They Don’t Write ‘Em Like That Anymore

“The bride is the beautiful and accomplished daughter of Mr. and Mrs. ‘Bud’ Hancock of Kathleen, and loved and admired by all who know her.  The groom is a young man of good business ability and exemplary habits.”

“Mr. Holcomb is a splendid young man who is esteemed by his employer and the public alike, while Miss Hancock is a strikingly handsome young lady with charming manners which will add greatly to Bartow’s society.  The Record, without being a matchmaker, always feels more than a passing interest in the young people who marry.”

“The charming bride spent last winter in Lakeland…during which time she endeared herself to a large number of friends who wish for the young couple life’s richest blessings…  In choosing her for a life companion, the groom could have made no better choice.”

What a smile I recently got out of reading the above excerpts from newspaper accounts of my great-grandparents’ wedding day in September 1909.

While I didn’t really believe the editors of those long ago papers were as emotionally invested in the fate of the new couple as they seemed, there’s a sweet sentimentality that made me momentarily wistful for a time in which such a description, even of a quiet home affair attended only by the immediate family and a reverend, was the norm.

And as I continued to pore over my maternal grandmother’s scrapbook and long ago small town comings and goings, I couldn’t help thinking, “They just don’t write ’em like that anymore.”  Such as:

…The chuckle-worthy tale of B.J. Hardaman, fish camp owner and local market supplier, who found a permanent cure for his health issues by quitting his job…to cast a rod:  “Hardaman says he was doing ‘pretty good’ until Dr. Leslie Biggs. changed his mind.  He said that he was having stomach trouble, so he went to see Dr. Biggs to see what the trouble was.  ‘Dr. Biggs told me that I was eatin’ too much junk…and was workin’ too hard.  He said that there wasn’t any medicine that would cure me, but if I closed up [the restaurant he owned] and just went fishin’ I wouldn’t have no more trouble.  Well, that was on a Friday afternoon and Monday morning I was on the lake fishin’ and I been doing it ever since.’  Hardaman was quick to add that he hadn’t had any stomach trouble since then either.”

…M.D. Trotter’s 3:00 a.m. encounter with “an ungainly animal in the moonlight,” as detailed in “Jaxon Bags Armadillo On His Lawn.”  While the snippet notes cuisine experts as claiming the creature’s flesh was “good,” Trotter passed on the idea of later popping it in his oven.

…The unfortunate fate of my great-uncle’s truck, “gracefully diving into the lake” after he turned his back on it to set up flares by a storm-downed, potentially traffic-blocking tree:  “It took Carl Merrill’s wrecker and our local diver, Charles Harris, to recover the vehicle, which P.W. discovered wasn’t amphibious after all.”  Truly, no good deed goes unpunished, Uncle Paul.

…The obituary of one Dr. W.L. Ashton, “friend to the friendless and champion to the unfortunate,” of whom it was touchingly claimed he “brought renewed vigor, a fresh interest in life and the courage to meet the daily round of irritating concerns and duties with newborn hope, hope that opened a new vista to happiness.”

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind having a physician like that.

* * * * *

In an age of email, Twitter and Facebook, it’s been lamented that the love letter is a dying if not dead breed.  Does anyone write ’em like this anymore?

“You are not only the solar spectrum with the seven luminous colours, but the sun himself, that illumines, warms, and revivifies!” trumpeted French actress Juliet Drouet to writer Victor Hugo in 1836.  “This is what you are, and I am the lowly woman that adores you.”

What a sense of superiority that must have given to the author of classics “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and “Les Miserables”!  The striking thing about Drouet’s effusions is not merely her choice of words, but the fact that she continued to express herself in such lyrical fashion for over half a century.  I (and I’m sure many other writers) would love to know how she kept from running out of things to say.

“The last of your kisses was ever the sweetest, the last smile the brightest, the last movement the gracefullest.”  Could Fanny Brawne, immortalized as the beloved of John Keats, really have continued to fear the poet did not love her “so much as you wish” upon receiving such a proof of his devotion?

Of course, there’s always the flip side of the coin…

“Although a graduate of the University of California, the bride is nonetheless an extremely attractive young woman.”  So ran an Oakland, CA newspaper account of Phi Beta Kappa Lillian Moller’s wedding to Frank Gilbreth, of “Cheaper By the Dozen” fame.

“Lake County Car Struck by Negroes in Light Truck”… “The negroes claimed they turned to Mr. Brantley’s right to avoid his car”… an identification of one of the drivers as “Virgil Pope, Tampa negro.”  Fortunately such lines would hardly make it past an editor today.

But I did have to smile, if wryly, at the 1947 article about my great-aunt and her modern kitchen, not only “planned and constructed to reduce the traditional drudgery of meal preparation,” but “aimed at a high level of attracting women into this vital spot of their housekeeping.”  Is anyone else picturing a hungry, disgruntled husband lurking behind the scenes of said design?

My great-aunt in her model modern kitchen.

My great-aunt in her model modern kitchen.

Finally, this 1887 gem about the destruction of the large resort Hotel Del Monte in Monterey,  CA, penned by someone who would undoubtedly flunk a modern headline writing course:

“HUNGRY, FRANTIC FLAMES.  They Leap Madly Upon the Splendid Pleasure Palace by the Bay of Monterey, encircling Del Monte in Their Ravenous Embrace From Pinnacle to Foundation.  Leaping Higher, Higher, Higher, With Desperate Desire.  Running Madly Riotous Through Cornice, Archway and Façade.  Rushing In Upon the Trembling Guests with Savage Fury.  Appalled and Panic-Striken the Breathless Fugitives Gaze Upon the Scene of Terror.  The Magnificent Hotel and its Rich Adornments Now a Smoldering Heap of Ashes. The Examiner Sends a Special Train to Monterey to Gather Full Details of the Terrible Disaster.  Arrival of the Unfortunate Victims On the Morning’s Train – a History of Hotel  del Monte – the Plans for Rebuilding the Celebrated Hostelry – Particulars and Supposed Origin of the Fire.”

Sometimes it’s good that they don’t write ’em like that anymore.

* * * * *

How about you?  Do you have old love letters or newspaper clippings that give you a chuckle…or make you shake your head?  I’d love to hear about them.  In fact, I’ll give you a bit of an incentive – leave me a comment, and I’ll send you a recipe from my great-aunt’s modern kitchen pictured above – your choice of pineapple chiffon pie, banana loaf, bread and butter pickles, barbecued pork chops, or marshmallow salad.  And let me tell you, she was a good cook.

Hope to see you back here next week!

The man who cured his health woes by taking up full-time fishing.

The man who cured his health woes by taking up full-time fishing.  (Photo by my uncle.)

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2 thoughts on “They Don’t Write ‘Em Like That Anymore

  1. I LOVE this post, it made me laugh out loud and sigh with delight within seconds of each other. This cracked me up especially, “Although a graduate of the University of California, the bride is nonetheless an extremely attractive young woman.” I read Reminisce magazine and enjoy the old ads too. Thanks for making my day

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