29 January 2013

When Bernie (Sonny) met Norma: Courtship Letters, 2

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.

Wednesday, July 4, 1945

Dear Norma (Circe) [1]

    As you probably notice, the above date is July 4, usually a holiday. Due to the critical times and the war we are carrying on in our usual routine manner. I don't expect to shorten the war or save another man from loss of life and limb because I am doing absolutely noting. Doing nothing is not too hard to take but it becomes pretty old. Such are the exigencies of war.

    I received your most welcome letter yesterday and I am now making this feeble attempt to reply. I hope this letter reaches you before you go on your vacation.

    Regarding my name, it really doesn't matter, you can call me anything you like. On second thought I retract that last sentence. There is no telling what you may decide. [2]

    Your plans for a vacation sound pretty good and you ought to have a fine time. I did that same thing before I came in the army and had a very enjoyable time. Being the pampered brat that you are it will do you good to get out and away from all the comforts. Seriously, have a good time and tell me all about it. I mean about the pitching tents.

    Yes, I have enough points to get out but I am afraid it is a long process. Not being a professional soldier I am bucking for it but I believe I missed my chance upon arrival in the states. Being an incurable pessimist It won't be dissappointment [sic]. However, I have an appointment with an officer next monday [sic]. I am quite sure I can raise my points but I am skeptical about a discharge. Oh well, what's a few years in my young life.

    My set up right now is typically army. I live in regular army barracks and I am fairly comfortable as far as quarters. Of course, it is a long way from Atlantic City but who expects luxury all the time. My social life is limited to the movies and an evening drinking beer. We have a very nice club and I am down there almost every night. We have a beer bar, a juke box, snack bar, and dance floor. The feminine membership is limited to a few very horrible Wacs, so I drink beer. I went to town once and that was to the neighboring town of Champagne, Ill. It is a sleepy rural town of 23,000 and nothing much in the way of life.

    I have just finished "Black Boy" by Richard Wright and "Come and Get It" by Bennett Cerf. I found them both interesting in a different manner. "Come and Get It" was just a book of anecdotes and very amusing in spots. You may have read both of them.

    I am just awaiting the start of school and as I said before I do nothing during the day. Things are very indefinite so I really can't say anything on that account.

    The weather here has been rather warm, too. We have a pool on the post and I may run down there one of these days. The other night we had a freak chill and I froze for lack of covers. When I finally did get more blankets the weather returned to normal.

    I can't blame you for not enjoying the beach as it must be plenty crowded, hot and dirty. It would be nice to take a car out to some beach on the Island and enjoy a nice day on the beach. [3]

    I don't mind Mishofsky coming along on our dates, as long as I am around to chaperon you. However, if he insists on on [sic] hanging around after I am gone that's another story. Tell him the wrath of a Garber is upon his head. Anyway what does he have that I haven't got. [4]

    I'll bring this crudely constructed epistle to a screeching halt. Be good and take care of yourself.
                                                                                                     As ever


1. My mother loved her Liebross (maternal) uncles and was especially fond of Uncle Jerry Liebross. She said that it was he who decided her middle name should be Circe - the enchantress who turned men into pigs. She was quite proud of that name, actually. And, my father, obviously, thought it amusing.
2. My father got his nickname Sonny from his sister Leah Garber Eisenberg (1917-2006). Leah was only 16 months older than her brother and when she was little had trouble saying his name. She started calling him "Sonny" and it stuck. All his relatives called him (and still refer to him as) Sonny. My mother, however, thought it would be odd to call her boy friend "Sonny." It's too bad we do not have her letters, but I believe she expressed that concern and his response was in this paragraph. She always referred to him as Bernie or Bern and all those who met him after his marriage knew him as Bernie.
3. Throughout my childhood and throughout their lives on Long Island, Bernie and Norma rented a locker or cabana at Lido Beach every summer, first at private beach clubs and later, at a Nassau County facility developed after the private clubs had been bought out by the County and the Town of Hempstead. Usually, my parents went in with friends &/or neighbors on the rental and all our families would spend time together. The mothers and their kids would go to the beach every summer day and the fathers would join their families on the weekends. My father worked a half day on Saturday and we would usually wait for him to get home before we headed to the beach for the rest of the day.
4. I have no idea who this Mishofsky is. I cannot even find anyone with this name (or a close spelling of this name) and from this time period on Ancestry.com. If anyone has any concept, let me know.

Posts in this series:
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. I wonder if Mishofsky is someone your mother knew from school, from work or the neighborhood? My reasoning is that it would have to be someone in the area where your mother was at the time.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Carol. Good idea. Brooklyn is a big place but one should always start close to home. He also appears to be someone with whom my father was somewhat acquainted.


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