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Depression Letters, 1940-1948

An epistalory history of hard times.

If Roosevelt is nominated, my husband will vote for him, but I won't.
If Roosevelt is nominated, my husband will vote for him, but I won't.

"Really, no one can imagine what a family goes through when being ground down into the mire of poverty. Everyone of us has suffered terribly. Robert is cheated of his education. Howard is dead. Ernest has lost everything a man can lose. Marjorie has gone way below par, beyond the pale. William is being deprived of a good home, benefits, special education and privileges. And I? Well, no one but I can tell what misery really means ... If Dreiser hadn't used the name An American Tragedy, that would just fit it.”

So wrote San Diegan Nellie Blair Greene to Mrs. Marshall Smith, in January 1938.

The marriage between Nellie Blair and Arthur Greene in 1905 was probably considered by Lansing, Michigan society as an advantageous one. The Greenes owned a prosperous clothing business; the Blairs, so immediately connected with Michigan's Civil War governor Austin Blair, were influential politically. The marriage took place May 5, 1905, in Lansing; the couple honeymooned on Mackinac Island.

How it happened that Nellie obtained, in 1930, a divorce from Arthur on the grounds of extreme cruelty and turned right around and married his cousin Ernest Greene, a widower, is not known. The wedding license, issued March 24, 1930, lists Ernest as age 40 and Nellie, 45.

Ernest Greene was first listed in the Jackson, Michigan city directory in 1917, as a clerk in the E.C. Greene Clothing Store and the husband of Lillian, whom he had married in 1915. They had three sons, Robert, Howard, and William. It was Ernest's father who owned the store, but at some point it was his cousin Arthur (then Nellie's husband) who became manager.

In letters written between 1930 and 1948 to Mrs. Marshall Smith, Nellie describes the deepening of the Great Depression. the outbreak of World War II, and the immediate postwar years. With her second husband Ernest jobless after the 1929 Crash, Nellie's family continues to exist with financial help from her father and her former husband Arthur. By 1933, when those sources fade, the family applies for welfare, a pride-crushing decision for this granddaughter of a governor, daughter of a banker, former society leader, and DAR member.

In April 1932, Nellie comments on national elections.

“I am so afraid Mr. Hoover will be the next president. I like him, and he is a fine man, but why didn't he do something a couple of years before he had a Democratic House to fight? I like Al Smith, but he'll never be president because of religion and Tammany.

“We are either not voting at all or will vote Democratic, and I will vote for Al Smith, providing his name is returned. If Roosevelt is nominated, my husband will vote for him, but I won't. And we are born Republicans!

“I am so disgusted with the entire country, I wish I could leave America and never return.”

“August 1993 ... I have not very much confidence in Roosevelt and shall vote Socialist next time. Tomorrow I am going to the library and get several books and really study Socialism. I am so disgusted and sore over the way this government has treated these millions of forgotten men and women that I want to see a drastic change in politics, here and in Washington.”

By July 1934, Ernest has found work, even if it is for only three days a week a $12 a week for the State Conservation Board.

“... As for my politics, I am for anyone who will restore my husband to the ranks of living wage earners... I suppose you have seen the Liberty Magazine with silly Cornelius Vanderbilt's article against Roosevelt. It will only help Roosevelt when it becomes known that 'society' and the rich are against him. Someday there will be no `society,' no Harrimans, no Morgans, no Vanderbilts, no Insulls and Rockefellers. there aren't any now, but they don't know it yet.

“There are millions of bitter and determined workmen, however, and disappointed, sore, and angry farmers, and ugly, revengeful longshoremen and miners and laborers. They are the people and they will eventually be 'society.' So what?

“I hope Upton Sinclair does not become governor of California, for I detest his books. A man is known by the fiction he writes, and Sinclair should be in an abattoir.”

“December 1934 ... I dislike talking politics, but I'm afraid I've got to, as you evidently don't know our Upton Sinclair the way we do, out here. He wasn't defeated because any money interests could do it. He lost the votes of the Democrats because he is a rank Communist and actually in touch with the Soviets, and this is true.

“My dear, - I have waded in Communism out here, and about a million other Americans have decided to do something about it. Socialism is O.K. unless it begins to stand on soap boxes to advocate an armed revolution. The it becomes Sovietism and should be sat upon. We'll never get Fascism, and I detest this Liberty League. We are pestered to death with all those queer people and even queerer ideas.

“I have attended many SERA meetings, I even called the police riot squad myself one night when Communists tried to take over the meeting. I have gone to meetings of a pseudo-SERA association, whose members were all Reds, and I pretended sympathy with them in order to find out what they were and why they organized. I have been helpful in keeping them out of the public schools.

“I am going to join a queerer club - the `600 Club' - whose members never know each other, only by number, and who work against Communism. The more I see of Reds, the more I hate them. I know many of the foremost Reds here, personally, and they don't know who I am. I despise them. They are unbalanced, bombastic, rude, ignorant, and look and act half-baked.”

“New Years's Eve, 1935 ... There have been some riots here and some bad happenings from hunger and forcing men to work six weeks without pay. There is worse trouble in Los Angeles, and any minute a real war may start.

“Perhaps Mr. Roosevelt didn't intend the WPA [Works Project Administration] to be a rotten political game, but it is. No man can get a job in it, other than common labor, digging ditches, unless he knows the heads of the offices. All their friends and their friend's friends have good jobs at $85-$94 a month, but it is just a `family affair,' and no outsider can break in.

“Do you listen to Father Coughlin? We get him every Sunday and belong to his Union for Social Justice.”

By February 1936, Nellie has been accepted by the WPA Writer's Project, and her job consists of writing about local historical sites. In the intervening letters she speaks of working with avowed Communist, and the content begins to reflect this.

“Some day I hope I may see those persons who were responsible for all this terrible, damnable period since 1929 pay with their lives and their children's lives and then some. I am no Socialist. That is too tame. I am no Nazi, no Fascist, no Anarchist, but it won't take much to make all of us Terrorists. And there be many, many thousands of persons who think as we do, as time will prove.

“We are merely members of the common people - Labor Party, whatever that is. But the Reds are kindergarten children compared with what good Americans can be, and will be, when they come out of their comatose condition.

“My husband is a follower of Father Coughlin, but I keep thinking - what does he want? He isn't running for any office, so what is in back of all this?

“At present we have no hope, except Roosevelt, and God knows he is not what he could be. When a better and stronger man comes up, he will get millions of votes. But it won't be any of the poor tripe who have been, so far, called upon by themselves to save the nation.

“February 1937 ... I barely know what to say in answer to your questions. I am a member of the Farmer-Labor Party, a member of the Inter-Professional Association, and of the Worker's Alliance ... My friends are Socialists and Communists, and although I am not a member of either party, I work along with them in any way I can. The organizing head of the Communist Party here occupies the other half of my table in the office and is one of the nicest fellows I ever met. I used to confuse the Trotsky kind of agitators with real Communists, but now I know the difference.”

“July 1937 ... I am still working on the Writer's Project and expect these are my last few days, as I am changing over to the Curricula project at my own request. This has become merely a loafing place for a certain few, and there is little or no work to do. I am queer about that, as I feel that I am at least earning my money.

“I like Communists, and this office has 10 or 12, all in key positions. They call them `positions' as they have nothing to do but sit around. I had been helping them in their labor union efforts and in getting out the Workers' Alliance paper, but when it degenerated into a yellow scandal sheet, several of us quit. So I am all through.

“...The Curricula project (governed by the Board of Education) ... is a much more congenial atmosphere for me and is absolutely outside the political rule - minus the political discussions. While I am interested in labor troubles, strikes, the CIO, and the coming revolution, there are other equally interesting topics of conversation. As we have both Trotskyites and Stalinists on this project, we had many and loud discussions, and our reputation in this building, which is owned, operated, and filled with conservatives and Democrats, is anything but pure and holy.

Away from the influences on the Writer's Project and busy with her new work with the schools, Nellie begins to mellow. In November 1939, she writes:

“... I am a liberal. I have a life to live and the right to liberty and happiness, and I know I could not find liberty under the Communists... [The Communist Ideal] is merely a worse dictatorship than we now have and a terrible regimentation. They deny the latter, but I know better.”

And after Pearl Harbor:

“I am not patriotic until I think of what this country would be under Hitler. Then I become quite frankly patriotic.”

“... Thank God for Roosevelt, at least. We have a real leader, and I, for one, think he is the greatest man ever born.”

Nellie's letters document what happens to a family when they have no income, no work, no hope that conditions will change for the better. So how did they manage? August 2, 1932, Nellie writes:

“...Really, when you try to live, four of you on $32 a month, it is rather appalling. The boys get no lunch at all, and all I eat is toast and coffee, when we have any, in the morning, and a few potatoes, fried ones, at night.”

A year later, the bottom dropped out. Her father's bank closed; Arthur remarried just as the clothing business dried up.

“We moved May 27, and for two days previous I had been cooking for the four of us over a little kerosene heater, the kind you might have used once to heat a bathroom, if you didn't have a furnace. There was no heat in the cottage here until June 19, so I had a month of real pioneer cooking.

“Before we ever moved out of the apartment, we were beginning to go hungry. Ernest was selling from half a dozen to three dozen tamales in a day, and the gas to cover the route cost more than it paid on some days. Our landlady ... was the means of our final application for help from the Welfare Department.

“One Saturday, she discovered that our cupboards were bare, our icebox had had no ice or food in it for weeks, and our cooler was minus everything but a few potatoes and some beans, which had been our only food for several days. About 9 p.m., she knocked at the door, and there were three cartoons of groceries, real food - luxuries like sugar and coffee and all sorts of vegetables and a whole ham.

