The Most Tantalizing of Letters for a Collector of Old Mail

In my lot of letters from the Julius Frank family, I discovered most amazing treasure: an unopened letter!

The envelope was pre-stamped with a United States Postage stamp of George Washington in profile, at a rate of 1 1/2 cents. The postmark did not indicate a date, just the city, state, and zone of mailing.

Addressed to Fanny Frank, who is also known as Fannie Frank–Julius’s mother–the envelope bore an upside-down return address of “THE JUSTRITE CO.” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with no ZIP code.

And the envelope was STILL SEALED! What would it contain?

An old check?
Cash money?
Stock certificates?

The Justrite Company was a pet food company. Here are some ads in newspapers around the US from the 1930s to the 1950s:

· Tue, Apr 2, 1935 – Page 16 · The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

· Mon, Jun 16, 1952 – Page 16 · The Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

· Sun, Nov 6, 1932 – Page 4 · The Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio) · Newspapers.com
Excitedly, I opened the envelope and found the contents, which had not been seen by human eyes since 1937:

A mimeographed half-page letter and a color brochure.

It was an ad. Junk mail.

For something called “Mist-o-Silk Pantry Panties.”

Because seriously, how many times have you thought, “Gee, I really wish I had panties for my pantry.”

None? Me either.

The brochure offered a variety of overwhelmingly delightful time-saving covers for bowls, yourself, and vegetables. All it took was a little spare change and a proof-of-purchase (“Bird in the circle”).

Also enclosed was a mimeographed letter TO JUSTRITE CUSTOMERS –

Based on newspaper advertising, it looks like pantry panties were a big trend in the late 1930s. It was the tail end of the Great Depression, after all. Conservation was a top priority.

· Thu, Nov 4, 1937 – 7 · The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

· Thu, Mar 31, 1938 – Page 8 · Shiner Gazette (Shiner, Texas) · Newspapers.com

· Fri, Jul 7, 1939 – 16 · The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · Newspapers.com

Today, pantry panties are better known as “bowl covers” and come in plastic–quite looking like a shower cap at a Motel 6–or various fabrics. Check out these linen and cotton bowl covers crafted by Dot and Army, purveyors of cloth kitchen and dining accessories.

There’s nothing new under the sun.

So folks, save your 1938 coupons for future use, clip those Bird-in-the-circle trademarks, and get your pantry panties before they sell out.

P.S. I couldn’t find anything about a Justrite Company in our time that deals in pet food, but the address of 131 W. Seeboth St. is now an event venue!

P.P.S. Why in the world was this mail from 1937 saved and not opened for 81 years?!

Mom Writes to a Mysteriously Sick Julius Frank in Naval Hospital

A Letter from Julius Frank’s mother to Julius in the Navy Hospital at Newport, Rhode Island

[Ed.’s note: This letter is not dated, and the postmark is illegible, with only the year of “1945” visible.]

Monday A.M.
Dear Jule:-

We are sure sorry to hear about you and pray to God you are better by now. You have to be careful of your eyes. because sometimes it affects the eyes, + try to drink fruit juices as much as you can. Yes Jule you had alot of trouble with your ears they were lanced 3 or 4 times. One time 3 months at a time you had high fever + you had the measles very bad when you was a child. I can’t understand that you got them again I bet it isn’t that now tell me the truth is it or is it not. Well Mel is home + he don’t look or feel so good. Well Jule now don’t be in a rush about getting out of there. Try + be there as long as you can as it leaves you in a very weakened condition + then you are acceptable to any sickness. How + when did you get it. See that you don’t get a cold. It’s rainy + damp here. I just go through with my washing. We got 3 letters at one time from you. I also a letter from Chaplain Richardson. Well honey I’ll write a letter to-night no 10 checks came. At any time, listen Jule can I send you a box to the Hospital let me know immediately. Bob’s picture with some other boy’s picture was in the paper he gets from the A.Z.A. Yes I’ll save the paper so you can see it. Well honey we were sure expecting you Sat. Pop went to Winter Place in the morning + he + I went in the evening + no Jule. Well dearie just keep warm + not catch cold. Watch yourself + drink a lot of liquids. God take care of you + please rite us all particular us so honey I’ll say So long have Pop + Bob say hello + I send my very special love to you So keep your chin up. Love from me to you.

