Monday, June 8, 2009

Amanuensis Monday: The Post Office Inspector and the Stenographer - 1936

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

My grandfather, Martin Deutsch, began working for the Chicago Post Office in 1925 as a clerk while attending college. He received his law degree in 1931, and practiced law with his brother Ted for a few years part time while still employed with the post office. In 1933, he was promoted to Post Office Inspector, and in 1934 he was assigned to the St. Louis office where he met my grandmother, Myrtle Van Every, who was a stenographer. Apparently the sparks flew pretty quickly, as he writes in 1936 that they've been secretly seeing each other for two years.

Below is a letter he wrote to the Chief Inspector in Washington D.C. in November of 1936, after recovering from an attack of appendicitis.

Note the stenographer initials in the fifth line, they will be referred to in the letter.

Post Office Department
M.J. Deutsch
MV Saint Louis, Missouri, December 6, 1936

Mr. K.P. Aldrich,
Chief Inspector,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Aldrich:

It was pleasing to hear from you while I was in the hospital. The thoughtfulness and consideration shown by both you and Mr. Noah during my illness proved to be very encouraging and was greatly appreciated. Fortunately, while my attack of appendicitis was very sudden, it was not severe, and I apparently recovered almost as quickly as I became ill. I am now completely well and have returned to work. As usual after such an event, work for the first week or so will probably consist of telling everybody about “my operation.”

Mr. Noah told me that he was greatly shocked when he learned that I was in the hospital, but I think that he received even a greater jolt when I returned to work and told him that I was soon to be married. These two shocks should have been enough for any person at one time, but I didn't even stop there. For when I told Mr. Noah who the bride was to be, it was almost necessary to pick him up from the floor and revive him. However, when he had fully recovered he was certainly very enthusiastic in showing his approval and offered his hearty congratulations.

After all this preparation I hope that you will not also be too much overcome if I tell you that Myrtle Van Every and I are to be married. While this announcement appears to be sudden, it is in fact the result of long and close associations, as Myrtle and I have been seeing each other socially fairly regularly for the past two years. Because of our circumstances at the office, in order to avoid gossip and embarrassment, our associations have necessarily been kept secret, and they are not even now generally known except by a few close friends.

Myrtle and I have planned to be married on December 31st, after which we intend to take a leave of absence for approximately a month. Myrtle, of course, will resign at the expiration of her annual leave. Mr. Noah is aware of our plans which have his full approval. He told me that he is certainly sorry to lose a good stenographer, and Myrtle expresses a mutual regret at being forced to leave his employ.

I don't know what Mr. Noah can plan henceforth to insure permanency in his office force. I have heard that when he became Inspector in Charge he was averse to employing male clerks, because, an he expressed it, “Those dern fools always want to become inspectors as soon as they get a little larnin.” Now it seems the situation is just as critical if he secures women employees, because the darn fools will probably always want to get married. Myrtle says that to be a post office inspector would have been the prime ambition of her life, but of course not being able to achieve such a position she seems to be doing the next best thing by becoming the wife of an inspector. In these circumstances I can assure you that, while not officially on the payrolls, she will certainly still be in the service. For as you can see by the stenographer's initials appearing at the head of this letter, I have taken advantage of the situation and will no doubt continue to do so indefinitely and perhaps infinitely.

As we have indicated, our contemplated marriage is being kept a secret. Thus far you and Mr. Noah are the only ones aware of it, and we would like it to be kept quiet generally until the event has occurred. Of course, we would like for Mr. Gartland to know about it and we would appreciate it if you would mention us to him.

Myrtle and I both send our best regards end sincere greetings for the coming holidays.

Very sincerely,

Post Office Inspector.

I really enjoy this letter a lot - obviously for the insight it gives into my grandparents' secret office romance, but also how it reveals my grandfather's sense of humor.

They were married on December 31, 1936 - in Springfield, Illinois by a Justice of the Peace while they were driving to Chicago to attend the wedding of Martin's sister Bert. If it weren't for this letter, I might think the marriage was spontaneous. But it was at least planned for a month in advance.

If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post below, or in the comments.

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