“Well, I refused the charity and cried myself sick, but she argued and insisted, so I gave her a cut glass dish, a green etched glass centerpiece, and the silver and gold pie knife, and accepted the alms.

“That food lasted ten days. At the end of that time, she persuaded my husband to see the head of the `dispensary' department in the Baptist church, to whom she had talked about us.

“We went and came back with more food. By the time the fine edge of my pride was dulled, I had bowed to the dirty deal we were being given by our noble country.

“Then she had another beautiful; thought. We were moving into the cabins here. We owed her $56 back rent, as she had credited us with $20 for Ernest's work. She said if she got a dispossession notice to put us out, we could take it to the Welfare and they would have to help us, and she would get her rent for the cottage.

“So — we couldn't be much lower down than we were, as we went to the Welfare Department. It was amazing to realize what the country has come down to. From one room, the Department had expanded into almost a whole floor of a business block, with at least 20 office rooms, a supply room, a Red Cross department, doctors, etc. There was a long hall filled with people waiting for help. And many of them were dressed much better than we were, and we are plenty shabby.'

“Each one is given a number and from time to time, a loud speaker in the wall announces `Number 365 to Room 28' or such other numbers as they have. Believe me, it was curious. Men, women, children, young men, old men, babies and everyone else seemed to be up against the world.

“They questioned us regarding everything on earth. Deciding we were worth taking a chance on, they gave us a $5.00 grocery order, and, after investigating us, arranged with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to pay the $15, rather than have us put it out, gave my husband five days' work each month, at $4 a day and that means $5 each week for food. Then they gave us an order for 10 gallons of kerosene and another for 50 pounds of flour, etc.”

“August 22, 1933 ... I shall never again be the person I was in 1929, and perhaps it is a good thing, as I really didn't know what poverty meant. Now I do. The first time we had to use one of those Welfare grocery orders, we nearly died of shame and went to a big market where no one knew us. But we were treated so kindly and so courteously that it really took off the curse. The manager himself carried our big carton of groceries and loaded it into our very shabby car. Now I don't mind.”

“July 3, 1934 ... We can eat, but not pay rent, on $12 a week. Our budget allows us $6.00 a week for food for the four of us, and with insurance, gas bill, gas for the car, milk and other such necessities, the most we could pay on rent would be about $7 a month. So far, we have been fortunate, because this apartment house property has changed hands twice during the past year. Each departing landlord has been so glad to get out from under with even his teeth and skin that he has overlooked any back rent the poor white trash in the cottage owed him.”

“December 23, 1934 ... In addition to the $15 a week salary, we get a quart of milk a day for Billy and all the government foods, our allotment, issued by the station. They had Government Day last Thursday, and we got eight pounds of canned roast beef, two large cans of peaches, ten pounds of sugar, five pounds of rice, and three half-pound packages of brick cheese. Every day they have vegetables, such as celery, peppers, tomatoes, and we can have what we want of those. Ernest brought home eight large bunches of celery yesterday. He said they had a truck load. Sometimes the canneries will send five tons of tuna or rock cod or yellowtail down here, and then we have a feast of baked tuna.”

“New Year's Eve, 1935 ... We are existing on just 48.88 a month now and barely get by, week after week, in our squirrel cage, never getting anywhere, but hanging on, I don't know why, to this thing called life.”

At this point in their lives, Nellie had qualified as a writer for the WPA and become the breadwinner - a bittersweet victory.

The first letters Mrs. Marshall Smith saved were written from Flagstaff, Arizona, where Nellie and Ernest and the two younger boys had gone in search of a job. The oldest boy, Robert, was apprenticed out to the Rancho Jamul, a large landholding east of San Diego.

“July 6, 1930 ... We certainly had wonderful luck, because Ernest has a position as an assistant manager of the clothing department of the largest store here, and in three months will take over the buying and managing of that and another large clothing store owned by the same people, and at a salary that will enable us to really live and accomplish something. Isn't that quite reward enough for several months of aching uncertainty?”

“August, 1930 ... Of course, we still have certain worries, which have to do with financial obligations, and it will take us a year to get to the point where we can save money, but what is a year? As you say, one must pay for experience, and I feel that I have paid, with interest. But I am so completely happy in this marriage that nothing seems to matter very much.”

“October, 1930 ... Ernest was laid off with three others, after a big sale, with only one week's notice. We have absolutely no capital, three boys, no position, and only this week's pay... Well, I have a husband, and he loves me, and so much that nothing seems to matter.”

With no work in Flagstaff, no work in Phoenix, Nellie and Ernest drove back to San Diego. But it had been a little over a year since 1929, the infamous black Friday, and the Depression was spreading and deepening. She wrote in April 1932:

“Ernest has worked two days since January 21, today and last Saturday, and I suppose he won't have another day's work for two more months. He is called at two different clothing stores, whenever an extra is employed, and it isn't often, as you can see. We don't know what to do so we do nothing... At least I have Ernest and I am thankful for that and for the blue sky and the sunshine.”

1933 brought the change from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt and created equally far-reaching financial crises for Nellie and Ernest. Ernest tried to find a solution this way:

“January 3, 1933... Have I told you about the commission business Ernest and a friend started with Mexican foods? This young man is Mexican, from Tucson, Arizona, and no good, as he drinks and is unreliable. But he thought up the idea of buying tamales from a Mexican who makes wonderful ones and selling them at a commission of 25 cents a dozen to restaurants and cafes. He buys tins of chili con carne and chili beans from a factory to sell, also, on commission.

“But the business wouldn't support both Ernest and Fernando, so Ernest dropped out. About a month ago, Fernando got drunk, took his truck, left some debts and rode back to Tucson, leaving everything flat. Ernest took up the business and has worked early and late, built up a big line of customers, and made $18 on commissions the first week, $12 on the second, $17 last week, and it should be getting better and better.”

“July 10, 1933 ... My husband hasn't had a day's work in 16 months, and the tamale business isn't good in the summer. So, rather than starve, we made other arrangements, not so pleasing to ourselves, but more comfortable than hunger.

“it all began in April. I could not pay any rent, as my father could not help anymore, so we were obliged to move. There were two small, single tourist cabins back of the apartment house, in the courtyard on the alley ... Our landlady got the lumber and offered my husband a month's rent (we owed her $76 on the apartment), if he would build a kitchenette and toilet between the two cabins. They were about six feet apart and about 12 by 15 feet.

“With the aid of a carpenter, plumber, and other experts, he did it, and the result is this bungalow. We get it for $15 a month, including rather decent furniture, electricity, the use of the phone, and - although the landlady does not know it yet - gas.”

Unfortunately, that was just a stopgap; with no income, no help from her father, other expenses mounted up.

“My husband, once the mildest and nicest of men, is a firebrand at heart. He makes me afraid sometimes of what he would do if he got the chance. He says all he is waiting for is a leader, and that all the other men fell the same.

“He works with some interesting men, too. One of them was a publicity manager, three years ago, earning $6,000 a year. Now he takes his grocery orders and works in the parks along with the rest.

“This month Ernest has nine day's work, as he has to work for that $15 rent last month. He goes to work at 7 and works until 4 p.m., every day but Tuesday and Saturday this week and next. Those two days he works his tamale route for cash enough to buy gas enough to take him to work! After next week, he won't work again until August.

“... I suppose I deserve all this for being such a fool as to love a poor man, but I can't help that. No matter how disgusted I get at life, or at him, or myself, I have at least a real love, and that is something.

“... Without new clothes, Ernest cannot hope for any store position. He has become a day laborer, merely, but it won't be this way always.

“He has become a very bitter man and would do almost anything to get even with such a country as this.”

“December 15, 1933 ... Ernest was transferred, along with 4,000 others here, from the Welfare to the CWA [California Works Administration] and has worked two whole weeks and one part week, so far. He gets $18 a week.

“He had been working since May at Balboa Park, cutting wood, gardening, cleaning up ravines, canyons, etc. When he was put on the Federal work card, a foreman's name was on the card. Although he had to report to the same headquarters, instead of continuing to work at the park, he allowed himself to be sent out with a road gang, none of whom had ever used a shovel or a pick, and the foreman was an ex-mule driver of no mentality, a chain gang chaperone.

“He gave the men blunt shovels to cut down weeds and told them Federal men were watching them, and they better work hard to earn that 60 cents an hour or they would be fired.

“All this was just plain `hooey,' and he didn't last long. But it wasn't pleasant to work all day, bending and striking at weeds 5 feet high with a dull, heavy shovel, and many of the men had to dropout. Then the rains came, and they worked in ditches and on storm-swept streets next to the ocean, soaked to the skin, and with no provisions for sanitation or any other kind of protection.

“This location at Ocean Beach is nearly 10 miles from San Diego, and no transportation was furnished. Some of the men had no money, no cars, and no way to reach those distant locations. Ernest carried five of them until yesterday, when he finished the job and went back to his former work at Balboa Park.

“I went down to the CWA and got the transfer for him. It took all the morning, as there were oceans of red tape to wade through, but I managed to see the right man.”

“July 3, 1934 ... Ernest has worked ever since a year ago last month, with only three weeks waiting between jobs. He has ten months' work with a pick and shovel, but he has graduated to office work and receives the munificent sum of $48 a month for his three-day work each week. He has been in the offices of the State Food Conservation since April and has charge of the checking department. He does all the work on the books - huge things a yard long and a foot wide, with thousands of names of family heads who receive food there daily.

“There are, sometimes, 2,500 persons in the line, on Tuesdays, Government Day, when ham, butter, eggs , and lard are given out. Ernest has to sit at a table and check each person's card number with the number in his book. Then, when some other member of the same family comes through the line, later, he can tell by his pencil mark that they are not entitled to double orders, and their idea doesn't work. People have been known to receive food at three different stations on one card.”

