Maxine Clamage

Letters to a Lost Soldier – My Los Angeles summer vacation – 1946

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Dear Daddy,

(I originally wrote in August 1946) It’s been a great summer vacation with Mimi and Bepa and I hate to leave Los Angeles. I’m trying to look forward to going back to school in Chicago. Aunt Miriam and her husband are coming next week to stay with my grandparents while they look for a house to buy. They plan to relocate here. Mimi and Bepa want me to convince you and Mommy to move to Los Angeles. It is paradise. We can all be healthy in this place.

My grandparents own a duplex comprised of two identical houses joined together by one wall. Their tenants on the other side gave notice they will move out next year when their lease is up. The duplex has two garages, a huge front lawn with palm trees and a big back yard with fruit trees and flower and vegetable gardens. There is a little guest house behind the garage with bunk beds for sleepovers and Bepa set up a tent in the yard so we could camp out at night. You’d love it here!

I’ve made many friends on our street and was invited to swim at a club nearby. I took swimming lessons and actually swam the width of the pool. We went to Venice beach and watched the bodybuilders perform. I dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean and then jumped in to splash around in the waves. I’m having a great time!

We visited Knott’s Berry Farm, Ghost Town, Catalina Island, movie premieres and radio shows. We had a boat ride to Catalina and a second ride on a glass bottom boat so we could see the fish swimming under our feet. Then we explored the island on a bus that wound up a mountain. The ocean views were beautiful. Everything sparkles in this place.

Mimi and I visited her beauty parlor to have my long braids cut off and the beautician gave me a permanent. I look like a poodle now. Mimi said all I have to do to be a movie star like Margaret O’Brien is lose more weight. She took me to her doctor for another thyroid test and found out I was still hypothyroid. The doctor said that my condition could be cured by medication, diet and exercise. I’m eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and don’t wear Chubbette dresses any more.

Mimi likes to sew and created beautiful clothes for me, including skirts, dresses, shorts and blouses. I’ll need another suitcase for the train trip home because of the new clothes and souvenirs I’ve accumulated!

I can walk to the neighborhood grammar school from our house and participate in the summer program when I’m not spending time with my grandparents or my new friends in the neighborhood. I can exercise on the monkey bars in the school yard and join in the baseball games. There is a club house where we play ping pong and checkers and a program where we take a school bus to the Angeles Crest Forest and also Cabrillo Beach. I haven’t read one book this summer, because of all the activities. But I still read newspapers and magazines like “The Reader’s Digest.” I enjoy the section about improving my vocabulary.

I don’t want to leave my grandparents and Los Angeles. I don’t want to go back to Chicago and live with you and Mommy and my sister. But I know I have to go and am looking forward to the train trip. It was fun exploring the railroad cars and making friend with many nice people on my train ride here.

I wish you could see how great life is in Los Angeles. There are miles and miles of orange groves and everything is clean. The sun shines every day and it isn’t hot or muggy like Chicago. It cools off at night so we sleep well. Maybe we could all move to California next year and you will get to see how big the United States is. Hope you are getting medical care and are well. See you soon.

Love,

Maxine

 
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