4 Chapter 4 – Carrying On – Winter 1944, Letters 88-109

Letters 88-109

#88. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
Utica, NY
January 1, 1944

Dear John,

There’s been a growing urge to write you a New Year’s note all evening – suppressed several times because of the hopelessness of saying anything coherent. I don’t even feel coherent.

Pencil was asleep and Rita reading, and when 1943 began to go I stopped reading and had that minute all to myself, and you, – before the whistles got to her consciousness. It’s been impossible to visualize a thing about 1944, and us, except to keep on waiting. Naturally, I avoided thinking about even its beginning, tonight. But when it started to be that breath-holding minute, when the hand slips over the 12, it was just like waiting for a hypodermic. You know there’ll be a minute of hurt, and you hold your breath and wait – and then it’s over.

In that minute, all my thoughts were with you, yet I couldn’t visualize your face, only your smile, but that was comforting.

There’s never been such a quiet New Year’s Eve; I remember every one (that counts). The first time, when 1937 went, I had just reached our little apartment on Waverly Avenue, in an ice storm, and you were there waiting. A year later we saw 1939 come in Boston, on Memorial Drive, pleasantly. Next time we were in Elmira, spending a rather stiff evening drinking Bard’s Town, just before we went to Massena. The next year it was the swell party the McGraws and the Porters had, – and you and I spent a quiet evening in the library with Heaton the year after that. Last year was really quiet and we barely managed to stay awake to say “Happy New Year;” – we didn’t really need to, we were together.

This year we didn’t even have it on the same night! And it wasn’t much fun, but it wasn’t bad either, there was no bitterness, and our being apart is on such a world-wide scale that it really brings us closer – so many people were alone tonight, no matter who they were with.

Except for these things it was just another night. Pencil moaned in his sleep, and Rita was quiet, people and cars went by, and I read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” which is one of the books you will want to read. It’s nostalgic, and wise. I thought I understood you well, but because of one little incident in this book I understand you better – one of my blind spots is cleared up, and it’s something to which understanding has been sought and never quite found, Pure profit.

Just another night. But now it’s 1944.

I love you, Dordo

#89. JDM to DPM (ALS, 2pp.)
January 1, 1944

Dear Dordo-

I can’t think of anything brilliant or intelligent, or even sensible to say about the fact that here is 1944. It is sort of inevitable, and not exactly a cheery occasion. All it really means is that there is one more damn day which, when gone, will be one day less to spend in India.

My beginnings of a big evening last night panned out very, very poorly. I was sleeping peacefully at the time the year changed. It seems that I got hold of just a wee bit more liquor than I should have prior to the evening meal. We had a table upstairs where we were going to sit and watch floor shows and stuff after dinner, but half way through dinner I had to go take a walk which ended up on my sleeping porch where I laid down for “just a few minutes.” I woke up at 2 a.m., and took my blouse off. It had some advantages though. This morning I felt relatively bright and cheery, whereas my companions of earlier in the evening were dragging themselves around with a faint green complexion, and dashing off this morning to the coffee house at every possible excuse.

All sorts of screwball events took place last night, but I heard about them all on a second hand basis. The funniest of all is well worth repeating. Movies are not continuous here. Lt. George Chow of our place was at one of the movies, sitting in the balcony waiting for the lights to dim and the show to start, when a GI came in calmly, staggering only a little, and carrying another soldier over his shoulder. The one being carried was as full of life and pep as a rag doll. He carried his burden along the little aisle by the low railing across the front of the balcony. He lost his balance and teetered for a few minutes while everybody in the balcony gasped – then he located what he thought was their seats and dumped his friend in the one and sat in the other. It turned out that they were the wrong seats, so he sighed, picked up his friend, again, and walked out of George’s line of vision. We can’t figure out any reason except the fact that they guy was just one of those calm single-minded drunks – and he and his friend were going to the movies no matter what.

I believe that I told you that my Hindustani lessons were interrupted by my little visit to the hospital (interrupted before they started). Well, they start again on Monday. Smith and I have picked up a little bit, of course, without formal instruction. I can now give the right kind of greeting to Muslims and Hindus. Muslims get Salaam malikum. (To which they answer Malikum Salaam) And Hindus get Jamas Jiky, which they answer in kind. Maybe I will learn from my teacher what it means. I am amused when I think of filling out forms at some unknown date in the future, job applications and the like, and putting under languages – Hindustani. That really ought to startle a few of the boys. It is surprising and vaguely disconcerting how few of the men on duty over here make any attempt to learn the language. I suppose that Americans are notoriously poor linguists, and that they don’t want to do anything they can to remind them of the fact they are in India, but on the other hand, it passes time, and may have some possible future value, and makes life a hell of a lot easier and more interesting while here. The fact that my roommate will also be learning will be good in that we will have a chance to practice. Already we use Hindustani terms in our chess – example: torkarna – checkmate (or matkarna), literally it means “a condition of being not able to do,” which is exactly what a checkmate is.

Love, John.

#90. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
Utica, NY
January 3, 1944

Dearest John,

I’m glad you got a nice chess set; I’ve always wanted you to have one, and one that has filled so many hours for you will always be nice to have. Won’t a life filled with mothers and wives and sisters and daughters be strange to you people who have lived so much in a masculine world? Of course, in a city such as you are in, there are probably office and Red Cross and social encounters with women, but those you can shoo out when they get tiresome, and post-war relationships with women will probably seem a bit overwhelming at first, because they’ll be women in such a different perspective than you will be accustomed to.

Which reminds me, I’m sending you a Vargas calendar, which will probably strike you funny. But they’re about to become collector’s items, unless the Post Office department and Esky get a better understanding, – and it might be worth something to you for bargaining purposes with some G.I. or one of your friends, if you don’t know what else to do with it!

Boy, the Russians certainly are pounding it out. Over the Polish border tonight. I should think the Germans would be plenty uncomfortable with the Russians really heading their way, and the Western front about to open, and the RAF giving it to them from above. Where have they left to go? But I know Germans. They are just like Hortense, they’ll get the last word yet. Things sound better in your part of the world, too

Next letter should be your Christmas letter. Christmas is already seeming far away, and I’m trying now not to think about the next one, because we just don’t know what this year has packed in it.

