Saturday, April 23, 2011

women with (and currently without) cameras

I love this camera.  For the past three or four years it has been one of the primary tools through which (or maybe I should say with which) I've been able to think through or otherwise process things--whether this had to do with working through ideas for articles, course plans, book covers, or for coming up with ways of dealing with more complex and time-intensive (analog) photo shoots.  What's more, this camera (and photography, more generally) has provided me with a way of dealing with sadness, anger, confusion, even joy.  In short, it has helped me to make sense of texts, images, plans, thought-processes as well as emotions. Quite literally, it often feels true to me that I am not able to really see or understand something until I see it played back on this camera's screen.  Put otherwise, I think I think best when the camera is connected to my fingers.  Oh yeah.  And this:  It was a gift from my mother  You never mess with gifts from mothers.

But alas, someone did.  This camera was one of four cameras recently (read:  this all happened yesterday) "taken from me" in what I will say simply for now was an incredible unfair and messed-up circumstance.  (read:  case pending.)  So until the property is returned or (given the worst case scenario) until I come up with funds for a replacement, I'm trying to adapt to this new (for me) process of working, thinking, and feeling without the help of this particular camera.  Blah.  Some days are just not so good.  For what it's worth, this one was taken too. And two of these.  Seriously.  When I'm not raging, I'm crying. And vice versa.  Again, some days are definitely not so good.   

And so I turn to the one other thing I know--something that has also come in handy when it comes to dealing with anger, sadness, loss, frustration:  Scholarship--writing something, reading something, thinking new things, arranging these thoughts in new ways.  Kinda like photography, but with a different type, use and outcome for paper.

As an aside:  Years and years ago I saw this wonderfully captivating piece of art.  I think it was made of the same kind of recycled, nubby, compressed material that they make carry-out drink trays from.  I think the image embossed on the material might have been a dolphin.  Who knows?  At the time, I clearly thought of myself more as a word-person, less of an image-person.  Anyhoot.  At the bottom of the piece the following words were cut out of the nubby compressed material: "How will I survive the day?  I think I will write a poem."  Or something to that effect.  Again, it's been years.  My point here is that for the past 3-4 years (since acquiring the camera pictured above--the one that has recently been re-acquired by another and unjustly so), my answer to the question "How will I survive the day?" has been to take a photograph.  Or three.  Or, if I'm shooting digital, maybe 500 hundred.  My response to the bigger question of "How can I not only survive the day but feel like I can actually escape, even for a brief time, from really shitty and frustrating circumstances?" has been--at least for the past six years or so--to start a new project, to write another article, to finish a book, etc.  Perhaps my level of productivity (or lack thereof) really is based on how much I need, at any point in time, to not really think about the things that most piss me off, that make me sad or that I feel I'm pretty much powerless to change. But I've digressed.

In a bizarre turn of events, I woke this morning thinking that maybe the best way of coping with the problem of the the four missing cameras (or, perhaps I was only interested in finding a way to escape from the incredible amount of anger and sadness and feelings of powerlessness I'm currently experiencing over this unsettled matter), would be to begin tracing the way that Dorothy's scrapbooks and photo albums have represented women (herself included) working with cameras.  While my larger project--at least as I am envisioning it now, without my camera's help--will examine the way material (human) bodies are represented in Dorothy's (equally fragile) body of work (i.e., through text and photos that she created, as well as through her selection, appropriation, annotation and/or redistribution of already-existing [not self-authored] media), a portion of that project, I'm sure, will have to do with these representations of ladies with cool tools.  Or maybe it won't.  Like I said, I can't think well without my camera and maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, focusing so much of my attention on women who are captured on film doing something that I'm currently unable to enjoy.

One of my favorite images of Dorothy is this one. A self-portrait taken with what appears to be a small, box camera.  The image was taken in 1950 while she and Fred were living in Germany, and it is part of a series of photos Dorothy took with the apparent aim or goal of providing those (family members and friends, I'm assuming) who were unable to visit the couple in Germany with a better sense of what their new digs looked like.  To this end, the collection is filled with pictures of views from various windows of the apartment and views of the various rooms in the apartment.  Two of my other favorite photos from this series (they are not depicted here as they don't feature women with cameras) are pictures of Dorothy and Fred next to one another on the couch.  How these photos were taken or by whom is a mystery to me.  Long cable release?  Soliciting someone else's help?  In one of the photos the couple is looking at one another and laughing, in the other they are sitting side by side and reading.  Of this pair of images, Dorothy explains:  "These are two very usual poses for us.  We look like this many evenings or right after lunch on weekdays."                             

