A week has passed since we last heard from Dora, who wrote from Benton New Hampshire where she was convalescing. She confessed much about her feelings in that letter, yet seemed to know her castles in the sky might someday fall—which truly made me hurt for her, especially with her being ill.
In today’s letter…
Dora is still in Benton, still struggling with her health. She is lonely and bored and wants to go home with her brother and father who come to visit. My theory about her being there for the mountain air makes sense after the “diagnosis” from her fellow boarders.
An interesting note: Unlike past letters, there are misspellings and incorrect grammar (left in tact). The letter is also sometimes hard to follow. Maybe because of the illness? Who knows.
Take a read and we’ll chat on the other side.
Letter’s to Charlie #13
Dora’s “hooping cough” (or pertussis) was a major health problem in the early twentieth century, and spread easily. Symptoms included severe coughing spells which ended with a whooping gasp for breath, turning the face red or purple, and sometimes followed by vomiting. People often died from whooping cough before the vaccine came to be in the 1940s.
In fact, whooping cough was so prominent during this era, Stanislaus Stange wrote a play about it in 1910—a rather scandalous one—called THE GIRL WITH THE WHOOPING COUGH:
The story follows the misbehaviors of Regina (Valeska Suratt) as she passes whooping cough to the numerous men she kisses. In the final act, her amours land her in divorce court, where she performs a dance routine borrowed from Suratt’s vaudeville act.
Look out Charlie! Don’t go kissing Dora and spreading it to all of your lady friends.
The spread is likely why Dora has been sequestered away, although I’m surprised she interacts with the other boarders—unless they too have whooping cough? Maybe it’s a facility to contain the disease and prevent spread? Although the boarders decided she had the hoopin cough, so maybe not. Anyway…
One other thing about this letter.
Mr. Gleason. I’m getting more and more curious about him. He’s been mentioned several times, and there’s just something about the way Dora brings him up that gives me pause. What questions did she want to ask him? And why was she afraid to ask in front of Mr. Gleason’s wife? What “folks down there” does she have no love for? And what can she not forget?? Questions we may never know the answers to.
Here are the other instances where Mr. Gleason was referenced:
From June 1, 1909:
Mr. Gleason is in town today. Do you think he will make a special call here? He need not put himself out any.
From July 18, 1909
I hope Mr. Gleason was glad to see you the day you were there. Did you see Minnie?
I also find it curious and highly coincidental that she happened to be out for a walk and crossed paths with Mr. Gleason when neither live in Benton. Curious and curiouser. I reckon I’ll have to do more digging.
Until the next letter on August 3rd…
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UP TO SPEED WITH THE LETTERS
New to the Letter’s to Charlie series? Here are links to the preceding letters to catch up: