either.

Aww, Karen’s dad sucks (this explains so much). 

And your letters are NOT a waste of time. Nothing you write is a waste of time. Only my letters waste people’s time and force them to read something that they would never read under any other circumstances.

I mean… 

Incidentally, you are going to be subjected to a very, very long letter which you will have to wade through with large boots.

Let me explain. It bothers me that Ellen should have received a letter that could possibly have been longer than any I have sent to you. Consequently, you are going to receive a longer one. Her letter was 16 pages long, typewritten, and single spaced between the lines. Therefore you have some idea of the length you are going to receive. The only drawback is that I will have to find two things:

  • Free time to do it. This shouldn’t be too hard since a great deal of my work should be over soon.

  • Subject matter to write about. This maybe a little more difficult, but not impossible. I may just continue in my present procedure and write about nothing. However, you can expect several essays which are more or less out of character in a personal letter, but then again so is the length slightly out of character.

Blathering at length is certainly not out of character for Russ. When I transcribed this letter initially I was pretty annoyed with the section above and felt it was self-indulgent grandstanding, but, rereading it, I think he’s trying to cheer her up and make her feel like she’s worthy of attention. Her dad must be a real turd.

But you can expect it for sure. Probably sometime between Oct. 29 and Thanksgiving. Either that or between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most likely sooner than later in this case. This is something I will not put off. (there are times when I don’t procrastinate, but these times are so few and far between that I have to devote those times that do come to something important, — like for example, your letters.)

One of these days I’ll have to write to the other members of Sigma Phi Gamma and let them know that I’m still alive. I am you know, even if I don’t sound that way.

He must have gone to a sorority party of hers?  

Why don’t you bind all my letters together in one of these paper binders and submit it to the psychology department at St. Xav’s as a study on the ramblings of a madman. They would probably find the whole thing rather interesting, but let me know when you do it because I want to get to a safe place where they won’t be able to find me unless they’re in the same shape that I’m in, in which case we’ll all make just one great big happy family.

And now we’re back to our regularly scheduled navel-gazing. 

Well now, I’d better imbibe some food so that I’ll be full of vim and vigor(?). The afternoon is gone. Good evening, Sweetheart, and auf wiederschauen for a little while. I’ll see you later. Somewhere around my room is the beginning of a letter I started writing to you. I’ll try to find it tonight. Take care of yourself and don’t study too hard. Love you.

Love as always,

Russ

“Don’t study TOO hard” must be a running joke between them as well. 

Why I Collect View-Master

I’ve had several people reach out to me recently to talk to me about View-Master collecting. Weird for multiple reasons not the least of which is that I could point you in the direction of several people who are much more dedicated to View-Master collecting than I am.

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I liked View-Master as a kid because it dovetailed nicely with my love of movies, TV, and escapism in general. I’ve always loved visual media. I have a degree in film studies, and I’ve always loved picking things apart. I didn’t know this was called semiotics when I first started doing it, but I guess that’s a big piece of what I liked about View-Master.

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Other things I like about it include seeing things I normally wouldn’t or couldn’t see, playing with a mid-century novelty device, getting to peek into the past, picking apart and considering the images and their composition and meaning, as well as the device’s overall connection to pop culture over many decades. I also have this pretty sweet spreadsheet I get to work on whenever I get new reels, and that is deeply satisfying.

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There are also individual reels and recurring themes I enjoy. That list includes flaming dolphins, weird dioramas, great dioramas, sad animals in zoos, images of countries I’ve never visited (often from the 1940s), the delightfully crazy way people once bored holes into ancient trees just for the novelty, the way folks could touch all the walls on a cave tour and didn’t even care they were ruining it for future generations, and the way white ladies sit overdressed and contemplative while staring at a landscape, to name a few.