Love, Dordo

#91. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
Utica, NY
January 7, 1944


Your bicycle ride sounds interesting. It will be interesting to hear what the brothel situation is there; I understand that religious views make common solicitation more or less unnecessary. I suppose anywhere that there are foreigners it is just another way of earning money. The Christmas begging must have been nauseating and sad.

Jeepers, I didn’t expect you to be casual about being a major. We aren’t. We brag about it lustily. The $75 arrived, and is banked, also the Christmas checks are. I’ll feel relieved when you get my financial report, whatever your reaction. It’s hellish difficult to be spending your money with you so far away. Misunderstandings can occur so easily.

Re misunderstandings, I said something the other night in a letter about my letters being boring to write. I didn’t mean that it bores me to write you, but that the subject matter is often boring when one writes every day, so that I feel that you will find it pretty dull love to write to you; you are my only Friend.

Very good suggestion about the playroom. When the Christmas tree is gone, he will be dragging things out again, and we will have a Rule. He’s absolutely got to find a playmate, but kindergarten is next year, unless I can find a half-day Nursery school. I was too young when I got to college, and I’m going to send him to kinder- when he’s five, and first grade when he’s six. That will only hold him up one year behind where I was, and that not being enough I feel that the time might come when it would be to our convenience to keep him out of school for a semester or so, for purposes of travel, which will knock off some more time. I don’t want to hold him back until he’s too advanced for his grade in school, and bored with it, but a little more maturity helps after they reach high school and college, and one year later at the start will be better, I think, especially for a boy. What do you think, you’ve had “age” trouble,” too? Just a few times in your life wouldn’t you like to have had an equal footing in maturity with some smug upstart who affected an attitude of superiority just when he was doing the same job with more preparation to do it than you, who were reaching to be doing it at all? I seem to have taken a lot of beating psychologically from kids who weren’t my mental equal, just because they’d been around a little longer.

Would you rather pick up a wedding ring for me there or some other time, or have me get one? I feel bare without one. Do you wear yours?

Love, Johnsie, Dordo

#92. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
Utica, NY
January 11, 1944

Dear John,

The President is going to speak on the radio in a few minutes, then Fibber McGee, then Bob Hope. I’ll start this now, then if anyone says anything good, I’ll add it on.

I have eyes and ears out for job possibilities in the future, because it will surely be our greatest concern for a while when you get back, and former contacts may be of some help. Today I was wondering why the publication field wouldn’t be one of the best outlets for your talents. Of course, it’s like teaching, financially – at first, but you have literary talent and business training and experience, and magazines nowadays are so exciting due to the change in communication, that they aren’t as apt to let one get in a rut as one might have before radio, plane, and camera-influence on civilization drew the whole world together.

Nothing very new in the President’s address, except proposed changes in the draft laws. Hope was good, his best was an ad-lib, after he badly jumbled a gag: “they make me work with a tooth brush in my mouth, you know.” Fibber had income tax trouble.

Love, Dear,

I liked the Ernie Pyle thing especially.

#93. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
January 15, 1944

Dear John,

Eight letters today. Never got them like that before, all these were sent “Free,” and arrived in order, the last being mailed just eight days ago. The pictures are a good addition to the collection, I liked the guy feeding the children, and Pen liked the animal pictures. Even the postman must have been impressed this morning – he hasn’t rung the bell since Christmas, ’til today.

Your premonition of change and mine must have been simultaneous. I have felt that the change in top command would lead to changes for you, and I’m convinced of it after an announcement on the radio tonight that Mountbatten may by-pass Burma, and attempt to take Singapore and other nearby territory, and that there will be action directed from India on a much greater scale. It will be torture in a high form if we cease to know where you are.

We have been lucky to know so much of your whereabouts so far, and to know that you were comparatively safe. I think in a time of change, anticipation is the hardest thing, and I hope you know what’s cooking for you as soon as possible. Of course it would be interesting to know if what’s being done now is temporary or permanent, but we never know that, except that nothing in Uncle Sam’s army is permanent.

Your description of the Indian countryside is so vivid as to make it seem familiar, I think my subconscious must have felt that abandoned circus ground comparison because even the pictures make it look that way, and it couldn’t be better made sensually acute in one’s imagination.

The Poles having thrown the border dispute into the hands of Britain and US is some business. It looks like the worst imaginable mess. We heard a fair program tonight on the radio, a Washington interviewer discussing the State Department with Edward Stettinius, Robert Murphy, and a broadcast from England by John Winant. I imagine tomorrow’s papers will be very interesting, with more dope on the Indian situation, and changes in the State Dept., and the Polish problem on the fire.

Goodnight, Major MacDonald, Dear,

#94. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
Utica, NY
January 17, 1944

Hello –

Every station on the air has the program for the 4th War Loan drive, now. I wasn’t going to listen, but DeVall’s radio was loud enough so I suddenly recognized old Bing, so I got him just in time – two pianos, in orchestra, and Bing singing “Candlelight and Wine” – but corny, but I’d listen to him sing anything (even “Drink to me Only.” )

Do you think I should buy a few small War Bonds? Of course the money isn’t as available that way, but it also puts it where it’s comparatively safe from impulsive spending. The dentist, and a little balance on Dr. Wallace’s bill took ten bucks away today. Someday soon I’m going to spend a little money on liquor. I don’t even know if gin can be had anywhere, but there’s a little Puerto Rican rum left, and there may not be later. I still have the better part of our store of “spirits” from Albany, except for a little rum tippling I’ve done when flu lingered around, but about wedding-time it may be necessary for a little more hospitality.

Another mess in the papers tonight – the Russian news item about two British officials meeting Von Ribbentrop in Cairo for separate-peace consultations, printed in “Pravda.” Of course, it was denied, and labeled German propaganda, but the fact that the Russians bit on it was hard to explain. In fact, I never heard so many guesses. Vander Cook had the most logical-sounding guess – that among the Soviet officials, as among our own, there are the stupid, the isolationist, and the British-hating, who, like ours, might give credence or publicity to such a rumor, in spite of their being a minority.

