Sep 012011

General summary – Verne Garrison (I) and Dorothy Logan Garrison Letters 1913-1919


Verne Alfred Garrison was born on Dec. 24, 1893 in Dallas. Dorothy Adele Logan was born on Jan. 11, 1895 in Dallas. Verne had 3 older brothers, 2 who died young that he never knew and an older brother Ray who died in 1906 at 16-17 yrs of age. He also had a younger brother Carl (3 yrs younger) and younger sister Gwendolyn (9 yr younger). His mother Neal Beall Braswell (called Bell) was a schoolteacher and taught algebra. Not sure about his father’s (William Oscar) work in Dallas, although later in the letters Verne mentions that his father had owned cotton gins in Texas and Oklahoma. Verne went to William B. Travis primary school and probably would have graduated from H.S. in 1910, but my father told me that V. didn’t graduate because he told his senior English teacher that some of what they had read in Chaucer was indecent (don’t know the exact word he used) and she failed him, so he could not graduate.

Dorothy was born Jan. 11, 1895 and was a year behind Verne in H.S. at the same school. Her father (William Lee Logan) was a well to do dry goods merchant who was for a time part of a large dry goods wholesale company, Higganbotham, Bailey, and Logan Co. in Dallas. He spent a good deal of time in New York. The family moved from Fort Worth to Dallas about 1907. Her mother was Julia Byers Logan. D. had six siblings. They were Bertha, Marguerite, Louise, William Loughborough (W.L.), Gordon and Howard. Louise died at age 8.

Dorothy’s family was Presbyterian. Verne’s was Methodist. (The Presbyterian minister in “A River Runs Through It” (set c. 1920) says that a Methodist is a Baptist who can read. This captures the social pecking order of the time pretty well.)

After Verne and Dorothy married, they attended the Logan family’s church, East Dallas Presbyterian Church. When I watched “A River Runs Through It” with my father Bill, V. and D.’s second oldest, he told me “I know that Presbyt. minister. I grew up listening to him every Sunday.”

Dorothy was very social. Verne was both social and interested in all things technical – a well rounded early 20th century geek. Both were serious Christians – not uncommonly, she was more concerned about getting to church on Sundays than he was, and he seems to have given up penny ante poker and cigar smoking to please her. Both were strongly in favor of Prohibition.

Sometime when he was a teenager, V. lost his left arm in a streetcar or train accident. This was obviously very traumatic, and he had phantom limb pain – I don’t know when it began. After he and D. were married the children were not allowed to ask about or discuss his condition – this from my father and Howard.

These letters were in a box of Dorothy’s stuff that was retrieved from her garage after she died in 1982. There are also letters from after Verne and Dorothy’s marriage in Dec. 1919, during periods when Verne was working away from Dallas. I have not gotten into them yet.

Unfortunately, Dorothy’s letters to Verne from before their marriage were apparently all destroyed. Dorothy was concerned about their privacy and asked Verne to destroy her letters. Her concern was not completely unwarranted, because Verne’s mother had some tendency to go through his things and read any letters that she found. And of course nosy descendants can get these things and publish them on the internet.

From letters:

V. and D. knew each other in high school and went out some. In one of her letters she recalled a tennis date on or near San Jacinto day (Apr. 21) and he recalls a Junior-Senior dance on that date. There are indications in the letters that D. didn’t dance, or at least had Presbyterian qualms about it. My cousin Cyndi saw letters that Dorothy wrote to her mother that indicated that she did date Verne in high school but didn’t see it at the time as being serious. Unfortunately, those letters have been lost.

In July of 1913 they had their first post-high-school date. In later letters V. does not count these high school dates and marks their first real date in July, 1913. In Sept. 1913, he wrote his first letter to her when she was in Mineral Wells.

He refers in a letter in summer ’14 to a previous fiance, but doesn’t mention her name. Later letters suggest that her name was Alleene. He says that it will be three summers that he has spent writing letters, so he probably had previous romances and separations for the summer.


Dorothy and Verne were both in Dallas in the fall of ’13 and the spring of ’14. They had a regular date to go to church on Sunday nights. By summer of ’14 he is in love with Dorothy and not happy that she will be out of town most of the summer. He writes to her essentially every day she is gone, first for two weeks to Sweetwater and then for a month and a half to Michigan with her mother and some friends. She writes to him too. Hard to tell at what point she is won over without her letters. He burned her letters at her insistence. She did not write as much to him as he did to her, but she had more entertainment available than he did, as he was working.

He is obviously worried that she will meet someone else and forget about him, and I think, she likewise. He refers in letters to both of her parents as wanting to cool the relationship to some degree. Verne is doing odd jobs and working for the gas co reading meters, which, together with the fact that he only had one arm, probably explains their point of view.

At this early point, V. is already expert in photography. He and his friend Hartwell Albright develop and print photos for family and friends. I can’t find it now, but at one point he indicates that he was grinding his own lenses to make an enlarging camera. He also drives and repairs cars, listens to opera records and goes to see Fatty Arbuckle films.

V. is hoping to take a course in chemistry at Baylor – I assume that this was a program in Dallas. He may have actually done this. Not entirely clear.

D. is considering going to UT Austin in fall ’14, apparently with strong encouragement from her parents. V. tells her that although he doesn’t want to be away from her, that it may be a good idea for her to go, at least for a year, so she will have it look back on.

During the summer of ’14 V.’s mother Beall was trying to convince the rest of the family to go to Arkansas where the govt. was homesteading land in fruit country. Evidently V. and his father were more cautious about this. Verne felt that if they went, he would need to go with them. By the end of the summer, Beall had cooled on the idea.

D. returned to Dallas for a while in early Sept. and then went to school at UT Austin. She went to UT in ’14-’15 and ’15-’16. (She was a middling student – B’s and C’s, a D in Geology – we have her transcripts.) They apparently agreed to only write once a month during the school year during ’14-’15, which must have been very hard for him at least. Not sure if her parents had a hand in this decision.

Verne is in Dallas during the fall. He works for the gas co. reading meters and learns dairy farming by working with friends who have a farm outside Dallas and makes an offer on some land. The letters are once a month after early Sept.

