Monday, March 19, 2007

Lives in Letters: Postcard from Brooklyn (2)

Here's a postcard I've been hanging on to for a while, written from a woman to her husband, just a year before the U.S. got into World War II.

Half Moon Hotel
Brooklyn, NY
October 10, 1940

Addressed to

Mr. Charles J. K-
Hawthorne, NJ

Printed on front of card:

Half Moon Hotel – The Only New York City Hotel on the Atlantic


Hello Honey
Feeling pretty good today.
Hope it is the same with
you. Every thing seems O. K.
Here it is Thursday and
while you are attending
the Novena, I will register
for the coming election.
May the better man win.
Yes Charles! Will be looking
forward for Sunday
morning about 11AM we will
go to the Holy Name Society.
So long now. Yours, Love, Marie

I started out thinking that Marie was on holiday at the Half Moon Hotel and sending a postcard back home to her husband. But the more I read this, the more I wonder -- how would she be registering for the election if she were away from home?

About that election, perhaps Marie was excited about a local race. Maybe her husband Charles was even a candidate.

But it's equally likely she was talking about the country's first 3rd term presidential election when Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for re-election against Wendell Willkie. Roosevelt promised the American people (who were hugely isolationist even at this late date) that no American boy would fight in a foreign war. But at the same time, as the fall of Paris and other events in Europe had started to change the tide of American opinion, Roosevelt began to visibly shore up America's military to prove himself ready to engage if needed. He was an extremely popular candidate, and just a few weeks after this postcard was sent, he would win his third term as President by a large margin.

Go here to see a film of Roosevelt signing the declaration of war in 1941.

What else was going on in October, 1940?

Well, the Yankees lost the pennant in 1940, for the first time since Joe Dimaggio joined the team. But that's okay because Marie and Charles were more likely Dodgers fans, being from Brooklyn.

In mid-September the first peacetime draft in U.S. history was signed into law.

Further from home, beginning September 7, the Germans bombed London for 57 straight nights. Click the link for a pretty impressive photo.

And just two weeks before this postcard was sent, Germany, Italy and Japan signed the pact that formally allied them as the Axis Powers.

Meanwhile, back on the homefront....

For all you non-Catholics or pathetically bad Catholics (like myself), a Novena is 9-day series of prayers and/or church attendance for the purpose of asking for a special blessing or favor from God. The Holy Name Society was most likely a women's club within Marie's church.

Updated theory:

October 1940 was the end of the New York World's Fair (1939-1940). I notice the postmark on this card and the write-up of the hotel that is on the back both mention the World's Fair. So my new theory is that Marie was staying on Long Island for a holiday after all. Though how she got to register to vote, I don't know. Perhaps it was an exhibit at the fair.

Go here for all sorts of good info on the 1939-40 World's Fair.


dshep said...

Every thing seems OK. Wonder what that was refering to? Are you sure they were husband and wife?

Nancy said...

Hmmm, I don't know. They were definitely a couple, but they might not have been married.

Everything seems OK might have been related to the World's Fair. IF Marie was at the fair, there was reason to be a little nervous. A bomb had been detonated at the fair just a few months before.

Of course, this might just be a stretch.

Paul said...


I write for a daily newspaper that covers Hawthorne, N.J. and I am interested in your "Lives in Letters" post.

I'd like to learn a bit more about how you came into possession of the postcard from Charles, and some of the interest it has generated.

Please contact me at the following email address:

Thank you,