No pages numbers
St. Louis: Hardbound, Inc., 2003
Privately printed, no ISBN #
Comments by Bob Corbett
In May of 1944 Alice Scherzinger Vance, oldest daughter of author Helen Scherzinger, moved to the Washington, D.C. area to work in the war effort. This book is a long series of letters Helen wrote to her daughter in Washington.
Most of the letters are dominantly family news. Who was doing what around the house and at work, and news of Alice’s two brothers who were in the war, as well as their close neighbor Jim O’Shaughnessy who was also overseas.
What made this intimate family news especially interesting to me were several factors:
- The insight into this very typical family of Dogtown during these war years.
- The details of everyday activities such as nearly daily visits to church, visiting the local tavern with friends for an evening of socializing, the careful concerns for money in this working class area, and the incredibly close knit nature of not only the Scherzinger family, but of the neighborhood members themselves.
The picture of these details is not the dominant portion of the letters, family news is the greatest part by far. Nonetheless, for readers interested in the history of Dogtown and wanting a very nitty gritty picture of life in a quite typical household, this is a rich book, one I would highly recommend.
It’s not just a book to read through – which could be done rather quickly. But one needs to dig a bit for the gems which reveal this neighborhood picture I describe above. It is a book to read slowly, lingered over, imagining the implications and nature of this quiet life in these war years. Mrs. Scherzinger’s concerns, for example, of the ordeal to go “into town” (downtown St. Louis) is so revealing since the Dogtown neighborhood is just 8 miles from the heart of downtown and in the 1940s, unlike today, served by quite efficient public transportation. Dogtown comes out sounding like a remote place, far removed from the larger city of St. Louis.
Along the way of reading these letters I made some notes of things that called themselves especially to my attention. They include:
I haven’t yet made contact with either of the two editors of this book and thus have no information on how anyone might purchase a copy of the book, or if that will even be possible.. Many, many Dogtown families are mentioned in the letters, and even if no one in one’s own family were in the letters, this glimpse inside a home in Dogtown in those two last war years is a fascinating document. I was only 6 when the war ended, but even at that age I did experience things and this book kept stimulating memories and fleshing out tales I had heard. I was in a place of special luck, however, since the Corbett family, both that of my Grandmother’s family on Wade, and our own family of my parents and me on Childress, come up in the book well over a dozen or more times, some fairly lengthy treatments, even my own being rushed to the hospital in 1945 when it was thought I might have polio.
I am most hopeful that it may turn out that copies of this book can be gotten by others. It is a treasure of Dogtown memories.
The task of compiling these letters, a great Scherzinger family treasure, was well-done by her two grand daughters, Margaret (Gierer) Buccat and Patricia (Gierer) Mills. Their decision to not correct spelling and grammar was a wise one, again lending insight into the people, their ways and habits.
Reading these letters, learning so much, have many things re-called to my memory at attention was a great joy. I can’t help wondering how many more sets of letters exist somewhere in the family holdings of other Dogtown families, perhaps not as extensive as Helen Scherzinger’s set, but significant nonetheless. If only I knew how to locate such great treasures. Editing them and presenting them to the public could be a great service offered by the Dogtown Historical Society. But how in the world do such treasures get identified and found?Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Corbett email@example.com