I don't remember ever receiving a love letter from my husband, not even while we were dating.
Oh, I've gotten cards with professions of love and admiration written on the inside and sweet-nothings penned on pieces of paper. But I mean a real love letter that tells me how much he can't be without me, swears his undying love for me and can't wait until the next time we will be together.
Maybe I've been watching too many Jane Austen period English flicks lately, but there was a time when someone wanted to express their feelings for another they would put pen to paper and write a love letter.
There are many famous love letters penned by well-knowns, celebrities and even presidents to their partners. But these days, sadly, the art of a love letter has been lost. It has since been replaced with texts, emojis and notification on Facebook that you are in a relationship. We are in instant contact with someone through texts with responses in minutes and have no idea what it's like to wait days, or weeks, to receive word from a loved one.
But Amy Abbott does.
She had been gifted by her aunt love letters written 90 years ago by her grandfather, Carl Enz, to her grandmother, LeNore, that began during their “courting” in fall 1929 and end right before they were married in spring of 1931.
Abbott had forgotten she had the letters until she ran across them again about two years ago and decided she needed to do something with them.
Abbott, who grew up in Whitley County, decided to share the letters, which tell a tale of loss, separation, loneliness and day-to-day work life during the Depression, in a self-published book, “Always Carl: Letters from the heart and heartland.” The title came from how her grandfather signed his letters, “Always Carl.”
The letters themselves are not overly romantic. In fact, they more often than not just describe what kind of day Carl was having, his work and what the weather was like where he was working. (Most of the time it was real cold.)
You see, Carl was a field man in the agriculture industry and he traveled a lot in Indiana and Illinois. That meant being away from family for days and weeks at a time. He also had experienced heartache early in his life. Carl, who lived in Fort Wayne, lost his wife in 1928, two hours after their only child was born at Lutheran Hospital.
His parents kept the baby at their Fort Wayne home and Carl would see the baby when he was home on weekends and vacations. But in a twist of fate months after his wife's passing, he was taking his baby to an appointment at the hospital and Carl ended up meeting a second-year nursing student who was there the day of his wife's death and daughter's birth, according to Abbott's research.
Carl started courting LeNore Hoard and married her. A year later they had Abbott's mother.
“I can't believe how difficult it was for him,” Abbott says by phone from her Newburgh, Indiana, home. “He loses his wife in his late 20s with a baby and he has to move back in with his parents. He was pretty tough. He talks about being lonely a lot in the letters.”
Abbott says it surprised her to see her grandfather as vulnerable as he was in the letters. She says the family has never been an emotional one, adding that they would shake hands and not hug. “These are not letters he probably thought his grandchildren would be reading 90 years later,” she says.
It's the love story of a 29-year-old widowed, single father who begins to romance a 22-year-old farm girl who leaves her Whitley County home to start a rigorous nursing program in the big city. Along the way there are quarrels and concerns about LeNore “stepping out,” and even an ex-beau, Porter, who has several mentions. Will the relationship last the trials of being so far apart? The story definitely has all the makings of a Hallmark movie.
“You almost couldn't make it up,” but it's true, Abbott, 62, says.
Abbott was particularly touched by her grandfather's letter dated Sept. 21, 1930, which was his daughter's second birthday and of course, the anniversary of the day he lost his wife.
“You know, dear, just two years ago tonight I went through an experience that was certainly heart-breaking. The tears are coming freely, and the picture is here before me. I sure hope that I may never experience this again. I know how you feel toward me, and I am sorry that I talk this way, but dear, I sure get plenty of blues away from home and no mail from you all week. Dear, I am just wondering if you are sore at me.”
“That one brought me to tears,” Abbott says.
Other letters could be considered quite scandalous during those days. Such as this writing included in a letter dated Nov. 11, 1929: “Today was one long lonesome drive for me, sure wish you could help care for one of the company's field men or become a private nurse for me.”
And others included raw emotions such as this from a letter dated Dec. 10, 1929: “Wonder where you are this evening? No doubt you are on another case and will be unlucky enough to have all plans ready for the show, and then, well, you will be working. It all comes in a lifetime. To be with you and regardless of conditions means a lot to me, LeNore, awaiting the evening when we can be together again.”
Abbott only has one side of the love story. She never has seen her grandmother's letters. However, she believes her grandmother probably kept them as she was interested in preserving family history. Abbott remembers her grandmother recording oral histories of some of the old farmers at the library in Whitley County, as well as her own family stories. “All of my life she's telling me all these stories,” Abbott says. It was because of her that Abbott became interested in genealogy.
Her grandmother died 25 years ago. Her grandfather, who according to Abbott was a well-known Realtor in Fort Wayne, died in 1983. But the baby mentioned in the letters, Donna Ruth, well, she'll turn 91 this month.
Abbott talks to her once a week.
Abbott says the book is filled with history, including the number of hotels her grandfather stayed in. When possible, she included the hotel stationery that Carl's letters were written or typed on. Out of all the hotels he stayed in, only one is still open – the Hotel Severin in Indianapolis.
“This resonated with me because of something in my family,” she says, “and that's what history should do.”
She is giving copies of the book to area libraries and people can buy the book on Amazon.
It's an interesting look into the time and life of a couple who was just starting out and faced some of the same problems of many couples today. But what would a Hallmark movie be without a happy ending, or at least a hint to better times.
Letter dated March 25, 1931: “Well, dear, we will soon be together, and then our plans will be many, and our good times will also be many. Certainly, be glad when we get settled in our little home on Fairfield Avenue and have our little girlie with us. Dear, rest up and don't work too hard.
Terri Richardson writes about area residents and happenings that affect their lives in this column that publishes every other week. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 461-8304.