Good night and love,
Love, Dordo

#95. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
January 24, 1944

Today was the Pencil’s first school day. He was terribly excited about it, and I’m sure he had a good time, but since we encountered a screeching fire truck on the way home and he immediately became a fireman for the rest of the day, I couldn’t find that many details from him. Anyway, the trip over and back, with him along one way, takes less than 20 minutes on icy walks, so it’s convenient.

Well, 40 minutes minimum daily outdoor exercise will be a considerable improvement in my schedule, as well as his, and getting back here at nine gives me a handsome start on my work. Probably if I can’t find a real kindergarten to send into next year, he could go on there until ready for first grade, but I hope to locate an all-day school, so I can get some addition to my activity that’s remunerative or educational.

Living here so far gives me the impression that if we settle in this state, (for a while, always assuming our “settling” to be temporary) when you get back, we could do worse than Utica. Of course we could do as well, meaning Syracuse, but I think we would like it pretty well with you here. – Only it would be nice to be warm more of the year. Gosh – I wonder and wonder what will happen — and there’s not even a good guess in view!

Love, Dordo

If we’re poor let’s not live in the city, but if we aren’t, it would be more fun. If you’re poor, social competition is one strain that can be avoided in a town, and I don’t think I could talk take much of it except on an equal financial footing with the kind of people one wants for friends. That spoiled Rochester – all our nice friends were beyond our means, and I’d hate to ever go through that again. The only alternative to that is some class of educated people, whose work isn’t very remunerative; there’s some compensation to that – in the upper bracket you always find people who got there on someone else’s money and have nothing else. – All badly said, but you probably understand the point.

#96. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
Utica, NY
January 29, 1944

Darling –

You are the sweetest guy. No one knows how much I appreciate your reasonableness. In places where other people might or might not feel like preaching or being contentious but would think they should be if an opportunity presented itself, you never are. That’s a very rare quality – honestly. You’re reasonable because you’re intelligent, and you’re sweet because you’re reasonable, but also because somewhere deep in you is a lot of plain good-nature, and it’s a lovely thing.

You’re a pleasure to live with and a joy to be married to, even 14,000 miles away. And now that you have received my financial statement with such good grace, I’m not going to run out and go on a spending spree to celebrate. It does seem as if the money goes pretty fast, and Dorrie’s wedding is going to set me back in various ways, but I want us to have as much as possible when you come back, too.

Your sympathy about Christmas was welcome, and I concur with the suggestion about future ones. It’s a shame it had to happen, tho – I’m as sorry as if it were my fault.

We’ve finally had news about Jap treatment of prisoners, and it’s nasty. Don’t get yourself captured – but if you ever should, have faith in your healthy mind and body, and our constant and faithful love for you, whatever happens.

Good luck and comfort to you, my Darling –

All my love, Dordo.

#97. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
Utica, NY
February 10, 1944

Darling –

After I wrote you last night Mr. DeVall got the new fire built, and the plumber went home, and at eleven o’clock another leak started, so poor Mr. DeVall had to dump the new fire, and it was really cold when we woke up this morning. We stayed in bed ‘til nine, then I put a heavy sweater on Pen and everything I could think of on me, and gave him breakfast in bed. By 11:30 the job was finished, so we finally warmed up again. This place heats fast, once the boiler’s started.

You’ll think it’s awfully run-down, from my tales of the roof and the plumbing leaking, and all we’ve done to it. It is, in a way, but it’s so light and comfortable, – Margie said tonight, “Dordo, I love this place. I like it better than any place you’ve ever lived, even Stonehenge,” and I feel the same. I want you to live here a while when you come back because it seems to be such a happy place.

When I shivered down after the mail there was the nicest surprise. This package from you! So near Valentine’s, and my birthday, too! The necklace is lovely. It’s so unusual, and so exquisitely done. I’ve worn it all day, even with a sweater, but it will be stunning over the new black dress. I’ll wear it to Mrs. Wood’s party tomorrow. How they ever got the gold on over the silver in just the way they did is amazing. It’s even more beautiful in artificial light. I’ve got it on the desk to look at while I write.

And the slippers came, too, and I love them. Pencil thought they were enchanting. They fit perfectly, and you know how I love the things to wear on the feet. Those darling points at the heel and toe.

I made a terribly noble decision about them, tho. I want Dorrie to have something really from you for her wedding, and have already written you about that, but since you seem to be expecting to be away from headquarters for so long, you may not get the letter until after the wedding, (three weeks!) and if you sent something then, Bill may be gone by the time it gets here. So even if it’s not something for Bill, I think there should be something tangible from you for Dorrie at that time, so I’m saving them. If I don’t hear from you that you’ve sent something by the day before the wedding, I’ll give them to her from you for her trousseau. They’d be stunning with some of the white satin and fluff she’s been getting.

Margie had your star sapphire set in a very beautiful heavy sterling silver pin, and it looks so nice. I wished I’d sketched it for you – I will. She thinks a lot of it. – I hope you don’t think I don’t appreciate these things, passing them around, but you probably intended that they should be, and I seem to be doing very well, too.

It gives us pleasure, more than you can realize, to have tangible things from the other end of the world where you are, and you’ve sent such nice things. (Poor Col. Robinson’s wife has such a collection of useless junk!) We’re proud of you, and proud to say “John sent it.”

We’ve had a few bare years, when we had more wishes than objects of beauty; – it’s nice to have a few beautiful things to store against the future, whatever it is to be. You’ve never known me particularly as a person of artistic inclinations, but you seem to remember very well that there is pleasure for me in lovely things. That is nice – especially in this grim time. It makes of you a discriminating and sensitive husband.

