Sunday, November 26, 2017

100 Years Ago – Thanksgiving 1917

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandparents, Loraine Gunzendorfer and Sig Levy, because I have all (or at least most) of the letters they wrote back and forth as they fell in love during the years 1916-1919.  Wow, these are all 100 years old and in such great shape it’s amazing.  So I thought it would be fun to take a look back at Thanksgiving weekend 1917 and read what they had to say to each other.

I knew that the week of Thanksgiving they had spent a few short hours together in Oakland and that Sig returned home to Fresno the day before Thanksgiving, which in 1917 was on November 29.  So I first picked up on Sig’s letter to Loraine on Thanksgiving Day, 1917. 

11_29_17 Envelope

Notice the number 31 in the top left hand corner?  Loraine not only left these letters for me, she numbered them so I’d know what order they were in without having to rely on the postmark.  Smart thinking, Grandma! 

And I love how the end is torn open – I can just imagine how anxious she was to receive this letter.  Back in those days, you didn’t even need a return address but Sig was kind enough to let her know just who had written the letter.

11_29_17 Envelope Back

And here’s a picture of the first page; however, the entire letter is transcribed with my comments in [ ].

11_29_17 page 1

November 29, 1917
8:30 pm

My dearest Loraine,

Well I'm back again, all alone after a most delightful few hours - honestly dear it was a wonderful visit. And now you have had your big party last night. Did you enjoy it a lot or did you long for a certain someone's company? [I doubt he really had to ask as even I know the answer to that]

You know that my going up really seems like a beautiful dream. It was so quick and pretty and did you enjoy it as much as I did. You told me yes and I'm so glad and only wish I could do it often. [I’m sure Loraine had the same wish]

Had a nice trip home - the train was crowded and had several extra coaches. I knew every nearly everyone on board but I kept rather quiet thinking hard of you, my little dear, who I left behind. I was wondering if you were happy [again, we know the answer to that] and if you went through the day's work alright. I know you did and that you retired early last night and had a fine sleep - did you? But you must have as I slept like a brick and believe me I was a little tired, as you know I covered quite a bit of ground.

Just finished a big Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's home [wish I knew which brother as he had three] a while ago. The entire two [which two?] families were there and I enjoyed it immensely. There was only one missing, dear, and that was you - and it made me think of we two at our cute little table at the Palace, all by ourselves with beautiful surroundings. [wouldn’t I just love to see a photo of that?]  Wasn't it a happy few hours and don't you wish it could have been perpetual. Pardon my writing Loraine as I bumped on to a bum pen or most likely I'm tired but I'm sure it's my punk writing but I must have some excuse for its poorness.

I'm not going to talk about the war as I must wait for news and I'll let you know just how things are progressing - until then we will try and forget it.  [It wouldn’t be long before they could no longer forget it] 

Listen dear - have you kept all the nice promises you made and are you going to do it always. That's a sweet girl, and I'll always bank on you for that.  [do I want to know what her promises were?]

I wish you could have seen the breakfast I ate when I returned to the Palace.  [Returned to the Palace?  So, just where did he spend the night if he got back for breakfast?] It was large enough for a giant, but I wasn't hungry until I returned after leaving you - I was too happy to be hungry. [awwww!] 

Didn't do hardly a thing until train time excepting that I called on a couple of business friends and also went out to visit one of my big clients who is ill at the St. Francis hospital. He appreciated it a lot and thanked me so much for coming. 

And then I met a load of different people that I knew at the hotel and chatted around until train time. I sure would get fat [one thing I could never picture is Sig fat] if I followed that life - but it can't be done.

Tomorrow it is back to the hard old labor and routine. I have been told that our new theater opened in a blaze of glory. 

I want to know Loraine, if you are wonderfully happy as I want you to be always, and remember that I am always close to you. And please make me your newest little partner. If it's anything whatever, you'll know Sig is always ready, won't you? 

And now I am a couple of letters ahead so I can't wait for the nice long loving letter I'm going to get.

