I have finished copying, numbering, and organizing Marilyn's freshman year letters but am certainly not close to finishing reading them.There are 225 pages from September 1950 to May 1951. Since some of her stationary is small, some of my scans are actually 2 letter pages to 1 page of printer paper. I am taking a slight break from copying the letters since I want to read each year as I go. I am currently into October 1950, with just a few months left of her first semester at Augsburg.
As I read more and more letters, I cannot help but notice that every generation has a writer in the family. Marilyn was certainly the writer of hers - she was the assistant make-up editor of her school's newspaper, the Augsburg Echo (a make-up editor at the time was responsible for layout and putting the paper together). And of course we know she wrote letters home almost every day.
I am starting to have a clearer picture on the direction of this novel and have started a few rough outlines and even first drafts. I have decided I do not want to lose my initial ideas by excessively annotating, rereading letters, and doing research before I even begin any writing. The project is certainly loose right now and needs a stronger structure, but I know with a little more time and organization, a solid first draft will emerge.
I marked several passages as options to share with you in this update post, but have had such a hard time deciding which to include! I certainly don't want to overdo it, so today's passages are cultural snippets and stories regarding her adventures in Minneapolis.
Thursday, September 21, 1950 regarding walking to and from campus classes: They have warned us here at the dorm not to go out alone at nights. The taxi drivers even have to walk us to the door. I guess it's the worst neighborhood in town. I'm not a bit scared.
Same date as previous passage, regarding those who live in her dormitory: There is a girl across the hall that really thinks she is something. She wears her hair like Veronica Lake. She thinks that she really can sing so every time we hear a terrific "belter" from some place we know she is feeling wonderful. [two notes: 1) Marilyn uses the word "terrific" often in her letters with the connotation of "dreadful." If you research the origin of the word "terrific," it's from the Latin terrificus meaning "terrifying" or "causing terror." Clearly the girl across the hall was a screeching banshee. 2) Veronica Lake was a movie star. Her hair in the 50s was clearly a bit much, especially by today's standards.]
September 24, 1950 regarding college activities: Next Wednesday I'm invited to the Big - Little Sister tea. Hats, gloves, and heels are in order. Swanky. [note: college freshmen were assigned a "big" brother/sister student - much like a mentor of sorts.]
September 25, 1950 regarding the drawn-out process of choir tryouts (Marilyn was a vocal music major and choir auditions were multiple steps): I've had 2 classes, worked on the paper, more choir tryouts, and coffee. I don't know what they're trying to do for choir try-outs. Kill us off, I think.
October 4, 1950 about her recent activities: I have made a new friend. Her name is Ruthie Johnson and she is from Canton, South Dakota. She is only 5ft. tall and a red head. She sings 2nd alto in the choir so we plan on staying together if we get so far as to go along on tour. Every day we go together for afternoon coffee as we are both crazy about it! She's quite a girl. [note: I included this passage because COFFEE (obviously!) and I relate to short people since I'm 5'2" myself. If only I could have been a few inches taller, sigh. Also: Marilyn did make the choir her freshman year and was a second soprano.]
October 9, 1950 (and my last passage to be included today - I thought this one was funny, that's why): You know I was just floored the other day. All the boys at Memorial Hall [one of the male dorms] told a girl over here to tell Chelsea [Marilyn's roommate - I changed the name for identity purposes] if she wanted any dates this year she had better shave her legs. They left it up to Joan and I to tell her!
In summation of today's entry, the start of a school year is a busy time for educators, plus I coordinate programs for the state and have a musical to direct soon. But never fear, readers. I'm making time for Marilyn. I will try to post an update each weekend, as this is about the only time I have to read and write for long stretches at a time. More to come soon. Cheers!