Friday March 29th 7:00 PM 1935
January 27, 2022 § 1 Comment
What follows, and what will follow as I transcribe them are a series of love letters my grandfather, Elvin wrote to my grandmother, Vivien while she was in her last semester of college at St, Lawrence College (now St. Lawrence University) in 1935. They had just gotten engaged, and as you will read, Elvin Emile considered himself very lucky to have wooed one Vivien Elizabeth Kent of West Orange. The wedding date was set for September 14, that year, and Elvin was 26 at the time and working in the family business: Star Electric Motor Company in Newark. The business was a joint partnership between the Hollanders and the Petersons, both Swedish immigrants who worked together winding motors in factories they gained employment in upon immigration.
The letter goes into some details that include what kind of budget they will operate under, and just how “nice” the family (and Elvin) find Vivien, and how excited everyone is with the engagement.
I believe Vivien had also just gained initiation into Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi’s) Sorority, and was now living there on campus, so her address was: Miss Vivien Kent, Pi-Beta-Phi House, Canton, NY. and there was no zip code. In case you are wondering, yes Canton NY is way the heck up there in the cold barrens along the St Lawrence River North East of Lake Ontario.
Dearest Darlingest Vivien,
Mark ye the day well, darling, for I am starting on a new box of stationary right now. To be sure it is the same as the other but I liked it so much I just couldn’t change. Next time I’ll have to change though because it is an imported paper and this was the last box of it. I still have 23 envelopes left out of the first batch which means you received 49 letters out of it. What’s more , darling, everyone of those 49 letters were such a pleasure to send.
I received your Wednesday letter today and will devote a lot of space to that after I give you news you would like to hear.
Yes, darling, all barriers to our being married in September are just about disposed of. I spoke to Mr. Peterson today and told him that I wanted a push upward in my salary at Easter and told him the reasons. He very very nicely said that it would be arranged. Then I was talking with my Father tonight and he said that he intended that I be given a goodly bonus when we get married. Thus, darling, as near as I can say this time, I will be earning $55 a week for us and we will have about $1200 to $2000 in the bank to start off with. Do you think that should be satisfactory for a start, darling? Oh, I’ve been so happy to see how things are shaping up. We should be able to make a halfway decent start, shouldn’t we darling? All these nice things in the future are just making it tougher and tougher to wait.
As I told you over the phone last night, I was out to see Mary and Gard. They are still Mary and Gard so you can see them as they were last night. Gard is going to apply for one of these Federal Housing Administration mortgage loans1 and if they get it, they are going to build a house at Morris Plains. They showed me the plans they had picked and they were for a peach of a house. With this loan Gard will pay between $50 & $60 a month back to the government and this will cover interest, taxes and the paying off of the mortgage. After seventeen years, the house will be theirs and they will have paid no more than if they had rented. It listens well, doesn’t it darling?
Gard, while we were talking about us, said, “Whatever you do whenever you get married, don’t buy twin beds.”2 It struck me s funny I almost rolled off the sofa.
Gard has also bought a tuxedo and a suit at that place I buy my clothes and he is glad I told him about it.
Mary is definitely quitting teaching this June, so more than likely you may see each other quite frequently in years to come while your husbands are at work. Mary has finished the skirt she was making out of black wool and is starting on the jacket out of aquamarine, I think it is, wool and it is just as fine a wool as you use. These ambitious girls!!!
Mr. Martin is going to leave definitely within the next couple of weeks. Final arrangements are being completed. Will tell you more when you come home as the whole story would be rather involved in writing.
Darling, the family really was glad to hear of “us”. Dad so heartily approves of you he is doing everything in his power to help us. He agrees with me that you are very very nice. He seems thoroughly pepped up over the idea. Mother, too, she is rooting for us heart and soul. She thinks as I think that you are nice and are pure gold. Esther3 goes around bragging about what a nice girl you are and Ray4 keeps talking about starting to save for a wedding present. Barbara5 recognizes your name when it is mentioned. And Lillian6 and Frances7 keep asking who your bridesmaids are going to be. So all in all the whole Hollander family is unanimous as to how lucky one Elvin E. Hollander is to become. I’m only sorry you weren’t here to get the splendid reaction. And all this nice comment just serves to make me more and more elated and just feeling swell. Darling, it just seems as though we’re going to have one grand in-law situation.