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There’s certainly an argument to be made that View-Master is a particularly upper middle class and white thing. I don’t think I’m qualified to do that topic justice but it’s important to acknowledge it, I think. Reels and viewers have never been expensive so they weren’t intended for the wealthy, but the images presented in the reels, by and large, offers a glimpse into the destinations of wealthy or worldly white people on vacation at mid-century. I’m not sure if I found it relatable or aspirational when I first started collecting. I didn’t grow up taking vacations regularly. We did little road trips and saw lots of interesting landscapes along the way, however.

One thing I always liked about View-Master, once I began learning about it, was that the creator thought of it as a way to bring the world to everyone. I liked that idea very much. And it’s something I always think about when I see a reel on a topic I haven’t seen before. I liked that they have reels on the history of Chinese art, on how to identify a variety of mushroom types, and that it was used as a tool to teach pilots.

I like it because I still think it’s a tool and a toy that teaches me new things all the time.

Oct. 12, 1960: Russ Doesn’t Like Chemistry and We Don’t Know What Happened at Homecoming

Worried that you missed a love letter? See a chronological list here.

Listen, I KNOW you want to know What Happened at Homecoming. You know I want to know What Happened at Homecoming. But, frankly, we have no way of knowing What Happened at Homecoming, because people don’t usually recap events in letters to the people they just experienced those events with, sadly. That said, Russ is on fire after Homecoming with tons of letters and notes and is basically making it rain in Karen’s mail box.  

This letter is marked 1 of 5 on the envelope! He’s ON FIRE, I tell you.

October 12, 1960

It’s my pre-anniversary! Exactly 42 years to the day before I married my husband. Awwww. 

Leibchen “K”

Russ continues his fine tradition of transposing the ei/ie in German words and, instead of calling Karen “sweetheart” he’s calling her “camisole” As an editor, this kind of thing amuses me. You could also choose to think Russ is sending a secret joke to her about the fact that he got her top off but not her camisole after the dance. I’m open to both interpretations. 

I’m starting this letter with the intention of finishing later today, after I get some sleep (i.e. it is 1:20 a.m., hence the date above). I didn’t get back to the dorm until 11 p.m. and consequently missed your call if it came. My room-mate wasn’t here either, so I have no way of knowing.

Oh, snap, did he kill that roommate

Tomorrow, or later this morning to be consistent, I have my Chem. hourly. The first, what’s more. The reason I mention it is because it will “tell the tale” — that is, whether to be optimistic about Chem. 124 or continue to be pessimism. My most optimistic attitude toward the course, right now, is what most people would regard as pessimistic, which all sounds like so much gibberish. Oh, well, can’t have everything. However, you can still wish me luck — luck in that the instructor who grades it will be lenient or blind and miss all the mistakes.

One of my room-mate’s professors is blind. Imaging being judged by the sound of your voice and the foot-falls of your feet. My room-mate says he’s pretty good though.

Imagine being judged for being blind, Russ? Seriously, though, I like this! Hope he adds more gossipy side notes. 

This week promises to be dull. Nothing is happening, and I’ve got all kinds of work to do. I’ll be glad when Thursday’s over and I can relax a little. When the week is over, things will be better yet. Classes all day tomorrow. “Echh!” as Alfred E. Neuman might say.

Well, Sweetheart, now I’ve got to “retire for the night, morning, or whatever it is” and sleep — you know, “perchance to dream.” But, contrary to Hamlet’s plight, I have pleasant dreams. Why bother dreaming if we can’t dream pleasantly. Happier that way, right. Ok.

And sweet dreams to you. Take real good care of yourself and I’ll see again before you know it. Buenos noches, until later.

Love as ever,

Russ

I like that Russ is terrible at foreign languages but that does not slow him down one bit. 

Oct. 4, 1960: Russ Hates His Room-Mate

Worried that you missed a love letter? See a chronological list here.

 

Nobody panic, but this is the last letter before Homecoming.

October 4, 1960

Dearest Karen,

Actually, it’s October 5, but we won’t dwell upon that. My roommate is studying. He keeps the oddest hours and besides that is lazy. You are fortunate. You do not have a roommate. One of these fine semesters I too will dispense with my room-mate.

