Sunday, September 23, 2012

Old mail and lists tucked away inside "The Valley of Decision"

I found several items — a day's mail from April 1950 and some lists — tucked away inside a copy of the 1943 Peoples Book Club Edition of "The Valley of Decision" by Marcia Davenport.1

All of it appears to have belonged to Bessie N. Carrier of Staunton, Virginia.

Here it is...

Delayed slip from Thalhimers

This postcard from Thalhimers department store to Miss Bessie N. Carrier was postmarked at 7:30 p.m. on April 12, 1950, in Richmond, Virginia. The typed note on the back states:
Your order for slip is very much appreciated, however it is with keen regret we advise that our stock is temporarily depleted. A new shipment is expected shortly, and your order will be forwarded on or about April 20, 1950.

Your patronage is appreciated, and we hope to serve you more promply [sic] in the future.

Cordially yours,


A few reminders from Margaret

And this one-cent postcard to Bessie was postmarked at 12 p.m. on April 12, 1950, in Mint Spring, Virginia.

The cursive note states:
The Wesleyan Service Guild will meet April 17 with Miss Carrie (?) Thomason. On April 16 the Distric [sic] Guild will meet at Central Church beginning at 2:30. Please try to go. Margaret.

Stamps needed

Bessie wrote a few things on this scrap of a used envelope. One side states "Mr. Lowberman (?), Please leave me 33 - 3¢ stamps and 1 postal. B. Carrier."

On the other side is some math. I generally leave math to Joan, who is currently working with our daughter on the "Life of Fred" math series.

A note-filled envelope

Wow! Where should I start with all the writing scrawled on this envelope?

Here's what I can transcribe from the front of the envelope. It almost makes for a kind of poetry:

Told me to
Call Sat. a.m.
but I may go
99° to R. tomorrow
Still have
spring fever
Temp Wed. + Today
How are you?
Are you still so
My heart does a little
unnecessary pounding beating

One nite didn't sleep
since talked
Thurs. night
Ran fast heart
Washed hair
and helped
clean a cabinet
in kitchen
Ask how is.
Can't seem to
do much without
getting very
tired + nervous
slept well every
nite since I
talked to you Sat.
Knee has
hurt quite a
right much
seemed right
swollen last
On the back of the envelope there is, along with the phrase "visits help morale," this 1950 grocery-store list:
  • Prunes
  • T.P.
  • Tomatoes
  • ½ doz. lemons
  • 2 big cans ??
  • 3 Veal chop
  • ½ doz. stamped env.
  • 3 long stamped env.
  • medicine heart
  • 2 mouse traps
  • ½ lb. cheese
  • cherries
So, is all of this enough to paint any kind of picture about what Bessie's life was like 62 years ago? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

1. Davenport was perhaps best known for a biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that she published in 1932, and she was also the stepdaughter of musician Efrem Zimbalist Sr. Davenport's novel, "The Valley of Decision" chronicles several generations of family that owns a Pittsburgh iron and steel works.


  1. I'm sure that's Mr, not Ms Lowberman. No such thing as Ms in the 1950s/3cent stamp era. I believe women's libbers started using Ms (shudder) in the late 60s or early 70s.

  2. That's a LOT of cheese for just 2 mouse traps. Either they were really big mice or there were a bunch of them.

  3. Hi! Wow. This is kind of crazy. I got to your website while doing an internet search for Bessie Carrier Lester, whom I believe is the same person as Bessie N. Carrier (Lester being her married name). If it's the same person, she was born in 1895, went to Staunton High School, attended Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, married my husband's great uncle sometime after WW2, and passed away in 1962. With no children or (to my knowledge) any surviving siblings, she was the last living member of her family.

    Just last month, my family rediscovered some of the Carrier's silverware and family bibles in one of our basements, where they had sat forgotten for decades, and have been trying to learn as much as we can about the Staunton Carrier family, and Bessie Carrier in particular. I would love to be in touch with you about the papers you've found! Please email me at NMMBennett at gmail