Sometime late in ’14 the Garrisons decided to homestead in Arizona. Verne sees D. around Christmas and a picture is taken of him, which we have.


I stumbled on this quote from Alexis de Toqueville. He wrote it in 1835, but it was still true of many people in the early 20th century, including my grandfather:

It is odd to watch with what feverish ardor the Americans pursue prosperity. Millions of men are all marching together towards the same point on the horizon; their languages, religions, and mores are different, but they have one common aim. They have been told that fortune is to be found somewhere toward the west, and they hasten to seek it.

Verne said a number of times in the letters that he thought that the west was the place for a young man to seek his fortune, although it was the rural west that he had in mind, not a city like Los Angeles.

In early Jan., V. and his father (and possibly his brother Carl) went to San Simon, AZ. On the way they stopped in El Paso, and V. visited a Mexican casino in Juarez and noted that most of the roulette wheel gambling seemed to be done by American women. V. and his father each got land to farm and began working on houses and wells. V. had 800 acres, his father had a section.

In the letters he talks about these projects and about riding and breaking horses. He also bought cattle. Pancho Villa was raiding across the border and killing Americans, and he discusses the danger from this, which he saw as minimal.

Prohibition was in the air and V. and D. were both strongly in favor of it. Arizona began Prohibition on Jan. 1 1915, (at the moment that the Garrisons arrived) probably largely because they also had women’s suffrage. New Mexico was wet, so the towns over the border like Lordsburg and Rodeo were full of saloons. V. talks about this later in the letters.

In Mar. 1915, V. returned to Dallas for 3 weeks. He hoped to go to Austin and see D. before returning, but this doesn’t seem to have happened. When he returned around the beginning of April, his mother Beall and siblings Carl and Gwen were with him.

While in El Paso on the way back he ran into a man whom he had known in Dallas. The man needed money and V. loaned him $150 and kept the man’s “Cadillac racer” as collateral. The man defaulted on the loan and V. ended up with what he believed to be the fastest car in southeastern AZ, although he kept it in his shanty and didn’t drive it. He estimated it was worth $800 when he acquired it. He was later made an offer to race the car in Lordsburg, N.M., but he demanded a purse of $350 and the race apparently never happened. Sometime later Carl traded the car for some lifestock without asking Verne, but Verne had lost interest in the car and didn’t care.

Verne lived in San Simon and worked on his land and his father’s land and helped their neighbors drill an artesian well to learn how to do it and find out what was likely to work.

Here’s a couple of letter summaries to give a feel for this time:

Verne had gotten his hand caught in his neighbor’s pump while working on it a couple of weeks before. It’s amazing the risks he took with his one hand.
Wed. June 23, 1915

He says that by now she knows why his last letter was so late. “No darling, I have neither forgotten you nor forgotten to write to you.” His hand is getting better, but he has had another finger nail removed and so can’t put a glove on yet. Still he got some stumps removed anyway. [Remember, this guy only has one arm!]

“Well, Darling, I am afraid that your mother may not like our writing too often, so I will close.”
Sun. June 27 (pm 29th) 1915

V. had not thought he could get started on the well for a week, but he in fact was able to start already. However, they had not gotten far before the driller decided he needed to replace some pipe. V. was also more than annoyed to find out that the driller expected him to supply the drilling water. V. does not have the teams to haul the 20,000 gallons a day that it takes, so he set about getting a surface well drilled to supply the water. This involved some additional frustrations, but he got it started and thinks that they will finish quickly and be able to move on to the deep well.

He hadn’t had a great time at the dance, but somewhat interesting. The girl he took was visiting from Tuscon and couldn’t understand why anyone would live in such a remote place. She had spent a while talking about how dull San Simon was, to which V. replied that he rather liked it.

“Oh, but you have never lived in a city like Tuscon where you can have a good time.”

“I had to admit that I had never lived in one like Tuscon. Now Tuscon is a town of about 2 or 3 thousand people…something like Arlington. After some time she asked me if I had lived here only a few months… and then she asked me where I came from and I told her Dallas. She then took an interest in me and allowed me to ascend to her level by asking me if I could drive a car. By this time I was rather peeved and told her that I had never ridden in one but in Dallas they had over ten thousand. Sat. I met her in town and some way she found out that I had a car and asked me to bring it out. I now see that automobiles can make friends for a person even if they are good for nothing else.

“I never thought of it any more until tonight I found that Carl had been out to see her 2 nights in succession. This morning he told me liked her fine. Now you see that although she is too good for me I may get her for a sister-in-law. Quien sabe.”

[I would love to know if this was Nina, who Carl married a couple of years later. Probably not. Carl was known as the lady's man of the family.]
During his time in Arizona, Verne did most of his traveling on horseback. There were train lines in the places he went (San Simon, Apache, Douglas, AZ, Rodeo, N.M., Lordsburg, N.M.) but he needed a horse for local transportation when he arrived, and he owned a number of horses, so he usually rode. He raised horses, cattle, chickens and hogs, and won prizes at the local fair for his livestock. He always insisted on having the best “equipment” for whatever he was doing, so of course he had the best livestock breeds.


Verne lived in San Simon working on his well and land and that of his father and neighbors until Sept. of 1916 when he went south to Apache to live. He had planted crops before leaving, but he apparently didn’t return to harvest them. He may have left them for the rest of the family. He doesn’t say before or after moving exactly why he moved. During the fall of 1916 V. remains coy in the letters about why he moved to Apache. He tells her some of what he is doing there, but indicates that he is not revealing his main occupation there. He was in fact teaching elementary school, which he did through May 1917.

In a letter in early Aug. 1916, D. tells V. that she had seen an obit. for a Mrs. Garrison that she thought was his grandmother. It was his step-grandmother (Sarah Moore Garrison, 3rd wife of Lovick Pierce Garrison) who died July 24, 1916. Verne says in the letter that despite being a step-grandmother (who had no children of her own with LPG) she had taken an interest in his grandchildren.

Apache is no longer a town. To find Apache on Google maps, look for Geronimo Surrender Monument. If you put in Apache, AZ, Google will send you to the wrong place. Geronimo surrendered near the site of Apache 30 yr before V. moved there.