Ooh, I know how this ends. 

That is, if I talk some sense into this one so that there be no future room-mates to dispense with. I really don’t care how he spends his time as long as he spends the late evening and early morning hours out of the room if he doesn’t want to sleep. I’m actually not too hard to please. I just seem to pick night owls. But this guy is going to learn the spirit of co-operation one way or another.

Russ isn’t hard to please. He’d just like to go to bed early in a college dorm.

Anyway, tonight I can’t complain too much tonight because I wanted to write to you which takes precedence, but he does it other nights and that is what I’m really complaining about. He doesn’t seem to one way or the other. Oh, the joys of college living! Blah!

Russ is pushing 80 in 2018, but he got a real head start on the crotchety old dude schtick, no?

Enough griping about my room-mate. I hope I hear from somebody soon regarding when you’re coming down. The suspense is killing me, but you can’t rush the U.S. mail or time. My parents are supposed to let me know. Pretty soon I’m going to convince myself that you’ll be here Friday and then I’ll be disappointed if you don’t come. The only thing that has prevented me from doing so until now is Beverly’s unfavorable relaying of unfavorable reactions from you. Nevertheless I will be slight dis disappointed to the extent it would have been nice. The arrangements were not set for Friday and consequently I cannot feel cheated. I’ve received no promises for Friday, either — just a faint hope.

Today was my easy day, three classes, one of which was called off. It was only PE anyway. ROTC is nothing. The lecturer I’ve got even makes it enjoyable. He’s really good. Last semester, the guy was about as dull as a ROTC instructor could be. Like, for example, this letter.

Ha! Nice save, Russ.

But you can read it in the morning instead of cereal box labels and it will provide early morning occupation without requiring the great deal of thoughts so impossible to find in the morning — at least for me anyway. The only hitch is that it might put you back to sleep. That would never do. Better just use it for scrap or for wrapping the garbage.

[end of page and he numbers each page and the margin note says:] I can’ even get the page numbers right.

The bonded surface makes it good for that because it doesn’t soak up moisture and fall apart or leave its permeating aroma roam wild andf and free.

[Russ makes a note about his misspelling] This is a combination of an “f” and a “d.” And you can’t hardly get them kind anymore.

Maybe if I wrote smaller I would make fewer mistakes. Don’t know why — just grasping at straws, but the possibility does exist. However, that might kill your incentive to read my letters and I cannot afford to do that. Someone has to read the “fruits of my labor.”

Listen if that chemistry problem didn’t kill her desire to read these, I’m not sure what will. Speaking of, what the hell am I doing with my free time? 

When the sentences stop making any sense whatsoever or when odd words creep in where they don’t belong, then you know I am falling asleep and/or have “cracked-up.” In every sense of the word. I do everything backwards. Can’t fall asleep when I want to. Sleep too late when I shouldn’t or don’t need to. Fall asleep when I should and sometimes must stay awake.

But now I’d better sign off, and give up a lost cause, i.e. writing an interesting letter. Sweet dreams, sweetheart. See you Saturday (or Friday, I hope) so take care of yourself and don’t study too hard. Auf Wiederschauen, bis morgen.

Love as ever,

Russ

Next up: WHAT HAPPENED AT HOMECOMING? 

October 3, 1960: Russ is a Cantankerous Chemistry Nerd

Worried that you missed a love letter? See a chronological list here.

 

In which our hero goes from the depths of despair to delirious heights. 

October 3, 1960

Dearest Karen,

Received your cards today. One was postmarked Sept. 30, the other Oct. 2. Goes to show you what weekend mail service is like. My extension number is 2009 and I’m usually around in the evening — except Friday and Saturday when it’s either too noisy to study here or I’m out doing something after a hard week of classes. Actually, the dorm is not the greatest place in the world to study or sleep, but this is college living at its finest.

