Oct. 15, 1960: Russ LOVES Football and Karen (and Lord Byron)

Miss one? Check the chronological list here.

I found these adorable little blank notecards that belonged to Karen tucked in between two of Russ’s letters. Maybe this is why he’s so consumed with stationery?

This letter is marked 5 of 5! The rain of letters ceases here. 

October 15, 1960

Dearest “K”

Well, on the basis of your last card, I’m either exotic or rather unappetizing or both.

Dying to see what that is about! I imagine she sent him a card with a buffalo on it. I don’t know why but that’s the first thing that popped into my head. 

The explanation for the sounds coming from this end of the line Fri. morn. is in letter 4 of 5. Should have mentioned it when I talked to you, but I didn’t. How could I possibly be displeased! Hearing your voice is a darn sight better than having to read what you say, and being able to talk to you beats writing by a long shot. The only drawback is the cost of long-distance phone calls. Otherwise my conversations would go on for hours.

I feel you, Russ! Long-distance calls used to be expen$$$$$ive! In college, my rent was $300 and my phone bill was very often just as much if not more. Serious scratch in 1995. Also, Karen has low self-esteem, and I’m gonna blame her mean dad that we learned about in a previous letter.

I hope you appreciate contemporary stationery as much as I appreciate it and contemporary cards.

What in the hell is he talking about? I’m guessing anything that is not onion paper is “contemporary” for Russ.

I’m going to have to send out some contemporary cards to you. That’s the only way I can obtain my “revenge” (?) (Question marks are evasive little forms of punctuation. I either leave them out or mess them up. Can’t have everything.)

I adore that he thinks question marks are evasive forms of punctuation.

The score in the Illinois-Minnesota game is 7-7 right now. Wisconsin beat Purdue last Saturday 7-0. If Purdue beats Ohio State today, that will even up the Big Ten rather nice. Jerry Wood just kicked a 33-yard field goal putting Illinois in the lead 10-7. Keep your fingers crossed for the Illini. By the time you get this letter, the game will be over, but we haven’t finished the season yet. So far so good.

Anyway, I slept through my class this morning. Great performance. This has got to stop.

Looks like a pretty good game for the Illini.

You’ll have to excuse my constant subject-changing. I’m listening to the game while I write this letter. Very shortly, I’ll to go out and mail these letters. You’ll have to promise to open them in order.

I tried, Russ.

Fine. This is the last of the series. Great, you’ll find out about opening them in order after you’ve opened them all. That isn’t exactly rational thinking, now is it?

Purdue leads Ohio 24-21 in the third quarter, Michigan leads Notre Dame 14-0 at the half. Half-time score for the Illini: 10-7. Go-go-Ilini! We’re playing Minnesota for the their homecoming. We beat Minnesota last year for our Homecoming also.


Let’s keep up the good work. The Illini really can’t afford to lose this game. Everything should work out pretty well.

I ran out of Illinois stickers to put on my envelopes. Therefore, my trademark is gone for awhile. I can’t even buy more. All the bookstores are sold out. They must be in great demand. I’ll have to try again this afternoon. No, the bookstores aren’t open this afternoon. Oh, well, maybe the drugstores will do the trick.

Based on the envelopes? They didn’t.

The Illini are still ahead 10-7 near the end of the third quarter. Three points really isn’t too much of a lead in this game. We can do it though.

God! I have Physics to study today. Keep punchin’ for that hourly. It’s a good thing Physics is not my roughest subject. Keep worrying about it, though. Have to study math one of these days.

This is a dull weekend. Especially when contrasted with the past and future weekends, — especially last weekend. To be philosophical about the situation. One must have bad in order to appreciate the good. Very nice and practical. Rot! Dream a little. I’m dreaming about Oct. 28-30. It’s gonna be great!

Actually, there isn’t anything I can really tell you about, as is obvious in the above part of this letter.

Looks bad for the Illini. Minnesota has a first and goal to go (eight-yard line). We have go to win this miserable game. This looks real bad. They’ve made it to the two-yard line. The announcer goofed. They had a first down with two yards to go. Curses! Minnesota just put the ball over the goal line. The kick is good. Minnesota leads 14-10 with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Now, we really need a touchdown. Everything is black now. We’ll see what happens eventually.