But back to images of women enjoying something I cannot currently enjoy.  An old, worn black photo album marked "Alaska--Date 1941 to June 1960" contains a two page spread featuring women with cameras.  Unfortunately, these pages do not bear annotations but some of the pages before and after this spread are marked June 1941, so my assumption is that these images too are from June 1941.  There are four photos on each page of the spread; of those eight images, six are of women with cameras.  A sampling:   

While all six of the photos construct the women both as image makers/takers as well as part of the image made/taken, the first three photos are framed in ways that make it appear that the women with cameras are unaware (or less aware) of that dual positioning.  By contrast, the last three images seem, if not more posed or less candid, to be framed in ways that suggest a willingness on the part of the women to take a break from their own work as image makers to become part of another image made.

Friday, April 15, 2011

About a Life: What the scrapbooks have to offer

So far, this much I know:  Dorothy "Chrissie" Gundelach S----- was born In St. Louis, Missouri on October 2, 1909 and lived to be 71.  Daughter of Marguerite and William, Dorothy died at 7:00 am on June 71, 1981 after an 18 month struggle with colon cancer.  Her husband, Helmuth ("Fred") is listed as informant on her death certificate.

The scrapbooks and photo albums Dorothy kept offer still other details about her life and things, I presume, that were important to her--at least important enough to save, annotate, document.  The scrapbook covering the period of time between March 1956-August 1958 contains two newspaper cuttings about her mother's death in May of 1956.  The clipping here details her mother's estate and what Dorothy, Helmuth and the Home of the Friendless would inherit.  From the other clipping, one learns that Dorothy's father was a physician and that he passed away in 1935.

Here is a sampling of some of the other things I learned about Dorothy's life based on what I found she had saved and/or written about in her scrapbooks and photo albums:

Places to call home

From January 14th-February 24th of 1950, Dorothy and Fred lived at the Hotel Truman in Mannheim, Germany.  My assumption is that Fred's involvement with the military had them stationed there during this time.

The couple also lived in Evanston, Illinois (interestingly, Evanston is very close to where I grew up and spent most of my life).  On August 31, 1956, the couple moved into a second floor unit in this building. Also offered here is a view from their bedroom window taken in early fall of 1956.   

 Not surprisingly, also documented here was the house that Dorothy and Fred would live in for the rest of their lives.  Dorothy includes here, among other things, a clipping from the December 1st, 1957 edition of the Baltimore American that details the sale of the house to the couple.

Dorothy often included in the scrapbooks and photo albums pictures taken from windows in the various places she and Helmuth (almost always referred to by his middle name, Fred) lived.  It's not uncommon to find images marked "view from our bedroom," "view of our lake," "view from the front room."  Other common types of images included here are pictures of made-up but otherwise empty rooms (meaning images that contained furniture, clocks, flowers, but not people), images of Christmas trees and gifts, and images of tables made up for dinner parties, as we see below.

Also included were handwritten documents, like this one.  This appears to be a seating arrangements for a breakfast gathering:

And this:  A hand-drawn map and notes about a trip--one Dorothy describes as "very upsetting"--taken on December 27th. 
Teeth, booby traps, furs, feet, seeds, and bank deposits
My favorite items in the scrapbooks are those me as oddities. Things that leave me wondering why they were included at all.  For instance:

From this we learn that Dorothy had extracted at 10:00 am on Thursday July 13 her number 14th tooth.  A process that apparently went swimmingly well. 
And then there was this mysterious, handwritten gem--a plan for garage booby traps.  Needless to say, I'm still hoping to run across or find a way to piece together the backstory on this one.

