I have come to the conclusion that Archy is awfully good to look at

To Bertha from Alice “Sally” – January 13, 1921

[Note: Sally is Bertha’s younger sister]

Box 173 R.M.W.C.
Lynchburg, VA

Dear Bertha,

Please ‘scuse me if I don’t seem to have written for a long time. I’ll try to reform.

I suppose you want to know what happened during the holidays so I will write as detailed an account of it as I can.

I got into Washington a little after four on Wednesday the 23rd. (It is awfully hard to realize that it was only three weeks ago yesterday.) That evening, Eleanor Dunne and I decided that we would like to see Madge and Robert so we called up and suggested that they come over. They weren’t at home. They were at a pageant over at school so we promptly announced to Mrs. Dunne that she should have the pleasure of taking us to Western. We departed forthwith and saw many people. Archy Atkinson and Bob Peary are much improved by officer uniforms (they are captains this year) and clearer complexions. I have come to the conclusion that Archy is awfully good to look at. We also saw Bob Armstrong draped artistically in portiere to represent Savonarola. Well, he looked alright but Eleanor and I couldn’t help laughing at the idea of Bob as a priest. Lady Jane orated at great length. Van Moseley counted money frantically for Miss ______ as she sold tickets. We had a gorgeous time.


…to Mrs. Armstrong by her innocent son who didn’t know that he had done that at least twice before. Next morning, Eleanor and I went back again and went to assembly. Everybody was there (even William) and poor Francis Birch flushed furiously and refused ________ speech and Bernard Spittle and Francis Corey sang and the R.M. member of the faculty welcomed me with open arms and – as usual – William and I scrapped or rather William’s feelings were hurt. He, not being an alumnus, flatly refused to come up on the platform and I being an alumna was taken by the hand and led to see that I got there. Therefore, William saw me (for the first time) and desired a smile so he sat and stared at me to make me look at him and when I did he for some reason looked the other way and didn’t see the smile I gave him. Then I tried to make him look at me and William growing suddenly modest decided that I was looking at the beautiful Captain Archy who sat squarely in front of William and William waxed ruthful and said so later on in the day and William made more kinds of a silliness of himself during the holidays than any one I saw.

Bertha! A member of the ________ staff has just called and asked for my last essay and asked…
…then William and I called on the Peary’s. When we got home, tonight we to play billiards. Monday, I went over to school and stayed to watch drill at the request of Archie, Robert P., Bob A., and Van. We went out to supper again and William took Phoebe and myself to the Knickerbocker and dumped us as he had to study. That evening, he and I had more or less of a rough house and it ended in his returning me my sacred cigar butt (Bob’s) and reclaiming one of the silver chain bracelet that you gave me over in the islands. I don’t know whether I’ve said goodbye to it forever now or not. I’m going to try negotiating to get it back. Tuesday, I came home. (I mean back to school.) Since then, I have been regretting that I ever was born and all the rest of the post-vacation stuff.

Dr. Hamaker’s baby died Christmas Eve.

We have several inches of snow here which fell Sunday and we have had a flurry or two since.

I am causing much excitement by the number of pages which of love written to you as I guess I’d better stop. Please write and give me some good advice. I need a big sister badly. I know that I’m infinitely more discrete than most of the girls here but I don’t know about some of things I have told you of ______ here and it is easier tell you than Mamma. Also you know the boys more intimately than she does. Anyhow, I want some advice. William Wadsworth said that if this letter sounds crazy, a red-headed northern girl has been in the room all the time that I wrote.

Lots of love.


It was a $16.00 hat and I paid $1.95 for it

To Bertha from Alice (Sally) – January 17, 1921

Miss Bertha Ballou

Elks, Nevada

Box 173 R.M.W.C

Lynchburg, Virginia

Dear Bertha,

I got a nice long letter from you this morning and thought I better answer it while I could. I have two exams next Monday (both in Latin) so I won’t have much time until exams are over.

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Please tell me about the select affair of January 13th.

I’m glad Mamma is going to have a pussy. That will certainly give her a great deal of amusement.