I talked to Beverly tonight again to inform her of and receive the latest developments.

Anybody else starting to ship Russ and Bev? I’m kinda into it.

I also called my parents and mentioned the idea of your coming down Friday. I mentioned it to Beverly again and she, for the first time, informed me of unfavorable [sic] reaction when she asked you at some past date. If I had known that I would have given you a sales pitch. My parents went along with the idea and will call you. Whether or not you can arrange everything satisfactorily will still, of course, depend on you. The signal is “all clear” though. Pep rally parade is from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. and pep rally itself is from 6:30 – 7:00 p.m. After that campus life is pretty much the same although heightened by the pending game.

Aw, she doesn’t want to give Russ the chance to get it on Friday night, maybe? Tough break, buddy.

We have high hopes for the Illini this year. Anyway, all things considered, we can have fun, naturally. Try to arrive before 6:00 p.m., if possible. My last class is over at 1:00 p.m. (Friday) and I think (pretty sure) I can get out of my 10-12 Sat. class. {refer to schedule} [That’s literally written in the margin].

MAN, Russ is in the dumps! It sounds like she’s on the fence about Friday and he’s bummed.  

October 4, 1960

Finishing this letter in the morning. My roommate went to bed last night and since it was late and I had to “rise and shine” in the early morning hours, I thought I’d finish the letter this morning. I checked my mailbox after my morning class, which turned out to be called off and, sure enough, there was a missal of glad tidings from my compatriot in the state of college life, Karen K. She’s a great kid and you ought to get to know her. She brightens my days considerably. Couldn’t ask for better.

AAWWWW. She came through with some sweet nothings in the mail and he’s back on the upswing.

I may not last till Friday or Saturday so if I come knocking on your door Wednesday or Thursday don’t be too shocked. I have the double incentive of lousy conditions here and blissful conditions at both my first and second homes.

SHE IS HIS SECOND HOME! Aww, sounds like he’s close with her family.  

Some clod is expounding the desirabilities of owning a Chrysler, Plymouth Imperial and/or Valiant.

Today is 60 degree weather although the sun is out. As the announcer said “perfect football weather.” He also thinks Dr. Henry (U of I President) is a fine man and a good speaker and very representative of the university.

Obviously, he is trying for points somewhere because Dr. Henry is probably one of the lousiest public speakers in any position where public speaking is necessary. He has unfailingly made a very poor impression on the new students to whom he speaks every semester. I consider his speeches a waste of time.

He does a poor job of saying nothing. However, he is a fairly capable administrator and therefore is more or less deserving of his position. He looks like a milk-toast [sic] type which detracts quite a bit from the impression which he makes on people in behalf of the university. But enough of Doc Henry.

I know Russ sounds like a cantankerous bastard in this section, but I find it weirdly endearing because I, too, am often a cantankerous bastard.

Incidentally, not meaning to be pedantic, but the caption C2H5 0H2 0x, H2, Na Mn 04 would make a pretty darn good rocket fuel: alcohol, oxygen, hydrogen and monosodium permanganate. However, I do find the cartoon funny and am aware of the real meaning implied by the cartoon and the subtle meaning applying specifically to the sender and receiver. But I ran out of Pb(C2 H5)4 · C2 H4 Br2 · C2 H4 ·CI2 · CH3 CH2 CH2 CH3 ·(CH3) 3 CH · CH2 = CH CH2 CH3 · CH3 CH = CH CH3 · (CH3)3 CH2 CH (CH3) 2 · (CH3) 3 CCH2 CH2 CH3 · (CH3) 2 CH CH2 CH2 CH2 CH3 · (CH3) 3 CCH (CH2) 2 and that’s quite a bit better. So there.

[MARGIN NOTE:] Alcohol and oxygen is used.

