Feb 3 1939

Friday, February 3, 1939

Dear Thelma,

Being away from you so long makes me so lonesome for you that I can hardly express my feelings.  Every moment of the day you are in my mind’s eye.  My fondest dream and desire is only to be near you.  I am caught in a situation which is taxing, to say the least.  I’m looking forward to your coming here almost like a madman.  Sweetheart, let me know when + where you will arrive up here so that I can make arrangements.

Yesterday the weather was very mild up here and Pop felt “pretty good” so we went to the movies to see “You Can’t Take It With You”.  Since then he has been saying “Confidentially it stinks!”.  We try to get him out of the house as often as his health and the weather permits.  While we were down in the street, he got on a scale and lo! and behold! he put on 3 lbs!!  This was quite encouraging.  My mother’s toe is healing slowly.  We are watching her very carefully.  Both wish to be remembered.

I hardly get a chance to touch the violin because of my duties here.  When I do get a breathing spell Pop is catching a nap so there mustn’t be any disturbance.  So I’ve taken to modeling work with clay.  I’m now working on the head of a Negro.  I expect to take some pictures of this head and send it to you.  I never dreamt that I had a “feel” for this work.  It is a very interesting way to kill time.  Everyone who has seen this “head” thinks it is pretty good for a first attempt.  I think it is fair, even if I have to say so myself.

Sunday Aron Orange is going to speak in Troy.  Will write more about the meeting later.  I haven’t had a chance to attend one meeting of the local section.

Thelma, I’ve made arrangements here with George so that from now on I will be able to send you $8.00 per week.  This will help us keep up our end of the responsibility of the expenses in connection with the running of 1658 Park Road.  Let me know if you received the enclosed money.

Also let know how everyone home is feeling and extend my best wishes to all.

Oh yes, call up Barbour and tell him I am being detained in Troy and that I am applying for unemployment recognition so that I am not dropped as a member of that union.  Write me what he has to say on the matter.

How are you coming along on the Program that you are prepareing?  Let me know of your work and progress on the piano.

Sweetheart, I’m closeing this letter sooner than I desire because of having to carry out a duty in connection with my “patient”, so, remember that I love you more than anything in this whole wide world.


P.S. I love you everlastingly.

Editor’s Notes: Many of us probably wouldn’t want to weigh ourselves in public but Penny Scales were commonly found in transit stations, convenience stores, and street corners in the 1930s. TOLEDO-2.JPG When they were introduced in the 1880s it was marketed as being more convenient than going to the doctor.  Personal home scales for weighing oneself were not made commercially available until the 1940s.

Izzy needed to find a quiet hobby to take up his free time in Troy and he landed on clay modelling.  It is unsurprising that he chose another form of artistry.  As a musician it already came naturally to express his creativity.  

Etymology Lesson: The word ‘negro’ to denote a person of African descent was in use since the 1500s but the capital ‘N’ became popular in the 1930s due to W.E.B. Dubois’ and Booker T. Washington’s use of the term.  It only fell out of favor in the 1960s with the Civil Rights Movement and the more accepted term became ‘black’ and later ‘African-American’.  I like this short explanatory article but there is a whole host of literature on the topic.

This is not the first time that Izzy has mentioned Aaron Orange speaking in Troy.  He ran as John Aiken’s VP in 1940 but before that (and after that) he was an advocate, lecturer, and author for the Socialist Labor Party.

1658 Park Road is where Thelma and Izzy were living with Thelma’s family – parents Bessie and Robert Stein, and her sisters Gertie and Esther.  It sounds like Izzy may be a member of a couple different unions and needs his unemployment to go through in order to remain a member.  In the early 30s, with so many people being unemployed, the Communist Party fought for Unemployment Councils within Unions to ease the burden.  Shortly after, the Socialist Labor Party founded the Unemployed Citizen’s League.  While ultimately both were working towards the same ideal they refused to get along.  You can read more about the tensions and they work each organization did at this University of Washington page.

To Watch: You Can’t Take It with You was another Frank Capra film from 1938 starring Lionel Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s great uncle), Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart.  You can watch it piecemeal here.  The line “Confidentially, she stinks.” is said in reference to a character’s progression in ballet.


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