In Nov. ’16 V. describes riding in one day from Bowie (24 mi west of San Simon) to San Simon and then 45 mi. to Apache, the last 25 mi into a sandstorm, and arriving at 2 a.m.

All during his time in AZ, Verne was writing tender love letters to his “little Queen, his Sweetheart” (once he used “Dulce Corazon” and once “Regina Chiquita”) telling her how much he missed her and was anxiously awaiting the time when she could join him and get married. He put her on a high pedestal of feminine perfection. He reports every date with another girl or attendance at a dance, which he attended frequently. He never wavers from concluding that all the other girls fall far short of Dorothy. At least a couple of girls (Julia Paul and a Miss Reese, both in San Simon) nursed hopes of winning him away from D. – Miss Reese went so far as to send him a ring in Apache. (Miss Reese was seriously confused – she was an atheist and had about as much chance of winning Verne as one his pigs.) Verne maintains that he told all his dates from the beginning that he belonged to Dorothy, and I believe him.

I have puzzled over why he stayed away so long and didn’t return to marry D. I think the answer is that he was supporting his parents who had depleted their savings trying to get their homestead going (he had done the same) and he never thought that D. could be happy with the rough life and sparsity of people in SE Arizona. He felt the obligation to support her in a relatively comfortable lifestyle, and, while he thought that he could do that pretty easily if it was just the two of them, the additional burden of his parents and Gwen made it more than he was confident he could manage.

V. spent Christmas of ’16 in Dallas, and presumably told D. then what he was doing in Apache. When V. came for Xmas 1916 he and Dorothy had not seen each other for 2 years. When he left to return to Arizona, they didn’t know that they wouldn’t see each other for another two and a half years.


After returning to AZ in Jan. he mentions buying burros (at elevated prices because of the fear of war with Mexico), hauling wood with several teams of horses, and alludes to teaching school. In a letter in late Jan. ’17 he indicates that the reason he left San Simon and came to Apache was that he was out of money and had to get a job to replenish his coffers. I think he also may have been supporting his parents.

V.’s letter of Jan. 10 was forwarded to D. in New York at the McAlpin Hotel where her father often stayed. She visited Boston and was in N.Y. until late in Jan. The next letters are to Lexington, KY where she was visiting her cousin Jane Logan until late Feb. when she returned to Dallas. Jane was anticipating marrying “Johnson.”

During this period, V. had two admirers in AZ. One was Julia Paul, a schoolteacher in San Simon, whom he had a lot of respect for. He spent enough time with her that his mother and other people thought maybe he would marry her instead of D., but Verne’s letters never show any sign that he wavered.

The other was “Miss Reese,” an atheist who was a schoolteacher at an elementary school north of Apache somewhere. She must have concealed her atheism to get a job teaching school, and she had to be seriously confused to think she had any chance of snaring Verne. She actually sent him a ring, which he returned and then she sent it back to him again.

Early in April V. had smoked part of a cigar that someone handed him. He hadn’t smoked in over a year and he got sick. He mentioned this in a letter to Julia Paul, and she got peeved and told him he shouldn’t smoke. He agrees with D. that Julia has no right to tell him what to do, but D. also objects to him smoking, so he says he won’t do it again.

[Verne quit smoking temporarily, but at some point he started smoking cigarettes heavily again and didn't stop until around 1950 when he had a heart attack. His doctor told him he had to stop and he quit cold turkey and never smoked again.]

I have had the impression from both my father and Howard that my great-grandfather W.O. Garrison was kind of a quiet man, overshadowed by the strong personality of his wife. He may have been, but this letter gives a different perspective.

The U.S. had declared war on Germany on April 6.

Mon. Apr. 16, 1917 Apache, AZ

“My own little Queen,

“I was surprised to receive a letter from you yesterday and I was still more surprised to find another one this morning. Of course I was glad to get both and enjoyed the letter yesterday, but as it was Easter and I was so busy and too tired at night to answer it, I put it off until this morning. The most pleasant surprise I know of is a letter from my little Queen and I am always eagerly awaiting for one from her.

“Well, the entertainment [Easter program put on by his schoolkids] is over and I fully believe that I acquitted myself in thorough accordance with the latest approved rules as to how a baby elephant should conduct himself in public. The only thing that I learned from this entertainment is that I am never going to do it again. I never had anything worry me half so much and it was certainly a burden lifted when it was over.

“You should have taken advantage of the opportunity to see thru the Brown Cracker and Candy Co. because I am sure you would find it interesting. I was thru once and I was surprised to find such a common industry so interesting.

“I believe I shouldn’t care if one of the girls in your club was a German for I would surely tell her as well as anyone else just what I thought. I am strong for Old Unkle Sammy and if the bloomin’ Germans want to see things their way they can go to their home across the sea. I believe we are entirely right in what we are doing and I think that we have stood much more than most people would have taken. I am not anxious to see the men go to France, but I suppose that it is best, for the French need men badly.

“Yes, I thoroughly agree with you that my handwriting is easily recognized anywhere because I do not believe that I ever saw one which was nearly so bad.

[There was a great deal of emphasis on good penmanship in those days, and it persisted into my early school years in the '50s. In fact V.'s handwriting is excellent and almost always easily readable, although a few of the letters are so faint as to be very difficult to read.]

“Your speaking of your father’s education reminds me that my father, who is, I believe, on of the best generally posted men I know and who can do any kind of work in arithmetic and who has at the end of his fingers a world of technical data which would astonish a good many college graduates, has had only two years schooling in his life. I was surely surprised when he told me this for he writes a good letter and he never forgets anything that he sees or reads.

“What was more astonishing was that in my study of chemistry I found that he was fairly well posted in the elements of the subject and he has never had any use for it and I know, has learned all he knows from disconnected reading. He can tell you what nearly every pharmaceutical compound is used for. He can also explain the manufacture of steel and iron and show a clear understanding of nearly every subject you might ask about.”

“No, I don’t think that I will become tired of cooking very soon because I like to be by myself [reminds me of Struther Martin in some movie] and I am especially glad to get Mrs. Miller away as she and I were always near a break. I never liked her because she was too illiterate to have around and she was always angry when I wanted to read or write and wouldn’t talk, and she thought it funny that I wouldn’t talk about people. She was the greatest gossip in this country and I was surely glad when she went. There is no one here now but Sam and myself, and as Sam can’t cook it falls to me.”