RUSS. What are you doing? Going full Rick Sanchez is no way to get a girl to make out with you on homecoming weekend. It seems that Karen made the huge mistake of sending a card with a chemistry joke on it to Russ, and Russ decided to be a huge dick about it. I don’t understand a single thing I typed. If you do, feel free to add it in the comments, but don’t ask me to go back and clarify the formula because life is too short for that.

Edited to add: I missed that “alcohol and oxygen were used” in the writing of this letter. Well played, Russ. It went over my chemistry-terrified brain the first time. 

This letter will also go out Air Mail Special Delivery so I’d better get off before I miss the last Air Dispatch at 4:30 p.m. You should have received my parent’s call before you get this letter.

Good luck and don’t work too hard. See you soon, sweetheart.

Love as always,

Russ

P.S. I’m also going to get a letter off to my parents, and I really do appreciate your reminder as it is something I neglect pitifully and your gentle chidings keep me from procrastinating too long.

My friend Heather is an insane ace detective and she did a deep dive into Russ’s backstory. It turns out he skipped a grade and is pretty smart (not as smart as his childhood BFF, but we’ll get to that later, I hope). I don’t want to give away much more than that (and I told her not to tell me anyway, because I don’t like to have an ending spoiled). Let us keep our eyes on the big picture: Homecoming. Russ, bless him, has trouble with this. 

 

Found: Russ’s Class Schedule, September 1960

Worried that you missed a love letter? See a chronological list here.

Found this randomly between two letters as I was sorting by date last night.

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If it’s hard to read, he’s taking: Chem 124 (includes class and lab time), Physics 106 (lecture and lab), Math 143 (Calculus Discussion), Military Science 101 (ROTC), and PEM 145 (at the ice rink).

Mein Leiben Schatzchen – October 1, 1960

Worried that you missed a love letter? See a chronological list here.

October 1, 1960

Mein Leiben Schätzchen,

I asked my co-worker what this means because she knows German phrases for some reason. She said it was a term of endearment, but when I used google translate it literally translates to “My overeating baby,” which is exactly what I call myself, oddly enough. I’m *guessing* he meant “lieben” because it means “love” but I prefer to think Karen has a big appetite and he thinks that’s super cute! 

I met Beverly today. Obviously for the first time. I also met two of her and one of your girlfriends. One was Rosemarie S[redacted]., Bev’s roommate, and the other was Elaine B[redacted], who knows you and Beverly.

So Bev and Elaine are Karen’s friends from back home and Rosemary is Bev’s college roommate. Does Karen need you to explain who Elaine is, Russ? I mean, it appears she knows Elaine and Bev and you know she knows Elaine and Bev and the entire reason you’re hanging out with any of them is because of Karen. 

The meeting was fortunate for both of us as it preserved our respective honor, so to speak.

I smell scandal.

First of all, Beverly gave very livid [sic] descriptions of “me” to her friends on two occasions. Said descriptions went: “short, rather thin, long dark hair, glasses, an ‘intellectual’ look.” This rather negative description was enhanced and brought to full bloom in the minds of Rosemary [sic] and Elaine.

This sounds like a cute boy to me but maybe nerdy skinny is not cool in the 1950s? Also, his random spelling of Rosemarie/Rosemary tells me he wasn’t the least bit attracted to her so Karen doesn’t have that to worry about. 

So anyway, when I went over to LAR this afternoon, I called Beverly’s room and she, informed me of saying she would be down shortly, told me she sent down a girl named Elaine and described what she was wearing. She also said she had just sent her down [RUSS IS PUTTING US IN PRONOUN HELL]. A girl who fit the description had walked by earlier, but I didn’t pay too much attention because of the time difference. I could be mistaken, so I waited.

However, said suspicions—looking girl looked around the lounge, went back to the phones and called x679 (Bev’s). She then proceeded to inform Beverly of my absence. This I could not exactly understand because I was standing right behind her, and I thought Bev knew what I looked like. However, I made my presence obvious by interjecting the comment that I was there, big as life, in full color and CinemaScope.