Mom

Be careful

[Ed.’s note: Bob is Robert, Julius’s brother, and Pop is his father]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A mother never stops worrying about her children, and it’s very apparent in this letter from Julius’s mother, Fannie, to her son in a Navy hospital in Newport, R.I. Apparently, she believed her son to have succumbed to another bout of measles, which seems extraordinarily unlikely. But, when someone says measles, especially in 1945, it’s not entirely clear which variety is meant: Rubeola (known as “measles”) or rubella (known as “German measles”). They are each caused by a different virus, and both develop the tell-tale red rash. But, German measles is also known as “three-day measles” as its rash duration is typically much shorter than rubeola, which lasts about seven days.

The rubeola vaccine wasn’t developed until 1963, so Julius would not have received it. He would have been in close quarters with his fellow sailors, a perfect opportunity for the virus to be transmitted. It’s just one of the many diseases endemic to the U.S. troops during World War 2.

The A.Z.A. is a Jewish youth fraternal organization. I’ve seen it mentioned in other letters, such as the letter from Werner Silberschmid, and others that I haven’t yet posted. It’s clear that this was an important part of Julius’s adolescence.

My questions from this letter:

  • Where, and what, is Winter Place? Was Julius on leave?
  • Julius Frank was Jewish. Who is Chaplain Richardson? (I have an Easter card, sent from Fannie to Julius, which also seems strange…by default, of course, Jewish folk don’t celebrate Easter.)

The last line, “Be careful,” breaks my heart.

 

 

Postcard from Summer Camp, 1967

Postcard from Summer Camp, 1967

Today is Earth Day, and what better way to observe this occasion than to feature a postcard sent home from camp?

This card was written in 1967 by Nancy Ipsen, a 17-year old high school student from rural Fresno. Nancy attended Camp Gaines first as a camper, and then as a counselor. Located in Sequoia Lake, in the Sierra Nevada range of California, Camp Gaines was opened by the YMCA, and recently celebrated its 100th year of operation. It is now under private ownership but still welcomes campers every summer.

Postmarked from Kings Canyon National Park, August 30, 1967

Dear Friends,

I’ve been promoted to handicrafts, which is nice because I couldn’t do nature crafts!

I’ve got chapped lips, a hoarse voice, a runny nose, a bloody toe, a gash on my ankle, and a swollen finger where I ran into a bush.

xxooxx (including some for Tramp and Dirty Roy)
Nancy

Makes camp sound very appealing!

Ed.’s note: Tramp was a dog, Dirty Roy a cat.

 

A Sad Update for Werner Silberschmid

In a previous post, “A Friendly Word from Home,” I shared a cheeky letter from a boy back home in Cincinnati, Werner Silberschmid, to a buddy in Navy boot camp at Great Lakes during World War II, Julius “Jules” Frank.

Part of the research I do for each letter posted here involves trying to find out as much as I can about the letter writer, recipient, and anyone or anything of note mentioned in the letter. Most of the writers and recipients were regular folk, so there’s not much said about them in newspaper or genealogical searches besides announcements of birth, marriage, military service, and death.

One of those routine searches turned up the sad news that this jovial fellow passed away very early in life, at the young age of 19. More digging revealed Werner’s death certificate, which indicated that he passed from a brain tumor he endured for three years.

It also turns out that Werner made good on his promise to join the Navy. He was an Apprentice Seaman in the Naval Reserve at the Navy Pier in Chicago. He was honorably discharged from the service on June 28, 1945.

His death certificate also gives some other important details about his life: he was not married. He was a shoe salesman. He lived in his community for 10 years. He was born in Germany, as were his parents.

RIP, Werner Martin Silberschmid.

 

 

In Which the Army Didn’t Want Anyone to Know How Many Shots Soldiers Received

Letter from U.S. Army Lieutenant, in an American Army General Hospital (think M.A.S.H.), to wife at home in Iowa, U.S.

