It’s been two and a half months since Frank’s last letter—at least according to the collection of family papers we’ve inherited. Besides that, this letter goes not to Frank’s parents, William and Agnes Tully Stevens, but to the new Chicago address of his older brother Ed and his wife. The tone of the letter is much different than what’s been sent already. Of course, keep in mind that not only has Frank grown older and matured, but he’s been through a lot in the last year—something bound to have an impact on anybody.
I had a real struggle deciding whether to include this letter in the blog posts in this series. For one thing, it shows a quite different aspect of the man’s personality—the endearing, respectful letters home to mom and dad painted a picture that I hated to see shattered with what was yet to come. On the other hand, being able to have the composite picture of the whole man, somewhat like looking through the compound eyes of a fly on the wall, gives a more honest look at what went into his future—not to mention, what added to the mix of the roots in our heritage.
Another reason for my reticence: I’ve always found it proper to not include the names of the still-living in genealogical discourses, and this letter mentions someone very much alive and loved in our family. However, it technically does not mention her name, but her nickname. That, hopefully, will provide a modicum of privacy for the beloved matriarch of this Stevens clan. (Her nickname, by the way, comes from her childhood: an anglicized version of a Low German word meaning grimy, owing to what her elders criticized as a dirty face. I tried hunting down the word; keeping in mind the German pronunciation of the letter “z,” the best approximation I can come up with is muzhrijch.)
Even so, I feel compelled to clip a few of the more private passages in the letter, as they involve parts of the life stories of several of those still living, for which I’m sure you’ll forgive me.
So…what is Frank up to, now?
Dear Mutz, Ed et all - - - -
yep about a half an hour ago we had a mail call and it brought to lill ole F.X. two letters one from youse and one from Jeanne, am answering yours first as the latter will require some deep thought. You asked some questions Mutz so I’ll go down the line and try and answer them.
I know that you have been awfull busy trying to get your new place in order so you’re forgiven for not writing sooner, sure am glad to know you have a half way decent place, must be pretty hard to find a land lord that doesn’t mind the kids. Now that YOU speak of it Mutz I do faintly remember having made mention of V.O. or red eye in one of my letters, listen carefully and I’ll give all the details as to ways and means of sending it. First one must have a bottle of the specified fluid THEN one must break the seal and fill said bottle of fluid up to the very brim with a like fluid when this is done half the work involved is also finished. The next step is to wrap the bottle up well, using shavings, cotton, old newspaper and the like, thus to insure against breakage en route. Next lable the carton well using a phoney return name and address. Remember to fill the container up to the brim as a gurgle may prove embarrassing to all concerned. I will forward one thin dime and the wings off of a zero to defray the cost of packaging and shipping.
Now that that is off my mind I’ll get on with the rest of this so called letter.
Got to get that booze safely to where it's going!