Love Letters, Chapter 1

My darling…

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In my quest to find a “happy mystery” (hopefully with a happy ending) I happened upon a set of love letters on ebay that I bid on and won. There are two letters, postmarked September 30, 1949 and October 4, 1949. (If you missed my previous post with pictures of the letters, view them here.)

I chose this particular set of letters (remarkably, there are many more for sale on ebay) because they’re from a woman in White Plains, New York, addressed to a doctor in Duluth, Minnesota. If you followed my Villa am Meer story, you’ll recall that Elena Duke Benedict, the owner of the Villa Am Meer property, was also born and raised in White Plains, New York, just like the author of these letters. And because I myself live in Minnesota… well, it just seemed like these were the letters I was meant to buy. Hopefully I can return them to their rightful owners.

To respect the author’s privacy, I am not including the full content of the letters. Suffice it to say, it seems the game of love was the same in 1949 as it is today. He loves me? He loves me not? I love him? I love him not? The author of the letters, “R. Ives,” questions John Van Duyn’s love for her, and seeks his reassurance. She views their relationship from every angle, analyzes past conversations, considers their future together, reads into every single word John Van Duyn says, and plots how she can change him into the perfect man. (Like I said, the dating game hasn’t changed much.) He, on the other hand, just wants to end the “word vomit” and tell her what she wants to hear. If only he could figure it out. Poor, simple soul.

We learn some clues to their personalities from these letters. The woman, “R. Ives,” was a tennis player and had just started working in the cosmetics department of Altman’s Department Store in White Plains. She was also a new Sunday School teacher at her church and trying to learn how to play bridge. It seems John Van Duyn was an avid bridge player and, in hopes of improving her game, had even given Ms. Ives his “Culbertson” (an instruction book written by world famous bridge player Ely Culbertson). His love of the game and her general lack of skill seemed to be a running joke between them.

By the second letter, it’s obvious that John Van Duyn had grown impatient with his girlfriend’s constant doubts and analysis. The couple appears to be on the brink of a break-up. Ms. Ives ends her letter by saying, “I think I’m beginning to accept you as you are, and I couldn’t love you more.”

So, who are these two people? Why was one living in White Plains, New York, and the other living in Duluth, Minnesota? Do they ever resolve their differences and get married?

Stay tuned to find out.

Read Chapter 2

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