1 July [1945]

My darling,

The end of one more week. I’ve been in hospitals for 2 months and a little over a week, now. Hope I don’t stay in one that much longer.

You mentioned in one of your last letters that Bob had written again, so I take it he hasn’t yet obtained a furlough. I hope he gets home–it will do your Mom good. I’d like to see him–I wonder what the Army has done to him. Whatever it is, it will probably be for the better. Wouldn’t it seem unusual if he takes an interest in girls? I never could figure out his attitude. But what the hell, it’s his life.

Some of the boys are getting their penicillin shots. Boy, they try it for everything, from jungle rot to earache! You know it’s used for venereal disease, too, Not that I needed it, but those 10 days of shots I took should have left me pure as the drive snow. [REDACTED] shots altogether–but I guess I told you.

Well, I wonder what Bun thinks about his marriage by now. I haven’t heard fro him since he sprung the news–wonder if she’s blonde or brunette. Seems to me, if she’s the gal I think he means, that she’s dark. Oh well, I still prefer blondes. One about 5’4″, with grey blue eyes, solid chassis [Ed. note: ewwww] and all the accoutrements. (I knew I’d be able to use that word someday.) Oh baby–when I think of you–well, it’s better not to bare my soul, or is it?

Anyway, honey–you keep the home fires smoldering, and when I get back we’ll really fan up a flame. And it will blaze for a long time, too, believe me.

Here’s one that just cropped up–what’s the difference between a super nurse and a super-dooper nurse? Ans.: A super nurse can make a bed without disturbing the patient; and a super-dooper nurse can make a patient without disturbing the bed. [Ed. note: *gag*] And now while I roll on the floor in gales of hilarity it’s time to say again, bye, I love you, and that’s all for now.

Your Dwight

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I suppose it must be extremely boring to be in the hospital–and a military hospital (the 126th General Hospital in the Philippines) at that. Other letters around this time from Dwight tell of poker games, crutch-jousting, and rolling around in wheelchairs for fun. But he also writes of slow mail delivery and a lack of mental stimulation. In a foreign country. Where it rains every single day. What a dreadful way to pass the time.

Several of the Dwight letters have tape along the left side of the envelope. The tape says “U.S. ARMY EXAMINER” on it. I knew that meant the letter had been reviewed by a censor, but I had not yet found one that was actually censored. There’s a precise little rectangular cut that removed the actual number of shots Dwight received. Why was this information censored in the first place?

The 1940s were a prolific time in what we now consider basic modern medicine. The healing power of penicillin had been discovered just two decades prior, and many infections were no longer an automatic death sentence. World War II was an economic and innovative juggernaut for medicine, and many important discoveries were made to treat exotic challenges faced by the American military. To wit, this article lists some of the more notable treatments: quinine for malaria, kidney dialysis, and caudal anesthesia (basically, epidurals, like what women in labor are given). Of course, not all of these medical problems were associated with the military, but many came out of military and government research, like how thanks to N.A.S.A. research we civilians enjoy Velcro and Tang.

It makes sense that the U.S. Army would not want anyone on the outside to know how many shots a solider received. If you knew how many shots were received, then you could potentially figure out what they were for–and more importantly, what wasn’t in the vaccination or treatment arsenal. Biological warfare could ensue. Infection spreads absurdly easily and quickly in close quarters, and in areas with poor hygiene, and lacking basic germ-fighting protocols like clean water, soap, and antimicrobial agents. Many World War II theatres ticked all of those boxes, and disease was imminent.

By the 1940s, the typical vaccine schedule, for children at least, consisted of smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. But, the typical World War II soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine would have been born at a time when vaccines either didn’t exist, or were not automatically given. According to this piece from the Office of Medical History, a typical vaccine schedule for a World War II-era soldier would have been typhoid-paratyphoid, smallpox, tetanus, yellow fever, cholera-plague-typhus (only for certain areas of activity), influenza, and Japanese B encephalitis. Sometimes, diphtheria, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, measles prophylaxis, viral hepatitis prophylaxis, and scarlet fever immunizations were given.