THIS IS A DELIGHTFUL 1950s cultural reference. 

Elaine looked shocked, Beverly looked shocked — when they saw me initially. [PEN CHANGE FROM BLUE TO BLACK] Something was amiss.

Finally, the pending explanation came out and all was clear. Bev on a past telephone conversation had mentioned my attending some New Year’s Eve party or some other affair with Terry T. [messy spelling/unclear]. The description fits, — the guy who attended the affair with Terry. Only I didn’t attend said affair. George D.[redacted] did.

WHEW, Glad we got to the bottom of that mystery! The lives of people in their 20s are so much more boring than I remember. I am bored now, in my 40s, but at least I can afford decent booze and I don’t care if college guys think I’m hot (largely because there’s no chance they will? Heh). 

So. Then I was going to meet Rosemarie. Fine. Bev and I went downstairs but Rosemarie had flown the coop and left nothing behind. Schade.

What does “Schade” mean? I was hoping it was short for schadenfreude (the only German word I know) and it sorta is. Google says it means “Pity.” 

Bev went upstairs to retrieve Rosemary [sic]. Meanwhile Elaine came back, unknown to me, with Rosemarie. However, the light isn’t too good in the basement rec room or LAR and Elaine didn’t recognize me.

 These bishes are cold.

However, they walked into the little room they call their canteen and had a discussion concerning the pros and cons of whether the guy sitting outside was me or not (it was).

Finally, Bev arrives and they got the point loud and clear. The gentleman outside was no less than me.

 Russ, you coulda helped the ladies out here.

Rosemarie was shocked. I was beginning to expect that reaction. Anyway, the gist of their overheard (by me) conversation was that I was superior to their conception of me.

Elaine, Rosemary and Beverly. In CinemaScope, no less.

LOL, Russ, this entire story is so you can tell your girl how much hotter you are these days. I feel you. 

So you are no longer considered quite so desperate. Your reputation is salvaged, at least in part. My reputation will not be besmirched by “long dark hair, short, skinny with glasses, and an ‘intellectual’ look, not meant in the complimentary sense.” My ego was lifted from the depths to which it was beginning to sink.

And Beverly will probably lose no time in telling you the same story from her end of the deal.

How much would I pay for Bev’s letter? SO MUCH. I doubt she employs the passive voice as aggressively. 

However, I thought the whole affair quite funny and it served as an excellent booster for a lousy weekend.

I made arrangements — or rather Beverly did — for my parents, sister, and cousin to stay overnight, which has many benefits. Use of a car and seeing the family for a greater length of time. Everything is pretty well set then. I can’t thank Bev enough, especially since she offered her services without my even hinting. I never expected her to do any more than put you up for the night. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Does getting to use the car mean he gets to make out with Karen? I might just be grasping at romantic straws on this one.

Beverly also made another suggestion which I go for in a big way, but which would involve — possibly — some inconvenience on your end. i.e. coming down Friday. I’m free after 1:00 p.m. Friday and would more than like the idea, but you’d have to come on the train. I’ll probably call you before you get this letter, but, in any case, if you’re interested, the following trains leave the IC stations at 63rd and Dorchester on Friday:

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I didn’t transcribe the list of departures and arrivals, but Russ is very subtle with this “FRIDAY NIGHT, BB, YOU AND ME AND NONE OF MY FAMILY” business, yes? And then Russ gets all nerdy about trains, and I like it:

These are Chicago-Memphis-New Orleans trains. The 5 p.m. train is probably your best bet unless you can leave on the 9:15 a.m. However, the 9:15 a.m. is The City of Miami and only runs on alternate dates. Furthermore, the schedule was effective Aug. 2, 1959 and the times may have changed.

God, Russ is such a boy nerd.

Probably not much through. They are a rough guide toward your decision. You’ll have to check another thing. The IC may very well run a special to Champaign so checking into that would be a good idea.

