“My Darling Pinky –
When I say “I Love
You,” I say everything there
is to be said about everything.
I can read this single sentence over and over again, each time my heart skipping a beat. Each time, wishing I was Darling Pinky. Each time wanting to know more about the depth of the love Alvin had for her. Each time, wishing I received this beautifully hand written letter in the mailbox.
In 1939, mail was the means by which people communicated. Hand written letters were how you ask about your loved one, where you detailed your day, and shared your secrets. Patience was popular…as compared to today’s standards where we find immediate gratification and obligation checked by sending a text or email.
In the late 1930’s it cost $.03 to send a first class letter. From Reno, Nevada to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania $.16 postage was required for Airmail and directions for ‘Special Delivery’ could be at the hands of the sender. A recipient’s address was considered complete with her name and the specific location of employment. There was no need for zip codes to get a letter safely and efficiently to the recipient.
The paper then was thin and plain white, while the envelope considered embellished by today’s standards. It’s beautiful to see grammar, punctuation, and indentation still practiced at the hands of the letter writer, even as distress was clearly on his mind. But as Alvin indicated to his Darling, he was at the mercy of the US Postal Service. He had to wait for his Darling to feel better, find time to respond, and alleviate his concerns. Alvin was an M.D., and Darling was an R.N. If seriously under the weather, Alvin should have been relieved that his Darling worked in the right building. But he still needed confirmation to the contrary, and waited patiently for a letter in return.
From what I learned within the creases of their letters, found in an abandoned leather satchel, Alvin attended John Hopkins University for Medicine and graduated in 1935. He met Darling in Pittsburg, PA at Montefiore Hospital, where she was employed as a nurse. Apparently with her long strawberry blond hair tucked neatly in a bun, it was love at first sight. The intimacies of their long distance relationship during that time in their lives were penned on paper found in this satchel.
The letters indicate they eloped sometime in late 1937, and the nature of their relationship was to be kept hush-hush. One letter addressed to Miss Wilson (aka Darling) expresses, “It is indeed a great (Joy) to learn of your secret…” As a nurse, Darling was given room and board as part of her compensation, while Alvin spent time at various hospitals for training in neurology and pediatrics. Neither made enough money, alone or combined, to afford housing as a young married couple. Further, if disclosed to the hospital that they were indeed married, it risked Darling losing her living arrangements at the hospital, which was necessary while Alvin was traveling for his residency program. Instead they kept quiet about their marital status and shared an off-site apartment with other young couples from the hospital for occasional weekend visits.
Letters between Alvin and his now bride, Opal, went back and forth for approximately three years, detailing their lives at different hospitals, updates on Alvin’s parents in Reno, Nevada, and his brother Herbert. I read every single letter and telegram found in that leather satchel. I craved more details on the stories shared. I swooned every time a letter began with, Darling, Darling Opal, or my favorite, My Darling Pinky. These terms of endearment expressed a love between two people often only seen on the big screen and produced in Hollywood. The preservation of these hand written letters share a history not told out loud and a love not always seen.
Whether my own love for paper and pen is inherent or learned, I cannot say. I’ve written letters as long as I can remember. My mother insisted we write a thank you note for every gift received. In turn, I fostered the same importance of letter writing in my daughters, Emily Elise and Olivia Opal, as soon as they could hold a pencil.
I know Alvin and Opal would blush at the thought of you reading their love letters. But it’s a reminder of the importance to express our thoughts, emotions, and sentiments on paper…to provide a glimpse into our lives for future generations. Share stories, be gracious for gifts and time spent, and be sure to sketch a heart for your loved one with a simple red colored pencil.
If sharing my grandparents’ letters with you puts a smile on your face and warms your heart, imagine what your own hand written letters will do for family, friends, and loved ones.