“December 23, 1934 ... Ernest has a good position, the same place he has worked at since last May, at the Government Food Station... Little by little, he has climbed up to $60 a month, which he gets now and only works 2 1/2 days a week.

“Within two weeks there will be another change in the setup, and it may be taken out of SERA and put into Federal. He may get more - or less - or lose his job, but I do not believe the latter. He is about fourth in importance down there, and they like him. He is needed, so I am not worrying.”

Nationally, other names are making the news - Father Coughlin and Dr. Townsend. FDR had been able to institute the WPA, but ...

“January 1936 ... The only kind of work the WPA will give Ernest is a manual labor at $55 a month, which he was willing to do and worked in the mud three days until he was sick with the cold. Then I decided there was no logical reason why I should not have professional rating and pay since I had all my qualifications with me.

“So I went down to the state employment office and registered, went to the WPA, and demanded a writer's job and got it the same day, which is a record here. I worked a week today, if you can call it work. All I have to do is report to the office at 10 a.m., sign the payroll, which is a very great pleasure, and then go home again, where I work at my typewriter and read history books from the library. I am expected to turn in about four stories a week. I don't even have to report again at night.

“My husband is free to get lines to sell on commission or break into something somewhere when the Exposition starts again next month. They will not let two persons from the same family work on WPA.”

“February 18, 1937 ... I have worked almost 14 months and feel that it has been the saving of me. I am not so sure of what it has done to my husband. instead of getting out and selling something or other on commission, or working into some sort of position somewhere, he sits in his rocking chair all day and makes scrapbooks to kill time. Under this, he is deteriorating in almost every way. I not only earn the living, but do most of the garden work, all the washing, cooking, and cleaning. It doesn't seem to hurt me, and I am 55 while he is only 48.

“If Ernest could earn $94 on WPA, I would quit tomorrow, but all he can get is $65.”

In her July 27, 1937 letter, Nellie continues in the same vein.

“...My husband still does nothing, with keen enjoyment, at least with outward calm and content. When I am too old or lazy to work, I shall retire and let him have his WPA work, if that is his desire.”

“December 23, 1940 ... The last time I was thrown back on state relief, the WPA tried to put my husband to work instead of me, as he could earn only $52 a month, and I could earn $94. He worked one day and went to bed. Three doctors said he had angina pectoris, arthritis, and a bad liver.

“Ernest and I have lived separately for a long time. I detest my husband, and yet, I cannot very well leave a man who is sick, or thinks he is, when the only means of life I have is a WPA salary. That salary belongs to this family, Case No. 1724, not just to me.

“Ernest has failed me in the only way that would have mattered - in affection and sympathy and friendship. I never seemed to care because he would not, or could not, support me. Finally, however, his total lack of affection killed all the consuming love I had for him. And it required love to cause a woman to do the idiotic thing i did when I gave up a house, friends, and work for a jobless widower with three sons. well, I have suffered for that and am still suffering. It does not require bravery for a mouse to stay in a trap. He just can't get out.”

“Christmas Day, 1941 ... I separated from Ernest last April and occupy a one-room apartment adjoining the house where he lives. He pays all his and Bill's expenses and has, since July. We can't be happy together. He will not do one thing for me, so I just hold my job and support myself.”

“November 19, 1942 ... I live by myself in one large room and pay all my own expenses. I do nothing at all for Ernest and his son, who have the rest of the house. I seldom see either of them... I was a great fool but I have learned my lesson.”

“January 8, 1945 ... Robert and Mr. Greene have bought a home, or made a large down payment on one. This house has been sold, and we have to move. Buying one was the only possible way to get a house. So we looked around in the section of town where we wanted to live, East San Diego, and found a lovely place.There are two houses on the large lot, three garages and a workshop.

“Mr. Greene has worked over three years as a military guard on the main truck gate at the Rohr Aircraft and earns a large salary.”

“June 28, 1948 ... Mr. Greene has worked for eight years at the Rohr Aircraft and has the original penny he earned. I am sure ... He saves all his money and gives me practically none, but he could buy a new Chevrolet, a new RCA radio-phonograph, etc., anything he wants. If I want anything, he hasn't any money.”

That is the last entry involving Ernest in the letters Mrs. Smith kept. According to Nellie's obituary, she was still living in Ernest's house on Chamoune Avenue when she died in 1953 and had been working for the San Diego Union as a sports writer under the name of Eleanor Green.


Marjorie Fairbanks Greene was born in 1906 to Arthur Greene and Nellie Blair Greene. Margaret Lockwood, next-door neighbor, said that Marjorie grew to be a stunningly beautiful young woman. Occasionally, the Lockwood children and Marjorie would go for ice cream and Marjorie would brag more about her movie tie-in (related to Douglas Fairbanks on her father's side) than as a great-grandchild of a state governor. Moreover, she would often skip school and drive to Detroit with friends to attend the showing of the latest film.

Nellie and Ernest's marriage certificate shows Marjorie as one of the witnesses. She would have been 24 at the time.

“San Diego, April 1932 ... Marjorie is perfectly wretched there [in Michigan, living with her father] and writes such blue and miserable letters. I can't see how she can come ... Anyway, I can't help her.

“She could have stayed here last January, but she would not live here at the house, and I will not have her alone at hotels... Her very lack of experience saves her at times, as a really innocent girl is bore to men when they find it out!”

“August 1932 ... About three days after I had written you concerning Marjorie, she found her stepmother had been going through her things, and it seemed to lend her some sort of impetus ... Anyway, she arrived a week ago tomorrow and has rented a bedroom in this apartment house, on our floor.”

“January 3, 1933 ... I was about the most unhappy woman on this earth, Christmas Eve. We were all flat and could not buy the boys even one present, could buy no dinner, have no tree, nothing.

“That evening, Marge was invited upstairs to the apartment occupied by four young men, 2nd class petty officers on warships here in the harbor. They bought a 21-pound turkey, and three girls in another apartment baked it, and the eight of them had a Christmas tree with silly presents and an awfully good time.

“The young man Marge goes with is one of the four sailors. He has charge of 70 seamen. I don't know what he does, but must do plenty or he wouldn't be where he is.

“So you see, she's changed. I wouldn't be surprised if she married this Mr. N_.”

“July 3, 1934 ... Marjorie ... is practically an alcoholic case and even now drinks almost 5 quarts of wine a week. She has money enough to supply her needs, but not from her father nor me.

“She had the luck - I suppose it can be termed `luck' - to meet a man who owns about half of Tijuana and some of Agua Caliente, with odd lots in Ensenada and Calexico and Mexicali. Believe it or not I was with her when we met him, so I now all about it.

“I had sold some of my beloved books and bought some gas with some of the small amount, and we drove over to Coronado around the ten-mile sand strip called the Silver Strand.

“We were admitting the ocean, a few yards away, when another car stopped in front of us. This very attractive and pleasant man got out, also to admire the view. But his view included Marjorie, for she is a very striking and beautiful girl.

“He talked to us and was so very nice and so apparently a big man somewhere that we liked to hear him talk. He was a partner to Jack Dempsey in the Ensenada La Playa hotel venture, and he insisted on our coming to Tijuana right then, so he could entertain us.

“Well, we went. He owns a large hotel there, he owns the famous Long Bar, a saloon a block long, he owns the general store there, known as La Compagnie Commercial de Baja California, etc., and has an interest in the dog racing and in Caesar's Place, a high class Italian restaurant where the floor show is wonderful and the dancers and artists come from Paris and Rio.

"I saw how things were going, so I refused to go over again or have anything to do with it. However, she is very much in love with him. He is French, Italian, and Spanish, blue eyes and brown hair, and speaks four languages.

"I have no idea how it will end, if ever, but I hope she doesn't get too badly hurt ... He may divorce his wife and marry her, but I doubt it.

"As a result, she has wonderful presents, French perfumes, a radio, spending money, lovely underwear, and some good times, goes to Caliente, and is enjoying life. She is 26 and will not stand interference, so i just sit back and listen for the inevitable crash."

"January 17, 1936 ... Marjorie has been in Michigan since last July, with her father, as we absolutely could not keep her here one day longer, because of our financial position, or rather lack of any.

"I am not going to allow her to come back here until her father comes, too."

And, unlikely as it would seem, eventually he did just that. In 1937, "Marjorie came back here last September against my advice and wishes, but they could do nothing with her there. She drinks on the average of 25 pints of wine or whiskey a month and works part of the time, whenever there is work, at a tuna packing plant a mile away. She gets up at 5 a.m. and walks to work in a uniform, carrying her lunch. She earns about enough to keep her in drinks comfortably but not enough to help me any!

"She is a strange girl, and I feel sure she will come to some grief sooner or later. She is 29 and too old to change much, but so long as she is quiet and behaves herself and doesn't go out much nights, or raise Cain as she did in 1935, I shall not interfere ... Ernest is here all day, and when she isn't working, that keeps her behaving, as she is afraid of him. She used to take things out of the house to sell, but she can't anymore, fortunately."

"[July 1937] ... Marjorie is working in a big tuna cannery and has met many nice foreigners, Mexican and Italian girls, and seems to like them better than her own peers. She goes out every day to work at 6 a.m. and goes out every night with the same Mexican widower, who will probably marry her... I say nothing and shall do nothing to prevent her marrying him, if she wants to.

"She is doing much better than she was a while ago, and seems very fond of her Mexican widower. He is quite an Indian type, not much Spanish blood, and quite dark. But he is very nice, very polite, speaks very good English, dresses well. has a new car, gets a very good salary, and is in demand in seven canneries every day, as he is an expert fish cutter and cooker.

