Stories, etc.: Letter 8: Richard A. Fleming to Thomas F. Long

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Page 1 of Richard’s letter

  8434 Houston Street
Silver Spring, Maryland
October 5, 1957

Dear Tommy,

Well, the Russians have done it again. They’ve put an artificial moon up there. As I walked my route this morning, more people were out to get their mail than usual, and nobody was talking about much of anything else. The papers say they call it Sputnik, and they say it means fellow traveler or companion in Russian, but what it really means is that your dear old Grampie had better get the fallout shelter finished as fast as he damn well can. If the Russians have missiles that can launch something into orbit, it’s a safe bet they have missiles that can hit us with H-bombs. And all we can do so far is watch the Navy blow up Vanguards on the launching pad.

The shelter is actually almost done. I bought the last pallet of block last week at Hechinger’s, and I’ve got the steel door set into its frame. You wouldn’t recognize the back yard any more, I ended up knocking down your old swing set to make room for the bulkhead I’m going to fit over the entrance tunnel. I’ve had your friend John Saunders over to check the construction, thanks for recommending him, and he says the building inspectors will pass it easy. I just need to work up the energy, but since I turned 60 I just don’t have quite the getup and go I used to have. I found a nice Hallicrafters multiband radio up at Federated Electronics, they had taken it in trade and they let me have it for only $35.00. Your mother has been buying more supplies, and Kevin’s room is stacked about halfway to the ceiling with Civil Defense approved containers for water and dry stores. We’ve moved Kevin into your room for now.

I took your mother out for dinner last night. She always appreciates a free meal at her father’s expense, never mind that a mailman doesn’t make enough to feed himself on, let alone a daughter and a hungry grandson. We drove over to Bethesda to O’Donnell’s, and I had the rum pie for dessert. Sorry, I can’t send you a piece. I’ve loved O’Donnell’s ever since I was younger than you are, their seafood has always been topnotch. It’s funny, that branch there in Bethesda has been open since last year, but when I think of O’Donnell’s I still think “down in the District.” Kevin had better things to do than come along with us, so he wangled a dinner invitation at a friend’s house. I still wish we could afford to send him to Bullis, he could benefit from that kind of environment, with no girls.

I wonder what will happen to the boys at Bullis if we get into a real war with Russia. I watch those boys out there on the football field, and I think about how hard it’s going to be on them. The postgraduate students are all of military age, and so are an awful lot of the seniors. I hate to think of all those boys lying dead on a battlefield somewhere in Hungary or Czechoslovakia or some other Godless country behind the Iron Curtain. Come to think of it, I don’t much like the idea of you going that way, either. At least you’re not an infantryman, a company clerk is less likely to end up in a foxhole. I’ll bet you’re glad you took that typing course after all, aren’t you?

The Kimballs next door got a color TV this week. Must be nice to be rich! Remember how it was when the Dornboses over on Bonifant Street got their TV, must have been about ’49 or ’50, it was the first one in the neighborhood and everybody used to show up there to watch Hopalong Cassidy and Ed Wynn and Sid Caesar. It’s like that again, except now we’re all over at Kimballs’ place. There’s not much on in color, but Carl says be sure to come over on Tuesday for Jonathan Winters. I’d rather see Gunsmoke in color, but Marshal Dillon is still in glorious black and white. Anyway, we’re going over on Tuesday, and your mother is going to bake a chocolate cake to take along, sort of a thank-you. Sorry, I can’t send you a piece of that, either.

Speaking of being rich, it looks like we’re going to have to throw some money at the old Ford. I’ve had it up on blocks half a dozen times, but I can’t figure out why the shift linkage keeps sticking. It wouldn’t be so bad except that it always seems to happen to your mother when she’s coming home from the bowling alley. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea you had to cobble that ’52 linkage in there. I just got the Studebaker back from Kenny’s Body Shop, and it looks great. Maybe when I retire I’ll buy a Golden Hawk, but for now I’m pretty happy with a freshly painted ’53 Commander.

Well, that’s about all the news from here. Now it’s your turn. You’ve hardly written at all since you got to Fort Riley, you know, and your mother really would love to hear from you. She misses you, and she worries about what’ll happen to you if we get into a war. In hopes of twisting your arm a little, I’m going to pack up this letter in a box together with the pen I’m writing it with. I’ll even throw in a bottle of ink. I know you can get all the pens you want there, you could even buy yourself a nice Parker Jotter at the PX, but this is the old fountain pen your Uncle Sam had, the one he found in his airplane just before he got killed. That makes it kind of a family heirloom, so you’d better look after it, and you’d better use it, or I’ll know the reason why.

Your mother sends her love. Your brother is off gallivanting about the neighborhood again, and I’m going to go watch Gunsmoke. Take care of yourself, and do write.

  Love,
Grampie

Letter 9: Thomas F. Long to Richard A. Fleming
Index to the letters

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