[Anyone who has read about C.S. Lewis' life will be reminded of Mrs. Moore. Lewis had to put up with her for many years, and Lewis had a lot more reading and writing to do than Verne.]

“I made a bunch of doughnuts tonight and I would have sent you one but I failed to get enough sugar in them and they aren’t sweet enough. I will try again soon and I will send you one. Yes Darling I am sure that you could do my cooking to suit me for I know that I wouldn’t make fun of your biscuits even if they happened to be bad once. By the way, I may send you one of my biscuits some time soon. You needn’t eat it, but can see that they are not the kind which are used for paving streets or for throwing at dogs. You may be sure Sweetheart that there is nothing on earth that I would rather do than to have you here to cook for me. I am sure that with a little coaching I could be a help to you in the kitchen when you are tired or in a hurry.”

“I can see right now that I wouldn’t like Porter because he when he thinks he can “boss” my little girl he is wrong and is presuming quite a bit.

“Well darling, I must close but write a nice, long, sweet letter. Remember too that I love you more than anyone else on earth. With worlds and worlds of love and kisses for my little Queen I am as ever,

Your Own Verne

One of his school trustees was caught bootlegging and will probably be sent to the penitentiary. V. is sorry for his kids [somewhere around 10 of them] who are good kids. He doesn’t think the father does anything to support them but bootlegging. His oldest daughter, who goes to the “normal” is a religious fanatic who is practically a preacher. [Does this sound like a great movie or what?!]

He writes in April about preparing his young students for an “Easter Entertainment,” which caused him a great deal of worry before it was over, and having an Easter egg hunt in conjunction with Miss Reese, the atheist young lady who taught at a nearby school and had a thing for him.

Late in April he describes joining the local sheriffs to chase down bootleggers late into the night – they gave chase but didn’t catch them. He also talks about going around and looking at the saloons in New Mexico. He says there are 3000 people in Lordsburg, countless saloons and no churches.

Fri. June 1, 1917 was the last day of school teaching for the year for V. He indicates in a letter he wrote that day that he had been teaching all year in Apache and expects to teach another year. [He didn't.] He was living with Carl in a boarding house and doing some farm work for a man. He registers for the draft (which began that month) and says he would like to go in the army if he could get some chemistry experience.

In late June V. and Carl helped 200 men fight a large fire in the Chiricahua Mountains (northwest of Apache) for several days. They returned in a few days to continue fighting the fire for another week, but, as V. predicted, it was only the arrival of rain that put it out. He describes walking 15 mi to reach an elevation of 10,000 ft. and working 20 hr days for a week. He camped on the top of Mt. Chiricahua, the highest peak in the region and could see towns 100 mi away. He got caught in a hailstorm in freezing weather. He thought the scenery was the most beautiful he had ever seen early in the fire before the damage was done. When done he walked 35 mi to get home, stopping to sleep in a field from 11 pm to 4 am until it was too cold to sleep and rising to finish walking home.

In July he discusses several possibilities for the coming year including teaching again, getting work as a telegrapher, working for the forest service and getting a herd of goats. He was working hauling wood with Carl.

By late summer, Verne was intensely lonely and missing Dorothy badly. He wanted desperately to marry her and bring her to Arizona, but he didn’t have any immediate prospect of a living that would allow him to take care of her and his parents. He didn’t have the money that he needed to invest in his homestead in San Simon to make it productive. What he really wanted to do was chemistry, and he had educated himself in the basics of inorganic chemistry. He also loved farming, but didn’t have the capital to get it going.

In Sept. he was waiting impatiently for a telegraphy machine he had ordered to practice on. He was helping a forest ranger organize his paperwork before an annual inspection, and backed a car out of a narrow canyon when the ranger thought it would have to be abandoned. The ranger was so impressed he wanted to bet two other rangers $100 they couldn’t do it, so long as Verne would be available to get it out after they failed. These rangers had expressed the opinion that Verne wouldn’t be able to do everything necessary for a field ranger, having only one arm.

Cyndi’s database has Carl marrying Nina Robinson in Sept. 1917, but they actually married in 1918.

In late Sept. Verne went to Douglas, AZ, on the border, to visit a mining company and look for Mexicans to help him cut and haul wood. While there he toured a large mine operation which had a big assay lab. They were very nice to him, but he didn’t think that with one hand he could keep up with pace that he observed in the lab, so he withdrew the application that he had put in before taking the tour.

He applied for a position at a small company, Douglas Assay Co. as an assistant chemist. He was accepted and got a letter when he got back to Apache asking him to report as soon as possible. He left the next morning for Douglas and worked there for several weeks into Oct. He wrote Dorothy that he enjoyed the work more than anything he had ever done. However, the company wasn’t doing well, and he realized quickly that there was no future with them. He quit and the co. soon folded. He needed to return to San Simon and live on his land to keep his homestead, so he returned to San Simon for the rest of the year. He never returned to Apache, except for one day. He was sick of it and had to have a change.

In late 1917 V. was biding his time in San Simon, waiting to find out if he would be accepted for some kind of non-combat service in the next round of the draft. He was certain that he would be leaving San Simon soon, but he hadn’t figured out where he was going. Carl seems to have been temporarily missing, seemingly without telling Verne or perhaps anyone else in the family.

V. wanted to find Carl, because he wanted to go somewhere with him to learn and practice telegraphy. Carl had already worked in telegraphy some, as had Verne back in Dallas.

In letters at the end of the year, Verne mentions that he would come back to Dallas to study telegraphy, except that the man who owns the school there is the one person in the world he counts as an enemy.
“I would go back to Dallas, as it has the only school of telegraphy near here, but you probably know the reason why I do not. My extinguished friend L.C. Robinson owns it, and of course a scholarship there would terminate in a hospital bill for one of us and a criminal charge against the other. I have already paid for a life scholarship there, but naturally I can’t safely try to use it.