"He has a little girl ten years old, several nieces, sisters, etc., and the whole bunch of them, with Marjorie, go to the beach every Sunday when they are not working, and to fiestas, dances, social gatherings and what not. But he does not care about drinking, and I'm afraid if he ever finds out how much she does, he will be horrified.

"Marjorie seems to be denied any normal life. The white men she has associated with have been such rotten low persons, that I have had to throw them out and tell at least two that if they did not let her alone I would send for the police. I am almost relieved to have her go with a decent Mexican."

And so they married. By November 1939, Nellie is still working and Ernest is not, and Arthur, his wife Mable, and his spinster sister Mabel have pulled up roots in Michigan and moved to Long Beach.

"In September, they were here for ten days or more. They bought gas for our car, and we took them all around the places we hadn't been able to afford to see for three years or more. After she went back to L.A., he stayed here for a few days. Although he would not meet Lupe, due to Nordic prejudice, we managed to have a good time. Lupe did not want to meet him either."

"... As to Marjorie, she is very happy and has stopped drinking permanently. They have a small house in the Mexican quarter within two blocks of the big canneries and work almost all the time. Lupe is one of the finest men I ever know. She is a good cook, buys her clothes at the Salvation Army stores and has any number of pretty dresses which cost her no more than 25 cents cash. They live well, and she gives me money to pay her insurance.

"She works hard and lives a mile away ... a long walk when she stands on her feet all day packing fish, so I see her only about twice a month.

"She has a grand Frigidaire, a new gas range, a washing machine, radio, three cats, and plenty to eat and to wear. She earns it herself and so does he. Lupe is paying for half of my Christmas turkey, so we will be with Marjorie and Lupe and his little girl. Ernest's two boys and himself - a queer mixture!"

No mention is made of Marjorie in Nellie's letters to Mrs. Marshall Smith from 1941 to 1945. Nellie has been writing for the WPA, has switched jobs and begun work at the public library, and is withdrawing from Ernest, who has taken a job with Rohr Aircraft as night guard.

In January 1945, Nellie writes: "Marjorie is married and still living with her husband and is still a problem. She drinks too much and is almost a nervous wreck from the constant use of 30 or more quarts of sherry a month, often forty to fifty. She worked for several months at an aircraft plant but stayed home constantly to drink (always alone in her own room, not socially). She starved herself and finally all this brought on an attack which a skin specialist pronounced as pellagra. She could not walk, and I sent her to a hospital where the alcohol went out of her system.

"Then she came to my house, where she remained three months in bed, most of the time unable to walk and get wine, thank God. I had to feed her beef, field peas, tomatoes, milk, etc., two big meals a day, and work. We were fine until her feet recovered and then she started drinking again. But she did eat and took vitamins.

"She stayed here a year, and then her husband wanted her to return to him, and she did. She is suffering from melancholia and is about due for a nervous breakdown. I can only hope she will not lose her mind. Sometimes I am so afraid she will."

"June 28, 1948 ... Marjorie's illness is nothing new. It began in June 1946, when she suddenly collapsed and was found to be suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice, a touch of pneumonia and other complications due to 12 years of quiet and solitary wine drinking.

"She almost died in July, spent 100 days in the hospital (at $11 a day) and then had recovered enough to come to my home to recuperate. I resigned my position at the library and have taken care of her ever since.

"She was getting along quite well, although not eating enough, and had been taking one sleeping tablet each night. June 12th, I found her in a coma at 8 a.m. I called her doctor. He sent her to Mercy Hospital at once and said it was uremic poisoning caused by her liver, which could not throw off the effects of any drug, which therefore because accumulates in the system and finally knocked her completely out.

"It is only a question of time, I fear. With her special kind of sickness, we expect anything... I only hope I can live as long as she does, as she needs care and constant watching. I am almost afraid to sleep as I never know what will happen next."

From the San Diego Union, October 21, 1949: "Mrs. Marjorie Green Alonzo, 41, of 3--- Chamoune Street, died Saturday evening in her home. She had resided there 15 years... Funeral arrangements are pending at Greenwood Mortuary."


When Nellie and Ernest married in 1930, three sons by his first marriage and one daughter by hers made up the family. Marjorie divided her time between living with her father in Michigan and in California with her mother. Ernest's boys were much younger, however, and in need of a stable life.

Robert, the oldest, 13 in 1930, was apprenticed to the Rancho Jamul, 30 miles to the east of San Diego, and never made his home with them. Howard lived with them, except for short periods when he was sent, also, to Rancho Jamul. And that left Billy as Nellie's only full-time stepson.

"August 23, 1932 ... I had hoped Howard could go back to the ranch when he had his teeth and eyes attended to, but Mr. Daley won't take him back. So I have written to Howard's school teacher, who likes him very much, and who lives on a farm house in the mountains, only half a mile from the school, and told her my circumstances, and that I cannot take care of Howard, in addition to all I have to carry.

"I get up at 6 a.m., wash clothes and mend ragged shirts. Howard has only two, one of them all gone to pieces, and Billy, who hasn't had a new shirt in three years, wears a bathing suit all day long. The boys get no lunch at all."

"January 3, 1933 ... One of the sailors took Billy to the Christmas party on his ship and they gave 25 boys a big turkey dinner, new corduroy trousers, khaki shirt, lumberjack belt, ties, games, and candy!"

"July 10, 1933 ... Billy, the ten year old, sells Posts and Journals, and sometimes makes 12 cents a week, and often has to buy bread with it, more's the pity. Howard, the 14-year-old, has been with us a year, sick, with a mysterious ailment. A friend of my husband finally got his brother, a famous osteopath, to examine him. He said he would cure him, if he could, and if we could pay him, all right. If not, OK, too. Now that is Christianity. It gives me hope to go ahead."

"November 19, 1933. Your letter reached me just when things looked pretty black, and I am glad to hear from you.

"We have passed through the Valley of the Shadow, Howard, the 14-year-old, died on Armistice Day. He had been sick, more or less, since 1931, and we wasted a year taking him to the county hospital clinics. He finally became so ill that by last May he could hardly get to school, staggered, and was losing his sight, nauseated, but managed to finish the 8th grade. The school nurse finally had his case turned over to the Crippled Children's Society, and in October he was examined by three of the finest surgeons and specialists here and put into beautiful Mercy Hospital.

"It was found that he had a tumor on the brain, poor boy, and he was finally operated upon November 2. He was five hours on the table and had to be given a blood transfusion, but regained all his senses the next day, knew his father, and seemed normal.

"But that was the last flicker of the lamp. He became delirious, inflammation of the brain set in. He went into lower and lower coma and died at noon, November 11.

"His body was taken to Bonhams's Mortuary, and for five days, nothing was done, no plans made, no funeral announcements.

"We did not know what to do. We had no money. Howard had no suit of clothes. We couldn't even buy a flower.

"Finally, a young friend who has helped us and kept us from starvation, owner of a small restaurant across the block, became suspicious and went to see the undertaker. He found that no one would bury Howard.

"By five o'clock on Tuesday, nothing had been done, so this Mr. Daly went to his priest, and through him a lot was donated to us in a beautiful Protestant cemetery, by a Catholic. The Catholic Aid Society paid the funeral expenses and for a Protestant minister. A new suit was bought for poor Howard and the services were held Wednesday at Bonham's.

"The boys from Jamul Ranch, where Robert works, sent in $5.00 and Robert gave $4.00. I pawned a gold bracelet and got $3.00, so we had lovely flowers for Howard."

Over the next few years, occasional references are made to Robert and the help he is able to give them at holiday times.

"Robert came in from the ranch and brought a turkey, some fresh eggs, and a piece of bacon, unheard of luxuries for us." (New Year's Eve, 1935)

"Robert is still at Jamul Rancho and taking care of himself. He comes in sometimes. We would have had no Christmas at all, except for him. He bought us a turkey and gave us nice presents, as well as helping Billy get his Boy Scout uniform. Billy is almost 13 and will soon be a second-class Scout." (January 17, 1936)

"Bill is 16 and earns about $6.00 a month with his paper route, enough to pay his insurance and buy a few clothes. Robert is 23 and still works at the same ranch. He now operates Diesel trucks and tractors, earning about $30 a month, with room and board, heat, light, and everything else furnished. They are both good boys." (November 20, 1939)

"The youngest boy, Bill, is a sergeant in the AAF in England, where he has been for nearly two years. He sent me a box of English earth, with seeds, from an English garden. So I'll have a spot that is forever England. I only hope the censors pass it!

"The oldest boy, Robert, now 27, is foreman of Rancho Jamul, where he began as a garden helper in 1930." (November 19, 1942)

"...Bill came back from England last December. He married a girl from Jackson... They stayed married for 15 days, here in San Diego, and I had moved back to the rear house.Then she left him, and later, the marriage was annulled." (April 23, 1946)

As Nellie began to rethink her relationship with Ernest, Arthur's nearby presence created an awakening of old affections.

"January 8, 1945 ... Arthur and his wife and his sister are living in Santa Monica, where they have been since a year ago this month ... Arthur and [sister] Mabel came down here for Thanksgiving. His wife could not come, fortunately, so we all had a good time... It has been wonderful having Arthur out here, and so friendly and so nice."

"March 3, 1945 ... I always think, with regret, of northern Michigan. When I die, I shall go to Mackinac and wander through the paths along the cliffs. One day I shall meet Arthur coming to meet me. We have decided that we shall meet there. Do you think we could? He is so nice in every way - but too easy. But I shall always love him."