The Illlini lost that touchdown to Minnesota because of a bad kick and three penalties which put Minnesota in a real good position. The point: Illinois still has a pretty good chance. The teams are more or less evenly matched. We might make it after all. Forty-one yard line with 8 min. 45 sec. to go. Loss 37½ yard line, 2nd down. Big run. First down on Minnesota’s 44-yard line. Another loss. Good grief! 44-yard line of Illinois with a penalty on the play. We couldn’t afford that.

And you thought you didn’t like it when Ross got political! Hope there’s at least one more Kennedy-Nixon debate. 

Second down with 22 yards to go. 6 mins. 42 sec to go. Another loss. The Illinois line is falling apart. Third down and 33 yards to go. Looks real black. Even the referees are against us. They called our pass receiver out of bounds. Fourth and 32. The punt of out-of-bounds on the 26-yard-line. Minnesota has the ball in their own territory. Looks real bad. 5 min. 5 sec left in the game.

Minnesota moved it up to the 31-yard line of Illinois. We have lost. Too many lousy penalties. This is no good. Only a miracle can save us. Another first down for Minnesota. Might as well quit listening. Minnesota just made another touchdown. Great! Put the flags at half-mast. Losing this game is worse than losing to Ohio State.

As anyone from Michigan can tell you, nothing is worse than losing anything to Ohio.

Disappointing is hardly the word. Minnesota leading 21-10. We have really had it. We’ve lost the old ball game. We can, by no stretch of the imagination, win the game. 2 min. 50 sec. to go. Not even a miracle will help. Maybe we can close up the gap in the score but even that’s doubtful. A black day for the Illini.

Well, you’ve probably not that interested in the progress of a football game told in a letter so I will close and go out and mail these letters. The others are more interesting.

However, first more poetry.

MORE? Where is the earlier poetry?

So, seriously, you guys, Russ proceeds to transcribe by hand three pages of poems. Which: Awww. That’s so sweet. I simply copied and pasted them from poetry websites because it’s 2018. You’re welcome: 

Oh, Hesperus! thou bringest all good things—
Home to the weary, to the hungry cheer,
To the young bird the parent’s brooding wings,
The welcome stall to the o’erlabour’d steer;
Whate’er of peace about our hearthstone clings,
Whate’er our household gods protect of dear,
Are gather’d round us by thy look of rest;
Thou bring’st the child, too, to the mother’s breast.

Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart
Of those who sail the seas, on the first day
When they from their sweet friends are torn apart;
Or fills with love the pilgrim on his way
As the far bell of vesper makes him start,
Seeming to weep the dying day’s decay;
Is this a fancy which our reason scorns?
Ah! surely nothing dies but something mourns!
George Gordon, Lord Byron

If you think about it, Russ isn’t even taking an English class. So he just chose to include poems that she might like or that might flatter her in some way. 

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
George Gordon, Lord Byron

I wouldn’t be as annoyed about all that football if I were Karen. Being in a good relationship means you have to listen to the other person talk about shit you don’t care about at all and pretend at least vaguely that you’re excited for them. 

I wish I could write poetry.

I am SO GLAD you didn’t try. This is way better.

Au revoir, mon Cherie. Until my next letter. Take real good care of yourself and dream about me once in awhile.

Love and kisses,

Ad infinitum,


Ooh, this is a new layer of commitment with the infinity promises!

Oct. 14, 1960: Russ Still Hates “Red China”

Miss one? Check the chronological list here.

This letter is marked 4 of 5.

October 14, 1960

Bon Sori Mon Chéri,

Pretty sure he means Soirée but he’s a terrible speller in everything but English, as usual.   

Finally back onto a stationery of reasonable size. God, what a horrible feeling it is to discover you’ve come to the end of the letter before you’ve come to the end of the words. Very annoying.

Russ hates everything.

Did you know that a short letter is supposed to be harder to write than a long one? Undoubtedly it takes more thought per word and this is something I’m incapable of.

Actual gif of Russ in college.

