Jan 17 1939

January 17, 1939

Dear Thelma –

Before you called I had a million and one things I wanted to say to you, but when I heard your voice my emotions crowded out my thoughts and I became almost tongue-tied.  But for the extreme emergency existing here I would fly to you before I wrote another word!  And it isn’t a case of absence making the heart grow fonder.  In short and in fine it can only be diagnosed as an extreme case of acute + chronic case of love.  This malady, it is claimed, is incurable.

So far Pop is showing decided improvement.  Since last Friday he hasn’t vomited.  He coughs much less.  He is looking + feeling much better.  Yesterday we took another trip to the warm springs at Lebnon.  He enjoyed the trip very much and wasn’t as tired after as he was the last trip.  The water has definite curative properties.  Pop can drink this water and keep it down and that’s saying something.  It also acts as a mild laxative.  We brought back 6 gallons with us.

Yesterday we discovered that my mother has a case of dry gangrine on one of her toes.  We called the doctor and he says we were fortunate in finding this condition in its early stage.  So I have another worry on my head.  I have a copy John Harvey Kellogg’s “New Method of Diabetes”.  I expect to follow the guidance very strictly.

As for the rest of the family, Rose is making very good progress.  Her eating and drinking habits are becoming sane.  Her face clearing up.  And last but not least she has lost her aversion for the enema and rather enjoys taking them because of the apparent benefits she derives from them.  It will take some time to cure her case on account of her long negligence.  But she’s a game sport and is “willin”.  George hasn’t smoked since last Friday and he feels now that he’s thru with tobacco.  To-night I started on my brother Dave.  He’s a “heavy” smoker and a tough case.  We have made a definite appointment to thrash the matter out.  Will write you more about it later.

As for myself sweetheart, I am O.K.  Of course I could be better if I didn’t have the job on my hand but there’s nobody else here to do the job.

To-day I went out shopping for a Birthday present for you but I couldn’t see a damned thing.  So I am inclosing $5.00 which I hope you will get something you can use the most.  I wish you and Gert and Dave the very happiest of Birthdays.  I embrace you passionately.

Don’t forget to let me know if Marion got her cards and if they were properly taken care of.

What’s new back at Park Rd?  How’s Bob + Bessie?  Tell them I miss them very much and if there’s anything I can do for them up here, I will be glad to do it.  Extend my best regards to the rest of the gang.  How is Milton coming along with the new camera + enlarger?  What’s new with Gert, Marion, Esther + Cholly?  Write me also regarding Sam + Celia.

What’s new with your piano studies?  Are you playing with the steadiness and firmness that should result from that new finger-action?  What new repertoire have you learned?  Write me in detail regarding this matter.

Just how are you managing financially?  Remember my credit is still good with my brothers.  Thelma I expect a long “newsy” informative letter.  I’m sure you won’t disappoint.


P.S. I love you and miss you and miss you and love you.  Cross my heart and hope to die.

P.S.S. My best regards to James Pershand and all our other mutual friends.

P.S.S.S. I love you everlastingly.

Editor’s Notes: A phone call from Washington, D.C. to Troy, NY was long-distance, at the time requiring multiple operators to connect the call. 

“In 1930, the cost per minute for a 200 mile call was about 10 times the cost of sending a first class letter.” It would have cost between $2-$4 to speak on the phone, which would amount to $50 today!  Letterwriting was still the way to go.  (The Industry Analysis Division’s Reference Book of Rates Price Indices and Household Expenditures for Telephone Service March 1997 Tracy Waldon)

The men took another trip to the Lebanon warm springs and were so sure of its curative properties that they brought home 6 gallons of the water!  Mineral content is usually higher in warm water; calcium and magnesium are also more likely to filter through rock strata.  “Some mineral waters have marked effects on the gastrointestinal tract, often acting like a laxative.” (Prepared for World Water Day. Written by Dr. Rosalind Stanwell Smith, and reviewed by the Injuries and Violence Programme (VIP) and the Water, Sanitation and Health Programme (WSH), World Health Organization (WHO), GenevaWHO/WSH/WWD/TA.5 © 2001–2003, 2002 WHO)

John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that Kellogg) had a hydrotherapy spa in FL that Izzy discussed sending his father to.  Now he is reading Kellogg’s book on Diabetes to help with his mother’s condition, gangrene on her toes (where it usually begins in advanced diabetic patients).  You can read “The New Method in Diabetes” by John Harvey Kellogg at this link.

Izzy keeps bringing up his sister, Rose, who needs help as well.  It is unclear what he believes her issue to be.  In the 20th century enemas were mostly used in cases of fever or before giving birth.  Of course Dr. Kellogg was responsible for bringing enemas back in vogue.  The Bickweat’s seem dedicated to this man’s medical advice.  Perhaps Rose’s body was having reactions to certain food, causing gastrointestinal issues. Izzy has also taken on the task of getting everyone to quit smoking and using tobacco.

Izzy is understandably distracted by taking care of his family and so Thelma’s birthday passes with a monetary gift and the absence of her husband.  He misses her dearly and though his letters consist mostly of health news he does inquire after all their friends and comrades.  

One friend has a new camera so instead of giving you a picture of an enema I’ll lighten the mood with a 1930s Kodak, instead.


To Watch: The Road to Wellville (1994) with Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Kellogg based on T.C. Boyle’s book of the same name.


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