Saturday, February 12, 2011

...with love, Clarence

Years ago, I was hired to liquidate a local estate. The house was absolutely crammed full of everything imaginable. Even the basement was setup like its own separte household with its own kitchen, living room, and bedroom with bathroom. I was told the basement had belonged to the "old maid" sister that lived their till her death. I thought nothing of it and went about my job.

My husband and I had spent a little over two weeks in this house digging it out and setting it up. Finally we got to the garage. The garage was so full that you had to move things out into the yard to get anything setup. So we began carring boxes and lining them along the driveway. Once all was out we were able to start setting up. Built into the back wall was a work bench, where we began setting up tools. A tool was dropped and when Donnie bent down to get it he noticed a locked black metal box with the words "C&O" on it. I knew immediately that this was a railroad lock box and there was definately a market for it, but it was locked. The lock was old but it didn't take much to cut it off.

We cut the lock off and there it was a bunch of old letters, cards, postcards, KY derby programs, railroad timestables, tickets, menus, etc. Why on earth would these items mean so much that someone would feel a need to pack them away, lock the box, and stash it to where it was almost missed? So I decided to open a letter a see what all of the hoopla was about....

"My Dearest Anna," (is how it started) the letter was that of a boy writing his girl back home. It told of his adventures on the railroad as he worked his way across the country. He would ask her about her mother and how things were with her. He would talk of her beauty and he longed to see her. But at the end of the letter it read "with love, Clarence."

So I began thumbing through these letters and cards. He sent her at least four pieces of mail per week. Postcards of places he was passing through, cards for every occassion, and personal romantic (not risque) letters, always signing them "with love, Clarence". He was the perfect gentleman. It was such a wonderful love story I even had Donnie hypnotized by them. This magnificent story took place from the late 1930's until his retirement in the early 1970's.

And I know you are wondering, did they ever meet? Yes, but only once a year for a few days. Around 1938 she started taking the train to Louisville and they would meet at the spring meeting at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. She would stay through the Kentucky Derby and then take the train back home. She had a program and ticket for every spring meeting and Derby until 1974. I really wished she had kept a diary of their yearly meeting but other than train ticket stubs and Clarence mentioning in his letters is the only confirmation of their yearly rendevous.

A few letters came after his retirement but he died in the early 1980's. Sometime after his death she had recieved a copy of his obituary, a few momentos, and stack of letters she had written him, and there was of course one more letter from Clarence talking of how much loving her had defined his life as worth living.

The stack of letters she had written him corresponded perfectly with his letters and together the letters unfolded like a book when you read them together. She died in 2000 and took this great life long secret with her until we uncovered the box.

After reading through all of this I spoke with the executor of the estate and let her know what I had found. She found it as fascinating as I did. Her Aunt Anna had stayed in the area to take care of her ailing mother for over 20 years and upon her mother's death she moved in with her sister and lived in her basement. Noone knew she had this "secret life". They had just always thought of her as an "old maid" not interested in love.

The executor did not want the letters or any of the paper items so all of it was sold in the sale. Knowing noone would buy the box and contents as it sat everything was sold off individually except for the cards and letters they were sold as a lot so someone else could have a good read.

I often think of Anna and Clarence, and that fantasy that they met in heaven to spend eternity together, much like the fairy tales I read to my daughter. I like to think of it that way. I believe it is my single most favorite dig in a house and thought this was the perfect time to share this love story with you on this Valentine's weekend.
Happy Valentine's Day!

1 comment:

  1. Perfect Valentine love story - thanks for sharing it.