Today has seemed like a long day. Must be that I’m getting old. Actually, I haven’t done a blasted thing, which isn’t good, in light of the fact that I’ve got a Physics quiz. (I seem to have fallen into having words out tonight so if anything comes out sounding ridiculous you know why. I don’t reread my letters. [maybe you should start?] If I did I’d never mail them. [Fair point.] I don’t like to read everything I’ve written. I always find too much fault with it. [I also find fault with many things you’ve written, Russ.] I’m my own very best critic, I guess. More likely is that what I’ve written is just lousy.

Eh, just boring lately for being so on fire.

Tomorrow and Saturday I’m absolutely going to have to get some work done. If I don’t, I’m in trouble.

He seemingly has no compulsion to talk about what’s going on in his life or even just share mild gossip about his roommate or what he’s studying. It’s really weird to me, but I’m an over-sharer from way back.

Old man physics is going to run away from me completely if I don’t and then I won’t even make a passing grade on the hourly next Thursday. That would be disastrous.

This week has gone by very quickly — looking back on it, that is. When looking forward to it, it seemed years long. The next two weeks seem awfully long, too. Oct. 29 will never get here. (Oct. 28 will be when I see you and that reduces the time by one year.) Oh, well, that’s life.

If you would see the position I’m sitting in while writing this letter you would be quite confident in the knowledge that my mind has finally given its last “twang” — and snapped. I’m perched on the arm of my chair and am writing on the desk. This position is getting uncomfortable so I’ll have think up a better one. Just a minute.

This one is better. I’m sitting on the arm of one chair with one foot on the other arm and the other foot on the other chair while leaning on the desk, writing. This won’t work out. Crouching on one chair isn’t so bad, though. Hmmmmm.

The reason for all these positions is simple — more or less. That important part of my anatomy functioning as my sitting gear is “abundantly” dissatisfied with the hard seats of the chairs in this room. Consequently, certain peculiar adjustments are necessitated in order to relieve the strain of my excessive build from my posterior cushion. i.e., My tail is tired.

And now you know. Don’t you feel profoundly informed. Maybe I could keep you informed on other goings on. This way you would learn nothing in many, many words. Blast it, I wish I didn’t have a Saturday class. It’s a real pain in the neck. I can’t stay up too late tonight because I’ve got to get up for the bloody class. There is no justice in this cruel world.

My roommate left for Peoria (Bradley University) this afternoon to visit some friends. Some people are just lucky, that’s all. (I’m sitting down again. Crouching resulted in my feet feeling the strain. This could not go on forever. Maybe I ought to finish this in bed. It’s hard to write in bed, though. I wouldn’t fall asleep though, of that I am positive. The only time I fall asleep is in class. That is par normal for me.)

Filled my pen. Looked as though it was going to “run out on me.” (Hah, hah, I made a pun. Laugh, it’s only polite.)

Think I’ll start a “we-hate-the-Red-Chinese” campaign on campus. There hasn’t been one of those for quite a while and they deserve their share just as well as the Russians. This would also have a profound effect on the Presidential race. A couple of good TV spectaculars on the atrocities committed by the Red Chinese would really put the Democratic Party in an uncomfortable position.

FINALLY, let’s talk about something other than your damn writing position! I’m guessing Russ voted for Nixon? However, I bet he now thinks he voted for Kennedy. That’s just a guess. Do people admit to voting for Nixon these days? Remind me to add that to the list of questions I ask him when we finally meet. Spoiler alert: We’re never going to meet.

But aside from the political angle, a campaign like that would liven things up a little. Put some spark and zest into the students. We could even have effigy burnings and everything. Make a big production out of it.

Photo from an actual anti-communist rally at the Hollywood Bowl in 1961!

Maybe a student revolt would be better yet. We could revolt against the Dean of Women’s Office. Run the Dean of Women out of town on a rail. We could even throw in the trustees for good measure. Enough amnesties delivered toward the administration. It might go to their heads as praise “for a job well done.”

Anybody else looking forward to Russ’s hot take on the civil rights movement?

I must get radical or something late at night.

Yes, real radical to be against both communism and feminism in 1960. Edgy!

You guys, what if Karen gets all feminist and radical when JFK dies and that’s why the letters stop? I mean, I think they end in 1962, but let us just write a little piece of fanfiction wherein JFK’s assassination leads to a bra-burning Karen and that’s why they break up? Side note: If I were finished with college in the early 1960s and missed free love and hippies and birth control pills, I’d be soooo pissed.