An equally odd and puzzling find was this:  A business card from Herbert Cox Correct Shoes in Baltimore.  Above and to the side of the card, Dorothy has written:  "Bought first day I shopped for new mink jacket.  Met Fred for lunch wearing monsters."  Huh?  
A good number of the pictures contained in the photo albums and scrapbooks provide evidence of the time and care the couple devoted to landscaping, lawn care and gardening matters.  Whether it's a photo of Fred cutting limbs from a tree, "meticulously" planting his tulip garden, or various pictures of the immaculately-maintained lawn and flower beds they couple tended to, it was clear that they were highly invested in how the exterior of their home looked.  It was little surprise, then, to find pages in some of Dorothy's scrapbooks devoted to seed packets and gardening plans:

One of the most plentiful items found in the scrapbooks were cards--Not just business cards, like the one from Herbert Cox Correct Shoes, but birthday cards, Easter, Valentine's day and Anniversary cards. Gift cards were also often included.  In addition to documenting what other people gave the couple, Dorothy often included details of what the couple gave and/or received from each other or purchased for other people:

 Needless to say, some gifts were very, very good--like this gift to Fred from Mousie:

Still other evidence of the life she lived

Dorothy's trip diaries prepared me for how seriously she took the task of documenting, not only where she and Fred traveled, but how they got there, what they did--and perhaps most importantly--what they spent at each stop along the way.  In this way, I was not surprised to encounter the itemized lists and bills also contained in the scrapbooks.  For instance:

From the scrapbooks, I also learned that Dorothy attended Mary Institute in St. Louis.  Included here is an image of her history teacher and another newspaper clipping above which Dorothy has written:  "Girls I knew at M.I." 
Dorothy's death certificate would list her occupation as self-employed.  I'm not sure if she was ever paid for the contributions she made to either the Keswick Home for Incurables of Baltimore or to the English Speaking Union (an organization whose aim, at least according to one program document, was "to draw together in the bond of comradeship the English-Speaking Peoples of the World") but the letter below, dated September 29, 1967 (notice that Dorothy received it on her birthday) congratulates her on the "magnificent" job she did producing Keswick's new patient information booklet.  As an aside:  While the scrapbooks I've gone through thus far contain a number of texts that talk about the fine job Dorothy did with the booklet, I've not yet come across a copy of the actual booklet.  This is something I would love to find and read.

As for Dorothy's contributions to the English Speaking Union, one of the pamphlets I found credits her with being in charge of the invitations for the event.  I feature below an image of the cover of a pamphlet from a 1961 event hosted by the ESU.  I do this, in part, as a way of reminding myself to keep an eye out for other references to and/or images of Else, Joey and Ethel.  I also wanted to include it here because the theme strikes me as odd, given the Union's mission.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bought in Haste: On feet and Dorothy's footware

I admit it.  Given my aversion to feet (bleeck) and confusion over the very concept of green shoes (wtf?), I've spent far more time than I like to admit thinking about Irm's bum foot and the pair of green tennis shoes Dorothy alludes to purchasing in her 1967 trip diary (for details on both, see posting from Sunday, April 10th.)

As of today, however, there appears to be some relief in sight, as I happened to come across this (see image above) in a scrapbook that also provides documentation of the Penn Yan and Prouts Neck trips as it covers the span of time between June 1967 and Christmas of 1967.  Here, Dorothy devotes a full page of the scrapbook to an image of a shoe (presumably she purchased the pair) underneath which she has written: "Bought in haste for museum visit."  Excellent.  I had a real chuckle about this one.  And while I'm left wondering about the museum she visited (and, more generally, about the details of this purchase--from what I've read thus far, Dorothy tended to keep very detailed notes about money received and spent), I am thankful for something to get my mind off Irm's bum foot and Dorothy's green tennis shoes.

But wait. Relief was but brief as the scrapbook also contains this:  The actual receipt for those green tennis shoes.   

And this too:  An image of Irm bathing her swollen foot (while Dorothy stands there looking quite fetching on the other side of the scrapbook page).  Alas.  My thoughts return again to feet. (bleeck)

Luckily, the scrapbook contains still other images from the trip detailed in the trip diary.  Here, again, are images of Dorothy and Fred poolside at the Black Point Inn in Prouts Neck, Maine. Mercifully, I'm spared from having to look at their feet.       

In terms of timeliness though, perhaps the coolest find was this:  A copy of Dorothy and Fred's bill (paid in full) and record of their $100 deposit for their four night stay at the Black Point Inn. As it so happens, Chris and I are in the process of planning our own spring getaway to Maine--to be fair, Chris is doing most of the work on this.  My main contribution to the planning is to promise to get my end-of-semester grading done in a timely fashion.  Turns out his family's place is about 20 miles from the Black Point Inn. In this way, it's a shame we can't score the 1967 rates--$46.00 a night.  Were we able to do that, we might well consider spending a night or two at the Inn, trying to retrace some of the Dorothy and Fred's steps.  Given the 2011 rates ($210-$270 per night, per person) the best we'll likely be able to do is a photo drive-by.  We've gotten quite good at this:  Chris slows the truck down while I take as many pics as I can through the open window.