#98. JDM to DPM (ALS, 2pp.)
February 23, 1944

Dear Dordo,

A new roommate, one of the hordes who are constantly drifting through this grand central station, brought with him this machine on which I am writing this. Someday, somewhere, somehow I have got to own one of them. It is a Hermes Baby, a Swiss make that weighs only six pounds, and yet has all the gadgets and a standard keyboard. It is very attractively designed, and works damn well. They used to sell them in Macy’s before the war for $55, and now the board of Economic Warfare has taken over all of the importations of them into the country. If I can find one on the black market here, you can expect not to get any additional cash one of these days.

I have been getting veddy litrary on occasion, and have written a few small pieces to amuse myself. One of them is based on the ever current social and sexual problem here in India of the American officers with the little gals who were not socially acceptable before the war, and still aren’t to any great extent – namely the Anglo-Indians. It has intrigued me a bit, not from a personal experimentation point of view, but from the point of view of watching my compatriots wiggle into and out of the throes of their illicit alliances. It is both pathetic and amusing. I will send you my story, which couldn’t be published, mainly because it isn’t good enough, and partially because of its subject matter, as soon as I can get a decent copy made of it. It may give you a bit of the additional local color.

I have tied up and stowed away the first hundred letters from you. Please don’t think that because I don’t mention stuff, I’m not interested.

Outside we are having a steady cold rain. My poor old bicycle stays outdoors in it and the damn seat absorbs water like a sponge rather than shedding it. Fine system. A plane has been sort of blundering around in the murk out there. Hope he gets in safely. It has suddenly begun to occur to me that I am going to find it damn hard to talk very much about beautiful India when I get back. It gets hard to even talk about it in the letters when you get as damn sick of it as I am. Maybe I am in a mood. I don’t know. Anyhow, more later, and all my love to you and the Pencil.

Stamped with JDM “Chop”

#99. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
February 26, 1944

(Editor’s Note: with 4 page enclosure of short story, not included here, to be published as “Interlude in India” in 1946)

Dear Dordo,

Enclosed is my small untitled story of the American officer and the Anglo Indian girl. I tried to give it a “typical” sound. Let me know what you think. I think it’s too awkward and too melodramatic. Maybe Esquire stuff if Esquire gets much cheesier.


#100. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
Utica, NY
February 28, 1944

Hello –

Well, Mother must be well over the Walker Pond Road by now. We took her down to Baggs Square, and she rode home with a boy from Poland. Next week I’ll have Nana, it’s nice to have a breather in between.

With just a few changes, Rita wouldn’t be as difficult to entertain, but she seems incapable of making those changes. If Sammy doesn’t get a commission, and is accepted for induction, their contribution to her support will end, and some change will probably be necessary, but there are lots of things I’d rather give up than our separate abodes. I can’t see how Evvie will get along, however. Well, there’s still a chance that he can’t pass the physical for either. A five-man commission appointed to investigate whether the draft standards for physical exams could be lowered, reported very firmly today that they couldn’t.

I called Margie this morning and got a load of utter consternation. Everything about the wedding has been so well-planned and under control, and Saturday night Bill called to say that all furloughs following this week’s exams have been canceled! (Including his.) He has Saturday and Sunday free usually, and plans to try to at least get a pass for Monday, but the Major was out of town, so he couldn’t see him to make any request until today. The fact that this sudden change has come at the end of an exam period, has all of us scared that the boys will be moved somewhere else on the weekend. Bill says he’ll go A.W.O.L. Monday if he can’t get a pass, but if they are about to be sent somewhere, that might not be very practical. This surely means that they won’t have any honeymoon, and might mean no wedding, or having the wedding suddenly changed to Sunday, or not ever getting to live in their apartment which Bill has so faithfully cleaned! Dorrie is in a terrible state, as you can imagine, and it has taken all the fun out of life for all concerned. Probably Bill will have some sort of decision from his Major tonight to phone Dorrie, but the man may not be able to do much for him, since the order already affects all of the boys, and therefore must have some purpose, – I hope a decent one, and not just somebody’s whim.

Reading this over (Pencil is in my hair), I’m not sure I ever made it clear that Bill expected to have the weekend, plus a full week’s furlough, which he planned to spend in their apartment with Dorrie, before she started her job. They were going to spend the night of the wedding in Syracuse, and go to Boston the next day. All anyone can do now is to cross their fingers.

It seemed queer that they didn’t marry last Fall, when everyone expected them to, and things looked a little more like a bird in the hand. I thought they were very lucky to have the opportunity to plan so far ahead, and have everything work out so according to Hoyle, but since this thing has been happening to couples for months, all over the country, they took quite a chance. Not that that makes it any better now.

Air mail postage will probably go up to eight cents next month; if that happens I think these little missives should be mailed every other day in one envelope, don’t you?

Love, Dordo

Radio news tonight is that a Jap attempt to invade India has been repulsed. Ambitious little screwballs, aren’t they?

#101. DPM to JDM (ALS, 3pp.)
Utica, NY
March 6, 1944


Everyone is planning to write you a play-by-play description of the weekend, but by the time it is over and they’re rested up, I’m afraid lots of the little details will be forgotten. This is the first chance I’ve had at it, and my efforts to type are a little queer, I never felt so as if I was typing with mittens on, – I aim for one key, and come down three to the left. Writing would be worse. All I want to do is have enough resistance left so I won’t weep at the altar. Between getting the Pencil to and from school, and keeping an ice bag on Mr. DeVall’s appendix while his wife gets lunch for the mob at 9 Beverly, the interruptions may keep this from being little more than a start.

There was a nice letter from you this morning, and the short story, which I think is very excellent writing. I think I’ll send it to Esky, just to see if it takes. In particular, I think you have created a fine sense of atmosphere, – of making it possible for the reader to identify himself as sympathetically with both characters, and also you have left unsaid just the right things, which seems to be the hardest thing for a new writer to do. All the implications are there so vividly without a superfluous word. It seems to me to be enough detached from the average War-situation which has been literally exploited, to have a fresh interest, and yet the situation is one so familiar from the standpoint of the human race that it is “sympathetique” – with all the charm of the different garb of locale and color. It seems to be a particularly marketable thing, and since that seems to be one of the tests of success that is tangible, why not submit it to the test, since the opinion of completely prejudiced persons deems it capable of surviving!