“If it had not been for that, I could have spent Christmas with my little girl and would have undoubtedly done so. It is peculiar, isn’t it, that the only real enemy I have in the world should be the cause of my not going to Dallas. When I enrolled in the school I did not even know him and as a matter of fact never met him until 2 yrs later. Then he immediately began to play his part as the villain. Quite interesting, isn’t it?
He spent Christmas of ’17 with his parents in San Simon, AZ. He celebrated his birthday on the 24th with friends and family – a total of 3 cakes, 2 cooked by Gwen, said he ate way too much.

When V. left for Los Angeles, his parents and Carl and Gwen stayed in Arizona. In 1920 they were still living in San Simon. Eventually Carl went to work for the Southern Pacific Railway, and worked for them for the rest of his life, except during WWII, when he was in the Army Transportation Corp in Burma or somewhere around there.

Verne’s parents stayed in the area. In 1935 Verne and Dorothy and the kids visited them in Carrazozo, N.M., shortly before W.O. died. Carl and Nina were living in Carrazozo at the time, but later moved to California. After W.O. died, Beall moved back to Texas.
In early Jan. 1918, without any prior specific indication of where he was going, V. moved to Los Angeles, California. He explained in a letter on Jan. 15 that he had taken the train to L.A. He had been in Tuscon on Jan. 1. He was not as favorably impressed with L.A. as a lot of people.

He had started telegraphy school at the MacKay Business College and was living at the Greater Los Angeles Hotel downtown. His instructor thought that he would be ready for a professional telegraphy position soon. He is thinking of a govt. position, but that would likely take him to France, and he doesn’t think that D. would like it if he went there.

On Jan. 26, V. reports that he is going to school on Mon, Wed and Fri all day and at night as well and on Tues and Thurs for 7 hrs. However, in his little spare time he is doing something most interesting, to me anyway. He is listening to a “chemist” who is staying at the same hotel, a man who was in fact a huckster, a charlatan. This is so unique that I am including the relevant part of the letter:
“Jan. 26, 1918 pm Los Angeles

“By accident I met Dr. Hillman, a lecturer and scientist at one of his lectures and then found that he was stopping [did he mean staying?] at this hotel, so a great part of my time is spent in talking with him when I am not busy. Thru him I have met several of the scientists here on the coast and have had a chance to see some of the experiments that they are working on in such lines as chemistry, zoology and a number of other subjects. This has alone been worth the trip to Calif., for some of the discoveries are truly wonderful.

“I suppose that Dr. Hillman is the brightest chemist and scientist on the Pacific coast if not in the U.S., altho he is not heard of much. [There was a reason for that.] Some day I will get a chance to tell you some of the things that he has told me and the things that the world has not read of yet and will not hear of for several years.

“One thing I saw was that he had made lime, or calcium oxide from pure water and then turned it into iron. [Now we know why he wasn't heard of much - he was a charlatan.] What would your chemistry teacher say if he were told this? [I have a guess. Verne - Verne - Verne - Verne - Verne - Verne - Verne! What are you thinking?]

“I also saw him make from Neon, Xenon, Argon and Krypton, the 4 inert gases in the air, a metal as pure and as beautiful a white as the finest china and as well it has a clear bell-like ring when tapped.

“The doctor has discovered a gas called Ethola which is remarkable and is the lightest known substance. Another thing about it is that there is nothing known which will hold it. [What does he keep it in, then?] He, the doctor, is going to take me up to where they are experimenting on the extraction of radium from ores which are abundant here. I expect this to be interesting. [Thank God V. didn't have any money to invest.]

“How are you progressing in your school now? I hope you like shorthand better than I did. I imagine commercial telegraphy would be about as fascinating to me, but I may have to take it up if I can’t get on in the railroad work. However, I feel sure I can get work with the railway especially if Uncle Sam takes it over…
This is the last letter until May, 1918. Arrrrrrrgh. I want to know what happened with the charlatan chemist! Verne G. II tells me that he may have some more letters in his garage. I hope they fill in the gap…

Well, I regret to report that Verne and Elaine’s garage has been searched and there are no letters there. So there is a gap from late Jan. 1918 to the end of May 1918. I’m afraid we will never know what happened with the villainous “Dr. Hillman.” I suspect Verne figured out that he was a con man. I would like to think so anyway.

When the letters resume in late May 1918, Verne is living at 845 S. Olive St. in L.A. (now a parking lot in downtown L.A.)

In late May 1918, Verne was working for the Associated Press in L.A. receiving stories by telegraphy. (From later letters it appears he went to work for the AP near the end of March.) He had just acquired an Underwood typewriter which he refers to as a “mill.” It’s not clear if he was able to receive telegraphy and type it out at the same time yet. He was working on being able to do it, but obviously having just one hand had become difficult again.

He mentions that he would receive the news on “the ponies” every afternoon, news from the races, as part of his work. He certainly wasn’t betting on them, although he complains about the very low wages in L.A., so perhaps he was tempted a little. I am not sure whether “the ponies” refer to horse race results or if this was just a slang term for the news, going back to the days when AP news came in to the telegraphy stations by pony express. I sent a query to the history people at the AP, but they never responded.

He says that L.A. was full of people willing to work for low wages just to stay in the area. He is still not so impressed, but he is enjoying going to the beach some.
(I probably misinterpreted what was Verne was saying – he actually said “reading the pony.” I think from later letters that this was some particular newsfeed, perhaps the main AP newsfeed – “reading the pony” may be a reference back to the earliest days of the AP in 1846 when news was delivered by pony express to an outer station of the telegraph network (see I can’t find the phrase on Google so it may have disappeared into the mists of history.)

He was still attending the MacKay Business College some, but not finding it very useful.

Measles was going around – his roommate had it and V. stayed elsewhere until he was better. He himself had just gotten over the “grippe” (influenza.) The great influenza pandemic of 1918 had appeared first in the U.S. in Kansas earlier in the year and had spread widely among the troops there in March. By late March it had reached New York and had probably reached L.A. Verne almost certainly had a mild case of the deadly H1N1 in late May, 1918.

During the summer of 1918, Verne continued to work for the AP, although he was planning on getting a job with one of the railroads. One of his jobs that summer was to cover the Los Angeles minor league baseball team, so he had to go to all the games. The season ended early because of the war, and Verne was happy to have his evenings free. He tried to get on with the Red Cross to go to France, but they said that he was too young, being less than 25. His main entertainment was swimming, often at Bimini Baths, a private bathhouse and pool built over a hot spring northwest of downtown L.A. He also swam at Venice and Redondo beach, going out to a buoy and getting a bad headache once and swimming around a large pier with a group of guys on another occassion. As usual, having only one arm didn’t hold him back at all.

