Editor’s note: This is a shortened version of a much longer work by Jami Meeker, which the writer hopes to publish in the future. The full version appears here online. It will appear in the print edition of The Devil Strip in five chapters between August and December 2020. For the full version, visit thedevilstrip.com and search for “Margaret” or “Eddie.”
Margaret and Eddie were married on Thursday, Sept. 6, 1934 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Akron. Margaret’s parents hosted the reception in their home on Kenyon Street, the same home where Margaret sat up late at the dining room table writing letters to Eddie while music played on the radio in the unlit living room; where Mr. Willmott had pie with his daughter on a Saturday night in the kitchen; where Leo became king of the ping-pong table in the basement; and where Eddie sang “My Wild Irish Rose” and talked with Margaret one summer evening on the porch.
From a manila envelope, my mother handed a black and white photo to me of her parents’ wedding party standing in front of the house. A crowd of 25 friends and family, cascading down the front porch steps and trickling onto the clipped grass of the front lawn, surrounds the newlyweds. Margaret’s smile is the grandest. She later told her daughter Mary Ann that she wanted to be buried in her wedding dress because that autumn day in 1934 was the happiest of her life.
By this time Eddie had found full-time employment with J. Gordon Gaines, Inc., a Building and Manufacturers Mutual Casualty Company, according to his business card. Its offices were located at the corner of Main and Bowery Streets in downtown Akron. But during the first couple of years of their marriage, Margaret probably spent more time in that office than Eddie, when she dropped in to pick up his paycheck.
Eddie spent much of his time on the road during 1935 and 1936. He traveled throughout the Midwest, driving the back roads and blue highways from Detroit to St. Louis and along the eastern seaboard. For Mr. J. Gordon Gaines, Eddie and his colleagues performed what he called “road checking,” which required as many as six weeks at a stretch away from Margaret and their apartment in Cuyahoga Falls. What’s more, as his schedule could change from one day to the next, Margaret never knew for certain how long Eddie would be gone and on which weekend he might return home.
While on the road, Eddie spent his mornings and afternoons interviewing truck drivers at depots and yard foremen on job sites. In the evening, he and a traveling colleague wrote detailed reports to send back to the home office in the Akron Savings and Loan Building. His workday often started before 9 am and ended after 10 pm. Eddie wrote more than once about hoping for a reward for his good work in the form of a raise or promotion.
Eddie often sent plain, 5-½“ x 3-¼“, pre-stamped, one-cent postcards on which he scribbled a short note with an update on when he might return home or a promise to write a longer letter in the next day or two. He wrote his letters almost always on hotel stationery and posted them in matching envelopes. A three-cent stamp covered the upper right corner. The post office cancellation mark often included a bygone public service message such as, “Notify your correspondents of change of address,” or “Buy U.S. Savings Bonds. Ask Your Post Master.”
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Eddie to Mrs. Margaret Beeman from Lima, OH – Tuesday, 5/7/35
Am sorry I could not have written sooner. Have been pretty busy since I got to Williamstown & Lima. Expect to finish up my work in a couple of days. Will be seeing you soon (Thurs. evening). Don’t work too hard.
Eddie to Mrs. E.J. Beeman from Detroit, MI – Wednesday, 5/8/35
How are things going. I hope to see you Thurs. evening. Had kind of a wet trip up. It rained all the way. Today it’s beautiful & warm. Will be seeing you soon.
All my love
Eddie to Mrs. Margaret Beeman from Elkhart, IN – Tuesday, 5/15/35
We’re going into South Bend this evening. Right now expect to be home Saturday. Will write later.