This is yet another reason why I'm eager to get into that conference that never lets me in--CCCC 2012 will be held in Dorothy's home town, St. Louis, MO.  If a miracle occurs and I do happen to get in, Chris and I have discussed the possibility of driving down to Missouri, retracing the route Dorothy detailed in their trip diaries.     

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Travels with Dorothy and Fred: From Balto to Penn Yan, Prouts Neck & Nyack

Among my favorite items found in the six boxes are detailed trip diaries that I presume to have been authored by Dorothy.  There are 10 trip diaries in all; eight are spiral bound with various color covers (brown, black, and red) and the other two are bound, more deluxe, versions of the trip diary. What I'm calling the "more deluxe" versions are approximately the same size as the spiral bound diaries but they contain more pages along with extra info for the traveler--maps, suggestions and information for increased "enjoyment and traveling comfort," etc. According to the producer of the spiral bound trip diary [Eaton Paper Corporation], the purpose of the diary is to provide travelers with a place to store "personal record of places visited, impressions and travel autographs."

The first pages of a number of the diaries contain Dorothy and Helmuth S----'s names and home address--these pages as well as the all the other entries in the trip diaries had been composed, I am assuming, by Dorothy.   Though the entries are often difficult to read (i.e., to this end, I will indicate with a "?" words, names or phrases I am uncertain of), the diaries detail, among other things, when the couple left for their trips, what the weather was like, what the traffic was like, what the couple's moods were like, where and when they stopped for gas, and how much they spent for items purchased along the way.  Dorothy seemed especially interested in the landscape--noting whether certain landmarks had changed (and if so, how), whether the roads had changed, etc.  At the start of some diaries, Dorothy includes information on the outfits she took with her, detailing what she and others wore to specific events. Special attention is paid throughout the diary entries to what the couple ate, where they ate, how much they paid for meals and whether or not the food (or drinks) were any good.  To be sure, if Dorothy happened to spill anything on her outfit during a meal, it is mentioned here. In this entry, I cover three trips the couple made during 1967.  All three trips are detailed in the same brown, spiral bound trip diary--one that covers trips taken between August 12th, 1963 and November 1st 1968.  I've chosen these trips because their details interested me, because a red photo album in the collection seems to contain images of some of the people and places described in two of the three entries, and because, well, a gal's gotta start somewhere, right?

The diaries detail a number of trips the couple made to Penn Yan, NY--presumably to visit this couple, Irmgard [often referred to simply as "Irm"] and Harold.  This photo of Irm and Harold, taken July 14th, 1959, was found in a red photo album--one that covers about ten years of time. 
 One of the three trips I'll focus on in this particular entry involved a visit to Irm and Harold on July 14, 1968.  According to the first portion of the diary for this trip, the couple left Baltimore at 9:40 on July 14th, arriving at the Amico in Penn Yan at 4:30 (285 miles later) where they spend $8.52 on gasoline. Midway through the day--at 12:05 to be exact--the couple stopped for lunch at a cost of $2.97.  Other purchases listed for the trip included dinner [$22.00], papers [85 cents], telephone to Jo [$2.00], and Irm's medicine [$7.20].  

Of this trip from Baltimore to Penn Yan, Dorothy wrote:  

Left with a minimum of insults--smooth for us. Fred drove till lunch Dutch Pantry.  Very nice but Fred got wrong kind of clam chowder.  I liked my lunch.  I drove for 2 1/2 hours after lunch.  Lots of construction work--very slow.  Onion and tomato catsup fell on my skirt during lunch.  There were lots of places to eat near Selingsgrove.  Fred insisted on Amico so we rolled into station with tank registering empty.  21.3 gallons.  We got to Irmgard's before they expected us.  Dinner was quite late--it was around eleven that dishes were done.  Irm had an infected foot.  Next morning she and I went to town and walked much further than we should have with her bad foot.  Cold.  Too unpleasant to eat on porch.  Harold talked steadily as usual for the whole visit explaining things. Dinner at Dresden--our treat.  Good steaks and very ample portions.  Inexpensive meal and good.  Irm nervous about going to doctor.  We took two cars so if dinner took too long Irm could get there on time.  Told to bathe foot and take anti-biotics.  Polycillin.  Played bridge and enjoyed it till we saw how swollen Irm's foot was.  Next day we went to dock till lunch. Too cool and cloudy off and on. Didn't swim.  Lunch on porch then speed boat ride the length of lake with their friend Leslie.  Dinner at home in dining room--more bridge.  