Do I believe in a budget? Yes, darling if it is kept as a budget and not as a stern and unswerving taskmaster. I don’t believe in arranging a budget in weekly periods but in periods of not less than a month and preferably, the budget period should be over three monthly periods. Why three monthly periods? I figure that there are four seasons in a year. Your wardrobe, food and entertainment all vary according to those periods. Thus, it seems to me that a budget figured for percentage expenditures over a three month period would be most likely to succeed. We would allow say, 20% for rent, 16% for food, 10% for heat, 20% for clothes, and the rest 34% for incidentals, savings, insurance, etc8. These percentages would vary with the income of course, but I think it would make for a very pleasant and easily kept budget plan. Don’t you darling? You see in a weekly budget period as the basic period, one deals in comparatively small sums and as such small sums maybe overlooked and discounted as too small to worry about. But when one deals in the accumulations of those small sums, he is constantly appreciative of the fact that a dollar here and a dollar there can make a whale of a difference in time. Also you determine within a rather generous period how much you can spend and you are not limited as to when as much as when your periods are weekly. Of course, under my suggestion a bank account will be necessary as one week we might spend way over our income and then for the next few weeks we would be far under it.
I liked the pictures, darling. I liked that one of “us” because you are so genuinely happy in it. And I will keep it among our letters and not put it in the album. That was a nice picture of the pledge, Phyllis, but she doesn’t look happy. In fact she looks mad. The picture of Ray and Betty is good. Tomorrow I’m going to snap the other pictures on that roll I have in my camera and develop it. I hope I get some nice ones to send you. It was nice of Duke9 to do yours for you. Thank him for me, too, darling.
I’m glad you enjoyed the initiation. I have an idea how beautiful an initiation can be because the A.T.O. ceremony is also an impressive one. The only thing I don’t like about your initiation is the fact that the phone is put our of order. Anyway I eventually got you so I should kick.
Yes, darling, I really was grouchy when I reached Arlington last Monday. Poor Ray I certainly did speak to him.
I’m like you, darling, I have never had a reason to be annoyed when I’m with you. It’s really odd how closely alike we think and act and yet how different our ways are in reaching the same result. But i’m glad we both have the same aim in life – happiness. And I know we’ll find it. Darlin I can never get through telling you all you mean to me and how much I love you. And I’ll never never stop telling you “you’re nice” because you are and the family thinks so too. Gosh, dearest, just the fact that you were measured for your cap and gown makes me realize just how close June is. And only a little over two weeks until Easter!!! Then heavenly days and heavenly nights. Sweet music and laughter. Love and companionship. We’re dreamers, darling, but we’re going to dream our way to happiness. I hate to end this letter but here goes darling.
And I love you and love you and love you,
P.S. Gee, you’re nice “Dutch”
1 Just for reference here, these were very new, at the time, and of course today we know that these were only available to white people, and is one of the key structural failures of allowing non-white people to build initial wealth.
2 Twin beds? Really? I should certainly think not!
3 Esther is the youngest of Amahlia’s children
4 Ray is Elvin’s older brother and first born of Emile and Amahlia.
5 Barbara is Ray’s daughter, and was being raised in Emile and Willie’s home.
6 Lillian is the oldest of the daughters born to Wilhemina, Emile’s second wife and Amahlia’s sister.
7 Frances “with an ‘e'” is Elvin’s youngest 1/2 sister,
8 If anyone is counting it adds up to 100%.
9 Duke was a St Lawrence classmate of Vivien’s.
10 That Elvin had the nickname of “Dutch” was new to me. I don’t know whether that was just a pet name of Vivien’s or did he get it at college.