Summer

July 25, 1938

Dearest Ha,

Received your letter, about time. Don’t faint when you see the postage on this letter but I’m here at last, Lake Ronkonkoma. If I weren’t sure of going till Saturday night. Lil Bretz and Schulman, Jeanne, Evelyn, Lil’s sister-in-law, Irene, and myself are here. Boy! Am I happy now except for – 

Well, I’m glad to hear you are all well, anyhow. I guess I still miss you, alright! Alright! I do. My! But you write nice letters. You’ll have to write more letters  often. Hmmm! Annamae delivered your message. Thanks a lot. I was rather disappointed at not going out to your place. But this was the only week the girls could go out. As for being lonesome, I guess I am. Now, I get some satisfaction with the others as they’re away from their honeys also, but not as long as I have been away from you.

Annamae told me of the terrible storms you had out there. My goodness, if I was there I’d be six feet under today. (Boy! I bet you’re sorry I wasn’t there.) So far, we’ve had swell weather here. Perhaps we will be out to your place this coming Sunday – I hope so. Gosh! I’ll forget what you look like (God forbid, not that). How could I ever forget that face? Ahem! Well, Honey, hoping you’ll write soon as I’m anxious to hear from you again, I’ll close.

Yours truly, 

swoon!     xxxxx Love with kisses

Loretta (chubby)

P.S. Ha, answer as soon as you can so I can have the pleasure of reading (ahem!) your letter while at the lake.

Address:

Loretta Reilly

To Helen Hunt

Lake Ronkonkoma

Long Island

In Seaford, Harold was eager to have Loretta as his girlfriend – his steady girl – and the summer of 1938 seemed like the perfect time to act. He found himself sitting outside by a fire, his brother – his best friend – close by – thinking about just how swell everything felt in that moment. The water was calm that day, and even though it was the end of August the setting sun felt just as hot as it had been in July. It was the summer that would never end. 

“Do ya think we’ll always have summers like this, Ha?” Artie leaned far back into his seat and stretched his legs out in front of him by the fire. “You think we’ll always be able to feel so free?”

“I’d say so, Otz.” Harold took a sip of his beer. He leaned over the side of his chair to grab another piece of wood to throw onto the fire. “Someday.”

“You and Loretta Reilly are getting pretty serious,” Artie said with a smirk. He shook his beer can at Harold, spilling a little on the grass.

“Sounds like it’s your beer talking. But yes, I love that girl. Truly. She speaks her mind, she’s courageous, and those legs!” Harold exhaled, enamored.
“Don’t make me jealous now or I’ll start to impersonate you.” Harold laughed as Artie did a melodramatic impression of a boy in love.

“You won’t want to impersonate me when I’m in the Army, saving lives, and you’ll be on a boat somewhere.” 

“You’re right,” Artie agreed, “I’d rather be on a boat than in the mud somewhere.”

“I’m thinking planes, actually.” Harold looked up at the sky. Empty except for the stars. 

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Big engines, and the freedom of it all.” 

“That does sound nice, brother. Me, free on the water and you, free in the skies.” Artie was solemn for a moment, rare for him. He looked into the bonfire and finished the last of his beer. 

“Well,” Harold began, “we’ve got a long day of not doing a whole lot of anything tomorrow. I’m off to bed. You boys put the fire out, would ya?” Harold dumped the remainder of his beer out next to his chair and took the empty can with him as he walked up to the cottage. 

He was made aware of the sunburn on his shoulders as it held him in a tight embrace with the creeping chill of a summer night. He thought of Loretta, and how school was about to start for her again. She was going to be sixteen in a couple of weeks. He planned to make her his girl and celebrate – somewhere nice, nicer than the dozens of movie dates and ice cream shop visits. He’d saved some money up working in the sewers of Manhattan just for the occasion. Harold then thought of Arthur outside, warming himself by the fire. He thought about how they knew they were both destined to be military men, and although it would be an excellent journey, they would be the farthest apart they’d ever been. 

Budding Love

The tall, narrow homes and straight brick buildings of Jamaica, Queens stood in neatened order like soldiers at attention. Each structure was uniform on the outside, save for little window boxes, a chain link fence, or the occasional vegetable garden. Inside the homes of Jamaica were varied with families bustling about, doing what daily tasks could be done in the Depression. Children ran barefoot, played hide and seek, or searched for an open space to play stickball. The Reilly family was one brood with five children – there were six, but the youngest passed away when he was very small. The Reilly children were known for having a mother on the police force – something not common. They were also known for swiping potatoes from the kitchen when their mother was at work and roasting them in back alleys and eating them plain. 