Eddie to Mrs. Margaret Beeman from Chicago, IL – Tuesday, 5/21/35
Well here we are in Chicago, & I’d much sooner be back in Akron. Was right across from the stockyards yesterday for about four hours. They drive steers, hogs, & all kinds of animals thru the streets in this district. And do they drive crazy. Was going down Outer Drive that skirts the shores of Lake Michigan at 40 & 45 miles per hour. Saw a woman get hit by an automobile & a newspaper truck get smashed up. When the cops go to a call they take cameras to get pictures. Passed the World’s Fair Grounds. Most of the buildings have been torn down they tell me, but there are still a few left. Went to Trianon last nite with Geo. Hankey, his girl friend, & Mr. & Mrs. Wakefield. It was St. Brendan’s parish party & there must have been at least 10,000 people there. On the back of this card I’m sending you is Wayne King’s autograph. He just wrote his first name & you can barely make out the K in his last name. We all got one.
An old Irish woman adopted me for the night. I was sitting on the side of the dance floor when she planted herself alongside of me & talked for about 2 hrs. steady. She was talking all about Wayne King when he looked over and said “Hello Katy,” she looked back and said “Hello Wayne” then turned to me & said “He’s a fine bye.” Will have more to tell you when I get home & that can’t be too soon. I’m awful lonesome for you honey & I’ll never stop loving you when I get home. I’ve got to go to work now so will write you later.
All my Love
Eddie includes with this letter two curious chain mail letters. They reveal a less sophisticated but more rambunctious side of his sense of humor. Both are typewritten and neither is on hotel stationary. One is on plain white paper with holes in the left margin for a three-ring binder; the other, oddly, is on onionskin tracing paper. As such, Eddie may not have composed the letters but received them and decided to pass them along to Margaret to put a smile on her face.
The first reads as follows:
THIS CHAIN WAS STARTED TO PUNISH THOSE WHO STARTED THE DAMN CHAIN LETTER NUISANCE.
FIND FIVE OF THESE PESTS AND GIVE THEM A COUPLE OF KICKS IN THE ASS AS A CHARITABLE DONATION.
NEXT, MAKE FIVE COPIES OF THIS LETTER AND PASS OUT TO YOUR FRIENDS WHOM YOU KNOW WOULD LIKE A LITTLE PUNTING PRACTICE.
IF THIS CHAIN IS NOT BROKEN, THERE WILL BE 1,526 PEOPLE WITH SORE ASSES IN THREE DAYS.
The second reads:
FAITH GREED SELFISHNESS
This crap was started with the idea it would be a swell method of screwing the public.
Make and mail copy of this letter to five of your worst enemies advising them to leave town, omitting the top name.
In omitting the top name go to that persons home every night for three nights at 12:00 o’clock and crap on his porch. The only catch in it is that unless you leave town before your name reaches the top of the list you get the shitty end of the deal, Because in three days your porch will be crapped on by 23,792 people.
Now that is a lot of crap.
Don’t break this chain and the town will be free of chiselers.
Hope Horse-Shit Hilarity
Eddie to Mrs. Margaret Beeman from Chicago, IL – Sunday, 5/26/35
How are you. I suppose you are beginning to think you are single again. Well to start off with, I expected to be home this weekend, but got called back here. Would have written sooner but didn’t know where I was going to be. Was glad to hear from you last Mon. I expected to leave here last Wed. morning but did not finish up until Wed. nite. Left here Thurs. noon headed for home eventually. Got to Dyer, Ind. then went onto Kentland, Ind & from there to Otterbein, Ind. road checking all the way. In bed at 3A.M. at a tourist camp then back to Kentland to leave some supplies where we got word to check the Chicago-St. Louis run & get in Chicago Saturday.
Here we got orders to road-check between South Bend and Chicago and be in Akron for Decoration Day. We will be leaving here early Wed. morning & expect to get in Akron around 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening & will be glad. We are going to have a Safety Campaign & all the men are to be in. That means I will be home Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. Sun. & I don’t know where after that.
Well now to answer your letter. I went to Mass last Sun. in Toledo at St. Patrick’s at 9:00 & I just now returned from St. Philip Neri where I heard mass at 10:00 & is it a big church.
I would like to have been home when Easke’s were there and I’m glad to hear that they liked our place. I wonder what it looks like. I got a note from Helen Jacobs saying Eddie Callahan was having a party for Leo Riegler Mon. nite & she wanted to know if I would be home in time. Will you call her & tell her that I won’t be home until the middle of the week & Honey Darling (I’m getting goofy) when I do, you & I are going to make up for lost time. That guy was right when he said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I believe I could even write poetry.