"June 28, 1948 ... Arthur helped me buy two crypts in the beautiful Greenwood Park Mausoleum, for Marjorie and myself. I am glad that is taken care of."

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"Really, no one can imagine what a family goes through when being ground down into the mire of poverty. Everyone of us has suffered terribly. Robert is cheated of his education. Howard is dead. Ernest has lost everything a man can lose. Marjorie has gone way below par, beyond the pale. William is being deprived of a good home, benefits, special education and privileges. And I? Well, no one but I can tell what misery really means ... If Dreiser hadn't used the name An American Tragedy, that would just fit it.”

So wrote San Diegan Nellie Blair Greene to Mrs. Marshall Smith, in January 1938.

The marriage between Nellie Blair and Arthur Greene in 1905 was probably considered by Lansing, Michigan society as an advantageous one. The Greenes owned a prosperous clothing business; the Blairs, so immediately connected with Michigan's Civil War governor Austin Blair, were influential politically. The marriage took place May 5, 1905, in Lansing; the couple honeymooned on Mackinac Island.

How it happened that Nellie obtained, in 1930, a divorce from Arthur on the grounds of extreme cruelty and turned right around and married his cousin Ernest Greene, a widower, is not known. The wedding license, issued March 24, 1930, lists Ernest as age 40 and Nellie, 45.

Ernest Greene was first listed in the Jackson, Michigan city directory in 1917, as a clerk in the E.C. Greene Clothing Store and the husband of Lillian, whom he had married in 1915. They had three sons, Robert, Howard, and William. It was Ernest's father who owned the store, but at some point it was his cousin Arthur (then Nellie's husband) who became manager.

In letters written between 1930 and 1948 to Mrs. Marshall Smith, Nellie describes the deepening of the Great Depression. the outbreak of World War II, and the immediate postwar years. With her second husband Ernest jobless after the 1929 Crash, Nellie's family continues to exist with financial help from her father and her former husband Arthur. By 1933, when those sources fade, the family applies for welfare, a pride-crushing decision for this granddaughter of a governor, daughter of a banker, former society leader, and DAR member.

In April 1932, Nellie comments on national elections.

“I am so afraid Mr. Hoover will be the next president. I like him, and he is a fine man, but why didn't he do something a couple of years before he had a Democratic House to fight? I like Al Smith, but he'll never be president because of religion and Tammany.

“We are either not voting at all or will vote Democratic, and I will vote for Al Smith, providing his name is returned. If Roosevelt is nominated, my husband will vote for him, but I won't. And we are born Republicans!

“I am so disgusted with the entire country, I wish I could leave America and never return.”

“August 1993 ... I have not very much confidence in Roosevelt and shall vote Socialist next time. Tomorrow I am going to the library and get several books and really study Socialism. I am so disgusted and sore over the way this government has treated these millions of forgotten men and women that I want to see a drastic change in politics, here and in Washington.”

By July 1934, Ernest has found work, even if it is for only three days a week a $12 a week for the State Conservation Board.

“... As for my politics, I am for anyone who will restore my husband to the ranks of living wage earners... I suppose you have seen the Liberty Magazine with silly Cornelius Vanderbilt's article against Roosevelt. It will only help Roosevelt when it becomes known that 'society' and the rich are against him. Someday there will be no `society,' no Harrimans, no Morgans, no Vanderbilts, no Insulls and Rockefellers. there aren't any now, but they don't know it yet.

“There are millions of bitter and determined workmen, however, and disappointed, sore, and angry farmers, and ugly, revengeful longshoremen and miners and laborers. They are the people and they will eventually be 'society.' So what?

“I hope Upton Sinclair does not become governor of California, for I detest his books. A man is known by the fiction he writes, and Sinclair should be in an abattoir.”

“December 1934 ... I dislike talking politics, but I'm afraid I've got to, as you evidently don't know our Upton Sinclair the way we do, out here. He wasn't defeated because any money interests could do it. He lost the votes of the Democrats because he is a rank Communist and actually in touch with the Soviets, and this is true.

“My dear, - I have waded in Communism out here, and about a million other Americans have decided to do something about it. Socialism is O.K. unless it begins to stand on soap boxes to advocate an armed revolution. The it becomes Sovietism and should be sat upon. We'll never get Fascism, and I detest this Liberty League. We are pestered to death with all those queer people and even queerer ideas.

“I have attended many SERA meetings, I even called the police riot squad myself one night when Communists tried to take over the meeting. I have gone to meetings of a pseudo-SERA association, whose members were all Reds, and I pretended sympathy with them in order to find out what they were and why they organized. I have been helpful in keeping them out of the public schools.

“I am going to join a queerer club - the `600 Club' - whose members never know each other, only by number, and who work against Communism. The more I see of Reds, the more I hate them. I know many of the foremost Reds here, personally, and they don't know who I am. I despise them. They are unbalanced, bombastic, rude, ignorant, and look and act half-baked.”

“New Years's Eve, 1935 ... There have been some riots here and some bad happenings from hunger and forcing men to work six weeks without pay. There is worse trouble in Los Angeles, and any minute a real war may start.

“Perhaps Mr. Roosevelt didn't intend the WPA [Works Project Administration] to be a rotten political game, but it is. No man can get a job in it, other than common labor, digging ditches, unless he knows the heads of the offices. All their friends and their friend's friends have good jobs at $85-$94 a month, but it is just a `family affair,' and no outsider can break in.

“Do you listen to Father Coughlin? We get him every Sunday and belong to his Union for Social Justice.”

By February 1936, Nellie has been accepted by the WPA Writer's Project, and her job consists of writing about local historical sites. In the intervening letters she speaks of working with avowed Communist, and the content begins to reflect this.

“Some day I hope I may see those persons who were responsible for all this terrible, damnable period since 1929 pay with their lives and their children's lives and then some. I am no Socialist. That is too tame. I am no Nazi, no Fascist, no Anarchist, but it won't take much to make all of us Terrorists. And there be many, many thousands of persons who think as we do, as time will prove.

“We are merely members of the common people - Labor Party, whatever that is. But the Reds are kindergarten children compared with what good Americans can be, and will be, when they come out of their comatose condition.

“My husband is a follower of Father Coughlin, but I keep thinking - what does he want? He isn't running for any office, so what is in back of all this?

“At present we have no hope, except Roosevelt, and God knows he is not what he could be. When a better and stronger man comes up, he will get millions of votes. But it won't be any of the poor tripe who have been, so far, called upon by themselves to save the nation.

“February 1937 ... I barely know what to say in answer to your questions. I am a member of the Farmer-Labor Party, a member of the Inter-Professional Association, and of the Worker's Alliance ... My friends are Socialists and Communists, and although I am not a member of either party, I work along with them in any way I can. The organizing head of the Communist Party here occupies the other half of my table in the office and is one of the nicest fellows I ever met. I used to confuse the Trotsky kind of agitators with real Communists, but now I know the difference.”

“July 1937 ... I am still working on the Writer's Project and expect these are my last few days, as I am changing over to the Curricula project at my own request. This has become merely a loafing place for a certain few, and there is little or no work to do. I am queer about that, as I feel that I am at least earning my money.

“I like Communists, and this office has 10 or 12, all in key positions. They call them `positions' as they have nothing to do but sit around. I had been helping them in their labor union efforts and in getting out the Workers' Alliance paper, but when it degenerated into a yellow scandal sheet, several of us quit. So I am all through.

“...The Curricula project (governed by the Board of Education) ... is a much more congenial atmosphere for me and is absolutely outside the political rule - minus the political discussions. While I am interested in labor troubles, strikes, the CIO, and the coming revolution, there are other equally interesting topics of conversation. As we have both Trotskyites and Stalinists on this project, we had many and loud discussions, and our reputation in this building, which is owned, operated, and filled with conservatives and Democrats, is anything but pure and holy.

Away from the influences on the Writer's Project and busy with her new work with the schools, Nellie begins to mellow. In November 1939, she writes:

“... I am a liberal. I have a life to live and the right to liberty and happiness, and I know I could not find liberty under the Communists... [The Communist Ideal] is merely a worse dictatorship than we now have and a terrible regimentation. They deny the latter, but I know better.”

And after Pearl Harbor:

“I am not patriotic until I think of what this country would be under Hitler. Then I become quite frankly patriotic.”

“... Thank God for Roosevelt, at least. We have a real leader, and I, for one, think he is the greatest man ever born.”

Nellie's letters document what happens to a family when they have no income, no work, no hope that conditions will change for the better. So how did they manage? August 2, 1932, Nellie writes:

“...Really, when you try to live, four of you on $32 a month, it is rather appalling. The boys get no lunch at all, and all I eat is toast and coffee, when we have any, in the morning, and a few potatoes, fried ones, at night.”

A year later, the bottom dropped out. Her father's bank closed; Arthur remarried just as the clothing business dried up.

“We moved May 27, and for two days previous I had been cooking for the four of us over a little kerosene heater, the kind you might have used once to heat a bathroom, if you didn't have a furnace. There was no heat in the cottage here until June 19, so I had a month of real pioneer cooking.

“Before we ever moved out of the apartment, we were beginning to go hungry. Ernest was selling from half a dozen to three dozen tamales in a day, and the gas to cover the route cost more than it paid on some days. Our landlady ... was the means of our final application for help from the Welfare Department.

“One Saturday, she discovered that our cupboards were bare, our icebox had had no ice or food in it for weeks, and our cooler was minus everything but a few potatoes and some beans, which had been our only food for several days. About 9 p.m., she knocked at the door, and there were three cartoons of groceries, real food - luxuries like sugar and coffee and all sorts of vegetables and a whole ham.

