I’ve been privileged to come across some old letters on my husband’s side of the family. When one works with history from the 1930s, it’s like a detective uncovering clues as to what real, ordinary people actually wrote and what they thought at the time. No air brushing of the unvarnished truth from what was really going on, or was there? I’ve followed the writings of British journalist Walter Duranty who wrote for the New York Times. He tried to convince and further dissuade Americans that there was NOT an actual famine going on in Ukraine in the early 1930s. Apparently in 1930 he was in Kazakhstan because he was interviewing Trotsky who was exiled in Alma Ata (Almaty). Though trying to have the veneer of an objective journalist, he was clearly “Stalin’s Apologist.” [a book written about Duranty to that effect]
Back to Jessie Gray’s letter of April 30, 1936 that spurred on my search for the book on the Internet titled “I Write as I Please” written by Duranty in 1935. Thanks to what she wrote in a small town in Kansas, I will show what reality was for people besides writing about family gatherings, church, food, town gossip, etc. In the letters I have been going through there is little mention of world or national politics so this letter is a gem. I am used to my own Norwegian relatives (i.e. S.A. Olsness) who wrote MUCH about current events back in their time.
The following was sent to the family round robin dated April 30, 1936:
I see by the papers they acidized the Tudor Morgan well last week so I suppose it is not as good a well as desired.
At 12:30 today noon a 6 foot 2 1/2 inch Negro lady (who was here 7 years ago) was at the M.E. church with 3 other Negros to give a concert. The lady has a man’s negro voice, is part French and English with an Indian Chief for a grandfather. A peculiar character who looks like an Indian. She sang a base solo – “Beware,” a solo Arzy once had. There weren’t many present, mostly school folks.
Some rain this week not over 1 1/2 inch if that. The grass is clean and one can step out for a weed [cigarette] without getting his shoes so dusty now. Last year it was May 10 before we had moisture.
We have bank night here Tuesday now. We are never lucky so probably won’t join the crowd. No one got the cash the first night ($25.00) so the 2nd night the amount was $37.50 and a wealthy lady got it, of course.
Lill’s got a 2nd hand press and lineotype in Hutch; it better for a daily than their other. They got it ready to use yesterday, after 3 weeks work evenings at Cornwell’s when they weren’t working. Lills are in the south rooms next to the Capitol and will be until they rebuild. They have done little to clean the fire debris. The insurance company will rebuild for them.
Mother is reading over some old letters she has saved. Grovers, Roses, M.J.s’ etc. She mentioned the “yr.” was not on one, but the month was. So, after all, if a letter is saved, the year is more important than the day, hour, etc.
I made five posters and put them up. They are for a Y.W.C.A. Book tea Mon. eve at Beaman’s. James Tanner will review “I Write as I Please” by Walter Duranty, a news reporter sent to Russia and was there 11 years or more to study their problem.