Don’t write me because I might not get your letter, so I’ll close for now until Wed. P.M. & so my dear until then
All my love
Eddie to Mrs. E. J. Beeman from Central City, PA – Friday, 7/04/35
I’m looking over these mountains now. You can see for a good distance. It’s kind of hazy but the view is beautiful.
Eddie sent Margaret a picture postcard of the H. Paulson, Grand View Point Hotel located in Central City, Pennsylvania. It is a colorized black and white photograph looking down on the roof and façade of the hotel with trees and hills rolling into a valley in the distance. Deliberately designed to look like an ocean liner, the building later earned the nickname The Ship Hotel. “Captain” Herbert Paulson built the Grand View Point Hotel. His Dutch heritage inspired him to design the original structure as a castle. According to his granddaughter, Mr. Paulson loved the ocean, and the sight of the summits of the low Allegheny Mountains peeking through the fog reminded her grandfather so much of a morning at sea that he decided to add a ship’s bow to one end of the castle and a stern to the other. Upon completion, he prefixed the hotel’s name with “S.S.” and held a dedication ceremony on May 29, 1932.
Perched on the edge of a precipice overlooking the valley, the S.S. Grand View Point Hotel owed its structural integrity to 18 steel piers sunk 30 feet into the rock on which it stood. The builders also encased 22 car frames in the concrete foundation as reinforcement. The landmark building with the odd design did not enjoy a lengthy heyday. The opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1940 meant fewer motorists traveling along state route 30 and thus fewer patrons staying at the hotel.
Mr. Paulson’s descendants sold the structure in 1978. The new owners changed the name of the hotel to Noah’s Ark and opened up a petting zoo across the road. Their venture met with little success and eventually they closed up shop. Empty and unattended, the building fell steadily into decline. A local preservation group called Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor attempted to buy the hotel with the hopes of restoring it but failed to reach an agreement with the owners who placed a higher value on the building than did the appraiser. A fire destroyed the hotel in the early morning hours of Friday, October 26, 2001. Fire marshals were never able to determine the cause of the blaze.
Eddie to Mrs. Edw. J. Beeman from New York, NY – Monday, 7/08/35
Am I getting good—3 days—3 letters. We sure are keeping plenty busy. Have been going since 8 A.M. this morning & finished around 6 P.M. We started to write out our reports & found that we have so much to write of technically that after 4 pages apiece we have decided to finish them in the morning.
As I write to you I am listening to the “Lullaby of Broadway.” Horns, street cars, buses, sirens & all kinds of noise. There goes a trolley over a switch.
While in the lobby this evening I met a friend from Yo. Ask Mary Louise if she remembers Martin (Deggy) Arundel. His sister Sally is living in New York & he is here doing reportorial work for the United Press. I had on my light suit & he tho’t I was playing in the orchestra here. There is also a radio station on the same floor with us—14th.
It has been pretty warm here but now it is raining & it is welcome.
How are you feeling, my dear? You sure are married to a “Traveling Salesman.”
I wrote last night of the hideous way the people in New York dress. I saw a platinum blonde in Radio City with a hat on that resembled very much our toilet seat at home & that is no exaggeration.
I’ll write to you from day to day of my experiences while here. McIntyre & Winchell will have nothing on me. So you take them to the Beacon Journal & demand a high price. Will have more news for you tomorrow. Have been away only 3 days & am feeling a poetic mood coming on. So if, in a few days I dash off a few sonnets, you’ll know it’s you I’m thinking of & wanting.