Verne got the flu again near the end of August. I brushed up on the 1918 pandemic at Wikipedia.

This turned out to be easy. I love Wikipedia (but I hate it too, because it makes everyone else just as smart as me or smarter, for whatever that is worth.)

The 1918 pandemic flu came in at least 3 waves. The first wave in the spring of 1918 was about as virulent as a usual flu season, but it provided some immunity to the strain in the deadly second wave that started in August, 1918. Verne didn’t know it, but that little touch of “the grippe” in May 1918 may well have saved his life.

1918 Influenza Pandemic

The really deadly wave came during the fall of 1918, and some have hypothesized that it may have helped end the war by affecting the Germans even more severely than the Allies. The epidemic became known as the “Spanish flu,” not because it began in Spain (it didn’t) but because, being neutral, Spain did not have media censorship and it was thus easier to follow what was going on there by reading newspapers.

Well, it gets more interesting. At the end of Aug. 1918, Verne got the “grippe” again, and said it was the worst he had had since arriving in Calif.; it only kept him in bed for 2 days, but he was very weak when he went back to work. This was the deadly strain no doubt and he got off lightly because he had already had the milder strain of the first wave. This was the deadliest epidemic in human history (in total number of deaths) and they had no idea what was happening. It was just another bout with “the grippe” at this point.
He quit his job with the AP because he was so weak that he couldn’t work, but got on immediately after recovering with the Salt Lake Route Railroad at their dispatch office. The railroads were being controlled by the government because of the war, so the new job meant working 12 hr. days, but he liked the job.

During the fall, Verne was working a lot of hours, with the consequences that he didn’t do much playing around and the letters become somewhat sparser and shorter. He found that he had learned a particular fast style of telegraphy at the AP which was considered the most difficult type and that railroad telegraphy was slower and different in form. Surprisingly, it was difficult to make the switch. Railroad dispatches evidently had an elaborate set of forms that had to be learned and this together with getting used to the slower speed, took him quite a while.

By late October, Verne was aware of the influenza epidemic. It now became “influenza” and not “the grippe.” Churches, theaters, schools and other public gathering places were closed, so everyone was aware of the epidemic, but probably not aware of how devastating it was. Verne thought that he had another mild bout with the flu at this time. In Nov., Verne had his hours cut to 8 hr a day. He was glad for this, but with everything closed there was very little to do.

While he was working in the dispatch office he was waiting to be sent out to a rural station as soon as he was competent to run a station by himself. He expected that he would be sent to Utah, Nevada or possibly the California desert on the route to Utah. He thought that with the provision by the company of living quarters and the reduced expense of living in the country that he would be able to get married and bring D. out to live with him. He planned on trying to switch to the El Paso and Southwestern RR after a while, which would allow them to go back to Arizona.

Verne continued to share a small house with Frank, who was also doing telegraphy for the railroad, until Nov. Frank had become restless with telegraphy and decided to join the army. Verne would have joined the army if they would take him. He expresses disgust with the men who were trying to get jobs with the railroad just so they could get out of being drafted.

In early Nov. Frank got the flu and Verne moved out to a hotel while Frank was quarantined. Frank had expected to be “entrained” about the 12th. He recovered from the flu, but the war ended on the 11th and the entrainment was cancelled at the last moment. Frank immediately started his plan B, which was to return to the Imperial Valley and pick cotton, so Verne never returned to the house and continued living in the hotel.

Frank had tried to talk Verne into going with him to the Salt River Valley in Arizona to buy some cotton farming land there. Frank knew cotton farming (he could pick 300 lbs a day, enough to make $400 a month, not bad when they were making $125 a month working 7 days a week, 12 hr a day as telegraphers.)

Irrigation in the Salt River Valley was done with water from a reservoir and allowed farming without depending on rain. Verne knew that the price of cotton and land would come down with the war over and he seriously thought about taking the offer the next spring when prices would have settled.

The Salt River flows down out of the Theodore Roosevelt reservoir in the mountains and goes through Phoenix. If Verne had gone, he would have been buying good cotton farming land with a reliable water source, land that in a few decades would have been the suburbs of Phoenix. He might well have been a cotton and land magnate and we might have all been rich Arizonans rather than middle class Texans. Blame Dorothy. She told him that she didn’t want him to go back into farming, and he let it drop. :)

Verne indicates that, although he had a lot of acquaintences, Frank was the only one he considered to be a friend. However, he was friendly with E. Shelby Smith, from Brazoria, Tx, who had an investment business in L.A. Smith had offered to go into business with Verne in a number of possible ways, including a tire dealership in L.A. and real estate investing in L.A.

Before getting the flu again, Verne was planning to talk to D. on the telephone for 5 minutes on Xmas day. This was going to cost $15, about 1/8 of a month’s salary. This would be done at an office, but it is not clear if he could do it at the railroad station, Western Union or the phone company. But he would only do it if the wire was very clear at that time. If it wasn’t they would have to yell and it wouldn’t be worth it.

[By the time I was in college in Santa Barbara 51 yrs later, a phone call to Texas to my girlfriend was 400x cheaper by the minute (including inflation) and perfectly clear, although I had to go to a pay phone out on the mountainside to get any privacy.]

In a short letter on Sat. Dec. 21, 1918 he says that he had had the flu again and this time he had had a fever of 106 and been down for 2 weeks, quarantined in the house with a nurse. He says he had his doubts about whether he would survive. He expected to be released from quarantine the next day. “You can bet your life that the flu is no Joke. I was never very sick before, but this time I am weaker than a cat. I can hardly walk now, but I hope that I will be stronger next week.”

He wrote another letter on Mon. Dec. 23 from the office of E. Shelby Smith, Investments. V. says he still has trouble standing up for very long, but there was a typewriter (a “mill”) available in the office and he took advantage of it to write a one page Xmas letter while he was waiting for Mr. Smith. He says he had a terrible case of cabin fever, being kept in one room on the north side of the house where there was no direct sunlight, with a nurse who only disturbed his sleep to give him medicine (which was no doubt worthless.)