In an upcoming letter, we will hear from the very worried mother of our friend Julius Frank, who apparently came down with the measles during his time in the Navy.





A Friendly Word from Home

Letter from Werner Silberschmid, approximately 15 years old, to friend Julius “Jules” Frank, newly enlisted in the US Navy, stationed at Camp Porter, Great Lakes, Illinois

Monday, 22 [1943]

Dear Jule:–
Boy! it was really swell to get your card. I knew that it was from you, because right away the sailor represented you. (Back view, of course!) How is the Navy? Really fellow, I wish I were in your boots, but Dad tells me that I still have to wait two years. Yesterday we had a meeting at the Plaza. Nothing new! Rafalo is in Texas, and Les is in Georgia with some “Ack-Ack” division. I’m home from school to-day with a little cold, but mom says I’ll be OK to go back tomorrow, Dammit!

How are the femmes? You won’t need Esther anymore, since a sailor has a girl in every port, and a port in every girl. (Woo!) Butter is rationed, but we still drew the fat. (P.U.) You know, if you can’t make both ends meet, you can always make one vegetables! (Ha-ha.) The Reds are training, but I don’t think any body will care much for baseball this year. Speaking of baseball, I’m going to try out for the A.Z.A. team next Sunday. If I can get enough dough, ($1.50, specifically,) I’ll take a date to the 490-Vivalets affair. Eve is still as small and hot as ever. Yesterday I bowled 132 and 78 at Snapps for a grand average of 105. I’ll make a team yet. But really Jule, the only thing athletic about me are my feet, I’ve got Athletes-Feet! Is Laibson or any other A.Z.A. boys with you?

Excuse the hyrogliphics [sic], but I got a hell of a time writing in bed. Write if you get a chance,

Fraternally yours

Werner

P.S. My folks, although not knowing you send their best regards. WS

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was initially drawn to this letter by the handwriting on the envelope. It was neat, tidy, and distinctively masculine. I had a stack of letters that had been sent to a Julius Frank–but none other was addressed to “Jules.”

The letter was written on three pages of personalized stationery. Werner Silberschmid must have been a friend of Jules Frank’s, perhaps from Hughes High School in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati, OH. They lived just about a mile from each other, Werner on Larona Ave. and Jules on Carplin Place. The Wikipedia article on Avondale states that the neighborhood was majority Jewish until after WW2, when it became a destination for black residents. Violent race riots happened there in 1967 and 1968. Here is a great read on the history of the area from the Avondale Community Council.

Sadly, I learned Werner passed away in 1947, at just 19 years old. It appears he was the only son of Robert Silberschmid and Else Silberschmid.

So… why did Werner pass away at such a young age?

What happened to Jules Frank? I have a letter from his mother, written in 1945, and addressed to Jules at a Naval Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island. It seems to insinuate that Jules contracted measles. But that’s another letter, for another post…

 

 

A Little Girl’s Postcard

Postcard “Into Mischief”
Postmarked May 19, 19XX, Lithonia, GA

“Hello Nona
How are you
This morning
Come and see me
Lillie Clarke”

This looks like a postcard from a little girl (Lillie Clarke) of Lithonia, GA to a Miss Nona Mitchel, also in Lithonia. Found in Monroe, GA.

Unfortunately, the postmark is illegible. The year is not visible. So, to narrow down when this might have been sent, I looked to see in which years postage for a postcard was just a penny.

After WW1, postage went back to one cent. It was one cent from 1918 to 1925, and then from 1928 to 1951.

Another clue that could reveal a timeframe for this postcard would be when RFD, or Rural Free Delivery, was active. It was a Georgia Congressman, Thomas Watson, who put RFD in motion. I couldn’t find exactly when RFD was in service in Lithonia, but it went into effect in the late 1890s. Lithonia was established in 1856 as a farming community. Today, it is considered a suburb of Atlanta, conveniently located right on I-20.

I can’t find much more information on these two people, Lillie Clarke and Nona Mitchel. Perhaps Nona Mitchel was a friend of Lillie, or a family member? My own daughter, age 9, wrote a postcard just like this to her auntie a few towns over a few months ago, which is one of the reasons I found this card so endearing. Now, my daughter can text her auntie, too, but back when Lillie wanted to get a message to Nona, she could either write or call (probably).