All my love, my dear
Here Eddie mentions two famous names of the day. McIntyre is likely Oscar Odd McIntyre who wrote a daily newspaper column titled “New York Day By Day” that appeared in more than 500 newspapers throughout the United States in the 1920’s. It was through his column that most Americans living outside of New York learned anything about life in their country’s largest city. Winchell is likely Walter Winchell, “the country’s best-known and most widely read journalist as well as among its most influential” from 1930 to 1950. His daily column, “On Broadway” was syndicated across the United States. It’s doubtful Eddie fancies himself as good as McIntyre and Winchell but he jokingly advises Margaret to earn some extra cash by selling his letters to The Beacon Journal, which was and still is Akron’s daily newspaper.
Margaret to Mr. Edw J. Beeman from Akron, OH – Wednesday, 7/10/35
How are you today? I’m fine but terribly lonesome. Gee! you haven’t been gone a week yet. I went up to our apartment last nite to water my ivies and found the little blue book in the mail box (Rhythm). So get ready honey for the big moment, although your friend will be locked up when you are scheduled to come home. I helped Mrs. Fisher last Tuesday 7/2 with her work so she could have the next day off. She thanked me with a very pretty handkerchief that was also in the mail, also our O’Neil bill. Gee Honey we will only owe $99.18 on our furniture after July 15th payment. Forgive me dear for writing your letters in pencil but it’s so easy to make my pencil move with my thoughts. I read your letter three times today. Oh! would I like to see those mountains and New York. Maybe you will have your picture taken and I will see you on the screen at Lowe’s. Have you had time to visit Radio City? I thought of you when I listened to Major Bowes Sunday. Enclosed card shows you how my name is spelled at the Goodrich. I’m writing this part of your letter at work. I look very busy to the people in the office. What you don’t know won’t hurt them. I’m so proud of you my dear. It thrills me so to tell Al Nolan about your trip. Everyone is jealous of you even me, but I’m so happy for you. Everything will go alright because I’m praying for you to make this trip a success and all your other trips. How’s the new car working? I suppose you’re not using it much this week.
Oh my darling you don’t know how happy you make me with your letters. Truly I didn’t expect a letter to-day. I’m so glad you’re enjoying New York but then who wouldn’t. Golly people are so sorry for me that I have to stay home but that my job as much as it’s your job to be away. Just don’t let those letters stop coming. Dad thinks he did a big thing by talking to you to write.
Adelaide, Harold & Marie were at Annabelle’s Sunday. Mary Louise saw them for about ½ hour. They are all well.
I bought Helen & Francis a lamp for a wedding present at a sale $2.00.
Dad’s painting the bathroom. Gee! are they slow getting anything down around here. I’ll be glad when you get home.
I went to bed last night at 9:00 o’clock. I’m thinking of going down to Walter & Helen’s tonight. What time did you get my first letter. The Mail man comes past the house at 7:15. I’ll be giving him a letter for you each night.
I’m going to help get dinner so Good-night my dear. I’ll hurry home tomorrow for your letter. Take good care of my boy friend and tell him I love him.
Oceans & Seas of Love
As a good and proper married Catholic woman, Margaret is nudging Eddie toward fatherhood. The little blue book she found in the mailbox and describes with a parenthetical “Rhythm” is likely “The Rhythm,” authored by a Catholic physician named Leo J. Katz, M.D. The 1932 edition is bound between blue covers, just as Margaret describes the copy she found in the mailbox. The book’s full title is “The Rhythm of Sterility and Fertility in Women” and it instructs Catholic couples in the rhythm method of conception to both plan and avoid a pregnancy. Margaret’s charming euphemism about Eddie’s friend being “locked up” makes it clear that rhythm and timing will not be on their side when he returns from New York at the end of the month.
Between the good doctor’s book and the handkerchief from Mrs. Fisher, Margaret also found their bill from O’Neil’s Department Store in the mailbox. The $99.18 left to pay on the furniture for their new apartment is $1,786.96 in today’s dollars. It may yet be some time before they pay it off. Margaret may mention it simply because the next payment brings the total under the $100 benchmark.