“Well, I refused the charity and cried myself sick, but she argued and insisted, so I gave her a cut glass dish, a green etched glass centerpiece, and the silver and gold pie knife, and accepted the alms.

“That food lasted ten days. At the end of that time, she persuaded my husband to see the head of the `dispensary' department in the Baptist church, to whom she had talked about us.

“We went and came back with more food. By the time the fine edge of my pride was dulled, I had bowed to the dirty deal we were being given by our noble country.

“Then she had another beautiful; thought. We were moving into the cabins here. We owed her $56 back rent, as she had credited us with $20 for Ernest's work. She said if she got a dispossession notice to put us out, we could take it to the Welfare and they would have to help us, and she would get her rent for the cottage.

“So — we couldn't be much lower down than we were, as we went to the Welfare Department. It was amazing to realize what the country has come down to. From one room, the Department had expanded into almost a whole floor of a business block, with at least 20 office rooms, a supply room, a Red Cross department, doctors, etc. There was a long hall filled with people waiting for help. And many of them were dressed much better than we were, and we are plenty shabby.'

“Each one is given a number and from time to time, a loud speaker in the wall announces `Number 365 to Room 28' or such other numbers as they have. Believe me, it was curious. Men, women, children, young men, old men, babies and everyone else seemed to be up against the world.

“They questioned us regarding everything on earth. Deciding we were worth taking a chance on, they gave us a $5.00 grocery order, and, after investigating us, arranged with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to pay the $15, rather than have us put it out, gave my husband five days' work each month, at $4 a day and that means $5 each week for food. Then they gave us an order for 10 gallons of kerosene and another for 50 pounds of flour, etc.”

“August 22, 1933 ... I shall never again be the person I was in 1929, and perhaps it is a good thing, as I really didn't know what poverty meant. Now I do. The first time we had to use one of those Welfare grocery orders, we nearly died of shame and went to a big market where no one knew us. But we were treated so kindly and so courteously that it really took off the curse. The manager himself carried our big carton of groceries and loaded it into our very shabby car. Now I don't mind.”

“July 3, 1934 ... We can eat, but not pay rent, on $12 a week. Our budget allows us $6.00 a week for food for the four of us, and with insurance, gas bill, gas for the car, milk and other such necessities, the most we could pay on rent would be about $7 a month. So far, we have been fortunate, because this apartment house property has changed hands twice during the past year. Each departing landlord has been so glad to get out from under with even his teeth and skin that he has overlooked any back rent the poor white trash in the cottage owed him.”

“December 23, 1934 ... In addition to the $15 a week salary, we get a quart of milk a day for Billy and all the government foods, our allotment, issued by the station. They had Government Day last Thursday, and we got eight pounds of canned roast beef, two large cans of peaches, ten pounds of sugar, five pounds of rice, and three half-pound packages of brick cheese. Every day they have vegetables, such as celery, peppers, tomatoes, and we can have what we want of those. Ernest brought home eight large bunches of celery yesterday. He said they had a truck load. Sometimes the canneries will send five tons of tuna or rock cod or yellowtail down here, and then we have a feast of baked tuna.”

“New Year's Eve, 1935 ... We are existing on just 48.88 a month now and barely get by, week after week, in our squirrel cage, never getting anywhere, but hanging on, I don't know why, to this thing called life.”

At this point in their lives, Nellie had qualified as a writer for the WPA and become the breadwinner - a bittersweet victory.

The first letters Mrs. Marshall Smith saved were written from Flagstaff, Arizona, where Nellie and Ernest and the two younger boys had gone in search of a job. The oldest boy, Robert, was apprenticed out to the Rancho Jamul, a large landholding east of San Diego.

“July 6, 1930 ... We certainly had wonderful luck, because Ernest has a position as an assistant manager of the clothing department of the largest store here, and in three months will take over the buying and managing of that and another large clothing store owned by the same people, and at a salary that will enable us to really live and accomplish something. Isn't that quite reward enough for several months of aching uncertainty?”

“August, 1930 ... Of course, we still have certain worries, which have to do with financial obligations, and it will take us a year to get to the point where we can save money, but what is a year? As you say, one must pay for experience, and I feel that I have paid, with interest. But I am so completely happy in this marriage that nothing seems to matter very much.”

“October, 1930 ... Ernest was laid off with three others, after a big sale, with only one week's notice. We have absolutely no capital, three boys, no position, and only this week's pay... Well, I have a husband, and he loves me, and so much that nothing seems to matter.”

With no work in Flagstaff, no work in Phoenix, Nellie and Ernest drove back to San Diego. But it had been a little over a year since 1929, the infamous black Friday, and the Depression was spreading and deepening. She wrote in April 1932:

“Ernest has worked two days since January 21, today and last Saturday, and I suppose he won't have another day's work for two more months. He is called at two different clothing stores, whenever an extra is employed, and it isn't often, as you can see. We don't know what to do so we do nothing... At least I have Ernest and I am thankful for that and for the blue sky and the sunshine.”

1933 brought the change from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt and created equally far-reaching financial crises for Nellie and Ernest. Ernest tried to find a solution this way:

“January 3, 1933... Have I told you about the commission business Ernest and a friend started with Mexican foods? This young man is Mexican, from Tucson, Arizona, and no good, as he drinks and is unreliable. But he thought up the idea of buying tamales from a Mexican who makes wonderful ones and selling them at a commission of 25 cents a dozen to restaurants and cafes. He buys tins of chili con carne and chili beans from a factory to sell, also, on commission.

“But the business wouldn't support both Ernest and Fernando, so Ernest dropped out. About a month ago, Fernando got drunk, took his truck, left some debts and rode back to Tucson, leaving everything flat. Ernest took up the business and has worked early and late, built up a big line of customers, and made $18 on commissions the first week, $12 on the second, $17 last week, and it should be getting better and better.”

“July 10, 1933 ... My husband hasn't had a day's work in 16 months, and the tamale business isn't good in the summer. So, rather than starve, we made other arrangements, not so pleasing to ourselves, but more comfortable than hunger.

“it all began in April. I could not pay any rent, as my father could not help anymore, so we were obliged to move. There were two small, single tourist cabins back of the apartment house, in the courtyard on the alley ... Our landlady got the lumber and offered my husband a month's rent (we owed her $76 on the apartment), if he would build a kitchenette and toilet between the two cabins. They were about six feet apart and about 12 by 15 feet.

“With the aid of a carpenter, plumber, and other experts, he did it, and the result is this bungalow. We get it for $15 a month, including rather decent furniture, electricity, the use of the phone, and - although the landlady does not know it yet - gas.”

Unfortunately, that was just a stopgap; with no income, no help from her father, other expenses mounted up.

“My husband, once the mildest and nicest of men, is a firebrand at heart. He makes me afraid sometimes of what he would do if he got the chance. He says all he is waiting for is a leader, and that all the other men fell the same.

“He works with some interesting men, too. One of them was a publicity manager, three years ago, earning $6,000 a year. Now he takes his grocery orders and works in the parks along with the rest.

“This month Ernest has nine day's work, as he has to work for that $15 rent last month. He goes to work at 7 and works until 4 p.m., every day but Tuesday and Saturday this week and next. Those two days he works his tamale route for cash enough to buy gas enough to take him to work! After next week, he won't work again until August.

“... I suppose I deserve all this for being such a fool as to love a poor man, but I can't help that. No matter how disgusted I get at life, or at him, or myself, I have at least a real love, and that is something.

“... Without new clothes, Ernest cannot hope for any store position. He has become a day laborer, merely, but it won't be this way always.

“He has become a very bitter man and would do almost anything to get even with such a country as this.”

“December 15, 1933 ... Ernest was transferred, along with 4,000 others here, from the Welfare to the CWA [California Works Administration] and has worked two whole weeks and one part week, so far. He gets $18 a week.

“He had been working since May at Balboa Park, cutting wood, gardening, cleaning up ravines, canyons, etc. When he was put on the Federal work card, a foreman's name was on the card. Although he had to report to the same headquarters, instead of continuing to work at the park, he allowed himself to be sent out with a road gang, none of whom had ever used a shovel or a pick, and the foreman was an ex-mule driver of no mentality, a chain gang chaperone.

“He gave the men blunt shovels to cut down weeds and told them Federal men were watching them, and they better work hard to earn that 60 cents an hour or they would be fired.

“All this was just plain `hooey,' and he didn't last long. But it wasn't pleasant to work all day, bending and striking at weeds 5 feet high with a dull, heavy shovel, and many of the men had to dropout. Then the rains came, and they worked in ditches and on storm-swept streets next to the ocean, soaked to the skin, and with no provisions for sanitation or any other kind of protection.

“This location at Ocean Beach is nearly 10 miles from San Diego, and no transportation was furnished. Some of the men had no money, no cars, and no way to reach those distant locations. Ernest carried five of them until yesterday, when he finished the job and went back to his former work at Balboa Park.

“I went down to the CWA and got the transfer for him. It took all the morning, as there were oceans of red tape to wade through, but I managed to see the right man.”

“July 3, 1934 ... Ernest has worked ever since a year ago last month, with only three weeks waiting between jobs. He has ten months' work with a pick and shovel, but he has graduated to office work and receives the munificent sum of $48 a month for his three-day work each week. He has been in the offices of the State Food Conservation since April and has charge of the checking department. He does all the work on the books - huge things a yard long and a foot wide, with thousands of names of family heads who receive food there daily.

“There are, sometimes, 2,500 persons in the line, on Tuesdays, Government Day, when ham, butter, eggs , and lard are given out. Ernest has to sit at a table and check each person's card number with the number in his book. Then, when some other member of the same family comes through the line, later, he can tell by his pencil mark that they are not entitled to double orders, and their idea doesn't work. People have been known to receive food at three different stations on one card.”