At 7:05 the morning of July 17th, 1967, Dorothy and Fred leave Irm and Harold's house, heading on to Prouts Neck, Maine--this is another place to which they frequently traveled. As near as I can tell these images (also found in the red photo album) were taken during this July 14th-16th visit to Irm and Harold's. In the upper left, we see Fred "looking at the hole [Dorothy] made in float."  The image right shows Dorothy working at Irm's.  The bottom is one taken of Irm in July 1967.    

On the process of getting from Irm and Harold's to their next destination-- Prouts Neck, Maine--Dorothy writes: 

We got away at 7:05--I fixed breakfast but both Irm & Harold saw us off.  The drive to Prouts Neck was not as far as we expected.  No construction held us but we made a few mistakes driving at the very end.  Sharp exchanges but trip quite peaceful on the whole.  [Name hard to decipher] took so long we weren't ready for cocktails till 7:15.  Orchestra plays for cocktail time and it seemed gay.  Wonderful evening meal--tremendous menu.  We took all courses the first evening.  Very nice refined class of people--retired age.  marvelous clothes on the women.  My kind--expensive simplicity.  Men wore good sport jackets.  No slacks or shorts allowed.  Men must wear coats and ties or ascots.  Few young people and few our age.  Many Canadians.  Prouts Neck homes quite substantial--all homes and the Inn.  No business, no [?-?].  Nice atmosphere.  [Apparently added to the top of the next page is this:  Buffet luncheon marvelous.]  First morning we went to Portland--misting or cloudy.  Went in Longfellow house and bought green tennis shoes for waking on beach and rocks.  After lunch to pool.  I went in. Later we took long walk on beach.  July 19th in morning I saw rockbound coast of Maine [?] state park.  Pool and beach in the afternoon.  Last day, shopped that "the store" then walked around Prouts Neck with Fred.  

Sun came out.  Fred stayed at pool.  I had lunch and went back. Movies in the evening.  Breakfast slow as usual.  Got in about 8:15.  Lunch planned for poolside. First day we could see water when we got up.  Lunch stop [?]  traffic at a crwl around Elicabeth all lanes clogged.  Slowly later by heavy rain, hale [sic], more heavy rain.  [Note:  The red photo album contains these images which I assume are from this trip.  The top image shows Fred walking along the beach in Prouts Neck. The middle and bottom images show Fred and Dorothy poolside.--for the record, Fred must have loved him some sunbathing as he was almost always tan. . .and I'm talking a George Hamilton kind of tan!]         

Following the details of the July 1967 trip to Penn Yan and then Prouts Neck, Dorothy writes about a trip taken November 3rd. In this case, however, Dorothy has not provided a year for the trip.  As the remaining pages in this diary detail trips taken in the summer of 1968, my guess is that this November trip--from Baltimore to Nyack, NJ--also occurred in 1967.   Of this trip, Dorothy writes: 

The night before our trip was hideous.  Fred refused to come to bed.  Ran the washing machine at least twice in the middle of the night.  Claimed the one drink he had before dinner keyed him up.  We had planned to leave at 10:45 but he puttered around so much it was 11:30.  Par for the course gave me no help with the dishes.  Weather gorgeous for our start.  All of Friday stayed pretty.  Lunch at turnpike stop was OK but not interesting.  Ice cream was good.  We got to the Palisades Parkway early enough to get out at one of the Lookouts.  Very nice.  Crossed bridge at a a lovely time.  Sun just starting to set. Had a very good dinner at the General Putnam Inn in Norwalk after driving around to see the town. Got to Allan's around 8--Allan not home yet.  However Allan did arrive around 8:30.  Their dinner looked awful.  So glad we had outs at the Inn.  Saturday it poured till about 4.  Had a regular dinner at Marguerite's--very good.  
She has a quiet, efficient cook--unlike the character Florence and Allan have who enters the conversation.  At cocktail hour (6) we went to Cobb's Inn.  Delightful place alongside of a waterfall (miniature Niagara Falls) floodlit--ducks and geese.  Fascinating.  Dinner back at Allan's--pot roast and noodles.  Early to bed.  Next morning (Sunday) Florence went to church.  Allan Fred and i had a lovely walk in the woods.  Much longer walk than I am used to, but it was no strain on me. Early lunch so we could leave.  Drive to Carl's very easy--had about 3 hours with him at Meadowlakes.  Excellent food at the buffet supper.  Carl's apt. quite attractive. Hated the mad rush of traffic coming home but we made good time. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the almost strangers

