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Letters IV

from the fountain pen of Grace H. Fisher

Edward J. Cooper to Margaret C. Cooper

  August 24, 1931

My darling Margaret,

Please try not to think badly of me. I know that others will say that I’ve taken the coward’s way out, and maybe they’re right. But what’s done, is done.

The Jazz Age is gone, Mags, the short skirts and the bobbed hair and the snappy music are gone with the stock market and the banks and all the rest of it. And I, one of the rich men who had been spending other people’s money, have fallen hard to earth like Mr. Goddard’s rocket after its fuel was spent. The crash has taken everything.

And Mr. Hoover just sits there in his snug White House with a chicken in his pot and a car in his garage, and his rent paid and his beds made, saying that the private sector must open its wallet to support the rest of us. What private sector he’s blathering about I don’t know. The bottom has fallen out of everything, even the apple business, and half the population is out of work and fighting each other over trash barrels. What a shock it must have been for old Robbins when he couldn’t even afford to buy apples anymore. Damned greedy growers, I hope their stuff rots in the warehouses!

At least for this long I haven’t had to stoop to riding the rails and looking for chalkmarks on back fences, I’ve been able to feed and house you as you have a right to expect. But now even the real estate is gone, the only thing that hasn’t caved in, sold to pay for the house and the cars and the servants. It’s been a lovely ride, dear Mags. Who’d have thought that a young clerk from a Boston brokerage could have gone so far so fast? But it’s all over now, it’s really done. There are no more parties, no more theater, no more dining at the Ritz. There’s not even any more bathtub gin, no matter that Prohibition is done for, or soon will be, just like everything else. Humpty Dumpty’s house of cards has come tumbling down, and not even the Queen of Hearts can put it back together again.

Sorry, I’m wandering. Maybe the Reds are right, maybe we should all join them and their Russian friends in their grand plan to level the rich and the poor and everyone in between. Maybe that’s what it’ll all come to in the end. I can’t live in a world like that. I pray you won’t have to, either.

I’ve left instructions with my office staff to send my things to you, especially this pen, it’s the one Henry’s mother sent you after Henry was killed in the war. You’ll have to look sharp, though, to beat the janitorial staff to it, they’ve been filching everything that’s small enough to pawn. At least they are taking a little money home, God knows where the panwbrokers get it from. Bootleggers, probably, at least there’s a steady demand for the kind of escape booze has to offer.

You will have to sell all of the cars but one. I suggest keeping the Chrysler, as I think the Chrysler company will make it through. I don’t hold out much hope for Pierce-Arrow, they’re too luxurious, or Stutz, they’re behind the times now. You’ll also have to sell the house and let the servants go and move into the cottage in Orford. I hope you can get enough money to tide you through; I think the turning point will come in about three years.

I’m sorry. I wanted so much to give you the world, and I’ve failed. Seven short years weren’t enough.

  Your affectionate husband,

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