The weatherman has done his mid-March New York State best for the weekend. Clear, sunny, and damn cold. In fact it has been ten below zero both mornings, and this morning when Big Bill came for Billy, he said all the pipes at 9 Beverly were frozen again, and no water was available for washing, shaving, etc., until the plumber came.

Perhaps if I try to be chronological, it will be easier to remember things. The festivities started with the Robinson’s dinner at the hotel, Saturday evening.

That was the older generation’s night. The dinner was wonderful, roast beef in slabs being predominant, and sparkling burgundy, which is my favorite drink, flowing as fast as we could drink it.

Penny is crazy about Bill, and thank heavens Bill is about him. He had planned every minute of Bill’s time, and just stood and held his hand every minute he was around. Sunday morning before Bill went to have breakfast with the families, he made him march all over. Bill was in the other twin bed, of course, (in your pajama top – saving his for the ride back,) and he certainly didn’t get any extra sleep after Pen woke up the two mornings.

Sunday we had to dress in a flash for the Hickey’s luncheon at the Fort Schuyler Club. You probably received more toasts and good wishes than the bride and groom. Everywhere people asked about you, and Dorrie and Bill talked about you constantly, and of course I did, and we all wished and wished you were there.

Tuesday afternoon –

Well, it’s legal now. It was a wonderful wedding and reception.

Jane and Hazel and I stopped to pick up Penny, then we went to the rehearsal on Sunday, and Mother went up with Nana. Pen was the greatest concern at the rehearsal, of course, but he was very good. He took a look at the little pillow he was to carry the ring on, and said “Aw, I can carry that under my arm.” So we rehearsed marching to the altar, and he got there, and promptly sat down on the kneeling bench (for the bride and groom). After which he stood and kissed Bill’s hand all during the discussion of the service. Mr. Fiebigger had a very nice service, tho his manner at the rehearsal was pretty heavy. He got to the “Now I pronounce you man and wife” part, and said “Now if you wish to caress the bride at the altar, you may do it at this time.” It doesn’t look so funny in print, but sounded pretty obscene. A lot of trouble to avoid the word kiss. All the ushers were taller than Tom, who was placed on the end. In the middle of it, Pen, who likes him, said suddenly, “Hi, Shorty.”

Bill’s post-war dream is to start a construction company, with his father his contact man, you as financial wizard, and himself as a technical man. I think his ability and his father’s whole set-up have been greatly underestimated by all of us. It was nice to have him here, for both Penny and me. I’m so glad Dorrie didn’t marry someone else. No one would ever love her or understand her, like Bill, or be nicer.

Bill wore a big smile, and looked at Dorrie is if he could eat her up all during the service, and Dorrie looked like an angel, smiling at him. Only silly old Dordo felt like weeping going down the aisle, tho Dorrie did admit having to think of roast beef all the way in. (I told her about Clark Gable thinking about a big steak, just before we went in.) But Penny MacDonald nearly stole the show, just by looking so cute and handsome, and being so unconcerned and good.

The Reception was perfect, except that the punch was mostly water. But there were all the nice people there, and everyone had a wonderful time, and the flowers and clothes were beautiful again, and there wasn’t a note of anything sad or unpleasant. Betty Hegburg’s mother caught fire, of course, but they got her out!.. She was standing right in the center of the room, surrounded by people, and apparently someone lit her cigarette, and her veil caught fire. When I saw her, you could see a woman from the neck down, and her whole head was surrounded with flames. The veil must’ve been a DuPont acetate product, like the johnny seat I set fire to in school, because it practically exploded. She wasn’t hurt a bit, except by someone who clouted her on the side of the head a little too enthusiastically, to put the fire out.

Heard Lei Lani on the radio today, and it reminded me of a guy with green eyes, whom I’ve loved ever since the first time I heard it with him. We gotta get you back, Baby.

Love, Darling –

#102. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
March 11, 1944

Dear Dordo –

I got Sam and Evie’s letter as sent by you yesterday, also yours asking where the hell am I. Right here, chum, beginning to stew lightly in my own juice in a sun that is already pretty hot to go out into. Sure seems funny to read of your scraping ice off.

I certainly am glad to hear of your feeling better – in fact feeling almost well again. There really isn’t any reason why this coming spring and summer shouldn’t see you get into real good shape.

Mail service is apparently staying on the same mediocre level I have been complaining about. Every day begins with hope, however. I know you’re writing them – I just ain’t getting them. I expect a whole batch to come in at once one of these days. I am particularly anxious to get all the wedding accounts.

My bearer went away for a while, 15 days, substituting his brother, a guy who does so many things wrong I begin to think it’s a gag. Dirty sox in with clean ones, two left shoes, brass on wrong, and all in one day.

Last night was Lehner’s little birthday party – and once again we went through the stiff routine of Canadian Club plus Chinese food. This time we had with us a black haired smoothie named Maj. Sylvester from China and a Major Layboum that I think I told you about before – anyway he was one of those who lucked out with Uncle Joe.

Nothing much seems to happen outside of the work. Sort of eat, work, eat, work, tea, bath, change, eat, read and talk, then bed… punctuated once for someone’s birthday or something… plus also the rather gruesome feeling of watching the weather get hotter and hotter. It sure is a lethargic damn life outside of the salt mine.

Take care of yourself.


#103. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
Utica, NY
March 15, 1944


I pick the nicest times to go out. I wanted to see “Cry Havoc,” a Bataan picture with Margaret Sullivan, Ann Southern, Joan Blondell, etc. etc., and since I had to get a sitter for four clock to go to the doctors, it seemed like a good thing to go tonight, so I stayed down and ate all alone at the Chinaman’s. It seems incredible that there should be a crowd anywhere tonight, but there were people standing for tables, there. It was a little lonely eating alone and going to the movie alone, but it was no movie for the Pencil, and there didn’t seem to be any use of digging someone else up. I guess if I can’t be with you I’d rather be alone most of the time.