“December 23, 1934 ... Ernest has a good position, the same place he has worked at since last May, at the Government Food Station... Little by little, he has climbed up to $60 a month, which he gets now and only works 2 1/2 days a week.

“Within two weeks there will be another change in the setup, and it may be taken out of SERA and put into Federal. He may get more - or less - or lose his job, but I do not believe the latter. He is about fourth in importance down there, and they like him. He is needed, so I am not worrying.”

Nationally, other names are making the news - Father Coughlin and Dr. Townsend. FDR had been able to institute the WPA, but ...

“January 1936 ... The only kind of work the WPA will give Ernest is a manual labor at $55 a month, which he was willing to do and worked in the mud three days until he was sick with the cold. Then I decided there was no logical reason why I should not have professional rating and pay since I had all my qualifications with me.

“So I went down to the state employment office and registered, went to the WPA, and demanded a writer's job and got it the same day, which is a record here. I worked a week today, if you can call it work. All I have to do is report to the office at 10 a.m., sign the payroll, which is a very great pleasure, and then go home again, where I work at my typewriter and read history books from the library. I am expected to turn in about four stories a week. I don't even have to report again at night.

“My husband is free to get lines to sell on commission or break into something somewhere when the Exposition starts again next month. They will not let two persons from the same family work on WPA.”

“February 18, 1937 ... I have worked almost 14 months and feel that it has been the saving of me. I am not so sure of what it has done to my husband. instead of getting out and selling something or other on commission, or working into some sort of position somewhere, he sits in his rocking chair all day and makes scrapbooks to kill time. Under this, he is deteriorating in almost every way. I not only earn the living, but do most of the garden work, all the washing, cooking, and cleaning. It doesn't seem to hurt me, and I am 55 while he is only 48.

“If Ernest could earn $94 on WPA, I would quit tomorrow, but all he can get is $65.”

In her July 27, 1937 letter, Nellie continues in the same vein.

“...My husband still does nothing, with keen enjoyment, at least with outward calm and content. When I am too old or lazy to work, I shall retire and let him have his WPA work, if that is his desire.”

“December 23, 1940 ... The last time I was thrown back on state relief, the WPA tried to put my husband to work instead of me, as he could earn only $52 a month, and I could earn $94. He worked one day and went to bed. Three doctors said he had angina pectoris, arthritis, and a bad liver.

“Ernest and I have lived separately for a long time. I detest my husband, and yet, I cannot very well leave a man who is sick, or thinks he is, when the only means of life I have is a WPA salary. That salary belongs to this family, Case No. 1724, not just to me.

“Ernest has failed me in the only way that would have mattered - in affection and sympathy and friendship. I never seemed to care because he would not, or could not, support me. Finally, however, his total lack of affection killed all the consuming love I had for him. And it required love to cause a woman to do the idiotic thing i did when I gave up a house, friends, and work for a jobless widower with three sons. well, I have suffered for that and am still suffering. It does not require bravery for a mouse to stay in a trap. He just can't get out.”

“Christmas Day, 1941 ... I separated from Ernest last April and occupy a one-room apartment adjoining the house where he lives. He pays all his and Bill's expenses and has, since July. We can't be happy together. He will not do one thing for me, so I just hold my job and support myself.”

“November 19, 1942 ... I live by myself in one large room and pay all my own expenses. I do nothing at all for Ernest and his son, who have the rest of the house. I seldom see either of them... I was a great fool but I have learned my lesson.”

“January 8, 1945 ... Robert and Mr. Greene have bought a home, or made a large down payment on one. This house has been sold, and we have to move. Buying one was the only possible way to get a house. So we looked around in the section of town where we wanted to live, East San Diego, and found a lovely place.There are two houses on the large lot, three garages and a workshop.

“Mr. Greene has worked over three years as a military guard on the main truck gate at the Rohr Aircraft and earns a large salary.”

“June 28, 1948 ... Mr. Greene has worked for eight years at the Rohr Aircraft and has the original penny he earned. I am sure ... He saves all his money and gives me practically none, but he could buy a new Chevrolet, a new RCA radio-phonograph, etc., anything he wants. If I want anything, he hasn't any money.”

That is the last entry involving Ernest in the letters Mrs. Smith kept. According to Nellie's obituary, she was still living in Ernest's house on Chamoune Avenue when she died in 1953 and had been working for the San Diego Union as a sports writer under the name of Eleanor Green.


Marjorie Fairbanks Greene was born in 1906 to Arthur Greene and Nellie Blair Greene. Margaret Lockwood, next-door neighbor, said that Marjorie grew to be a stunningly beautiful young woman. Occasionally, the Lockwood children and Marjorie would go for ice cream and Marjorie would brag more about her movie tie-in (related to Douglas Fairbanks on her father's side) than as a great-grandchild of a state governor. Moreover, she would often skip school and drive to Detroit with friends to attend the showing of the latest film.

Nellie and Ernest's marriage certificate shows Marjorie as one of the witnesses. She would have been 24 at the time.

“San Diego, April 1932 ... Marjorie is perfectly wretched there [in Michigan, living with her father] and writes such blue and miserable letters. I can't see how she can come ... Anyway, I can't help her.

“She could have stayed here last January, but she would not live here at the house, and I will not have her alone at hotels... Her very lack of experience saves her at times, as a really innocent girl is bore to men when they find it out!”

“August 1932 ... About three days after I had written you concerning Marjorie, she found her stepmother had been going through her things, and it seemed to lend her some sort of impetus ... Anyway, she arrived a week ago tomorrow and has rented a bedroom in this apartment house, on our floor.”

“January 3, 1933 ... I was about the most unhappy woman on this earth, Christmas Eve. We were all flat and could not buy the boys even one present, could buy no dinner, have no tree, nothing.

“That evening, Marge was invited upstairs to the apartment occupied by four young men, 2nd class petty officers on warships here in the harbor. They bought a 21-pound turkey, and three girls in another apartment baked it, and the eight of them had a Christmas tree with silly presents and an awfully good time.

“The young man Marge goes with is one of the four sailors. He has charge of 70 seamen. I don't know what he does, but must do plenty or he wouldn't be where he is.

“So you see, she's changed. I wouldn't be surprised if she married this Mr. N_.”

“July 3, 1934 ... Marjorie ... is practically an alcoholic case and even now drinks almost 5 quarts of wine a week. She has money enough to supply her needs, but not from her father nor me.

“She had the luck - I suppose it can be termed `luck' - to meet a man who owns about half of Tijuana and some of Agua Caliente, with odd lots in Ensenada and Calexico and Mexicali. Believe it or not I was with her when we met him, so I now all about it.

“I had sold some of my beloved books and bought some gas with some of the small amount, and we drove over to Coronado around the ten-mile sand strip called the Silver Strand.

“We were admitting the ocean, a few yards away, when another car stopped in front of us. This very attractive and pleasant man got out, also to admire the view. But his view included Marjorie, for she is a very striking and beautiful girl.

“He talked to us and was so very nice and so apparently a big man somewhere that we liked to hear him talk. He was a partner to Jack Dempsey in the Ensenada La Playa hotel venture, and he insisted on our coming to Tijuana right then, so he could entertain us.

“Well, we went. He owns a large hotel there, he owns the famous Long Bar, a saloon a block long, he owns the general store there, known as La Compagnie Commercial de Baja California, etc., and has an interest in the dog racing and in Caesar's Place, a high class Italian restaurant where the floor show is wonderful and the dancers and artists come from Paris and Rio.

"I saw how things were going, so I refused to go over again or have anything to do with it. However, she is very much in love with him. He is French, Italian, and Spanish, blue eyes and brown hair, and speaks four languages.

"I have no idea how it will end, if ever, but I hope she doesn't get too badly hurt ... He may divorce his wife and marry her, but I doubt it.

"As a result, she has wonderful presents, French perfumes, a radio, spending money, lovely underwear, and some good times, goes to Caliente, and is enjoying life. She is 26 and will not stand interference, so i just sit back and listen for the inevitable crash."

"January 17, 1936 ... Marjorie has been in Michigan since last July, with her father, as we absolutely could not keep her here one day longer, because of our financial position, or rather lack of any.

"I am not going to allow her to come back here until her father comes, too."

And, unlikely as it would seem, eventually he did just that. In 1937, "Marjorie came back here last September against my advice and wishes, but they could do nothing with her there. She drinks on the average of 25 pints of wine or whiskey a month and works part of the time, whenever there is work, at a tuna packing plant a mile away. She gets up at 5 a.m. and walks to work in a uniform, carrying her lunch. She earns about enough to keep her in drinks comfortably but not enough to help me any!

"She is a strange girl, and I feel sure she will come to some grief sooner or later. She is 29 and too old to change much, but so long as she is quiet and behaves herself and doesn't go out much nights, or raise Cain as she did in 1935, I shall not interfere ... Ernest is here all day, and when she isn't working, that keeps her behaving, as she is afraid of him. She used to take things out of the house to sell, but she can't anymore, fortunately."

"[July 1937] ... Marjorie is working in a big tuna cannery and has met many nice foreigners, Mexican and Italian girls, and seems to like them better than her own peers. She goes out every day to work at 6 a.m. and goes out every night with the same Mexican widower, who will probably marry her... I say nothing and shall do nothing to prevent her marrying him, if she wants to.

"She is doing much better than she was a while ago, and seems very fond of her Mexican widower. He is quite an Indian type, not much Spanish blood, and quite dark. But he is very nice, very polite, speaks very good English, dresses well. has a new car, gets a very good salary, and is in demand in seven canneries every day, as he is an expert fish cutter and cooker.