In a letter on Dec. 27 he describes the process of this bout with influenza. It had come on very suddenly at work one morning with a fever. He went home and spent the day in bed. The next morning he called the doctor at 8. The doctor arrived at 6:30 pm, diagnosed the flu immediately, and told him he would either need to go to the county hospital or get a nurse. He recommended the latter. Verne was friends with a girl (Helen Terryberry) who lived with her mother in the hotel; her mother was a nurse. When she came in that evening and found that he was sick she dropped the case she was on and took his case.

His fever rose over 6 days to a peak of 106.5, at which point he thought he would die, but it broke suddenly and was normal the next day. After that it went down to 96.5 for a day and then normalized. He was weak and still quarantined for another week. When he got up he was anxious to get out, but still very wobbly and prone to headaches and pain in his eyes. He was told it would take a month to fully recover.

I should note that Dorothy doesn’t seem to have had a similar bout with the flu to Verne. The letters do indicate she was briefly ill at least once that year, but she had nothing comparable to the repeated infections and the final life threatening infection that Verne had. My father told me that Dorothy was a bit of a hypochondriac, but her immune system seems to have been even more robust than Verne’s. She lived to be a month shy of 88. Or it may be that she didn’t go out as much as Verne that year and only got the H1N1 after it had moderated to a less virulent form.
Aside: I had a case of the flu myself in Dec. 1976 that was a similar experience. I was down for 2 weeks, starting with a high fever and getting so weak that I crawled to the kitchen to get a drink (I had no nurse or roommate, only a girlfriend who was busy with grad school finals) and a third week where I could hardly stand up. At one point I really thought I might die.

I made the mistake of telling my girlfriend this. Then, Xmas vacation came and I left San Antonio for Ft. Worth, still weak. The day after Xmas I felt fine and left on a ski trip to Colorado, forgetting to call my girlfriend. I had had a good day skiing before she found out that I was fully recovered, not dead or in the hospital. It wasn’t pretty. Good thing she had a week to cool off before I saw her again. There was one benefit. I didn’t have a single respiratory infection for 20 years afterward.

It’s easy to forget that there really isn’t much distance between the fear that Dorothy felt when she didn’t hear from Verne for a couple of weeks in 1918 and the fear that my girlfriend felt in 1976. A few decades, the concept of a virus (which doesn’t change anything practically speaking), a handful of mutations, flu vaccines, better medical care and a whole lot more knowledge. But the virologists are right. H1N1 came back and became a pandemic again and killed a bunch of people, although not near as many as before. I had it in 2009 and it wasn’t pleasant. Another reassortment with pig flu or bird flu and it could all happen again. For all the knowledge that we have, we are not invulnerable.
Concluding scientific postscript:

The people who died in 1918-1919 died because of viral pneumonia and in some cases secondary bacterial pneumonia. Influenza pneumonia is so serious that my 70′s era internal medicine text says flatly that it is invariably fatal – perhaps not quite true, but probably close. Some people bled from their mucus membranes, gastrointestinal tracts, ears or into the skin, and in some people the virus infected the brain, causing permanent damage.

It was a terrible virus that was more deadly for healthy young adults than for all but the very oldest or the very youngest. Verne almost certainly survived only because he had built up immunity in his three previous bouts in 1918.

A friend of mine pointed out to me a couple of years ago that we owe a good bit of what we now know about this virus to a guy named Johan Hultin, a pathologist who came out of retirement to go to Alaska and dig up a body of a flu victim that had been buried in permafrost during the epidemic.

Hultin had tried to revive the virus in 1951 by digging up bodies in Brevig Mission, Alaska (where 72 out of 80 people had died of the flu in 1918), but, possibly luckily for everyone, he failed. He read in Science in 1997 that attempts were being made to find remnants of the viral RNA for sequencing. He volunteered to go back to Brevig and found a body which contained plenty of RNA for sequencing. Thus we know exactly what the virus was that killed so many (3-6% of the world’s population at the time), and the virus has been reconstructed and tested in animals.

From early Jan. 1919, V. is living at the YMCA in L.A. and is still working for the L.A. and Salt Lake R.R. doing telegraphy and other things. His finances had been depleted from his bouts with influenza, which probably accounts for his moving to the Y. By Feb. he seems to have recovered from the aftereffects of the flu and feels o.k.

In early 1919 Verne’s friend E. Shelby Smith offered to help him go into the tire sales business in L.A., but Verne did not take him up on it. He probably didn’t have the capital and didn’t want to risk someone else’s money starting a business. Smith was from Brazoria, Texas and his father J.G. Smith was part of a land development company there. J.G. Smith’s name is still on surveys in south Texas. He probably was pretty well off. I stumbled on the fact that there was a J.G. Smith who was a member of the Fort Worth Club in the ’20s, but I don’t know if they were the same. E. Shelby Smith had an investment company in L.A. He also considered buying a telegraphy school in Los Angeles and having Verne run it, but nothing came of this either.

From the letters in 1919 it appears that Verne had nearly mastered receiving railroad telegraphy directly on the “mill,” which seems pretty impressive for a guy with one hand. He notes that he had been a good typist in high school before he lost his arm, but says he never got to where he could type with one hand without making mistakes. He would have to edit his received telegrams by x-ing out the mistakes.

In letters during Feb.-Mar. it appears that Dorothy decided to quit her job, as she was suffering repeated colds. In the process of discussing this, Verne reveals that he doesn’t really believe in taking medicines. He had taken some when he had the flu, but he associated stopping the medicines with starting to feel better. Now the shocker. He says that in the past he had undergone Christian Science healing, although it had been a long time, and he thought that that was really the way to go. Christian Science healing is basically just prayer, together with a belief that illness and evil are in some sense not real.

From late March Verne’s return address is 687 S. Westlake Ave. in L.A. This is not the Westlake Blvd. in today’s Westlake Village, many miles to the west. It is a couple of blocks east of MacArthur Park, which was Westlake Park in those days, on the west side of downtown Los Angeles. Verne liked the park enough that it inspired him to try to get Dorothy to come out and get married before they would move to the desert.

