Sunday, October 8, 2017

An undated letter

As prolific a letter writer and correspondent as Miss Branscombe was, it never ceases to surprise me when one of her letters appears on E-bay for sale.   For many years the owner of the letter held onto it.  They or someone processing their estate made the decision to put it up for sale.  Maybe there was hope that a Branscombe family member or someone with knowledge of the writer would purchase the letter understanding the importance of its message.

An undated letter of Miss Branscombe’s was listed on E-bay and, of course, I acquired it.  The address at the top of the letter is 180 Claremont Avenue, New York, NY where she resided with her family after their return to the city from Mountain Lakes, NJ. 

The salutation is to a Miss Diane. The first paragraph acknowledges that Gena knew Diane’s mother and that she had driven by their “fine old place” belonging to the family.  Apologies are said for Diane’s mother not feeling well.  There is no indication who Diane or her mother are or how they knew Miss Branscombe. 

Now for the clues of when this letter was written.  Gena mentions her oldest daughter, “another  Gena”  being thirteen years old who has had a bad time with asthma.  She mentions they lived in the “hill country” while daughter Gena was recovering and healing from asthma. Oldest daughter Gena was born in 1911 thus the letter was written in 1924 or 1925.  The family lived in Mountain Lakes, NJ from 1921-1923 due to young Gena’s health problems.  The move back to New York City had been rather recent when the letter was written.

Ever the one to promote her own music, Gena enclosed with her response to Diane an autographed copy of one of her songs.  Exactly which one it was is not made clear. 

Gena closes the letter by mentioning she will soon be traveling to Picton, Ontario to visit her mother and bring home two of her children who were visiting their grandmother.  Miss Branscombe then tells Diane to tell her mother that she will be driving through Wellington, a city near Picton.  

Diane and her mother are from Canada, most likely acquaintances of the Branscombe family.  Research will have to be done to seek out who Diane and family are.  In the meantime, another of Miss Brancombe’s letters is preserved and a snatch of her daily life revealed.