Letters to Charlie #13: July 24, 1909

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

July 24, 1909
Benton, N.H.

July 24, 1909

My darling boy:-

You are the dearest boy that ever lived to answer my letter so quickly after you received it. The mail didn’t come until after I had gone to bed, and Aunt Dora would not let me have a light so I could read your letter and I had to keep the news under my pillow until morning.

Thank you ever so much for the postals. They were fine. We are looking for Papa and Alvah out tomorrow. How I wish I could go home with them. I guess they would like Mamma at home. They are keeping house by themselves. Alvah gets his dinners away from home, but Papa get so dirty that he won’t go into anybody house. He can keep house as well as Mamma…

The boarders here have all decided that I have the hooping cough.

Wouldn’t it be the limit if I have? Shall find out Thursday when the Dr comes. Am feeling real well today. It has rained all day so I’ve had to stay in doors most of the time.

I am so sorry you are not feeling well. Who keeps you up nights now so you can’t get your needed rest? I guess I could handle you now alright if you only weigh 87 pounds for I am fat, 119 pounds. Just think of that.

Of coarse my dear you can come over anytime. It’s only six miles from Glencliff and I’ll meet you. If I can’t have a team, I’ll walk.

I would like to know some of the things Mrs. E  told you about Clara and I. Perhaps you will tell me sometime.

Whatever made you think that my mother knew if there was such a person as you? She has asked me when I was writing or when I received your letter who’s letter it was and I always say “Charlie.” She don’t know as you have a last name or not.

One day the first of the week I went for a short walk down the Warren Road—and as I was coming back I met a team and it was Mr. Gleason and his wife. I intended to go past, not notice him, but he stopped and asked how far it was to Warren. I told him as near as I knew and then he recognized me and asked me if I was not the Dora up to Woodsville. I just wanted to ask him a few questions but thought it best not too as long as his wife was there…

I’ve no love for those folks down there. I can’t forget some things.

I should think you had quite a day of it July 5. I bet you were tired. What did you think of the brunch at Warren?

They are haying here just now for excitement. Very poor hay weather too.

The boarders are all going to Woodsville to the circus. They wanted me to go but Mamma thought it best for me not to go. I don’t care much for the circus but I would like to get away from here if only for a day. I get so lonesome some days that it seems as though I could not stay, but I suppose I shall have to. Not after Sept first.

I had a lovely box of chocolates given to me. I wish I could share them with you. They would taste a lot better to me for I know you like them.

Wish your folks had the New England Telephone. I would call you sometime. They have one here and Bradford is in the free circuit so I could call you. Do you think Jennie would call you sometime for me. I’ll wait and see before I call you. How long before I can call on our own phone.

Mamma says I must go to bed and it’s only 8:30 but must go. Hope to see you sometime. When will it be dear?

Lovingly,

Dora

Thoughts

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…

Later gators!

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