But it sure is lovely to get indoors again. If it’s like this tomorrow, Pencil stays home. He went to school today, with no ill effects. Apparently the vitamins I stuffed him with helped. – He loves Charlotte, the sitter. The other day he was inquiring about the ill effects something might have on me, and said, “Well, if I didn’t have you anymore, Charlotte could take care of me.” – wishfully!

Thursday 3/16

Spring’s approach in India must have the same effect on one’s morale that it has here. Really, I’ve never seen Spring appear so remote for so long. That’s not your difficulty, but monotonously bad weather of any kind has the same effect. We’ve really had a reasonable Winter – no blizzards that left us buried for days, and quite a bit of pale thin sun.

It’s almost a year to that fateful Saturday afternoon when you walked in with that sad look on your face. The Civic Chorus recital is tonight, and last year your Mother rehearsed all winter and then couldn’t go to the recital because she didn’t want to be away when you were there waiting for your orders. A year apart! I never would have thought it possible to get through a year even as well as we have, and now a year is nearly over, the end is not really within anyone’s ability to predict.

Day after tomorrow we’ll have our 7th year, of which Uncle Sugar has had one – probably one that had the greatest possibility of being our best, but who can tell? Except that we’d have had less financial worry and more reasons for happiness in our environment.

My anchor’s been dragging, physically, for so long that the balance between things to do and energy to do it has been just about equal. But that situation is greatly improved. A blood count yesterday shows that I’m about halfway up to where it is desirable to be (from where I started) – boy! last Summer certainly didn’t build me up! And doubtlessly the turn of the season, plus continued liver shots will do the trick much sooner than it took to get started.

Next weekend Sammy’s physical is due, and it would be easier for Rita while that issue is under fire if she were invited over here, probably. Not that I want to, but last night while eating Chinese food I remembered that the last time I had any, was when Sammy brought some one night when we were sick, and thinking what a nice guy Sammy is made tears, – and probably his mother feels the same way about having him probably drafted. Gosh – in the last week they’ve tightened things up so terribly there’s very little chance that they won’t take him. Sammy would be just dogged and faithful being a G.I. as anything else, but it would be pretty nasty for him to be in bloody combat. He’s not much of a killer.

The pearls are really breathtaking. They have such of light in themselves – I never knew how much lovelier real ones are. I’ll taken to be appraised soon, and let you know the results. Pop and Margie have their 30th anniversary soon – too bad he’s not the type to want to observe it fittingly – the 30th is the pearl anniversary. It would doubtless be possible to profit more elsewhere, anyway.

Salutations from one dripping world to another –

and love, Dordo.

#104. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
Utica, NY
March 16, 1944


I have to go to the Surrogates Court in Herkimer and copy an inventory that was made of Daddy’s estate, minus real estate, at the time of his death. It seems that some Herkimer tax attorney, as local representative for the State Tax Commission, has discovered that no appraisal of Daddy’s estate was ever made in case a “transfer tax” should have been paid.

He wrote Mother and Unc, as executors, seeking their cooperation, in January. They ignored the first letter, he wrote again – politely but firmly, in February, and Mother doodled over it, then threw the whole thing into Sammy’s lap at the last minute. Unc hasn’t done anything about it, and obviously won’t unless forced to.

In the meantime, Sam has gone to some effort to gather the facts, but too much of it is in Unc’s head, and too little on paper. We’d throw in the sponge, and let Unc take whatever’s coming, except that since Mother was a joint-executrix, and guardian of our interests(!), she might get fined or jugged if she continues to ignore it.

Unc doesn’t answer either Sam’s letter or the tax attorney’s, and has been very scarce since it all came up. The inventory showed the total value of personal property to be $63,138.03. Also real estate (in both his and Mother’s names, fortunately) in California (Rancho Santa Fe, & oil properties) and Vermont (lumber tract – huge), and New York, house, camp, etc. Mother says, plaintively, that she doesn’t see why she should pay the tax, since she “gave Unc $14,000 worth of Dad’s life insurance, $15,000 worth of her own stocks, and some of her Vermont Products (lumber) dividends” which were $3600 apiece! But of course she hasn’t a thing to show for it!

That’s over $100,000 vanished into thin air. Isn’t that lovely? – As Sammy says, “our chief concern is to see that the State transfer tax attorney can’t raise the devil with Mother…. As far as E.H is concerned, we know he didn’t get rich on it and if he saved his shirt on Mother’s money, which we don’t know, there isn’t much we can do about it now, except mess up family relationships and raise a bad smell” – with no satisfaction thereby.

But anyway, Mother passed the buck to Sammy, and he’s passed it to me, after spending a lot of time and hiring an Elmira lawyer for advice. After I get the inventory, I will try to find a lawyer to arrange for the two of them to be executors – since his boss, now dead, handled lots of Daddy’s affairs, then I will talk to the guy who stirred it all up – the tax attorney, and last – armed with some facts, I’ll work on Unc.

It may be grim, but it’s certainly dumb, not to have things talked over, written down, and if possible jointly possessed, in a family. And then a woman should have an impersonal advisor who knows the law, to watch her relatives. Honestly, I’ve always thought the shock of Daddy’s death paralyzed part of Mother’s brain; I know it now.

Sam is very philosophical about being drafted. He’s flunked the Navy eye test for a commission four times recently, in spite of all he’s trying to do to correct this condition, so that’s about out. He says he won’t “get” asthma when he’s examined for the draft because he’d “rather go, and get thrown out (of the Army, for physical reasons) then nobody could ever put a finger on me. Also I would be able to join the American Legion. Then we could all go to the conventions together… Also. There isn’t any reason why I shouldn’t be there along with all the rest of the fathers I know.” Solid old Sammy.

Gee I’d like to see you, honey. A returning newsmonger from the Pacific says the boys think it will be a two-year war yet, if we’re lucky. That’s ducky.