It's clearly early on in my learning-questioning-discovery process, and, perhaps as a result of this, I'm struck by the enormous potential of these people--of these almost- or not-quite-strangers.  Five days ago, I had no idea that they (or their six boxes of life-materials) ever existed.  At that time they were really-really-strangers, or maybe even less than that (non-potentials? non-persons? non-existents?) to me.

I suppose I should stop here and introduce you to my current working assumption and constant companion:  I (at this point in time, anyway) would be deeply thrown off course if I were to learn that the people depicted here were not, in fact, Dorothy and Fred S----- or that this photo of them was not taken on the day they got married, sometime in 1948.  With time and throughout the process of sifting through and closely attending to still more boxed materials, I may well find that these assumptions/identities are wrong.  Should that be the case, I have little doubt that this story (my attitude about it as well as my way of telling it) will take new, different and unexpected turns.  But for now, I am struck (as I said to start) by the enormous potential of these almost- or not-quite-strangers.  I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't matter much to me (as box-owner, researcher, questioner, sifter, blogger, or simply as a curious being) if these people were kind, compelling, compassionate or funny.  Of course, I want and even hope that they will be all that.  I hope that they will have admirable qualities and I hope that I will feel sad when I'm reminded that I'll not have any opportunity to meet them.  This is what I mean by being struck by their great, at-the-moment, potential.

And so part of me thinks about what it would mean to stop here. And if that would even be doable.  To only know this much. To put the six boxes down in my storage area and leave them there, thereby suggesting to whomever might someday find these boxes among my other stuff that my life was necessarily, integrally, or maybe even genetically/biologically connected to theirs.   

As soon as I got the boxes home, I looked briefly at one of what I assume are Dorothy's ten trip diaries and I was taken aback by how much I didn't like her handwriting.  It was really tough to read (exhausting, really) and some of the things she wrote or noted or mentioned gave me pause (much more on this, on these trip diaries later).  Other things I could relate to, other things made me laugh, and still other things (i.e., mentions of specific places, events, people) made me eager to explore other of the items contained in these six boxes.  Was there much (any?) overlap between the trip diaries and the 35 scrapbooks and photo albums in the boxes?

So I won't stop here, this I know.  Even if it means risking or otherwise diminishing my sense of the incredible potential of these not-quite-strangers. That said, I end with a plea:  Please, please, please, don't let the items in these boxes suggest that Dorothy and/or Fred (assuming those are the folks depicted above) were horrible or unkind people.         

The Sugar Report from St. Louis

Approximately 34 years before she will lose her battle with colon cancer, Dorothy G---- of St. Louis, Missouri will create and send to Mr. Helmuth F. S----- of Baltimore, Maryland a 10 page "ransom-style" letter entitled "Sugar Report From St. Louis."   

NOTE:  According to this document (i.e., a letter of recommendation, dated Sept 21, 1963, written in support of Dorothy and "Fred's" [aka Helmuth's] application to the Baltimore Country Club), the couple will get married less than a year after Helmuth receives the "Sugar Report." The couple will remain married for the next 33 years.   
 The front of the envelope containing the "Sugar Report" bears postage, a sticker with Dorothy's return address, a stamped imprint that encourages/reminds readers to "Buy United States Defense Bonds Stamps For Victory," as well as a postmark from Saint Louis MO. dated Sept 14, 7PM 1947.  The back of the envelope bears a postmark from Baltimore MD dated Sept 15, 11AM 1947.  Someone (presumably Dorothy?) has instructed the recipient to "Open [the envelope] Monday Night."   

 As I said to start, the "Sugar Report" is a 10 page, ransom-style letter.  The first page of the text features the report's title.  In its entirety, the rest of the document reads:

Dear Mister or man-in-a-blue-suit-again:  I know your family was tickled to see you and hear about your life in the armed forces from June to September. You could report about the General's little bag (I don't like that crack) and week-ends in St. Louis. (Note:  I will leave space between each chunk of text to indicate the contents of each page.)

You told them "I like army life but the time has come to do something else."  You could not brush off all their questions because you would be in the dog house.