Bertha, you say that you and Charles Russell are working hard on the (horizontal line). The (horizontal line) looks like this “Polob” and I can’t make it out. I wish you wouldn’t tell me such interesting tales about everybody. You make me desire to get up and leave immediately and come and teach the queer creature the why’s and wherefor’s of math and physics. Now, Bertha, don’t under any circumstance, think that I mean to do it but wouldn’t it be funny to see Papa’s expression if I told him that I was going to stop college and travel next year. Me, I wouldn’t leave college now if it weren’t for that wretch Herbert Lipscomb PhD, I would be fairly happy. Even he won’t be able to make me uncomfortable a week from now (all _____ will be over by this time in that _____ his exam is a week from today.)

[Note: The Randolph College library would be named after the teacher. “Herbert C. Lipscomb, Ph.D., had been the head of the Latin Department at R–MWC for 45 years at the time of the naming, and was very active in many campus activities, especially those concerning the fine arts. Dr. Lipscomb was one of the most loved and respected teachers our campus has ever seen. It is particularly appropriate that the library honors his name because of his unrelenting love of knowledge, as well as the pursuit of “the life more abundant,” as evidenced by this quote from one of his students.”]

Miss Powell is the biggest nuisance at this moment. The Pill (ess) thinks that I should write a brief. The whole English department has “brief fever” and I don’t see it that way. [Note: The slang term “pill” comes up more than once in these letters. It’s defined as: “an unpleasant person, or a person who is difficult to deal with.”]

I went to town today and bought my next winter’s hat. I’d seen just what I wanted before Christmas but it was gone but I found a pretty navy blue velvet with a bird’s wing on the brim which is quite becoming, and it will do until I find just what I want. It was a $16.00 hat and I paid $1.95 for it. The one I wanted most was $17.50. All the hats in that store were $1.95 today. It is a nice hat and of a type which you don’t tire of easily.

Fashionable hats from 1921
Fashionable hats from 1921
This is a general mix up but you are supposed to get the meaning as best you can. If my sealing wax doesn’t please you, let me say that it is so queer I had to see what it looks like. I haven’t much of it. Please tell me whether or not you like my wax. I’ll send you some back very soon, the store is all out of it right now.

Love from Sally

I want to see my crazy roommate

To Bertha from Alice (“Sally”) – February 5, 1921

Box 173 – R.M.W.C.

Lynchburg, Virginia

Dear Bertha,

Exams are over!!!!! I don’t know the results yet except that I made 71 on the course in Livy (not good but passing which is better than I hoped) and 89 on Latin and I don’t know what I made in the course. I was mighty glad to get your letter. Yes’m, I am very careful, you see the beauty of my letters to Bob is that they are not to Jack, they are to Bob and they relate the effect of the last letters. They are perfectly open and not the least bit more affectionate that they were before. Simply there are some girls whom I occasionally permit to censor my mail and one who does it without permit and the letters are for their delectation. Bob merely desires to hear what they bring forth. Is that alright?

I wrote the other day and asked William for my bracelet and he sent it. I wrote him a very brief note of thanks. I think that will end that chapter in my history for a while. They way he see’s fit to write me but he hasn’t since Christmas (although I sent him his blocks) and there was not a word with the bracelet. I scarcely know whether I would answer him if he did since he overlooked the blocks episode. Advice needed. Intelligence office, what would you prescribe? It would be better to drop him neatly I think because that will shut him up for a while with something to think about. Then, if I ever met him again, he could have a fair to reinstate himself. He is altogether, too spoiled, however, to worry about. Isn’t it too bad? I wish he had stayed nice. He was eighteen yesterday, I suppose. He is enveloped in tobacco smoke now. He was to be allowed to smoke when he was eighteen. I believe he once told me he was going to swipe his mother’s picture of me and take it to his room when he was eighteen. He would not admit that now, I fear. I wonder what happened, we didn’t fight. In fact, we thought we were friends but when that little box came day before yesterday without even a word in it, I was perfectly certain that everything was all off, even more certain that the fact that he never wrote about the blocks made me. I wish I knew. As I said, advice is solicited.

