September 1939 – Letter 2 from Normal School

1939 Keds shoe ad

1939 ad for shoes. Source

This is the second letter from London Normal School from my Great Aunt Helene Duck to her mother. I’m finding it  very interesting to be drawn into the time period: 1939 – World War II had just started, but you don’t hear much about it!

She asks about Donald & Bunny at the beginning – those are my paternal grandparents. Grandma’s nickname was Bunny. They got married in 1942, about 2.5 years after this letter is set.

It’s also interesting to read about the things she shops for, like 79 cent running shoes. I tried to find some examples of 1939 running shoes. On this August, 1939 newspaper page you can see one style. This website is also interesting, with pages of ads from different decades. You can see a few styles of men’s runners anyway. It’s interesting to hear her commentary on prices and costs, knowing that her parents were going through the typical hardships of the Great Depression on the farm, exacerbated by threats against a debt they had to pay for a barn built in 1921. I wish she’d mentioned what she is paying for room and board.

My final comment is that I really wonder who this Ike is? It seems to be a bit of a running joke, so I can’t tell if it’s a real person, one of the family members, a maid/helper or if it’s completely fictional. But you will notice Ike being a prominent character in some of these letters.


Sept 19 envelopePostmarked Sep 19, London, 1939, 11 PM

To: Mrs. Clarence Duck, Morpeth, Ontario


Sept 19 page 1Dear Folks, –

I’m afraid I haven’t very much news for you to-day. I’ve been wondering if Donald & Bunny got to where they wanted to go and back home again without getting lost. I heard Charlie McCarthy Sunday night and went to bed early to get ready for Monday.

Monday they divided us into forms. There are 4 forms. There are 41 girls in my form and as usual I have a front seat for 2 subjects and they could have to be English when I hate it so. We are beginning to know a little bit more about things now although we are still a little befuddled. We move to a different room for each subject. We had our first P.C. Class this afternoon and were outside – we played a kind of softball with a tennis ball – you hit it with your hand and then run.Sept 19 page 2 3

The King girl from Woodstock is boarding 4 houses down the street from me but I haven’t seen much of her yet. I didn’t see here to-day at all. She is not in my form.

I went downtown to-night after school. Got a pair of white running shoes for 79¢. We are supposed to have a pair of 7” scissors for manual training. At the drug store here they want $1.00 to $1.25 for them. I went downtown and got a pair for 25¢ that will do all I want I think. I am still buying books and supplies and a lot of books that I need are not in yet. I will have to go down to the drug store at noon to-morrow to see if there are any more in yet.

I am supposed to listen to the radio & criticize the announcers. I am not here in the daytime and I wish that you and Ike would make me a list of some, maybe some newsmen too, a little bit of what they say, whether it is long or short and whether you like them or not. I wish you would mail it Thursday so I would have it Friday. Believe it or not but I can’t remember some of their names.

I’ll bet that my Aunt Emmy nearly froze to death all by herself Sunday night. I had to pull the quilt up over me so I know it was colder. I see by her good London Free Press that it went down to 29º Sunday night here. They don’t think it stayed there very long however for it didn’t do much damage.

I suppose you have had a gang of men but it looks as if you are going to get the beans (?) in without any more rain. That will be nice to get it all over with. It was lovely here this afternoon – not too hot & not too cold.

Mrs. Howard didn’t say anything about taking anything off for the week-end when I paid her yesterday but even so I am getting my board very cheap.

Sept 19 page 4The men professors down here all look a like – all but one they have big stomachs and look about like this [see line sketch on page 4 of actual letter]. They all tell us about how long they have been at it – I think they came out of the ark. Most of them have been alright so far. Dr. Mark, the Principal, is not such a big man.

Don’t work Ike too hard. When you haven’t anything better to do, why write to me Ike.

I am going to take a little walk and post this so you will have it to-morrow. So will get going now.

Yours with Love,

One thought on “September 1939 – Letter 2 from Normal School

  1. Pingback: Letter home: September 21, 1939 | The Farmhouse Chronicles

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