Maxine Clamage 

Letters to a Lost Soldier – Moving from Chicago to Los Angeles - 1947

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Dear Daddy,

(I originally wrote in June, 1947) I heard you and Mommy whispering about leaving for California when school is out. I’m excited about moving there and living next door to Mimi and Bepa in the other side of their duplex. We can see them every day.

I’m beginning to understand why you’ve been upset lately. You didn’t like the Chicago police visiting you and asking for money so the windows on your electrical appliance store wouldn’t be broken. You didn’t want to deal with the corrupt Chicago police after suffering as a Prisoner of War in Nazi Germany during World War II and receiving an Honorable Discharge from the United States Army for your service. The police should go to jail themselves for threatening you if you wouldn’t bribe them to get protection.

You were also upset when Aunt Miriam’s husband was investigated and indicted for draft evasion. He drove a truck for Foxe Deluxe, but told the draft board he worked for a defense plant to get a draft deferment. He avoided serving in the military and was caught. Now his fate is up to the judge, who could decide to put him in jail.

I heard you tell Mommy that it is a stigma and an embarrassment to have a brother-in-law indicted for draft evasion. You are angry he got away with avoiding military service and made a lot of money while you suffered as a Prisoner of War and we suffered financially at home. “If he goes to jail, he gets three square meals a day and clean sheets at night.” I hope and pray you can get over your bitterness about events that have nothing to do with you.

I know you don’t want to leave your brothers in Chicago, but you did complain about the bitter cold winters and how your frostbitten feet hurt during the past two years. It will be a fresh, healthy start for our family in Los Angeles. I hope we can get along better in a new place.

I loved playing with the kids in the neighborhood where Mimi and Bepa live. I enjoyed the playground at my new school when I was on vacation there last year. La Cienega School is all on one level and it’s very sunny and bright in the classrooms. I can’t wait to see my new friends. We ate tamales last summer I learned to speak a little Spanish.

We’re almost on our way with a touch of sadness that we’re leaving your wonderful family behind in Chicago when we move to Los Angeles. The consolation is that we are going to be very near Mommy’s family. Aunt Miriam will need our help because she is suffering from physical illnesses and finds it hard to be alone and take care of her children. I can baby-sit for her so she can rest, just as I did when she lived a block away from us. I like reading stories and playing games with my younger cousins.

I loved seeing all the aunts, uncles and cousins at the big party which Uncle Eddie threw at the Pump Room to wish us bon voyage. He took me aside after the festivities and reminded me that I am an important member of the Clamage family. “Always remember who you are.” he said. “You belong to the Clamage family.” His words were reassuring to me. Uncle Eddie inscribed the message: “Au Revoir, but not goodbye” on the family photograph the hotel photographer took. Uncle Eddie said he would visit us in California. We kissed one another good-bye without tears because we secretly knew we would be gathering again the next day for Cousin Roz’s surprise 18th birthday and graduation party. It was fun seeing even many more relatives at her party. I will miss the warmth and love of the Clamage family, but as Uncle Eddie said, “There can be visits back and forth.”
Please don’t worry about leaving Chicago and living in Los Angeles. I know you will love it there. Let’s get on our way!

Love,

Maxine

 
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