I have a new roommate who has been here all day so I hear but has not honored me with any message nor appeared at all. She came while I was a History exam and dumped her bags and has been off with some frat girls from Weat ever since. I have straightened the room and now at home to roommates. I hate her because of the looks of her bags and because she can’t be like my Lucy baby. Well, I must go see if the mail is in.

Not a letter! Wow!

I want to see my crazy roommate. She’ll arrive someday however and I know I won’t like her.
Well, I’ve got to stop now and dress. I am going to primp for the “it” in honor of exams being over.



P.S. Please vote purple paper am _____.

I suppose in order to learn French

To Bertha from Alice “Sally” – March 15, 1926

[Note: Bertha is 35 and living in Florence, Italy. Her sister Sally is writing her from France.]

Dear Bertha,

I report myself here. Not too enchanted with food conditions but thoroughly contented otherwise. My room is quite large with two windows opening in the place Noel Parfait and a fireplace. My bed is in a corner where it can’t get drafts, that is to say in an alcove. I have a closet with shelves, one with lots of pegs and nothing else and one that is a cabinet de toilet, so I’m told. It looks to me just like the other but has a very small table in it. The wash stand is outside.

The street Sally lived on in Chartres, France (1920s)
The street Sally lived on in Chartres, France (1920s)

The food is only fair and is served à la Chariot D’Or. A number of men come in for meals and I have been put at a little table with a French woman. I suppose in order to learn French. I’m not thrilled with her. There are two cats but they are French and have no sense of decency, one of them kissed me on both cheeks at first meeting. Which reminds me that Mademoiselle did that to me when I went out, and just as I wrote that, she came in to wish me goodnight and darned if she didn’t do it again. But it’s fortunately a rather priestly kiss that it to say she sticks her head on one side of mine and kisses the air and then the other side and kisses the air there.

The cat didn’t. He kissed me all over and stuck his nose in my ear and purred which is one of the thing a cat can do that I can’t stand.

Well, tomorrow I start my adventure. What is to say I pay a professional visit to the cathedral to see what I see.

By the way, I left the canvas and stretchers you had in Paris at Madame Breyer’s office per instructions from Mamma as of course, Madame _____ couldn’t have them any longer when she is leaving.

I’m cold and sleepy and I’m going to bed. Please remember everybody, the lady who knows the Coldwell’s is Mrs. Moore, she lived in Spokane once and knows people there, too, the Atwaters, Connelly’s and others.

Love and good luck,

I started out well in this life but I seem to have gotten way laid

To Bertha from Alice “Sally” – January 6, 1927

[Note: Bertha is living in Florence in the building shown below]

Dear Bertha,

I’m enclosing a letter from Miss Louise. I write her your address and told her you said you’d be back not later than April.

Bertha, I don’t like your letters. Have you actual arrived at the stage where you regret coming home to a decently clean country where more men than the priests are gentlemen and you can have a bath?

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I’m all disappointed in you. I can imagine you are quite content where you are and _____ you having been there so long. Particularly as you have seen things which interest me above all others but really, you ought to be glad to see a bathtub materializing on the horizon.

I’m discouraged. I didn’t get my position and I don’t see any others near at hand. I started out well in this life but I seem to have gotten way laid. I wish I had taught another year in Georgetown instead of going to Europe. Then I’d have a good job at any rate.

Senn has his first lieutenancy date from December 4th. Promotion can’t be so awfully bum after all. He has been in only five years.

The Dunegans came to see us. Mr. Dunegan is smitten of my charms and between them they said they wanted me to visit them at Vancouver. I said I’d like to but I fancy I won’t hear more of it.

____ ______ _____ _____ _____ write and tell me. Alice is considering being engaged when a certain ossifer’s [Note: Slang for “officer”] tour in Panama is up. Eleanor Dunne is to be married in June. Alto Tinkle is in Panama and sends regards. There is a new lieutenant at the fort.