Love, Dordo

#105. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
Utica, NY
March 18, 1944

Dear John,

It’s rather silly to convey sounds of mumbling and sputtering over such a long distance and such a lapse of time, because by the time you hear about it, the cause is far removed, and my mood is one of purist geniality, but I’ll get it off my chest before going further, then I can get down to the more pleasant aspects of letter-writing. However, my friend, when one has one foot over the threshold of the dog- house, as you do, it is not the time to become patronizing. Your letters of late have not been conspicuous by their frequency, and it is most unflattering to find you taking it for granted that my only pleasure in life is keeping up a faithful one-sided correspondence with you. Even if it is.

By the process of some experience, evaluated and consolidated by thought, and laid on the line for convenience and safety in daily living, I have a sort of formula for my personal conduct. The result is that I appear to be most disarmingly simple, and without a doubt I am. You have never had to become acquainted with my potentialities for annoying and complex irresponsibility, but you should know that when her life is irritatingly monotonous, it is no time to assume that a woman is a faithful hound, sitting obliviously waiting for the return of the master, or for such fleeting notices he can spare. It’s rubbing it in a bit too hard.

So DON’T TELL ME TO “BE A GOOD GAL AND WRITE OFTEN, DESPITE, ETC.ETC.,” – SEE? Because I have an idea my life is just as grim as yours is, and I like to get letters just as much.

There are more subtle ways of handling the situation, without a doubt, but of course there’s always the chance that you might get moved off “Per Diem Hill,” and away to some forward echelon, and it would be unmitigated meanness to cut off your mail’s volume in March and April, and find out in May that you had been sweating it out in some outpost since February. So I can’t take that way out, because I’m a softy, and I make excuses for you, and dream up experiences through which only the voice of the little woman (on paper, of course,) will bear you.

Perhaps it’s just because it’s Saturday night again. And cold. And snowing. But the people who go out on Saturday night don’t get to hear Sinatra. And I do. Every Saturday night. The guy is sweet to hear, probably because he sings as if he had time.

Well, it isn’t Dordo’s War anymore. It looks as if Dorrie and Evvie will have theirs, too. It is the worst for Evvie. I don’t know what she can do. No doubt she doesn’t either. There are ways in which it will be good for Sammy, – until he goes. The training, and having someone else take the responsibility, will be a change that he can welcome. This, Baby, is going to empty the country but good, of men. The boys aren’t fooling this time, they’re going to take every man that’s left, who isn’t decrepit or feebleminded.

I wonder who among our friends in Rochester will be left. Sam’s letter you enclosed started me thinking about them. All the ones with the gold will have no reason for a deferment, it seems. There are a few I’d like to see in a G.I. uniform – Anstice, and Richard Smith of Skaneateles, who’s let them defer him and take fathers because he’s busy making pottery insulators for __’s sake, and Carl Leland.

Did I tell you that Bill’s and my conversation the night before the wedding disclosed the fact that Dorrie’s bonds were not put in the parental safe-deposit box, as were ours. What does that make us? What the kids receive from Pop and Margie as a wedding present is also a deep dark secret; tho no doubt the occasion was marked by some sort of gift. Ah – Bill said they’d learned a lot from us, – I mean he and Dorrie. What a fine horrible example we must be. But he’s desirous of duplicating the Pencil at any cost, – his devotion to our child is truly reassuring, when the little guy is at this particularly socially unpredictable age. Bill just loves him. Bill is full of love, thank God.

Pencil is better company for me than you would imagine. The little guy has the most fantastic imagination, and the tiniest stimulus will start him off on some flights of fancy that requires the most elaborate living up to. I have to respond in character, of course, and I never know what will be demanded next. But it’s mostly fun. All day today we’ve been Indians. You know, like the days when he was Ginna, and the time he solemnly announced he was “the little Lord Jesus.”


#106. DPM to JDM (ALS, 1p.)
Utica, NY
March 22, 1944

Hello –

Honey, I went and did it!

Tomorrow’s Pencil’s birthday, and he just set up a howl for a dog of his own. It seemed foolish to spend much for one, and as if a mongrel would give much more chance of being a companion and watch-dog, too.

Well, we decided to take a look at the local pound. The cocker-setters were darling, all red, five – two females and three males. But they were at the end of the row of cages, and on the way down I saw a little pansy face and bright eyes peering out, which I wanted to see again before deciding, as the pups were only two months old, and that’s pretty small.

So we went back, and there was this little creature with the bright eyes and the black mustache – about three months old, very tall, and colored like a Siamese cat, buff, with black around the face, ears and tail, with coarse, straight, semi-short hair.

We just couldn’t resist her. She has a shepherd coat, only it’s very thick wiry hair, and her tail is long, black, and she carries it curved up!

She’s awfully smart looking, and acts unusually intelligent. She’s very playful, and yet has potentialities for a watch-dog, – she peeks out the second-floor window and growls at passersby!

Oh yes – she cost three bucks, (the cocker-setters were $10), and if she doesn’t work out I can exchange her for one of the puppies. But she’s so darn cute I hope she does. We’ll send you her picture. Penny had her named “Toppy” before we even saw her, so I guess that will stick.

They tell us Japs over the India border aren’t so serious – I hope not. Wish you could be here for a piece of birthday cake.

Love, Dordo

#107. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
Utica, NY
March 25, 1944

Dear John,

A week ago tonight I wrote a rather angry letter about the paucity of mail from you, and felt a little sorry after it was mailed.

Since then I’ve looked for a letter every day for a week, and received not one, until this – Saturday – morning – very similar to the last few, a five-sentence note scribbled at your desk, apologizing for not writing more. Can you imagine how that makes me feel?

It isn’t that they aren’t getting here; it’s obvious as days go by that you’re just not writing them. And if you do, it’s not with any thought but obligation, apparently. You can’t spare any time from your plentiful leisure, but dash off enough to salve your conscience from your office.

(Irony – Lei Lani for accompaniment as I write.)

I feel a little foolish, going on with my little daily effort. If they dwindle, it’s not spite, but just because there is very little reason to keep at it as far as I can see. Your mind certainly isn’t on us – why divert it, if it’s not voluntary for your thoughts and your concern and your longings to turn them in our direction, to be expressed by the little bit of time and effort a decent letter takes?

When you miss someone, when there’s no possible means of communicating with that person, it’s the most natural thing in the world to sit down and talk to him on paper.

