Monday, September 14, 2015


In the little packet of letters I found by accident in my avalanche of papers-to-file was this one from “Mr. Brown,” the best man at my maternal grandfather’s wedding and a character in my mother’s stories though I never met him.  Though he is not a relative, Mr. Brown clearly relates to the whole family, so I’ll make you a little guide:

John and Jim Pinkerton were brothers.  Florence is Jim’s wife.  Nadine is his daughter.  Lucy is my mother, the oldest of John’s daughters.  The “son” he mentions is my brother Mark -- Paul wasn’t born yet.  Aliene and Vera are the other daughters.  I never could figure out what relation “Miller Brown” was.  I suspect we are talking “bromance,” a classic tight relationship between two grown men, often allies of some sort.  They abound in English stories.  Not obviously about sex.

“Mr. Brown” seems to have no family. At least he mentions no wife -- but a grandson.  Neither does he mention John's wife, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer.   John Pinkerton was vehemently homophobic.  Hmmmm.

John Pinkerton was gonna get RICH by raising turkeys.

Here’s the text typed and then I’ll append images of the actual letters with their original capitalization and stereotyped sentiments.

Posted on Jan 18, 1946, and noted on the envelope in my mother’s handwriting that he died in February, 1946.  The letter is dated at first 4-30-43, but evidently found and finished later. 

4039 Cleveland,Ave, St. Louis, Mo,

Well Lucy I’m almost ashamed to write to you after waiting so long to answer your last. which brought the nice family pictures you sure have a couple of fine looking children between you and your husband.  All in all you are a fine looking couple as well as the Children.

I received a letter from Florence a few days ago Informing me of Tom Milikins death  Well I’ll follow “in the near future.”  I can’t go much further as I have past 91 1/2 miles on the Journey to the End in America and hope you and yours Well and Happy.  One thing you can be sure of your Son will not be called for cannon fodder in this terrible mess, unless the Japanese saying is true that it will last 100 years.  I don’t think they can last that -- but I think the End isn’t Just around the corner.  I have 8 or 9 Nephews in the service and a grandson, and my Grandson got an arm broke about 3 weeks ago without even seeing a Jap or fighting German in drilling.  He was helping to Blow up a Bridge and a piece of steel struck his arm breaking it near the shoulder.  He will be in the Hospital 10 weeks.

I’ve lost track of Vera.  The last letter I wrote to her was returned as uncalled for.  [She was an army nurse in London and Rheims.]  I wrote Nadine last week.  [Nadine was married to a Navy pilot.]  I received letters from two places in florida and her address now is Cocoa Florida.  Aliene never answered my last letter.  And your Venerable Father is as silent as the Tomb.

Florence seems to be quite a Poultry Woman.  She said she could give me a real chicken dinner if I would Visit them.  She seems to have found a better breed than the little Leghorns.  Thought she would have over 1,000 chicks in the Spring Hatch.  Poultry ought to be profitable now altho feed is high.  Prunes not worth handling now they are 16 1/2 cents here.  [John owned a prune orchard which never made enough money.  He survived by doing construction.]  Apples at gee whiz $12 per bushel.  Just any old apple.

Food rationing is terrible.  I can’t get half enough sugar 1/2 pound per week.  I’m substituting with Sackerine.

I am having a whale of a time with some kind of itch for the last 3 months -- no pimples, no redness or breaking out.  Just an intractable itch like a thousand chiggers or Bedbugs Eating me.  No cure so far Doctor’s Baffled.  This is fine news, isn’t it?  I hope you never have such trouble for if you should I believe the Lord Would Excuse you if you should cuss a little !!  

Bye Bye Love and Best Wishes, MFB

I suspect the “itch” was related to his system not clearing toxins properly, maybe liver or kidneys.  I’m struck by three country things:  the centrality of war fortunes, the craving for family, and marketplace strategy.  They persist today, at least in small towns.  This paper is half-sheet size.

I look at this evidence of a life in a triple way.  First, the mystery of "Miller Brown" and who he was and what he had to do with my troublesome grandfather back there in Illinois.   Second, why my mother took responsibility for being the representative, seriously enough to have saved this letter so long.  Third, the state of the nation in a time of war and what it meant to someone ninety years old, as old as some ancient tribal chieftain in the lush land of the American Midwest.  He can't get enough sugar.

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