Jan 31 1939

Tuesday, January 31, 1939

Dear Thelma –

To start off, we received the affadavits in due time and my Pop is very grateful for your prompt service.  We are hastening with all the speed that is possible to get these papers to our cousin in Germany before it is too late.  The letter we received from him regarding his plight has my father depressed.  His illness and helplessness now only aggravates him all the more.  All of us have assured him that we will do our utmost to help our cousin out of Germany and to do our best for him when he arrives in this country.

As for the condition of my father we are doing the very best we can but it don’t seem to be enough.  He has a constant dull pain on the right side of his chest and his head is heavy.  We called in a doctor Sunday morning to see where Pop stands etc, etc.  After listening to our story and looking over the x-rays and giving Pop a complete examination Doc finds that the malignancy is spreading and Pop’s time is short.  Of course this wasn’t anything new to us, but for certain reasons we had to call in a doctor.  I am as determined as ever to do everything in my power to clean up his blood stream and build him up.  This is going to be my course of action while he still breathes.  Tho he eats more and vomits less he is constantly losing weight.  I have tried and will try to reverse this loss of weight.  His case is a dark mystery that someday might be solved by medical scientists.  Of one thing I am sure and that is I am making his condition somewhat better by pursueing that above course.

Here’s a little gossip from Troy which is quite sad.  Mrs. Levine of Washington Park lost her only son and to-day Jakey Brown of River St. died of double pneumonia.  You remember that big, stout, jolly kid.  Netty Brown’s brother.

Thelma dear, an idea has occurred to me concerning my unemployment compensation.  Write me what you think about it.  Here it is.  You are to go down to the Employment Bureau at 808 “E” St. N.W. and have an interview with the one in charge, explaining that money is due to me, for such + such reasons, and if they can’t give it to you, make inquiry as to whether I can collect $15.00 per week up here in Troy?  If so I can send you this money.  If not why not?  Write me full detail on this matter.

I was pleased to hear that you might come up here two weeks earlier than you first stated.  I can hardly wait, sweetheart.  You can hardly imagine how I yearn to get a glimpse of you.  When you get here it will be difficult for me to let you go.  Darling I’m madly in love with you and you know it.

You still haven’t told me anything regarding your progress on the piano.  You must be holding back a surprise!

How did that Anniversary “go over”?  Write me about it.

Write me a health report on everyone in the family including the photographer and extend to each one my very best wishes.  Must hurry away now Pop is calling me.


P.S.  I heard Lester is to play at an affair at which H.V. Kaltenborn is to speak.  Will write you more about it if this is so.  (Tell Dave I will write him soon).

Editor’s Notes: This letter confirms my suspicions of the affidavit forms.  The Bickweat’s have a cousin in Germany where the situation is rapidly worsening for the Jewish population.  It is a matter of life or death to get his cousin to the U.S. as concentration camps are being formed, though they might not be aware of the stakes quite yet.  Read more about the refugee statistics here.

While Izzy is away caring for his father he is unable to work to support himself and his wife.  Thelma has a paycheck from her work as a piano teacher but Izzy is trying to get her his unemployment benefits as well. Unemployment was at a high of nearly 25% of the labor force in 1933.  FDR signed the New Deal and those rates began to drop but it was still at about 17% in 1939.  This was the end of the Great Depression but the U.S. economy did not really turn around until the beginning of our WWII involvement.  The Social Security Act had only been passed in 1935 and 1939 brought the Federal Unemployment Tax Act.  $15 was the maximum weekly amount that could be received in most states.  


H.V. Kaltenborn was a radio commentator for CBS and later NBC, covering world affairs.  He actually began his news career writing for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in his early 20s.  You can read more about him here and even listen to clips of his broadcasts.

To Watch: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in which Kaltenborn appears as himself.  Directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart who falls into an open US Senator seat and gets a lesson in political corruption.


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