Saturday night I'm sure you were out painting the town red. . .oh! oh! Love and Romance!  You said, "Am I glad to see you!"  "Who is the no. 1 man in your life?" "Dreams do come true!" and, "it's lots more fun going places with you."

Sunday in keeping with the best Maryland traditions of gracious living. . .you were truly comfortable at home. You asked them "What happened here?"  Conversation was blurred and fuzzy after a delicious dinner. I bet you'll be vice president in charge of home management again. How is all your family?

Today you will have gone to town, I'm sure, to make millions of calls on men who never heard of you.  "Open doors for a smart executive" you commanded.  "Good men are hard to find!"  "Now you can have a welcome addition to your office!"  You asked, "Are you interested in a strong, tireless man with experience?"  "I

am just what you have been looking for!"  "Companies have personalities, too and I want to be with yours."  "I can do the work of six if you pay a lot."   I hope you got what you wanted.  Soon

You can write on how to be a business hero and you'll be telling what blondes prefer in bosses; Also how to get the comptroller's OK.  I hope now you can do the things you've only dreamed about!  I think you are good!

There are degrees of interest. . when you read this letter,  [NOTE:  Here, Dorothy has written the words "Sugar Report from S. Louis" on the cover of a book or pamphlet held by a figure whose eyes indicate a different reaction to the same material--see first image in this posting.]  It's all in how you take it.  moo.

There'll be no more Parker 51's for you to buy but I hope for 3000 letters and lots of action on the long distance front.  After all what's the good of a telephone--if the wrong man calls.  Think about me but enjoy life!  Do have gay-hearted adventures.  You know

I will.  I can hardly wait to see you again.  We must have a reunion.  Let's make it soon!  You are invited. 

The letter was signed, "Very personally yours, Chris."  [Note:  Chris was a shortened version of Dorothy's middle name.  While this is the only instance I've found thus far of Dorothy referred to by a variation of her middle name, Helmuth is often referred to by Dorothy and others as "Fred"--his middle name.]

The letter contains a partially hand-written post-script that reads, "Real letter follows soon."

Monday, April 4, 2011

in six boxes: finding a place to start

I begin with an understanding of how the story ends--or one version of it anyway. According to the certificate of death issued on June 8th, 1981, Dorothy G. S------, after an 18 month battle with colon cancer, passed away on June 7th, 1981 at 7 am. According to this document, this married, white, self-employed woman was born on Oct. 2, 1909 in Missouri USA, making her 71 years old at her last birthday. The document, issued by the State of Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, goes on to identify William J. G--- and Marguerite E---- as the deceased's father and mother. It goes on to name, in box number 17 of the form, Dorothy's husband, Helmuth F. S----- as informant. The certificate indicates that no autopsy was performed. Dorothy was buried on 6/9/81 in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, MD. Henry Jenkins & Sons Co. was named in box 24 (as Funeral Director).

Flash-forward. It's March 29, 1984 and the State Registrar of Vital Records issues a copy of a certificate of death for Helmuth F. S-----, husband of Dorothy G. S-----. [Note: According to the document, it is illegal to duplicate this copy by photostat or photograph.] The document goes on to state that Helmuth, a 72 year old widowed white male (born in MD, USA on 1/16/12), died suddenly of cardiac arrest at GBMC 6701 N. Charles St. on February 4, 1984 at 1:42 pm. An accountant by "usual occupation," the document indicates that the deceased was, indeed, "ever in the armed forces" and lists his participation as WWII. The document names Otto O. S---- and Johanna K----- as the deceased's father and mother and lists Otto C. S---- of Balto, MD as informant. No autopsy was performed on Helmuth. The cause of death was determined natural and he was buried in Druid Ridge, Pikesville, MD on 2/8/84. Henry Jenkins & Sons Co. was again identified as Funeral Director.

And yet another ending from which to begin: I found in the same box as Dorothy's and Helmuth's death certificates (these were found inside a tan memory/funeral book compliments of Henry Jenkins & Sons Co) a church document from May 7th, 2009. During the 11:00 service members of the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Catonsville, MD celebrated the life and resurrection of Otto C. S-----.

While I am not yet clear on the exact relationship between Otto S----- and Dorothy and Helmuth S----- (I'm obviously hoping the contents of the boxes will help illumine this for me), my understanding is that the six boxes of materials I purchased at a yard sale on April 2, 2011 had been sold, along with Otto's house, after his death.