December 27, 1938
By the time you receive this letter you should be trying on your “new” fur coat and admiring the lovely new design of it! Your coat got some “goin over” and what I mean “goin over”. First of all the designer of Walsh’s was up here one Sunday and spent the better part of the day figureing out a model which would best be suited for a young lady of your build and finally designed a coat which is positively a creation. You now have a 1939 stream-lined latest looking coat, specially designed for you and the actual work by George who took more care than usual to see that the best was none too good. All you’ll have to do is go to Mickey Herman’s father to place the buttons on in their proper place. This could only be done strictly in accordance with your needs and must be fitted to you.
My trip home here wasn’t as tedious as I thought it would be. Haveing gotten lost in various reading matter, time passed unnoticed. Arriving home at 4:30 I found everyone here all rareing to go for a big feast.
As to my father case, it’s something of a nature which requires careful and considerate handling. It didn’t take me long to convince him and my brothers including Sam to realize that a trip to J.H. Kellogg was the thing to do. The only thing that stands in the way is Pop’s condition. He is not fit for a trip to Florida. While his eyes are clearer than the last time I saw him and his skin is also in better shape, he is very, very thin about 135 lbs and is very weak. To move him to Florida he first must condition. His weight must be increased and he must be stronger than he is now. The attention he is getting here from my brothers + sisters is hard to beat. What with spongeing and massaging and baths he couldn’t be more comfortable. Then this vegetable juicer is a most marvelous thing to have. It reduced carrot, grapes etc, etc to juice in no time and there is positively nothing better for my father to get than these marvelous, fresh juices. There’s no doubt that Pop couldn’t get better attention if he had a private room in Battle Creek Sanitarium. He couldn’t be any more comfortable anywhere at all. The main problem now is to get him strong enough and in shape so that we can get him to make the trip to Florida. I’m afraid it would be very dangerous to move him to Florida at this time. He is very cheerful and in good spirits and jokes + kids as much as ever. Mom is the same as usual and her whole concern now is seeing that Pop’s every whim is taken care of. She says she knows that Pa is being spoiled with all this attention but it’s the only thing that can be done now.
The rest of the gang are as usual and all send the best regards. Last night we heard Dorthey Thompson relate a story about an Austrian-jewish girl, 16 years old who was discovered on the Normandie by accident who turns out to be a marvelous pianist. When the Nazis took over Vienna she and her parents were persecuted. She was made to wash windows with lye in the water that ate away the skin from her fingers. After she played for the guests on the Ocean liner who didn’t let her leave the piano for over an hour, the girl began to cry and when the story was extracted from her, of her maltreatment by the Germans, Eddie Cantor who was on the liner took an active
Editor’s Notes: There is another jump forward in time to the end of 1938. At this point Izzy and Thelma have moved in with her family in Washington, DC. Thelma is still teaching piano from home and Izzy is a salesman at another retail company. This appears to be a separation due to a trip back to Troy to see his family for the holidays. His father isn’t well so it was even more important for Izzy to be there.
Izzy’s holiday present to Thelma (I don’t believe either of them were practicing Jews but not sure if they went so far as to celebrate Christmas) was a custom designed fur coat. This would have been quite a luxury on their humble salaries. I don’t have a picture of Thelma’s coat but here are some fashion illustrations from 1938, pulled from the NYPL Digital Collections.
The family would like to move Izzy’s father down to Florida to a sanitarium opened by J.H. Kellogg the famous doctor and cereal pioneer! Kellogg started out in Battle Creek, Michigan taking over and growing a 700 bed, natural remedy retreat for the wealthy. You can read all about Kellogg’s story here. He then retired to Florida and opened the Miami-Battle Creek Sanitarium. Check out the brochure, it’s pretty swanky and has all the “newest” medical equipment and procedures.
Izzy is amazed, as many of us still are today, by the powers of the juicer. Theirs may have looked something like this but there was also an attachment for the stand mixer.
This is a long letter and still some of it is missing. Izzy gets cut off mid-sentence and we only get some of the story of a young Austrian-Jewish pianist. The family was listening to Dorothy Thompson on “On the Record”, an NBC radio show, relating the story of a young girl whose fingers were maimed during the Holocaust (still happening at the time of Izzy’s letters). This young girl was later aboard the S.S. Normandie and discovered playing the piano beautifully by performer Eddie Cantor. Her name was Hilde Somer and you can read a little more about her story here.
Update: From SONIC (Song ONline Inventory and Catalog) for searching a portion of the Library of Congress Audio Collection.