Always suggesting nasty things. This is the hour when the witches and the goblins are supposed to be having their little parties (it’s 2:30 a.m.). Maybe I’m just a witch or a goblin in disguise. Disguise? Baloney. Here I am in full color and CinemaScope.

I’d much rather be a goblin instead of a witch.

Because witches are feminist?

Goblins are cuter.

Say! Halloween is Oct. 30, isn’t it?


Let’s go out trick-or-treating. Force people to pay protection. I can see the Chicago Tribune’s headlines now. “City-Wide Racket Discovered” “Juvenile Crime on the Rampage”

If you read all the following in an old-timey announcer’s voice it makes it much more enjoyable:

“Our fair city’s children have organized a malicious racket patterned after the gangsterism of Al Capone. In a city (until now) free from organized crime, our Tribune roving reporter has uncovered an insidious attack upon our citizenry. The children are forcing the adults to pay protection. This is probably a direct result of juvenile delinquency, “The Untouchables,” and other television crime series. We must, in order to preserve liberty, justice and Mayor Daley’s income, stamp out this terrible development.

Co-operate with your local law enforcement agencies. Co-operation with these children will only encourage them. Our police are paid to protect you — the people. Pay protection to your local officer. We cannot afford to encourage juvenile delinquency. We cannot afford to pay off the juvenile crime syndicate. Paying them off as is customary on Halloween leaves nothing to support your family. You cannot afford two syndicates. Preserve the peace. We are for Chicago, the people of Chicago, and City Hall.”

And the City Council will commend the Tribune because they helped stamp out crime. Rah! Bah! Rot!

This is ridiculous. I will continue this letter tomorrow. Time waits for no man and I’m getting sleepy. Good night, Sweetheart. Dream about me because tonight I will dream about you again and morning will come too soon, ending my dreams. Don’t work too hard and “Stay as sweet as you are.”

Devotedly, with love, kisses and a happy heart,


Just when Russ is about to lose me, he reels me back in. I mean, a couple of pages on what position he’s in while writing is absurd. But I love the contemporaneous political and pop culture details and he sprinkles in just enough to keep me coming back. When he goes on about football for too long, he’ll shift gears and send the schmoop in Karen’s direction. Speaking of, the next one has a lot of football and romantic poetry! 

Oct. 14, 1960: Russ Hates Stationery

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

This letter is marked 3 of 5 and is on University of Illinois stationery.

October 14, 1960

Dearest Karen,

Just got through writing the letter on the contemporary stationery.

I have no idea what he’s talking about. What is contemporary stationery? Am I missing letter 2? There is no letter marked 2 of 5 but the last two I posted were together in an unmarked envelope that fits this date range! Intriguing. 

A post shared by Rebecca K. (@isadoraink) on

This stuff allows me more room. What do you think of it? Actually, it’s still not big enough. Someday, Somewhere, someone will produce stationery big enough for me to write on. Actually, a box of paper to match this would do the trick.

Incidentally, the reason things sounded kinda dead at the end of the line this morning is because I was asleep when you called. Your call woke me up, which was a good thing. Nevertheless, I still was “not in gear” when I talked to you.

I am thinking about having some pictures made (by a professional photographer) which I could send to you. This would more or less ensure a good picture of my ugly self and would not depend on my having film developed, opportunity to have someone else take it, etc. However, don’t forget your polaroid on Oct. 29. This would be very handy.

Two things:

First: UGH, everything used to be so hard. Taking pictures was hard, seeing each other was hard, phone calls were expensive, etc. Life is so easy now. It’s why everybody is so miserable and anxious maybe? 

Second: Ooh, they get to see each other again at the end of October.

Maybe that is what I need. No problem with finishing the roll or having it developed then. Polaroids are expensive and I like slides, though. Enough about cameras. Egad! Here we are at the end of the letter again. This is almost frustrating. Anyway, you’re the very first ever to receive a letter on this stationery.

Love always,


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

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

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.


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?


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,


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

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

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.)


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,


“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,


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,



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,


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.