Friday, January 01, 2010

Before Twitter (II)

My mother’s Aunt Mary, born four years before my grandfather, became the family’s historian. Before that, though, she spent time in India. In September 1925, she wrote this note to my grandfather, who was still in Laramie:

Envelope printed Girls’ High School, Dehra Dun, U.P., with handwriting “M. DeWitt” above and “India” below, addressed to Mr. Douglas H. De Witt, Certain-Teed Products Corporation, Laramie, Wyoming U.S.A.

Girls’ High School
Dehra Dun, U.P., India

Sept. 1, 1925

Dear Dud,

Hold your breath, remember you’re an uncle now and must be able to rise to most any occasion and stand most any shock, and may be you won’t have to send for the smelling salts when you realize this is a letter from the worst correspondent you have! Nowadays all my friends have given me up as hopeless and stopped writing to me so I’m making a grand splurge and getting all my letters answered. But, honest Injun, Dud, I’ve thought of you a lot, and besides I rather like writing letters, but I’ve been so horribly busy and my eyes have been the limit so I’ve really not been able to write for I had to use my eyes for school work and [that] was enough of a strain and too much most of the time. I happen to have a very easy schedule this term (for the first time in the history of India) so I’m getting some Urdu books read for an exam and also am writing letters.

How do you like the mountains? It must be fairly cool in Laramie at this time of year. Lansdowne, the hill-station a few miles from Dehra, is about the altitude of your town but is not quite as cold, I imagine. The highest I’ve ever been was something over 12,000 feet. That was this June when Shirin and I went over the snow mts. from Pahalgam in the Lid[d]ar Valley of Kashmir to Sonamarg in the Sindh Valley. Plenty of thrills on that trip. It surely was glorious, though, that day up in the snow peaks—dazzling whiteness as far as one could see, breathtaking heights—blinding sunshine. We saw the shepherd folk with their large hers of sheep and goats crossing seemingly impossible heights over trackless wastes of snow. We took off our hats to that brave crowd. I like mountain climbing, especially in Kashmir where one takes risks, rather, but sees such wonderful places.

Dehra is a little valley shut in by the Himalayas and the S[i]waliks. At this time of year it is green and luxurious as to vegetation but frightfully hot and steamy as to weather. It rains continually and in such torrents that umbrellas and raincoats are useless and one just has to stay indoors. Of course it doesn’t rain every minute but it seems as thought it always rains at recreation hour. Last night, wonder of wonders, was a perfect moonlight night. Someone had been optimist enough to plan a moonlight drive for the whole staff and we surely enjoyed it. We went in “fituns” (phaetons) and drove out to cantonments where there are few houses and the air is cooler than in the city.

Will you be home next year? I don’t know when I’ll be coming—sometime within a year. I can hardly wait to see the small namesake of yours in Oradell. Do you feel the same way?

Please don’t take as long to answer as I did, Dud. At this rate we’ll be strangers. I’d awfully much like to know about life in Laramie and the Oradell folks write so little about you as of course I suppose they think we have a wireless or something. Thanks for the checque that came with your letter for my 1924 birthday. You must have thought I didn’t appreciate it but I surely did and am ashamed of myself for not writing to thank you. I care more for the thought than the gift anyway. That silly Albany bank wouldn’t cash it, I don’t know why. I forgot to write you about it.

Well, the breakfast bell rang about five minutes ago so I’d better present myself at the table. We have tea or milk and toast at six and breakfast at eleven. Isn’t that a hilarious plan? I’m usually starved by eleven o’clock.

Lots of love to you,


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