Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Mon 27 Jan 14 18:56
Ahahaha! Marcus, I'm afraid we will never know the answer to either one.
Brady Lea (brady) Tue 28 Jan 14 09:21
And speaking of the Monday & Thursday updates, here's a link to yesterday's post: <http://a-certain-party-i-love.tumblr.com/post/74734550451/leon-starts-to- settle-in> In the letter from Leon excerpted in this post, he's talking about finding a room to rent (he's paying $15 a month for a shared room) and Fawn uses an online price calculator to turn that into 2012 dollars. Fawn, are there other unexpected details like this you find yourself researching? Google streetview pics of what their addresses were? Popular 1940 recipes? (Also, I like that he immediately tells Elly she'd like this kind of work herself.)
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Tue 28 Jan 14 12:27
Of course I've looked up all their addresses on Google Street View! For example, here's the street where Leon rented a room when he first got to DC: http://goo.gl/maps/EP796. It even looks pretty much as I imagine it must have in 1940. The letters are full of references that would have made perfect sense to Leon and Elly, but 70+ years on, they send me haring off to the Internet to figure them out. And some of the references turn out to be amazing stories of their own. For example, Leon refers in one letter to Elly joining a study group at her school -- in context, it's clear that it's a Marxist study circle -- led by a "S. Seifter," whom Leon calls "really brilliant -- he was awarded some kind of teaching fellowship." It turns out that in 1940, Sam Seifter was a grad student in biochemistry at Case Western University, where Elly was earning her degree part-time. But he went on to become one of the founding faculty members (in 1955) of Albert Einstein School of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York, where he was an early opponent of McCarthy's blacklisting of academics. More than that, in 1968 he helped establish a first-of-its-kind scholarship program that gave promising minority students a year of intensive tutoring at Einstein to improve their academic qualifications for admission to medical school. The school honored him for that in 1991 by establishing an annual lecture on minority issues in his name. Seifter continued to research and teach well into his 80s and died in 2009 at the age of 92. And that is EXACTLY the kind of person Leon and Elly would have hung around with in the '40s.
Cliff Dweller (robinsline) Tue 28 Jan 14 13:08
It just keeps getting better!
behind on BADGES! (obizuth) Tue 28 Jan 14 13:30
(katecat) Tue 28 Jan 14 15:40
wow taken out of my mouth! btw I LOVE that you looked it up on google street view.
Brady Lea (brady) Tue 28 Jan 14 16:07
Wow indeed. I can see a zillion wormholes of related history to fall into.
Paula Span (pspan) Tue 28 Jan 14 16:40
Really, the tough part is going to be developing a sense of which wormholes not to wriggle through.
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Tue 28 Jan 14 16:58
I hope eventually to wriggle through ALL of them.
It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Tue 28 Jan 14 18:10
Loving this story!
Brady Lea (brady) Wed 29 Jan 14 08:42
Is there a particular wormhole you've started to research that is an area you never ever would have imagined? (I have ended up with a weird pocket of knowledge about the mating cycle of the eels that populate the greater Saint Lawrence Waterway from jumping topic-to-topic in some online research, for example.) So, I guess I am asking, what's your biggest eel so far? Also, this is totally a selfish question based on the developing crush on Leon, but-- do you have a picture of him? (Young or old.) I'd love to see his face.
behind on BADGES! (obizuth) Wed 29 Jan 14 12:09
i like any commie-meeting-related digression!
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Wed 29 Jan 14 16:48
I do have pictures of Leon, though so far none from as early as the '40s, and I'll be posting them on the blog at some point! As for the eels, the whole thing's all about a moray. (Couldn't help it. Sorry. NOT SORRY.) So far the most unexpected bit of research involved the mid-century equivalent of a Kardashian. I'll definitely be posting that, too.
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Thu 30 Jan 14 17:43
For those of you just arriving, it's Thursday, which means a new blog post. http://a-certain-party-i-love.tumblr.com/post/75057992045/intellectual-interco urse I probably should have saved the big reveal that I actually met Leon until much later, but if I hadn't mentioned it right up front, it would be a mystery how I know all these other details, like who Rudy and Bea and Fred are.
Brady Lea (brady) Thu 30 Jan 14 18:37
I love the letter you post from today. "... there must be no question of superiority â we will each recognize the excellences of the other in order to learn from one another and thus develop as many facets as possible." LEON! <3. Fawn, is there any kind of help you need or questions you haven't been able to answer that the experts-at-large on the WELL and beyond could help research?
Marcus Porter (mkanoap) Fri 31 Jan 14 07:59
In addition to the part Brady mentioned, a few other gems that made me smile were: "Thats probably the main reason I like you a little." and "Say hello to Wm in the patronizing tone I always use."
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Fri 31 Jan 14 17:04
The big question right now is related to Leon's time in the Army. He maintained that he was treated differently because he was a known Communist -- but I don't see any evidence of that in any way. For one thing, this was the '40s; McCarthyism was still a few years away. For another, I think maybe he was just miffed that he didn't see any fighting. He was a smart guy, so he got tapped for clerk duty. He ended up in the Quartermaster Corps, which is responsible for making sure soldiers in the field are appropriately supplied -- he spent the war safely at a desk, even though it was eventually a desk in France and, after V-E Day, in the public safety office of Eisenhower's Supreme Command HQ in Berlin. Not where you'd expect them to put someone if they thought he was a political liability. So what I'd like to know is whether the Army actually did treat soldiers in WWII any differently if they were Communists, or had relatives in Axis countries, or what have you. I just don't know where to start researching that.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Sat 1 Feb 14 07:59
McCarthy was a johnny-come-lately to red-baiting. It had been going on here since the 1920s. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmer_raids>
Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 1 Feb 14 10:57
i wonder if any of the jewish rescue orgs of the 30s (and whomever has taken them over now) might know of how ppl with family in occupied countries/communists were treated in the u.s. armed forces. obviously a lot of those who got out in the 30s still had family over there and//or were commies. possibly also anyone who knew about how people who had fought in the spanish civil war were treated in the u.s. army? oblique but possible leads...
Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 1 Feb 14 11:52
also maybe red diaper babies?
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sat 1 Feb 14 12:53
Conlon Nancarrow was an American who fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, was held prisoner, and didn't like the way he was treated when he returned to the states. He ended up moving to Mexico, later became a Mexican citizen, but had routine problems getting passports and such.
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Sat 1 Feb 14 16:02
I suspect there wasn't much bad treatment of Commies in the armed forces, after all they were on the same side fighting against the Nazis and Japan. The father of a friend of mine was a Conscientious Objector in WWII, not a popular thing to be then.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 1 Feb 14 16:16
yeah, i suspect COs were treated much more poorly than (somewhat former) commies
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Sat 1 Feb 14 17:54
I do gather that the US military eagerly welcomed members of the Lincoln Brigades.
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Sat 1 Feb 14 18:17
All of these general ideas are good. Can anyone help me find some specific sources? For example, who is the current leading historian of the labor movement in the 1930s? Which university has a history department with someone who's an expert on WWII military history? Etc.
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