1939 April 19

April 19, 1939

Dear Thelma –

To-day it has been raining practically all day.  This didn’t stop me from going out for a driving lesson.  I’ve driven our “jalopy” from Troy to Grafton and back two days in succession now and every telephone-pole is still standing up yet so I guess I won’t take after my Pop in this respect.  George + Dave are my teachers and they are pretty good ones.  So you can expect your “nervous wreck” to be able to drive a car when he comes back home.

Mom’s toe has practically been healed.  Cases like this take a long time to get back to normal but she is doing much better than we expected.  Pop on the other hand isn’t feeling so well.  He is weak and depressed, having a dull pain on the right side of his chest.  We had him out to Grafton Monday and noticed that he doesn’t cough so much while he was out there.  Perhaps when he goes out to Grafton in about a week or so he will be greatly relieved.

So Kindler put the finishing touch to Krackow, Feher and Leo, eh?  Well, maybe it isn’t the finishing touch that he thinks!  At least that “dirty wooden-shoes and head-to-match-bastard” should be given a good stiff fight and should be “showed-up” for what he really is!!  It is my opinion that Leo and the other two fellows should use all their force and energy to enlist the entire local behind them.  This can and must be done not only for their benefit, but for the protection of each and every member in the orchestra.  I realize that this is going to be a big undertaking, but after all the abuse and rough-handling that all the men have been getting from that “Dutch Dictator” there’s a common cause which forms an excellent basis for a winning battle and a grand expose.  The way things stand now, there’s nothing to lose and an excellent chance to put Kindler on the “spot” for a change.  The entire personnel should be made to realize that they are men, not mice.  Rest assured no one shall know of this matter from me.  Keep me posted on this matter.

I was very pleased to hear that your ankle is much better.  The swelling will leave much sooner if you will favor your ankle by not walking on it so much.  It was “korny” of me to leave you, darling like I did, but it couldn’t be helped.  You can see if I awoke you it would have made parting so much more difficult.

Sweetheart, I will make up for this when I return.  We will be as happy as a couple of love-birds.  As for Harris, self-signed impossible – imp – just keep up your distant attitude — that matter will correct itself damned soon I’m thinking.

Here’s hoping that Esther gets a break on her new gov’t job!  She should brush-up on some subjects nights.

Darling, I miss you so much that I feel lost right in my own home.  I know that I’m going to be just like this until I get back to “our own” nest.  For the umpteenth time I love you and I’m “moon-calfy” about you.  Write me all the news.  Extend my best wishes to the family and the comrades.  Last but not least keep in mind always that I’m madly in love with you.


P.S. Write me also regarding your work on the piano.  Who’s going to be the celloist in the trio?

Editor’s Notes: We get a little insight into Izzy’s personality that hasn’t come through much from his own writings.  He is viewed as a “nervous wreck” and has surprised himself that he has done a decent job driving.

Izzy writes less of his parents’ conditions, it does not seem so dire as it did nearly 3 months ago.  His father is not doing well but Izzy does not seem able to nurse him back to health.

We move on to Thelma’s brother Leo and his situation that has been hinted at before.  He is a violinist in the National Symphony Orchestra.  The orchestra was put together about 8 years before this letter by Dutch conductor Hans Kindler in Washington D.C.  Obviously there are tensions with Kindler and some members of the orchestra with Leo Stein being a major player.  Leo’s and Izzy’s Socialist leanings have put them at high alert for worker’s rights and what the Union can do.


I have not yet found details on the Kindler controversy but, in the biography linked above, he is quoted as saying “when a conductor makes a mistake it’s the fault of the first violins.”  Which is a play on the oft-repeated saying/joke that goes “when a judge makes a mistake it becomes the law of the land, when a lawyer makes a mistake it goes to jail, when a doctor makes a mistake it gets buried”…and so on for different professions.  So, chances are he was like most conductors and expected a lot of his performers, especially since it was an orchestra he built from the ground up.

I do not discount that he may have done things that went beyond his duties in terms of cruelty.  I will be taking a trip to the NYPL Library of the Performing Arts to look at the Mary Howe papers.  She was involved with an organization that helped Kindler, financially, to build the orchestra.


Thelma’s sister Esther was 8 years younger at 21 years old and at a new government job.  Government jobs for women were growing rapidly, mostly in clerical positions in the Post Office, Treasury, and Agricultural offices, with an average annual salary of $1,500! (Bulletin of Women’s Bureau).  I’ll have to do some asking about which department Esther worked in but I believe she did government work until she retired.

Etymology Corner: 

Jalopy – a run-down, dilapidated car but nobody seems to know the origin!!  To my ears it sounds like a butchered Italian word but it’s a mystery.

Mooncalf – a foolish person (not to be confused with the Fantastic Beast from JK Rowling’s imagination)


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