A while back I gave my daughter several letters that I had saved for years — treasures of the written word. Recently, I took a short course at Arts Escapes related to creative ways one might save information about life experiences. I asked Deborah to return the first two letters my father wrote to my mother for a short time, and she did. We showed them to my grandchildren — young adults, aka millennials. They read the letters, and their jaws dropped. “When was that written?” stated Andrew Raciti. The letter was dated July 10, 1933. This way of communicating is so out of their ballpark. It was interesting to watch
Lauren and Andrew’s response to this exquisitely penned letter.
Allow me tell you about the letter writer. My father was a gifted writer, a true wordsmith. He was aesthetic, communicative, intelligent and very creative. In my parent’s twilight years, they spent several months in Florida each winter. He wrote to us several times a week. He certainly didn’t text, and rarely telephoned. I believe I saved the letters, and unfortunately, the buried treasure is somewhere in the attic of our unit. I wish he were with me now. We could sit together and read the letters to one another and laugh and smile. My entire outlook on life is totally different now. He left us when I was 38 years old.
On July 10, 1933 my father, Joseph Dover, wrote:
“Dear Miss Rader,
Pardon the formality, but I presume it is safer to be formal than brusque. After listening to your singing and piano playing at your home a few Sundays ago, I concluded that you are a music lover. Music epicures are very much like food epicures — they pick their fare with care. My experience, however, has been that where good music is offered one can safely attend and worry about the program later. In all cases, I have been agreeably surprised by a favorite piece or two.
What I am getting at is, if you care to attend the Philharmonic concert at the City College Stadium this coming Saturday evening, I am sure that it will be enjoyable no matter what they play. Suppose I telephone you on Wednesday evening, July 12, at 7:30 p.m. so that we can make it definite.
My trip to Chicago was rather pleasant despite temperatures of 100 at high noon. I sincerely hope you received my card from the Fair. (I believe it was the World’s Fair.)
Jos. D. Dover”
They went to the concert. The next letter was dated Aug. 9, 1933. The tone is completely different.
I am enclosing two prints of each of some of the snapshots we took at the beach. Unfortunately there were more but two were spoiled owing to the intensity of the sunshine. If you care for any of the additional copies, I will be very glad to make some for you. Give my regards to your girlfriend and her husband.
Joe Dover. ”
Millie and Joe, as we affectionately called them, married on June 3, 1934.
I talked to my daughter about what I did with these letters. “The day of his funeral was the
worst day of my life. I’ve never forgotten it,” said Deborah. After 9/11 Deb lost her job. She was home for a while and told me that she had been depressed and sad. She was cleaning out drawers and found letters grandpa had written to her. “I didn’t even remember that I had them. After reading them, I knew he was watching over me, and always will. Grandpa is my guardian angel,” she said. These letters will always be her treasure of the written word.
The following letter was written on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 1973. Deborah was four years old.
Your birthday was in March and today is my 70th birthday. I should have written this a long time ago. Grandfathers should not put off such things, especially at 70 years of age. When I was your age, I was already quite aware of my surroundings, the various people living nearby and who was who in my family circle. My education in Hebrew School had already begun. This small world of mine was limited to a one room cottage with an earthen floor and a wood burning oven in a corner. My father had already gone to America to earn money so that he could send for us.
When I compare your modern environment with mine, it is a small wonder that your sophistication and perception of things is so much more advanced. Television and educational toys play an important part in your life. Needless to say, these were unknown back in 1907 even here in the United States. It is a constant wonder to me how much your young mind has absorbed because of these modern conveniences. At four, you order food in a restaurant, understand the workings of complicated toys, add simple sums and write your name. You can count to 100 and recognize all the letters of the alphabet. You have flown on a plane, stayed at hotels and been to shows and movies.
At your age, I lived very much like children did since the beginning of time. It was only after my sixth birthday that I suddenly found myself catapulted into what was a modern world. My father brought us to Chicago where we saw our first nickel show (movies). I became sick during my first ride in a trolley car. I was enthralled by the glow of the electric light. The first automobile I saw was small, and it looked like a carriage without a horse. It was battery operated and could go about 10 miles an hour.
Today at four years old you beat me at checkers, or your version of chess, and eat McDonald’s hamburgers—oh boy! What a gal you are!
We love you,
Grandpa and of course Grandma too.”
Needless to say, as I typed the tears streamed down my face. My father was anti-gadget, and we finally got him to use a tape recorder. He made two tapes that told about his life.
I have never listened to them. Just to hear his voice would break my heart into a million tiny pieces. He was our amazing GranJoe. Our son Daniel always called him that — a combination of Grandpa and Joe!