"He has a little girl ten years old, several nieces, sisters, etc., and the whole bunch of them, with Marjorie, go to the beach every Sunday when they are not working, and to fiestas, dances, social gatherings and what not. But he does not care about drinking, and I'm afraid if he ever finds out how much she does, he will be horrified.

"Marjorie seems to be denied any normal life. The white men she has associated with have been such rotten low persons, that I have had to throw them out and tell at least two that if they did not let her alone I would send for the police. I am almost relieved to have her go with a decent Mexican."

And so they married. By November 1939, Nellie is still working and Ernest is not, and Arthur, his wife Mable, and his spinster sister Mabel have pulled up roots in Michigan and moved to Long Beach.

"In September, they were here for ten days or more. They bought gas for our car, and we took them all around the places we hadn't been able to afford to see for three years or more. After she went back to L.A., he stayed here for a few days. Although he would not meet Lupe, due to Nordic prejudice, we managed to have a good time. Lupe did not want to meet him either."

"... As to Marjorie, she is very happy and has stopped drinking permanently. They have a small house in the Mexican quarter within two blocks of the big canneries and work almost all the time. Lupe is one of the finest men I ever know. She is a good cook, buys her clothes at the Salvation Army stores and has any number of pretty dresses which cost her no more than 25 cents cash. They live well, and she gives me money to pay her insurance.

"She works hard and lives a mile away ... a long walk when she stands on her feet all day packing fish, so I see her only about twice a month.

"She has a grand Frigidaire, a new gas range, a washing machine, radio, three cats, and plenty to eat and to wear. She earns it herself and so does he. Lupe is paying for half of my Christmas turkey, so we will be with Marjorie and Lupe and his little girl. Ernest's two boys and himself - a queer mixture!"

No mention is made of Marjorie in Nellie's letters to Mrs. Marshall Smith from 1941 to 1945. Nellie has been writing for the WPA, has switched jobs and begun work at the public library, and is withdrawing from Ernest, who has taken a job with Rohr Aircraft as night guard.

In January 1945, Nellie writes: "Marjorie is married and still living with her husband and is still a problem. She drinks too much and is almost a nervous wreck from the constant use of 30 or more quarts of sherry a month, often forty to fifty. She worked for several months at an aircraft plant but stayed home constantly to drink (always alone in her own room, not socially). She starved herself and finally all this brought on an attack which a skin specialist pronounced as pellagra. She could not walk, and I sent her to a hospital where the alcohol went out of her system.

"Then she came to my house, where she remained three months in bed, most of the time unable to walk and get wine, thank God. I had to feed her beef, field peas, tomatoes, milk, etc., two big meals a day, and work. We were fine until her feet recovered and then she started drinking again. But she did eat and took vitamins.

"She stayed here a year, and then her husband wanted her to return to him, and she did. She is suffering from melancholia and is about due for a nervous breakdown. I can only hope she will not lose her mind. Sometimes I am so afraid she will."

"June 28, 1948 ... Marjorie's illness is nothing new. It began in June 1946, when she suddenly collapsed and was found to be suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice, a touch of pneumonia and other complications due to 12 years of quiet and solitary wine drinking.

"She almost died in July, spent 100 days in the hospital (at $11 a day) and then had recovered enough to come to my home to recuperate. I resigned my position at the library and have taken care of her ever since.

"She was getting along quite well, although not eating enough, and had been taking one sleeping tablet each night. June 12th, I found her in a coma at 8 a.m. I called her doctor. He sent her to Mercy Hospital at once and said it was uremic poisoning caused by her liver, which could not throw off the effects of any drug, which therefore because accumulates in the system and finally knocked her completely out.

"It is only a question of time, I fear. With her special kind of sickness, we expect anything... I only hope I can live as long as she does, as she needs care and constant watching. I am almost afraid to sleep as I never know what will happen next."

From the San Diego Union, October 21, 1949: "Mrs. Marjorie Green Alonzo, 41, of 3--- Chamoune Street, died Saturday evening in her home. She had resided there 15 years... Funeral arrangements are pending at Greenwood Mortuary."


When Nellie and Ernest married in 1930, three sons by his first marriage and one daughter by hers made up the family. Marjorie divided her time between living with her father in Michigan and in California with her mother. Ernest's boys were much younger, however, and in need of a stable life.

Robert, the oldest, 13 in 1930, was apprenticed to the Rancho Jamul, 30 miles to the east of San Diego, and never made his home with them. Howard lived with them, except for short periods when he was sent, also, to Rancho Jamul. And that left Billy as Nellie's only full-time stepson.

"August 23, 1932 ... I had hoped Howard could go back to the ranch when he had his teeth and eyes attended to, but Mr. Daley won't take him back. So I have written to Howard's school teacher, who likes him very much, and who lives on a farm house in the mountains, only half a mile from the school, and told her my circumstances, and that I cannot take care of Howard, in addition to all I have to carry.

"I get up at 6 a.m., wash clothes and mend ragged shirts. Howard has only two, one of them all gone to pieces, and Billy, who hasn't had a new shirt in three years, wears a bathing suit all day long. The boys get no lunch at all."

"January 3, 1933 ... One of the sailors took Billy to the Christmas party on his ship and they gave 25 boys a big turkey dinner, new corduroy trousers, khaki shirt, lumberjack belt, ties, games, and candy!"

"July 10, 1933 ... Billy, the ten year old, sells Posts and Journals, and sometimes makes 12 cents a week, and often has to buy bread with it, more's the pity. Howard, the 14-year-old, has been with us a year, sick, with a mysterious ailment. A friend of my husband finally got his brother, a famous osteopath, to examine him. He said he would cure him, if he could, and if we could pay him, all right. If not, OK, too. Now that is Christianity. It gives me hope to go ahead."

"November 19, 1933. Your letter reached me just when things looked pretty black, and I am glad to hear from you.

"We have passed through the Valley of the Shadow, Howard, the 14-year-old, died on Armistice Day. He had been sick, more or less, since 1931, and we wasted a year taking him to the county hospital clinics. He finally became so ill that by last May he could hardly get to school, staggered, and was losing his sight, nauseated, but managed to finish the 8th grade. The school nurse finally had his case turned over to the Crippled Children's Society, and in October he was examined by three of the finest surgeons and specialists here and put into beautiful Mercy Hospital.

"It was found that he had a tumor on the brain, poor boy, and he was finally operated upon November 2. He was five hours on the table and had to be given a blood transfusion, but regained all his senses the next day, knew his father, and seemed normal.

"But that was the last flicker of the lamp. He became delirious, inflammation of the brain set in. He went into lower and lower coma and died at noon, November 11.

"His body was taken to Bonhams's Mortuary, and for five days, nothing was done, no plans made, no funeral announcements.

"We did not know what to do. We had no money. Howard had no suit of clothes. We couldn't even buy a flower.

"Finally, a young friend who has helped us and kept us from starvation, owner of a small restaurant across the block, became suspicious and went to see the undertaker. He found that no one would bury Howard.

"By five o'clock on Tuesday, nothing had been done, so this Mr. Daly went to his priest, and through him a lot was donated to us in a beautiful Protestant cemetery, by a Catholic. The Catholic Aid Society paid the funeral expenses and for a Protestant minister. A new suit was bought for poor Howard and the services were held Wednesday at Bonham's.

"The boys from Jamul Ranch, where Robert works, sent in $5.00 and Robert gave $4.00. I pawned a gold bracelet and got $3.00, so we had lovely flowers for Howard."

Over the next few years, occasional references are made to Robert and the help he is able to give them at holiday times.

"Robert came in from the ranch and brought a turkey, some fresh eggs, and a piece of bacon, unheard of luxuries for us." (New Year's Eve, 1935)

"Robert is still at Jamul Rancho and taking care of himself. He comes in sometimes. We would have had no Christmas at all, except for him. He bought us a turkey and gave us nice presents, as well as helping Billy get his Boy Scout uniform. Billy is almost 13 and will soon be a second-class Scout." (January 17, 1936)

"Bill is 16 and earns about $6.00 a month with his paper route, enough to pay his insurance and buy a few clothes. Robert is 23 and still works at the same ranch. He now operates Diesel trucks and tractors, earning about $30 a month, with room and board, heat, light, and everything else furnished. They are both good boys." (November 20, 1939)

"The youngest boy, Bill, is a sergeant in the AAF in England, where he has been for nearly two years. He sent me a box of English earth, with seeds, from an English garden. So I'll have a spot that is forever England. I only hope the censors pass it!

"The oldest boy, Robert, now 27, is foreman of Rancho Jamul, where he began as a garden helper in 1930." (November 19, 1942)

"...Bill came back from England last December. He married a girl from Jackson... They stayed married for 15 days, here in San Diego, and I had moved back to the rear house.Then she left him, and later, the marriage was annulled." (April 23, 1946)

As Nellie began to rethink her relationship with Ernest, Arthur's nearby presence created an awakening of old affections.

"January 8, 1945 ... Arthur and his wife and his sister are living in Santa Monica, where they have been since a year ago this month ... Arthur and [sister] Mabel came down here for Thanksgiving. His wife could not come, fortunately, so we all had a good time... It has been wonderful having Arthur out here, and so friendly and so nice."

"March 3, 1945 ... I always think, with regret, of northern Michigan. When I die, I shall go to Mackinac and wander through the paths along the cliffs. One day I shall meet Arthur coming to meet me. We have decided that we shall meet there. Do you think we could? He is so nice in every way - but too easy. But I shall always love him."

"June 28, 1948 ... Arthur helped me buy two crypts in the beautiful Greenwood Park Mausoleum, for Marjorie and myself. I am glad that is taken care of."

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