Friday, August 16, 2019

Mystery Bovina letter

I found this letter in a collection at the Delaware County Historical Association not long after I started working there in 2011. A quick skim excited me because I recognized several of the names. When I had a chance to read it in full, my excitement turned to perplexity and confusion. It apparently was sent from Rochester to someone named Linda (though the writer first wrote ‘Sophelia’ then crossed it out and wrote ‘Linda’). The writer describes a visit to Bovina in 1945. Unfortunately, the letter is not signed, so we do not know who sent it. I present the whole letter here, though about a third of it talks about non-Bovina items. Folks who knew Bovina in this time period, or even those who have known it only recently, will not recognize the Bovina described here. Those who attended my May 4 Historian program will recognize this letter.

81 Riverside St.
Rochester, NY
May 22, 1945

My dear Linda Sophelia,

Well I am sitting here by the window watching the sunbeams crawl across the floor and I really believe I’ve been nodding. So I will arouse myself and tell you something of my visit back home. I had some precautions about starting on such a trip because of my rheumatism but really it did me lots of good. My roommate helped me get my suitcase packed and really I was as excited as I used to be when getting ready to go for spin in a car to some of the parties in the old days. And really how quickly autos have gone out of style. Why when we came through Waltonian City we were told that there was only two garages left in the city and they were making a bare living. I took passage on the Chautauqua-Hancock Line and found I have not been losing weight. I tipped the scales at two hundred sixty-three. On our Eastern aeroplanes the fare is averaged by the weight. Our pilot said it was a smooth air for flying but just at first I didn’t enjoy the queer sensation. Among the first-class passengers I thought I recognized a familiar face and I’ll bet you could never guess who it was! Perhaps if I described her a bit you could guess. Well she was tall and thin and didn’t look a day older. There was that quiet serenity about her face that gave you a rested feeling. But then you know Annabel always had a sympathic heart anyway. There now I’ve told you. Well never mind. We had a good visit. I tried to lead her to tell me about her work but this much I learned, she is the head matron in the Bloomfield Memorial Orphanage at Cooperstown. She was returning from Roxburg with a couple of little waifs. She has kept advancing until she is invaluable to the Institution. She was telling me that one of our old chums visited her last week. You’ve surely heard your mother speak of Carry Dumond. Well Annabel says she stayed five years in the Albany Hospital as surgical nurse. There was a young doctor there by the name of Snodgrass, who suffered terribly from heart trouble. Well Carrie was interested in the case, and after a few years took it as a life lease. He has improved wonderfully and has a good practice at Trout Creek. They have three lovely children, two boys and a girl. The youngest boy she had with her. They had been visiting the oldest daughter who lives at Garrattsville. This girl married Arthur Decker Jr.

Well Annabel’s journey was at an end. We had gone only a short distance when one of the wings loosened and we had to stop at Cattsville for repairs. I went out for a stroll. As this was a strange city I didn’t venture far. But after I turned the first corner this sign attracted me.

“If you want something fine,
Drop in a quarter, come and dine.”
Prop. Smithie and Co.

So I went in to have a cup of tea. It was one of those new fangled restaurants and I didn’t know what to do. So I sat down by the door. Pretty soon a fat little lady with a red nose came and showed me to a seat. Something about her manner set me to thinking so I asked her name. Well if it wasn’t Freda Jocelyn! I was just dumb founded! She insisted on my staying all night and as I was about fagged out I just laid aside my bonet. She and her husband have a three thousand dollar business and are doing nicely. She’s a little dull of hearing but aside from that she’s as chirper as a cricket.

The next morning I started on my way again and soon reached the city. You know it’s no longer called Bovina Center now it’s a city (Brushland) the former Indian name has been given. I shouldn’t have known the place. I stopped with Nelle Robinson. They live at what formerly used to be Lake Delaware. She has changed so you’d hardly know her. She’s so much stouter. I guess she doesn’t get weighed any more. They are living in luxury and spend much of their time traveling. Eleanor is married (a salesman) I believe and lives in Baltimore.

I was surprised to find Arthur Decker employed near there. He is motorman on one of Hook Trolley Lines. One afternoon we went over to visit Beulah. I didn’t know they had such a large family.  Four of the eleven children are still at home. They youngest are twin boys and very mischievous. They are a happy family. Grandfather Decker is hale and hearty yet. He said the had been up in the lead mine the day before. You perhaps know the rumors about the old Indian Tunis and the lead mine. It has been a great boom for the city. Only twenty years and still there’s lots of rich mining. Henry Monroe is one of the foreman in the mine. He and Ruth have a nice home on Platford Square.

Quite near them living Charlie and Hildreth. They are both quite feeble and spend most of their time with their children. Charlie walks with a cane. They spend their winters in Florida. Hildreth has been doctoring with one of the city specialists. She has a new disease called “tattinet.”

Then one afternoon we went to see Shirley. She lives in the north end of the city in a large white house. She took a dentist course you remember and located at Yankee Town. One day when she was extracting one of Guy Rocky’s false teeth she strained the muscle of her right arm. That’s three years ago. The arm gradually became smaller. She consulted many physicians and finally found a soothing French ointment called Re-Storie. George has some business on Scat Avenue. Shirley is just as bashful and quiet as ever.

Louise Young went to Norwich as a telephone operator. She married a lawyer and lives at Harvard now.

Viola Russell lives in a house on Pink Street. She has been married three times, her last husband being a sea captain and very rich. However she hasn’t let wealth turn her head. Two children are still with her.

Harold and Hazel had just moved back to spend their days near the scenes of their childhood. They have a fine family. Hazel is suffering from the gout and has to keep her foot up on a chair most of the time. Harold is a member of a Wholesale and Retail business firm.

Rob Hunt is drawing a pension for long and faithful service at the City Milk Station. They have a lovely home in the east end of the city. They have five sons all but one living in the west. There is also one adopted daughter. Robert leads the City Band. Robs long white whiskers made him look so different. Nelle had a severe attack of “auto fever” so now she wears a wig. But both are well and happy.

I enjoyed every minute of my visit. Many familiar faces were gone and many new ones in their places. That is the way of the world. However I was glad to get back to “The Old Ladies’ Home” again.

If a spinster, you’re doomed to be, come to the Old Ladies Home by paying your fee.

Well there’s the supper gong.


Here's the first page of this mystery letter. I'm hoping someone might recognize the handwriting.

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