Monday, April 4, 2011

Amanuensis Monday:Of Perfume, Rationing, and Income Taxes

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

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

This week I transcribe a letter my grandfather, Martin Deutsch, received during the war from his sister-in-law, Frances. It was sent about a week prior to the letter I transcribed last week from his brother, Ted.

Tuesday Evening
March 2.
6 below zero.

Dear Martin;

Just rushed in for my supper from rationing at school and found that super-duper bottle of perfume in my mail box. Now I really have something to talk about when I go back on the evening shift. I’m torn between two desires – one, to hoard the precious stuff, and the other, a terrific urge to open it! Now see what a problem you have created for me? It was very very sweet of you, so I here-with extend my thanks – thank you, thank you.

We have been on a twelve hour shift issuing Ration Book No. Two to the public every day this week. It is really surprising to find such few hoarders as evinced by the low declarations of canned goods, coffee, and sugar. There is talk of Ration Book No. Three for clothes, and even No. Four, Five and Six. Some of the women got panicky and created a run on the stores in Chicago, fearing that clothes rationing is imminent. This resulted from the shoe rationing that was announced on a Sunday to prevent hoarding of shoes. Of course, living in a grand land of plenty, it is quite a drastic change for Miss America – but never fear – she can take it! We’re all anxious and willing (please God) in order to hasten our victory.

Ted, at this period, is in the throes of Income Taxes – up to his ears with about a hundred of them. At two dollars a piece, it will come in handy when Mr. Theodore confronts his own tax payment. Last week I spent an evening with Jean and her new husband. She seems quite happy and I am very glad for her sake. He is a man of means and this alone is comforting since Jean has not had an easy time. He is also a Hungarian which Ted thinks is a necessary complement to marriage. He is always kidding me about my Russian ancestry. However I’m quite proud of it now! I supposed you know by now that Al is attending some University in Virginia training for physical instructor. That was always his deep desire and I know that he will be very successful in that field. Do you know I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Al made the army his career? He seems quite the type. I have not heard from Ed but believe Ted has and from what he writes, Mother can expect Ed back soon. We saw Wally at Jean’s and really it was remarkable to note the change in the boy. He looks marvelous, -- has lost that flabby look, is trim, alert, and handsome. Bert and Herman were also there that evening with their little fellow – goodness, he got into more mischief! He is quite a personality. I wish I knew the recipe for concocting such a mite.

Martin Dear, take care of yourself and remember we think of you often.



1) Taken together, it's fun to see how both Frances and Ted wrote about the same subjects.  It's clear Ted wasn't just being polite when he said that Frances enjoyed the gift of perfume.  Frances also goes into greater detail on rationing, as well as providing more information on the families of my grandfather's siblings.

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