I can’t tell from Verne’s letters whether Dorothy might have “eloped” like this and was only restrained by her parents or whether the reluctance was hers. There’s not any doubt that both of them were dying to get married, but Verne’s strong need to make it on his own was probably blinding him to the reality that he was going to have to return to Dallas and stay there to marry Dorothy.

Beginning in Mar. 1919 Verne was planning to go to Dallas during the summer. He still anticipated returning to Los Angeles and his job with the railroad, and presumably bringing Dorothy back with him. However, in the last few letters Verne expresses some doubts about the railroad sending him out to run a station. Although they were very busy there was an oversupply of telegraphers with the men returning from the army. Verne may have decided that being on operator for the railroad wasn’t as promising as he had thought.

May 23, 1919

“Yes, Dear I would like to go back to San Simon but I do not think it is the best at the present for it would take quite a bit of money to improve the place like I want to. I am hoping they will send me out on the road soon so I can save some money but they seem to have more operators than they know what to do with now. There is quite a bunch coming back from the army and that will displace some more. One young fellow came in this morning and asked for his job back. It looks like there are going to be quite a few changes tho’.

“I thought you knew that my land is under contest. The clerk who allowed me to file on it made a mistake and I am not sure I will get the place now. It has been a long time now since the matter was taken up and it may be that they won’t let me have the whole place. I did not feel I could continue work on the land when I was not sure I could keep it. However I am sure I can get half of it.

“No Dear you need not worry about my loving the other girls nor about my not loving you with all my heart for Sweetheart you know that I do love you and that I do not love the others. The only reason to go see them or go with them is because my little girl is not here to be with. I wish more than you have any idea that you could be here for me to be with at nights but Dear I do not intend that it will be very long until I will bring my little girl out here with me and then there are thousands of things we can see together. It does not look tho’ Dear that they are going to have any jobs open on the road very soon. However it will not be so very long until we can talk it over and I can tell you just what the prospects are and perhaps by that time I will know just what they are going to do with me…
The last letter we have is May 24. The whole letter is below.

May 24, 1919

“The last few days have been been real busy at the office and I have felt real tired when I got home. We are snowed under from the time I get there in the morning until I get away at night and the day work of course is the heavy work. We have been handling all the refrigerator traffic for the Southern Pacific and of course there has been lots of work to do. There is train load after train load of citrus fruit going east and our little branch line was not built with the intention of handling near the trains we are using now. All the wires are loaded and we are kept busy from the time we sit down until we get thru in the afternoon. Today we had a wreck and that made it twice as bad on us. If someone is not careful I will have a job as operator here for there are two of us working all day where there used to be one and it keeps us busy too. They will soon have to put on another man unless business slacks up.

“Dear you still speak of the hot weather there – it seems peculiar for we are still having chilly days here; it has been really chilly at night and so much so that it is not comfortable to sit out at night. Even the days are too chilly to be without a coat.

“Dear I am afraid if I were Lawrence I too would soon hate to see Marie go ever to see you for I would feel like she was not going to get back. I am sure I would not feel right if every time you went to see her she coaxed you to stay all night. But still if Lawrence does not object to Marie’s doing it I will not raise a kick on her account.

“Sweetheart I went over in the park for a while tonight after supper and it was awfully pretty there. I do wish that we could go over there just one night or more than that I wish we could go down to the beach for it is awfully pretty there when the moon is shining. I believe I told you that Smith and I went down there the other night and watched the ocean a while. But Dear I wish for you all the time and most of all Dear I miss you at home for it is really here that I want you and need you. If I could just have you here when I came home in the afternoon I would be happier than you have any idea. That, Sweetheart is what I am looking forward to and Dear I wonder if my little girl will be nearly as happy as I when we are together and can see each other every day instead of writing letters in which one cannot say nearly as much as he means and half as much as he would like to. Perhaps tho’ Dear it will not be very long now until we can realized all that we have been working to and can have a real home instead of building an air castle.

“I received a letter from Carl yesterday and he is awfully interested in whether we are going to get married this summer. He wanted to let me have money to get married with but I wrote him that I wanted to make that transaction on a cash basis and thought I would be able to find the necessary funds. Mama too is getting worried about me for she thinks that I had better get married now for she is afraid that unless I do I will never get married later. She has always said that I was the one of her children she was worried about and she says she does not want an old batchelor in the family.

“By the way Mama said in her letter that Gwen would probably be here some time this summer and Carl writes she is going to visit them in Fairbanks soon. I do not know just where Gwen is but she is going to school somewhere is New Mexico. I think it is Las Cruces. That shows how well I keep up with the family, but we all write to Mama and she keeps us informed as to the way the others are getting along. This is a kind of a relay game for her but the family is all split up now and she is the only one who keeps up a correspondence with us all. Of course Carl and I write occassionally.

“Dear you need not worry about my wanting to go elsewhere than home to see my little girl when you come out here because I have been looking forward to the time when I could come home to my little girl too long not to appreciate such a privelege when I do get it. No, you may be sure that I will be only too glad to come home to my little girl and I am looking forward with anticipation to the time I can have her here.

“Yes Dear I will buy stock in the L.A.& S.L. whenever it is definitely offered us but at the present they have not offered it. It is simply considered – neither the Union Pacific or Senator Clark are willing to let loose of a single share without the other doing the same for now each owns exactly half of it and does not want the other to control it. If one did get the control the road would be better off for as it is there is a little antagonism between them.

[Union Pacific bought Clark out in 1921, and the Salt Lake Route is still part of Union Pacific today.]

“Well Sweetheart it is nearly midnight so I must close. Be sweet and love your Sweetheart lots and lots.

“With worlds and worlds of love and millions and millions of kisses for sweetest little girl on earth I am as ever,

“Your own Verne
There is no indication in the last letters of any immediate trip, so we may be missing some letters, or Verne may have just decided to let his arrival be a surprise. We don’t know exactly when Verne returned, but Verne and Dorothy were married in Dec. 1919. Verne was 26 and Dorothy was almost 25. Howard Ray was born Jan. 1, 1921.

Preston G.

Retired biochemist. One of 16 grandchildren of Verne Garrison and Dorothy Logan Garrison.

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