The agent at the 63rd St. (Woodlawn) station, 1415 East 63rd St. is at the phone Hyde Park 3-0825 [Old Timey phone number for you kids reading along at home]. Just ask for the departure times of trains leaving for Champaign, Oct. 7, Friday.

Do you think Russ wants Karen to show up before his family? DO YOU? 

One of my parents will probably take you to the station, I think.

Good luck, Sweetheart. Study hard, but not too hard, and have fun. See you soon, the sooner the better.

With love,

Russ

 

The Box of Love Letters


I bought a box of love letters at a flea market, and since several of my nosiest friends wanted to know what are in the letters, I decided to transcribe them here as I work through them. I type fast! Good thing because it’s a big box. Now, keep in mind this could go any which way: super boring, depressingly sexist and/or racist, fever dream sexy, or just a sweet snapshot of a couple of white kids in the 1960s at college (most likely scenario).

Anyway, here’s the first letter to Miss Karen K., of Chicago, Illinois from… I’ll find out at the end because the return address is just his college logo, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The letter is indented, my comments are flush left. Because it’s my blog and I get to comment.

September 25, 1960

Guten Abend Meine Liebchen,

Oh god, I hope he’s not a nazi! Here’s hoping this stays cute and doesn’t get dark (who am I kidding? I love when stories take a turn).

First off, I will attend to your “questionnaire.” The itinerary includes the football game Sat. afternoon which will be over about 4:30. After the game we will probably wander around campus, have dinner and let you get dressed for the dance in the evening. The dress for the Homecoming Dance varies. Specifically, for the girls anything from just dressy to formal is worn. The norm centers around semi-formal. Some girls wear formals, other come pretty close. Doesn’t help much. Specifically, for you, a lot depends on what is most convenient. I’d prefer something more or less formal. Use your judgement.

I’m gonna call it right now: engineering student. Just a feeling. Also, what does “more or less formal” mean? I’m guessing it means “formal”? I appreciate that she sent him a questionnaire as I like a girl who is detail-oriented!

The affair is supposed to be semi-formal, but that sometimes covers quite a range. A lot of girls coming in from out of town don’t want to bring formals because they take up a lot of room and are difficult to keep “un-crushed.” However, I like to dress up and I’ll be dressed semi-formally. I am not that familiar with women’s clothes to really be any more specific. Maybe another girl’s opinion would be more helpful or at least aid in your decision.

Pretty sure he just told her to dress the hell up but only if it works for her. Side-eying this a little bit but it’s 1960 and she asked a probably engineering student what to wear to a party!

Anyway, Sunday, I don’t know what we’ll do, exactly, but casual dress should be sufficient.

Bow chicka bow bow? And probably hungover to boot.

I’ll let you know of any new developments regarding Sunday.

My parents are bringing you down here, so it might be a good idea to get in touch with them, although there is no hurry, of course.

(Reading that last statement over it occurred to me that it sounds sarcastic. I certainly didn’t mean it that way. Please excuse.)

What the hell is he talking about?

Right now, I can’t think of anything particularly besides what I told you already, but undoubtedly I will between now and Oct. 8, and I will transmit the information to you.

In your plight caused by registration and “orientation” I am your whole-hearted sympathizer and veteran, one year removed.

Ooh, details! He’s a sophomore and she’s a freshman! But Karen’s address is the south side of Chicago. I wonder what school she’s attending?

Registration is bad with the exponent of 20,000 some odd students. And some students are very odd which only adds to the mess.

Ha!

But registration is repeated for me every semester so that I won’t forget the results of ultimate chaos. Fortunately, certain little tricks learned each semester abbreviate much of the difficulty. And orientation week comes only once. Registration only kills one full day and the rest of the time I can laugh at the new freshman (just refilled my pen).

Dude, unless I’m mistaken you’re ONE YEAR ahead of her. So you have laughed at the freshman… once… just last month?

