Saturday, October 20, 2018

Summer plans tucked away inside "Claire Ambler"

I came across some interesting pieces of ephemera tucked away inside a hardcover copy of 1928's Claire Ambler, by Booth Tarkington (1869-1946).

First up is a newspaper clipping from the May 20, 1946, edition of The New York Times, reporting Tarkington's death at age 76 the previous day. One of the three subhedes states "Creator of Penrod and Other Beloved Characters Twice Won Pulitzer Prizes." There is also this line: "His ways were nonchalant, and he was an arduous smoker of cigarettes in the early Nineties, when 'coffin nails' were regarding as something extremely bad."

We also learn: "He would frequently get out of bed in the middle of the night, put a fur coat over his pajamas and venture forth in search of some quaint character he felt he must talk to."

But the coolest piece of ephemera is a 5⅝-inch-wide envelope, which has had its stamp torn off but still has its contents intact. The letter was postmarked in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, on August 9, 1944, and was sent to Miss Suzannah Bagley in Millersburg, Pennsylvania (Dauphin County). It was even sealed with a little bit of wax on the back.

The first item inside the envelope is a handwritten note, written over three pages on a piece of folding notepaper that's 5⅛ inches wide. Here's the first page...

The full note states:
August 7, 1944
Dear Sue,
We are going to have a wonderful time. Mother said there isn't much to do but swim.
I will be very happy to teach you to swim.
I will enclose a list of the main things I'm taking along.
I don't think we should take our tennis rackets.
I know this isn't a very nice letter, but I don't have anything to say.
Sincerely & Happily Yours,
P.S. It's a mirsable [sic] day. Please excuse writing & spelling.
Soph indeed included a list. She did her best to type it up on a sheet of lined paper. Back then, of course, there was no backspace key. Here's the typed note...

My favorite parts are bringing a book in case of rain and "I don't plan to waer [sic] socks in the day time." I also love that she added "Please excuse my typing."

I hope Suzannah and Soph had a fun time with their swimming vacation. Since this letter was tucked away inside Claire Ambler, I wonder if that's the book Suzannah brought for rainy days. The book has the name Josephine Shepp written on the first page. There's a woman by that name who (1) is buried in Millersburg, (2) lived from 1906 to 2001, (3) had a sister who married a Bagley. So perhaps Josephine was Suzannah's aunt.

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