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Dear John: 1942

Dear John: 1942

August 1942. "National music camp at Interlochen, Michigan, where 300 or more young musicians study symphonic music for eight weeks each summer. Writing to the boyfriend back home." View full size. Medium-format nitrate negative by Arthur Siegel for the Farm Security Administration.


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Re: FSA, Huh?

Arthur Siegel was one of America's most important photographers. He did a lot of freelance work for the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information. He took photos that were typical of those assignments: war-era industry, the efforts of citizens to support the war effort, and scenes of life at that time. The thousands of his photos that appear in the Library of Congress collection, which were published in numerous magazines and newspapers, were an invaluable record of the patriotism and sacrifice that Americans made at that time, and served to give hope and inspiration to everyday people during a very stressful time. The photo of the girl above was one of dozens of photos he took of boys and girls at the Interlochen Music Camp in Michigan, still one of America's greatest music camps and schools. The boys and girls are shown swimming, practicing music, and other typical activities. This girl in the bathing suit might have been writing to her father or older brother who was serving in Europe - we don't know - but in the context of the other photos here, it was hardly the bathing suit that inspired the photo. I am glad the government produced these photos, and they should have a program like this now for young photographers.

Farm Security Administration, huh?

You know, I'm a lifelong Democrat and a great admirer of FDR, but I'm starting to understand why the Republicans used to complain about New Deal "make-work" projects. I mean, drawing a federal paycheck to go around the country taking pictures of teenage girls sunbathing? (And it's not just this one--there are a bunch of FSA-funded swimsuit shots from Idaho posted here too.) The government just doesn't make pork like it used to...


Thanks for the jelly?

["Thanks for the letter." - Dave]


Well, I'd still like to read her letter and postcard ('cause I'm nosy and it would be interesting to see if she's still about).

Is she sunning atop a roof? The surface appears kind of asphalty and manufactured.

[Seems to be the roof of a lakeside bathhouse. - Dave]


I am a lefty too, and lots of people told me when they went to school lefties were forced to write with their right hand (don't know how they managed to get a readable writing).

Back in my first years at school, I managed to write with a fountain pen and my left hand by hanging it in the air so I saved the paper from being smudged. In high school I finally changed the fountain pen for a ballpoint and started to write with my hand over the paper, a problem in college when I had to draw with pencil (studied arts).


What about languages that flow right-to-left? Presumably the populations who write Arabic and Hebrew are mostly right-handed like everywhere else. It would appear that the majority of the population has to make this kind of accommodation to avoid smearing.


What a sexy outfit! Though I can't blame her, Interlochen is all about adolescent band lust. To anyone who has ever commented that "it's a shame nobody acts like this anymore" should visit Interlochen in the middle of the summer. It very closely resembles itself 60 years ago. Mostly.

Heart Locket

She probably has her boyfriend's picture in that gold heart locket she is wearing. Perhaps the locket itself was a gift from her beau.

Lefty writing positions

Lefties often turn the page the "wrong" way, as this young lady is doing, to keep the writing hand from smearing what has just been written.

As a child, my teachers made me turn the page the correct way, and I would finish the day with the side of my hand black with graphite, and all of my writing smudged. Once I got to the age where teachers weren't enforcing penmanship rules anymore, I rotated the page as shown above. And I still write that way. Of course. the correct way for a lefty to write is to rotate the top of the page to the right, parallel to the left forearm, and to hold the hand below the line of writing, but I have only seen three lefties who could do that: My mother, a former secretary of mine, and Bill Clinton.

The words

Say, can we please see the card and letter up close? Thanks!

[Hm. Should we really be reading this girl's mail (66 years after the fact)? Something about thanks for your letter and going on a canoe trip. - Dave]

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