28 January 2013

When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 1

When my father died in 2002 and my mother began her precipitous decline (dying eight months later) my brother and I began the arduous task of cleaning out the house. In my mother's dresser drawer I found a packet of twelve envelopes containing letters my father had sent her during their courtship. The letters are sweet and humorous, completely reminiscent of my father's personality. They are a wonderful chronicle of the beginning of their enduring love-affair.
In honor of what would be my parents 66th anniversary on February 9th, I will be posting a letter each day along with an annotated transcription adding additional insights and explication.

My mother, nee Norma Circe Wilson, wasn't one to feign inability in some coquettish notion of fetching femininity. On their first date, a bowling outing set up by my father's first cousin Annette Garber (my mother's friend from Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York), my mother out-scored my father. [1] He was smitten.

My father, Bernard (Sonny) Garber, was in the Army Air Corps training for his eventual deployment to Rattlesden, England and he and my mother did not have contact, apparently, for about two and a half years. When he returned to the States and he took leave back in Brooklyn, New York, he called her and they dated. This first letter, from 25 June 1945, was written from the base Chanute Field, Illinois (about 130 miles south of Chicago), shortly after his stay in Brooklyn.

Monday June 25, 1945

Dear Norma,

  Two and a half years ago I told you that I would write and here I am. You must admit I don't go back on my promises even if it did take a little time.

  Seriously, it was nice seeing you and I was hoping that I would get one more weekend at home. As luck would have it, they decided to speed up the process and I find myself out here. [2] 

  I arrived here late last night and haven't had much of a chance to find out everything but I imagine I won't mind this place too much. In this place I have really returned to the army routine of reveille and calisthenics but I'll get used to it again. The one compensation is that we are only 110 miles from Chicago and I will be able to go to that fair city occasionally. Here I shall take a specialist course in airplane instruments which should help me in the army and possibly in civilian life, too. A discharge seems very remote although that is foremost in my mind.

  How is my little numerical juggler getting on? [3] Fine I hope. I spoke to my mother before I left A.C. and she told me that she saw you. What are you doing these days?

  Well, Wilson I'll say bye now and be good. If you get some time drop me a line but please don't take as long as I took.

                                                                                            So Long
1. Annette Garber (1922-1996) was the daughter of Max and Mary Garber.
2. The return address on the envelope is:
T/SGT. B. Garber 12057376
Sq K BKs 428
Chanute Field, ILL
3. Norma Wilson worked as a bookkeeper.

Other posts in this series: 
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 2  
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 3 
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 4 
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 5 
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 6
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 7
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 8
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 9 
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 10
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 11
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 12
When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: 66th Wedding Anniversary  


  1. Emily, I love the way you decided to commemorate your parent's anniversary! Can't wait to read more about their romance!

    1. Thank you Smadar. The letters make me smile and, sometimes, cry. I'm so glad my mother saved them.

  2. What a lovely commemoration. I look forward to the series.

    1. Thank you for comment, Susan. They are very meaningful to me and my brother. But, of course, we knew the principals. I hope they are as interesting to others.


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