I haven't been away from you but a few hours so don't know anything new, so goodnight my dear little girl, and heaps of love from 


and are we thankful on Thanksgiving? Yes.  [and I’m thankful you left these letters for me!]

And the next day, Loraine responded.

11_30_17 envelope
11_30_17 page 1

November 30, 1917
8:30 pm

My own Sweetheart 

Returned a few minutes ago from town where I have been bumming [one thing Loraine never did was “bum”].  There was no school today but I stayed there until 3, came home to get your letter and went down to get my tickets for matinee tomorrow. Am going to see “Pollyanna”, “The Glad Girl” hope she’ll have a good influence on me [boy did she love going to the theater].  Met one of the boys who was in our party last night and while we were discussing current topics on the corner of 14th and Broadway [funny that she was so specific about where they were], the third girl in the party came along. And I have spoke of visiting in Fresno, Myrtle Jacobs. [boy, that name sounds familiar]  And what do you think of her?  [was Grandma jealous?]

My dearest, we have an awfully good time last night. It was entirely different than Tuesday night – a small crowd. After dinner we went into the little ballroom and danced until 11:30. Some men invited fifteen soldiers to have dinner with him there so we all danced with them and it was a friendly affair. Of course, Tues night appealed to me more, because I had just you, I would not liked to have been alone with anyone last night, the big crowd was much better and we all had considerable “pep”. No, dearest, I didn’t drink anything and so far have kept my promises to you. [there we are with the promises again!]

I felt terribly blue all day Wednesday because I missed you so and you weren’t out of my thoughts a minute. And I wasn’t happy – I am afraid that I am selfish as I wished so hard that you could have stayed indefinitely but shall try to think that everything will come out for the best, as you say, it should and must.

Am glad you enjoyed Thanksgiving – we had a nice little dinner at the house [this would have been the home of her Great Uncle Sam Steen and his wife, Rachel] and then I had another at night, so you see I was a sport. Mother phoned at noon to see how I was and we enjoyed a nice little chat. 

Aunt Lena said she met Mrs. Shumann [this might have been the mother of Sig’s sister-in-law, Madeline Schuman, who was married to Herb Levy] on the street the day she went down and she said something about you coming up to take me to a dance and wanted to know what I was like and all about me. Did she say anything to you, Sig? So you see we can never do anything but the whole world knows it [Fresno was a smal town]. But we should worry about it.

Dear, the lady that won the prize in the second elimination dance won a saffire [sic] and pearl pin – pretty nice, wasn’t it. Someone told me what it was.

Really, sweetheart, it seems just like a dream to me that you were up here. I keep thinking about Tuesday night and wondering if it all happened [do I want to know the details of what happened?] – guess it must have or I wouldn’t have even the memory of it.

I’d love to hear from you oftener than twice a week – shall we make it three times?  [Twice a week seems like a lot but times were different then]

Will write a long letter next time, this is just hastily written. 

Remember that I love you – my own and I know you love me, so we should both be happy. [I’d say they were both definitely happy] 

Lovingly,Your own


What a beautiful time in their lives and I feel so honored that they chose to share it with me, even if it was indirectly.  Oh how I wish I could have talked to them about it.

And just because I love to visualize (as my dad would say) things, I think of Loraine reading the letters from a very special beau.  They were so in love – who knew?

Loraine reading

Note to self:  Get back to transcribing these letters!


  1. These are so sweet and innocent and moving. Can you remind me of how old they were at this time? And why was Loraine calling her mother, not spending Thanksgiving with her? Was she in college?

    As for the promises and where Sig slept on Tuesday night, we can all just use our imagination, can't we? ;)

    1. Loraine was 23, Sig was 29. Loraine was going to business school and living with her aunt and uncle a few hours away so I'm guessing it wasn't a long enough break to travel home for the holiday.

      I'm not sure I want to use my imagination on the other :-)

  2. LOL! I don't blame you! Thanks for the additional information.