Everything mocks me. Everyone misses her soldier, every soldier misses his girl, and so all the little events of the day revolve around the fact that friends, acquaintances, advertising-geniuses, movie script writers, magazine publishers, radio artists, and one’s family, take that for granted. It gets a little silly, cutting out clippings, picking up books, garnering gossip and chit-chat to write him, finding your very place in life rests on the fact that you’re here and he’s there, and he is oh! so lonely for home and love and Shangri-la (of which it’s assumed you’re the biggest part! )

When he’s 14,000 miles away, and every letter gets to be a bow to precedent, but he doesn’t give a damn, really, about what impression you get.

I know that at times when you’re quite comfortable you fall into a state of lethargy, and sometimes when you’re not so comfortable you fall into a state of indifference to how your responses affect other people.

Knowing that is the only reason I’m making this solitary effort to assure you of just what impression you are giving. And to remind you also, that when there’s so much space between us, and so much time between the inception of our communication and its achievement, impressions are a very serious matter.

A prolonged impression of a lack of interest, obligation rather than spontaneity, indifference to its effects, can only be interpreted as deliberate. If it is not deliberate, it is important that it should not be permitted to extend over such distance and at such a generally unhappy time.

Everything else is under control here. We had our first Spring day today, and it was wonderful. Toppy continues to be a completely charming and satisfactory addition to the family. Today I saw “Jane Eyre,” which I hope to see again sometime; Orson Welles is excellent, and the Wuthering Heights atmosphere is a good change. Spencer Tracy in “A Guy Named Joe” is still on my list to see, and I have a ticket to hear Dorothy Thompson April 4th. No matter what is depressing, Spring seems to have its usual release and its usual promise.

Love Dordo

#108. DPM to JDM (ALS, 2pp.)
Utica, NY
April 6, 1944


Had to tear off a report on my trip to Herkimer for Sammy.

I have dreaded that for so long, and it was really mostly fun, even if I did have to go on the bus. It only took a few hours, so I don’t know what all the fuss was about. I guess because it’s the first time I ever took any action about Daddy’s affairs. The lawyer was very willing to play ball, as long as we didn’t insult him by ignoring him, and I think I’ve at least eliminated any chance of Mother’s having to pay any tax.

The eagerness on the lawyer’s part may have been due to the fact that the tax would be over $450, of which he gets a percentage, and almost any percentage of $450 would be worth writing a few letters. I fancy I left Unc a bit out on a limb, but don’t think it’s anything he can’t take in his stride. It was obviously worth doing something about, anyway. – And I imagine Unc would go to great lengths, even to paying quite a large tax, to avoid having to account for the entire estate.

Just for the record, perhaps you are right about only writing twice a week. It wasn’t my idea, though, – I was contemplating the rise in cost of air mail letters, which I later found doesn’t affect APO mail; – not a decrease in letters, but in envelopes. (But boy! Did you jump at the chance!) However, I’m sure the quality of my letters would improve if they were cut down considerably, – our life isn’t sufficiently tempestuous to make good daily reading. There are two sides to the matter, tho, while I am eager to cut down on my efforts in your direction as long as you would be contented with a substantial decrease, I feel that no matter how often you wrote, the quality of your letters would remain the same. And I can’t look forward to two a week, if there is any chance of having more. Just a glutton. This is just for the record.

I’m glad the Indian troops have finally accomplished something near Imphal. I’m also glad for the reassurance that you are physically safe, I hope you always will be. As for any minor change in your locale, I would accept it too, too philosophically. You sound as if you’re going native or something. There has been a complete change in John, lately, about which why should I worry, (since it has a not-cheery aspect, from here), – John could go through a hundred changes in the years we’ll be apart. Just as long as he gets off a boat someday and says “Going my way?”

Bing’s really making with the music tonight, an 800- voice choir, and “Stardust,” and bless his old heart, “The Easter Parade.”

I can recapitulate a few Easters, too. Last year in Utica, Penny hunting the eggs we colored and hid in the living room, knowing that you’d leave any minute, and the year before in Rochester when you were O.D., and I’d just been out of the hospital a few days after we went to Washington. I can’t remember the year before, in 1941, but I remember 1940 in Massena, and it was cold and windy, and we went to the movies in the afternoon with Sis and Busse. And 1939, in the hospital in Cambridge, looking out at the people walking by the Charles River, and an Easter basket on my tray, and 1938 in Boston with your family walking across the Commons in the wind near the pigeons, and your kicking Dorrie’s shoes out of her reach under the table at the Statler. Remember?


#109. JDM to DPM (ALS, 1p.)
April 6, 1944

Dear Dordo,

This is one of those hot lazy days. It is now about 4 o’clock, and I just cycled back from another HQ. The streets are pretty empty and bugs are droning and the old sun is beating down like mad. It makes you want to go off and lie in the shade and sleep – but of course you can’t be on the grass around here – ground ticks, fleas, stinging ants, beetles, filth and all sorts of damn things.

My Saturday nights are usually spent having a late dinner at a hotel ballroom and watching the floor show and dance with a small group of regulars. We work six and a half days a week. Sunday afternoon off. Thanks for the wedding write-up. Will appreciate the pictures when they get here.

About my lack of writing – I am working on a long story. That’s no excuse. Speaking of it being the 828th day of the war, it is the thirteen hundred and thirty second day of the war for me. How they ever expect me to accomplish a satisfactory readjustment into civilian affairs, I don’t know. I am getting set in my unsound army ways, when I should be getting set financially. The tax business sounds dull.

Tonight I am playing bridge at a British private club with a British full colonel, an American colonel-sahib, and British officer’s wife. It’s Scotch (in bottles) night at the club.



Dear Dordo: The World War II Letters of Dorothy and John D. MacDonald Copyright © 2021 by Florence M. Turcotte, Cal Branche, Nola Branche, and Maynard MacDonald. Copyright to the letters of John and Dorothy MacDonald and photographs is retained by Maynard MacDonald and the MacDonald family for the remainder of the term of copyright. . All Rights Reserved.

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