But I still look forward to registration with dread. It is because of the backward system of registration this university uses that I don’t have the schedule I wanted and have a Saturday class. Therefore, a have a six-day week, and a one-day weekend. Can’t be helped though. I won’t cry. At least Sat. morning won’t be wasted.

Is there anything more banal than the complaints of college sophomores?

A bit of consolation for you, “Experience is the best teacher.” Probably come in handy in the future.

I take it back. The wisdom of college sophomores is even more banal than their complaints.

A comment on snowstorms and blizzards in early October. Don’t put it past Champaign weather. All things are possible down here. It snowed on Mother’s Day May 8, last year, so a blizzard in October is not out of the realm of possibility.

HE IS INSUFFERABLE 

But I like that he’s clearly got her last letter with him and he’s addressing her points one by one. He’s basically peacocking his College Experience at her while also ticking off all the questions she asked and points she made. This is good letter writing form, in my opinion. As a member of the last generation of letter writers, this is exactly what I would do when replying to a friend’s letter back in the dark ages before constant communication.

My regards to Bean also.

Keeping in mind the violence with which she generally greets me, even she hads never before [sic], I am dubious about whether or not I can stave her off if she’s glad to see me and is welcoming me back. However, it really doesn’t worry me. The greetings of her mistress are much more important.

Aw, Bean is her dog! And the greetings of her mistress are more important! CUTE.

Your consolation for having to stay at home would be enough to keep me from going.

Hmm. I’m guessing she wasn’t sure she could make it to the dance (maybe she needs a dog sitter).

We had a football game here last Saturday. We trounced Indiana, 17-6. Actually, we should have had three more touchdowns, but we goofed three times. On three separate occasions we were within 10 yards of the goal line with four downs to work with. But we fumbled them badly. In the last half of the last quarter, our blind quarterback passed the ball from the 15-yd. line directly to an Indiana man behind the goal line instead of our own receiver. A black mark against Easterbrook.

He had an open field and would have ran the ball pretty close to the goal line on top of all that. But we beat ’em.

I love the use of the royal we by sports fans.

Last year we played on a wet field and lost to Indiana, but after an initial charge down the field at the beginning of the game, Indiana played the defensive for the duration. All they could hope for was to keep the ball out of their own territory. We play West Virginia next week and Ohio State for our Homecoming a week after that. I love football weekends, esp. Homecoming this year as our campus will have a charming addition, which will add joy to my life. If you didn’t come, I would haunt you, so we’re even.

NICE SAVE, with the cute ending after boring the shit out of everyone with football for a full page. I’m guessing she made a joke about “haunting” him? Feels like a callback to me.

Your letters do me no end of good. You are without doubt wonderful, and your second card was better than the first. Now you’ve exposed yourself to the possibility that I’ll send you cards. The fact that you do think of me is alone enough to make me happy. I’m going to get all trite and mushy here pretty soon but your letters do more than give me happiness and satisfaction. They give me peace. You must know that you are with me at all times, not physically, but in a more important way.

YOU GUYS. Awwww.

And now I must say au revoir also. Sweet dreams and pleasant memories. My love to you and your family, but especially to you.

Love ad infinitum,

Russ

HIS NAME IS RUSS. KAREN AND RUSS 4EVAH.

P.S. You won’t “overtax” me by requests for letters. I’m not that busy. My only fault insofar as letter-writing is concerned is that I procrastinate. Procrastination will be my Waterloo yet. Please don’t interpret my not writing as indifference. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Auf Wiedersehen

We learned so much in this first letter!

  • Russ is likely a sophomore at University of Illinois in 1960 (so, 20-ish years old). He’s close enough to his parents that they are bringing his girlfriend to visit for homecoming.
  • Russ *really* loves football and lording his college experiences over his girlfriend.
  • Karen is likely a freshman at a college in Chicago (19-ish years old in 1960). Her mailing address is the South Side of Chicago.
  • Karen had a dog named Bean that was cute, possibly aggressive.

Worried that you’ll miss one? See a chronological list here.

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