Through Any Given Door

1.22 Letter from My Mother

From my mother (age 26) to my father’s sister, Amelia Conway (age 39), living in Byron, Minnesota:

Watsonville, Cal.
Nov. 22, 1941.
Dear Amelia and all:

The last letter I had from you was dated July 11, whether I have written since then I don’t know but I probably haven’t. Not much to write about.

Carleen, Betty, Larry

I started working in an apple dryer here the first of October September and got through the day before Thanksgiving. I sure was glad to be through. I don’t mind working out for a couple of months but I don’t want to any longer, my house is in terrible shape. I had an old lady in who took care of Betty and got Larry and Carleen off to school and that was about all she did do.

We have put the house up for sale and if we do get a buyer I want to buy or rent a place in the country. I want a cow and chickens and a pig family etc. Milk is 14¢ a qt., eggs 50¢ a dozen, butter 45¢ a lb. and all other prices are according. It takes every nickel you make just to eat. Meat is such a luxury even hamburger is 31¢ a lb. and pork chops are 43¢, as for beef, well I don’t even glance at steaks any more, you cant buy a steak for less than 50¢ and it takes two big ones for my family.

You asked me in your letter to send some snapshots but I haven’t any, we took three rolls while on our vacation and Betty got into the boxes and pulled the films out before I ever had a chance to send them away but we have some large ones for Xmas this year again. I just ordered them, in fact the lady came and took my order just as I started to write this. The proofs are very good, what the pictures will be like I don’t know. I hope they are good.

My sister and her family from Vallejo just drove up so will finish this later. (note: Verda and George Day)

Sunday p.m.

Carl and George Day

Days left about 3:30 this afternoon, things are so hectic while they are here. There are George and Verda and four kids. Jr. is nearly seventeen and the baby is a year old. George and Carl are such good friends, they really think the world of each other. The(y) go off out in the car or someplace by themselves and talk by the hour. I would think they would get tired.

I guess I haven’t written since we got our new furniture. We really couldn’t afford it but it was such a wonderful chance, we’ll never again get such a break. This couple we know broke up and we took over the contract on the furniture. It is just like new, they had it about a year and with only one little baby it hadn’t gotten scratched a bit.

We got a chesterfield set, dark red, blue rug, rug pad, occasional chair, table, floor lamp and big mirror to hang over the fireplace for the living room, a dinette set, walnut colored with cream seats, breakfast set (I sold it and kept my own as mine was a more expensive one) a Hot Point washing machine, white and a swell big white enameled stove. I traded my old washing machine for a new white and black Mix Master. Altogether we got $425 worth of stuff for $204. We pay $11.50 a month on it. I sure am glad to have some decent looking stuff, my old living room furniture was in an awful shape, well, you can imagine. I burned the old rug and sold the chesterfield and one chair for only six dollars. The other chair was a very comfortable one so I kept it and some day I hope to cover it in bright flowered chintz and use it for a bedroom chair.


Everyone here is fine, the kids and I all had an attack of stomach flu but it only lasted one day each. Betty is so cute and growing so tall, she talks a blue streak, she calls her daddy, Carl, which I think is cute but he doesn’t think much of. Her hair is blonde and real curly and her eyes blue and they just sparkle with the devil in them, then she has a dimple in each check and the evenest little white teeth and pinkest checks. I wish you would see her before she outgrows her baby cuteness. Larry and Carleen are so proud of her and just love to hear people say that she is cute, they want to take her every place they go, just to show her off.

We finished off the last of our Thanksgiving turkey today (yes, I still have the frame to make soup with tomorrow) we wouldn’t have had a turkey as it cost 38¢ a lb. this year but I won one last Sunday playing Bingo and it only cost us 60¢. We played six times.

Now that I am through working I must get started on some sewing. I have pajamas to make, coats to make for Betty and Carleen, a neighbor lady gave me two lovely coats, one a gray which I will make over for Carleen. I made her a gray tweed out of an old coat of mine and its as nice as any $10 one I ever saw in a store. The other coat she gave me is of white flannel. I’m going to dye it blue and make her a coat and hat (Betty I mean). Then I have a quilt to line and quilt, a quilt to put together for Betty’s bed. The top is made out of little squares of nursery flannel, peices (sic) left over from pajamas. I line it with flannel and put pink or blue flannel on the bottom side. Then I have kitchen curtains to make, I don’t know where to start on it all but I think I had better make Betty’s coat and hat as I gave her old one to my sister today for her baby, it was such a nice one I paid $5 for them and she only wore it one winter, she has outgrown it now. I told her to give it back to me when her baby out grew it as I may need it again some day. Betty has so many cute clothes that she has outgrown but if I had any more I suppose they would be boys and I couldn’t use them anyway.

Well, this turned into almost a novel but I must stop now, Betty is under the card table and she keeps bumping it and making me scribble all over.

Write when you can and my love to all.


to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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Note: Thank you to my friend Hanan for typing this six-page letter by my mother, handwritten by her two weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

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  1. Your mother sounds so much more together than she was when you were little….wonder what happened to her mind???

    • I don’t know. Something snapped inside her and she wasn’t able to stitch it back together. I just rediscovered this letter, and it fit perfectly in the timeline. After reading it I understood why it was so hard on Betty when mother left. It was like she loved her, and then she didn’t. I imagine that hurts more than not having that love to begin with, as there was nothing to lose, only something to be missed.

      • Yes, that would hurt so much more. I can feel Betty’s pain in my heart as I look at her cheerful sweet face….and am so inspired and grateful for the way you’ve processed yours. I know it’s all about Karma….and Dharma! Ah sweet mystery of life. Your story is a parable for us all to learn from. Many thanks, dear friend.

  2. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    Just found a bunch of letters from my mother to my step-grandfather, the love of my life (only grandfather I ever knew). Mother (and Daddy) were both wonderful writers and unlike their daughter (me), their penmanship was easy to read and beautiful! They both wrote beautifully-but neither had much of an education. Daddy went through only 8th grade (which having researched that now, have found it was quite an education), Mother finished HS, specialized in Drama, and certainly carried that love of drama into her adult life! So nice of you to share these, Catherine! Thanks.

  3. How times have changed. Such an interesting look into the life of your family through your mom’s eyes.

  4. Susan Lee Price-Jang says:

    What a window into time. Lives were different then. I was recently given the letters written by my father to his sister years ago, but I have not had time to read them…

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