Herb Tompkins Letter to His Wife Grace, July 31, 1935

IMAGE clockwise: Grace, Herb, Lois, Jim, circa 1920, Portland, Oregon.

Letter postmarked August 5, 1935;
from Herbert W. Tompkins [Tim’s paternal grandfather], 751 E 12th Ave, Eugene, Oregon;
to Grace Tompkins [Herb’s wife of 18 years, Tim’s grandmother], 706 S. E. 14th Ave, Portland, Oregon.

Letter dated Wednesday, July 31, 1935

Dear Grace, Your letter came today. Was glad to hear from you, and I’m very sorry you are discouraged. Of course you know, it might have been two dollars instead of one. In that case, would you be doubly discouraged? And perhaps if it were four dollars, one might have four times the discouragement? Let one discouragement equal X. In this case 4X = w’at? If it were a loss of a hundred dollars, wouldn’t the X’s pile up? Let X equal chewing one’s nails, pulling one’s hair, refusing to eat, loss of sleep, burning one’s pocket handkerchief, beating the kids, bawling out the conductor, and sticking out one’s tongue at one’s enemies. Then one hundred times the foregoing and aforesaid actions would equal –. Oh I am too downhearted to compute it all. Try to figure it up for me by Friday night when I get home.

Oh yes, I insist I am sympathetic over the loss of your dollar, and if it were two dollars I’d be doubly sympathetic, and if it were three dollars and more and more I’d increasingly be sympathetic until my heart melted and flowed away as water and be lost into the parched ground. W’at a effort to write wid the heat and sweat and smell of ink. But I am not grudging the letter. I am writing willingly and lovingly.

 I am glad you enjoyed the phone call Monday [July 29, 1935], altho you could have said twice as much for two bits as you did. This being the case, you owe me 12½ cents, which makes your loss for the week $1.12½. The problem on the first pages actually is 1.125X.

[The following paragraph refers to Herb’s declining the standard reenlistment offer in 1916, after four years active duty in the U.S. Marines, and becoming a conscientious objector to World War One in 1917 on religious grounds and prior service.]

So you thought I was patriotic Sunday [July 28, 1935]. So glad. Well to be candid, seeing the big ship and the band playing the anthem and Marines presenting arms recalled old times and sent a few vibrations over my nerve system. I am not so mean as to precipitate a controversy by saying that your statement implied that there were times when I was not patriotic, “You were patriotic SUNDAY,” but knowing that you read my letters better than you hear my voice, I am making the following statements. Ready? Now – believe it or not, Herb Tompkins, myself, the one and only guy by that name that you or I know, never was anything but patriotic. No one, you or anyone else, can ever condemn me as being a coward or a traitor to country. Mistakenly at one time, I thought (and acted somewhat on the thought) that allegiance to the Highest Authority superseded (not nullified) allegiance to Political Authority, but after a sad experience (made sadder by unsympathetic and unforgiving remembrance of different people), He told me that allegiance to Him involved allegiance to the Powers That Be, as long as they were not directly antagonistic to Him. After all, it was not so much a flirting with and living a falsehood, but a mis-arrangement of Truth. Nothing more to my heart (others to the contrary notwithstanding) as having a full wardrobe, and mistakenly, but with decent intentions (and sincere), buttoning the vest crooked or getting the socks wrong side out or getting the suspenders twisted. The effort should be, I agree, toward perfection, and not having attained it and then, like a gilded clock, strut and flap the wings. Toward implies growth. I know you will say, “What do you know about growth?” I’ll agree again, and say, “Very little,” but with the provision that even like a drunken sailor falling every other step I am still agoin’.

Dear grace, I’ll love you none the less if you haven’t read my letter, or if you forget it, or if you fail to burn it, though I wish you would, or if you publish it in the street or read it to the family or whatnot, or if you tell the kids their old man showed the white feather, became yellow, wouldn’t fight, but let me say in the midst of it you’ll not say anything like that honestly. It will be that you persist in misunderstanding the issue. Don’t get sore at my preachment. Hands are for defense as well as to feed the face. Everyone in America (we live there) has a God-given right to explain his actions.

Well I must stop. I got writer’s cramp. I can’t guide the pen, my finger is still sore. Bothers quite a bit. Sorry about the mix up with Kight. Be sure to date up Cey Bird (sweet birdy). Cheer up about your loss. Smiling face and bright eyes see dollars in the dirt whereas they might be lost with wet and blinking eyes. Goodbye.

I love you, you only. Forever and ever and ever and ever and ever ever ever ever ever ever ever and ever ever ever etc etc etc etc etc etc.

Love you, H.

Scroll to Top