We have decided to take a short break from the "War Years Book" chapter postings and let everyone have a chance to digest those first two chapters. If you get really thirsty for more of WWII, just let us know and we'll turn back the clock. For right now I thought I'd share some interesting correspondence from the days when mother signed her name Catherine Patty.
When James Neville and Catherine left STC (State Teacher's College; it later became Memphis State and is now called University of Memphis) in 1936, they devised a plan to teach school for a year, get rich, and then become husband and wife in the late Spring of 1937. Along the way the reality of life happened.
|Catherine and Duke at the Memphis library
Through letters written only by James Neville in the fall of 1936, that were the basis for the first of our books ("James Neville and Catherine, A Love Story"), we got glimpses of the mindset of these two as they planned for their Thanksgiving Trip to Tiptonville. Following that trip we learned from James Neville that they had talked about not waiting until the Spring to get married. We would quickly find out that a December wedding was likely.
Just a few months ago, long after our first writing adventure, I discovered a real "gem" during one of my many nosy, foraging escapades through Mother's house; it may well have been the one where I discovered her "Lincoln Essay." This little treasure is what I am sharing with you today; a letter written on November 30, 1936 to Catherine's mother and father; Mr. and Mrs. C. R. Patty. The letter speaks for itself and needs no further introduction.
For those of you with impulsive 20 year-old children or grandchildren you may want to click the "parental control" button.
November 30, 1936
Yes, I suppose you think I’m a fine one – to come within a mere hundred and fifteen miles of you people and not come home. Mr. LeDuke started to come down Saturday on business – but didn’t have to. I was a little bit disappointed. It won’t be but three weeks now until I’ll be there – though, again, not for long.
Yes – I’ll get down to the point in a minute – I am preparing to face the wrath of the whole money-grabbing – penny minded world and please those dear old souls who believe in love. ‘Duke and I discussed the problem pro and con and decided we could live on what he was making and would be a darn sight happier if we did. On the other hand I had a job making money and it would be foolish – as the whole world would think – for me to quit it and live on bread and water with nothing but love for dessert and the wolf at the door, and the window open and all that. On the way home last night though I changed my mind and wrote to the dear boy and told him I didn’t think it mattered nearly as much to the rest of the world as it does to me how much I would make here – and since they wouldn’t get much of it anyway, why, it shouldn’t matter how I spent it – so I’m going to “spend” that $200 I would have above bare living expenses here – and buy me a husband. See, there is only one month of “this hyar leap year” left and I don’t want to have to wait 4 years for another chance – They may even get the calendar changed by then – and then I’d have to be an old maid all my life and get rich teaching school – & I’d just hate to be rich – I just wouldn’t know how to act.
Well, all this foolishness is quite beside the point. After worrying myself crazy wondering what to do I did quite suddenly know that so long as we have enough to live on and save a little bit for the summer – and so long as we know we have each other and are not going to be satisfied one bit apart, and I’ll never make a very good school teacher anyway – well – why mess around with all this worry any longer – We’ll get married first and worry later – we’d have to do that anyway. I know I’ll meet opposition and talk on all sides – but it doesn’t matter. Now that I’ve made up my mind I feel as I used to when I opened the window and stuck my head out and shouted “I don’t care what Mrs. Ellis, and Mrs……….etc……thinks………….etc.” So long as I know I’m right – or at least think I am then I believe the people that really matter will be glad. I don’t know where I ever got this “teaching a year” notion anyway.
|Engagement announcement with typo (should have read "Patty - LeDuke")
Well, what I want you to do is this: Send to the papers the Friday Press and Sunday Commercial a notice that “Mr. and Mrs. C. R. Patty announce the engagement of their daughter……, the marriage to take place on Dec.___”. I think Tuesday the 22nd but I haven’t heard from ‘Duke any opinion about the date. He only gets one week’s holiday – Dec. 18 or 19 – Dec. 26. Please do not make this announcement public until Fri. Jan 8 and Sun. Jan 10 because I think I should write and tell personally Dr. Smith, Evelyn, Juanita, Grandmother LeDuke, Miss Richardson and the rest of my family – If you know of anyone else please tell me - ok, yes – The Malone’s - & Albert if you’ll send his address. Well, anyway I can’t get those letters written before the weekend and I must do it first.
Then, too, some arrangement will have to be made about the wedding. I want a white dress and can afford to buy it if it won’t cost more than $10 – but that is all I can spend on a wedding. You and Daddy and Sis know best what you can afford. I don’t want you to spend anything that you don’t have and I know that doesn’t give much room. Honestly tho, I don’t want a big wedding. There are some people, tho, whom I would like to have there. If you can borrow some ferns for the altar, etc. of the church and want to have it there, all right. If Nena doesn’t mind clearing out her parlor, that would be all right – where it is – and above all it must be simple. You can ask Mr. Holt if he will undertake the responsibility of saying “hokus-pokus”. I wonder if Bud could possibly arrange to stay over until Wednesday and he and Mary E. and Sleepy and Martha could make the party. I’m going to ask him. I don’t know whom we can get to provide the music. Do men ever sing at weddings? I’d like for Elbert MS to sing if they do and if he’s in town and I could get him. I can’t think of anyone else. Maybe you know someone. At any rate I’m going to leave you to make any arrangements you think necessary. Please call Aunt Sallie and ask her if she’d have time to make the dress. If so I’ll send her a pattern and the money and she can make it to fit tight on Mary E for I’m getting fat myself now (ouch, Mary E.!) I’ve gained about five or six pounds since I’ve been here. I’ll have to know whether she can tho so I can get to work myself on it if she can’t. If Mary E. will decide about hers and send the pattern to Martha – or rather tell me what kind of wedding it will be so I can select the pattern and get it to the girls they won’t be expensive.
Now I’m really not particularly concerned with what kind of wedding it is or where it is. I’m leaving it up to you. If you think it best we can just have the preacher drop by some afternoon on his way home and speak the words in our own living room – or I could even run off to a justice of the peace – except that the latter is not my idea of a wedding.
I know you’re thinking now – Doesn’t that girl know I have enough worries now without her adding any more? Yes, I suppose I do, but I can’t help it. Just think – after this you’ll be rid of me! When all that money-minded gang there starts fussing at you about me – why just laugh it off and tell them I always was as stubborn as a mule and twice as dumb and there is just no managing me, and since I’ve already made up my mind there’s no use in being unpleasant about it – ‘cause nothing will change me. And that it’s just my hard luck and I’ll have to do the worrying, etc. – and please don’t write back and try to discourage me. It’s too late. I’m twenty years old and capable of thinking up as many pros and cons as anyone else – and I’ve decided what I think is best – LeDuke had made up his mind long ago.
Please write to me immediately and tell me what you think we can do - the best date, place, etc. so I can tell you when to announce the thing – But please – do not try to find a picture to send with it. I don’t want a picture printed.
I know I’m making a lot of trouble for you – and that you have enough already – but I will appreciate you’re doing what you can without any expense – but I will not appreciate your spending money foolishly on the thing
Please write to me right now – or as soon as you can – and talk to Aunt Sallie. I would write to her now – I meant to, but I’ve written too much now and it’s 11:00.
Try not to think I’m too big an idiot – but then I’m tired of trying to be sensible.
Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)