Only a few houses down from the Reilly’s, in an identical structure, was the Schwerdt family. The mother and father, both German immigrants who left before the first World War, raised a family of ten children, the youngest two being identical twins. The twin boys had bright red hair and bright blue eyes and their own mother was unable to tell them apart. Their father, John, was a brewer – and at one point a milkman – but in the economic downturn of the United States, his skills as a brewer were in great demand from the general working class. His wife, a homemaker, spent her days making and repairing clothes and raising ten children. 

This tangle of youths, generally unsupervised – especially in the summer months – made the most of their time by adventuring outside and exploring what there was to do for free in the Great Depression. They ran around in dirtied clothes, equal parts oblivious and affected by the poverty that haunted most families in the 1930s, not just the children of immigrants. 

One of the German twins, Harold, made his way to the playground at the end of the block. Oftentimes it was crowded with other children, but on this particular evening there seemed to be only a smattering of playmates. The sun sank behind the brick horizon that New York made as he reached a swing set occupied by one other.

“Hello,” the young girl said as he sat down on a swing, leaving one between them. “I like your hair.”

Harold felt himself blush. She was very pretty, maybe fourteen years old to his sixteen. 

“Thank you. I’m Harold. What’s your name?”

“Loretta,” she replied. The children sat in a comfortable silence, peppered by the squeak of swing chains, the scuff of dust below their feet, and the occasional honk of traffic. They learned their homes were very close, and Loretta believed she saw Harold a week earlier, down by an ice cream shop.

“Oh, that was probably Arthur, my identical twin. Y’know our own mother can’t tell us apart?” 

Loretta laughed. “Wow, identical twins. You must do everything together.” 

“Well, most things. He’s more of a prankster. My mother says I’m too serious for my age.” 

In the distance, towards the low glow of the setting sun, “Dinner!” was called. Loretta stirred a moment before hopping off her swing. 

“That’s my mother. It was nice meeting you.” 

“Maybe you can find me by the ice cream shop one day, and I’ll buy you a cone,” Harold said. He stood to tip his head to Loretta, and from the opposite direction of the block he heard, “Abendessen!” 

Loretta wrinkled her eyebrows. Harold shrugged a little and chuckled, a little embarrassed.  

“German. It means dinner.

“Oh,you speak German?”

“No, not really,” he admitted. “Our parents prefer us to speak English. But when my siblings and I are out and we hear someone hollering German, we know it’s our mother.”

“That is very clever,” Loretta laughed, “and ice cream sounds lovely.”

The two agreed to meet again at the playground towards the end of that week and before he left Harold took Loretta’s hand in his to shake.

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Loretta Reilly.”

“Likewise, Harold Schwerdt.” She pronounced his name Schwartz but he didn’t dare correct her. Harold believed, at sixteen, that he found love at first sight.

July 13, 1938

Dearest Harold,

I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. I was surprised you wrote so soon. Well, since your first topic was about the weather, I’ll be a copycat. At eight o’clock, Monday morning I was awakened by a large crash of thunder. What a storm it sent everyone out of their beds. It rained off and on all day, so I stayed in. Tuesday, I got up at ten thirty and it was so warm, I sat around and listened to the radio all day. Tuesday night Evelyn, Lil, and I went to see Albie. He has a heavy cold. Today, I got up at ten thirty and helped around the house, then to the playground. I stayed there about an hour then came home. Tonight, I went to a meeting, then to Nachlin’s. Later, Harry took several of us including Lil, Betty, Gert, Ed W., Eppie, and myself to the night baseball game on Hillside Ave. I go in at 11:30 and boy! Did I get a balling-out.

Now, I must ask you how is everyone, if they look as well as they did Sunday. They are swell. Oh! Pardon me. How are you? As far as missing you, I do (not). Hoping to see you soon I’ll close. 

Affectionately yours,

Your Honey (I hope)

Loretta (chubby in your eyes)

P.S. “The Old Gag.” Excuse pencil and paper writing –

Also, give regards to the family. 

(the perfume is my sister’s) xxx