If you know anything of this Lithonia family, please comment.

 

 

First Day Cover: Boy Scouts of America 1910 – 1960

A first day cover is a commemorative envelope and stamp that bears a special postmark from the first day that the stamp is put into use. Often, special envelopes are designed to represent the subject of the stamp, or the occasion that the stamp represents.

Here is a first day cover from the 50th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. This was postmarked on February 8, 1960 in Washington, D.C.

 

Back When Your Resume Listed Your Height, Weight, and Complexion

Back in 1937, a young woman from Decatur, Georgia sought employment as a teacher. Frances Treadwell was her name, and she earned a normal (teacher’s college) diploma from the Georgia State College for Women after graduating from Decatur Girls’ High School in the 1930s.

I learned of Miss Treadwell after finding an old, tattered envelope in a pile at a a Covington, Georgia antique store. I couldn’t resist peeking inside, and when I saw the yellowed pages folded up inside, I gladly paid the $9 asking price for this treasure.

Inside the envelope postmarked April 27, 1939 was an old “Abstract of Qualifications,” typewritten but with some handwritten notes, and letters of recommendation from former instructors. It looked like a job seeker’s packet, like something Miss Treadwell would have tucked into her pocketbook after fastening her shoe buttons and donning her gloves before her interview.

As I read the pages, a few things stood out to me.

  • One expects that any letter of recommendation would speak to the subject’s intelligence, aptitude for the task at hand, and so on. One of Miss Treadwell’s letters included commentary her physical appearance:

She is very attractive in appearance and manner and is cooperative in attitude. She is somewhat timid, but because of many other superior qualities I think she will make a good teacher.
– Euri Belle Bolton

(Interesting side note: It turns out that Euri Belle Bolton was a well-known educator in Georgia, with a varied career teaching all ages.)

  • And, one’s resume, or “Abstract of Qualifications,” had to include these very important attributes:

Height: 5 feet, 3 inches.
Weight: 112 pounds.
Health: Good.
Complexion: Fair.
Hair: Brown.
Eyes: Blue.
Church: Methodist.

My, how times change. Today, Miss Treadwell’s resume would be (generally) completely unprofessional for including all of the detail about her appearance–and religion. Unless she was going for a performance or modeling job, or a church job, that stuff just wouldn’t matter. I wonder if the complexion, hair, and eyes attributes were sneaky ways to ascertain if Miss Treadwell was white? Remember, this was in the Deep South in the 1930s, and institutional racism may not have been the law of the land, but it was still very much alive.

I’m also genuinely surprised at the tone of some of her “recommendations.” One writer admits she has not really even met Miss Treadwell, stating she is “attractive” and that “Her father’s experience as a teacher should be valuable to her in understanding her chosen profession.” And another writer, Ms. Bolton from above, states that Miss Treadwell is “somewhat timid” which I find to be an odd sentiment to include in a letter of recommendation. Maybe these letters were just fulfilling boxes that had to be ticked, and the content didn’t matter much.

I wish the letter writers would have focused on Miss Treadwell’s accomplishments, expanding more upon the American Legion Medal she won–voted on in secret by the entire faculty of her high school, it’s kind of a big deal.

I was drawn to this case, too, once I learned Miss Treadwell was from Decatur. It made me wonder why she did not attend Agnes Scott College, a women’s college located in Decatur. I think it may have been because she was Methodist, and Agnes Scott is a Presbyterian college.

It was a happy life for Miss Treadwell, it seems, as she did land a teaching job in Cave Spring, Georgia, and shortly thereafter married and moved back to Decatur. She passed away at age 95 on December 26, 2012. Click here to view her obituary.

If you are kin to Ms. Treadwell, and would like to have these letters, please get in touch.

Frances Treadwell Abstract of Qualifications
Recommendation from Hallie Claire Smith
Recommendation from Euri Belle Bolton
Recommendation from Wheat Williams
Recommendation from Daisy Frances Smith