Asking Eddie about visiting Radio City prompts Margaret to mention Major Bowes, who hosted a talent contest radio show from 1934 to 1946. The Depression-era show became an instant hit and made him a wealthy man while leaving hundreds of others destitute. Contestants were given $10 and an all-you-can-eat pass to a cafeteria across the street from the studio. Each contestant had to sign a contract stating that they would not use Bowes [sic] name to gain them further appearances. If they did happen to get work as a result of being on his show, they were to pay Bowes 15% of their profits. The unlucky ones who didn’t make it this far were put on relief. Some returned home penniless.
Eddie to Mrs. Edw. J. Beeman from New York, NY – Friday, 7/12/35
Well you’re as good as I am. We had a fairly busy day. Was down around the Battery today. Also had lunch in Greenwich Village & was not far from Wall St.
After finishing our business we came to the hotel & scouted for a place to eat. It was right across from Radio City. After eating we passed R.C. on the 6th Ave. side down to Central Park. All the big wigs were out. There are still some old hacks around with the driver in a silk hat & the big wigs sitting in all their splendor.
Came up 5th Ave. past St. Patrick’s Cathedral (where Pat Devlin was offered the job playing organ) & the people were going in for Holy hour. Came past R.C. & R.C.A. Bldg. on the 5th Ave side. The buildings are beautiful with 4 small fountains leading up to the large one at Rockefeller Center.
Got in touch with Mr. Raskob’s secretary yesterday. John Raskob is out of town & will not be home for a month. Am going to his office tomorrow on the 53rd floor of the Empire State Bldg. I might even drop in on Al Smith.
My dear did you shut off the gas under the tank & pull the plug on the icebox? I’m saving all your letters for reference when I get home. Don’t write me anymore at New York as we expect to pull out either Mon. or Tues. But my dear I hope to write to you every day & give you some address where I can hear from you. Again & forever I send
All my love
Margaret to Mr. Edw J. Beeman from Akron, OH – Tuesday, 7/16/35 – Friday, 7/19/35
When day is done my lonely heart keeps singing with a sigh & though I miss your tender kiss the whole day through, I miss you most of all when day is done.
Thrills and joys of all kinds when I got home Monday nite (10:30) to find 3 letters waiting for me. The one you wrote Thursday didn’t get in Akron in time for the Sat. morning delivery (there’s only one delivery on Sat.). Mary Louise called me Sat. afternoon about Uncle Billy’s death. I ask Helen & Walter to take me over to Guila & Jack. Gee! Honey they been swell to me.
Send them a card if you find time (784 Kenyon St). They took me up to the apartment one night, riding another, out to Agnes Horen Hauffman. By the way I haven’t stayed all night at our home since Sat. nite July 6th. But I will be glad to get back home. I’m thinking of going back next week as it’s a mad house here. Agnes telling everyone what to do. I try to help as much as I can. Agnes is always busy but it’s stuff for herself. Oh, darling to go to bed with you and Ozzie that’s all I wish. I can’t get used to the bed here. I get shoved around like an old shoe. Had to sleep with Agnes last nite because Ruthmary had a girl-friend staying with her.
Mrs. Freeman is going to the hospital tomorrow for a tumor operation. To get on with the week I took Ruthmary swimming Sun. (Crystal Pool) got a little sunburnt. I was laying on my back on the sun deck when some bold guy came and laid down beside me. I got up of course and walked away so you will have to hurry home dear, and protect me.
I got up at 5:00 o’clock Monday morning to go to work till 8:30 as that’s the time that Guila set to meet me in front of the Goodrich. Annabelle and Jimmie went to Yo. Sunday. Annabelle, also went with Guila & Jack Monday. We went directly to the funeral home (Shriver & Allison) a beautiful place. You can be glad dear that you didn’t see Uncle Billy because he didn’t look like himself it was so hard to believe that the body was Uncle Billy’s. Myron said he lost about 27 lbs in the last few weeks. He wasn’t sick till last Monday then he thought he had a bad attack of indigestion he went to the doctor then Tuesday he had another attack and the doctor ordered him to the hospital. Aunt Blanche said he was bad from then on. He died about 3 o’clock Friday afternoon. Aunt Blanche said he knew he was going to die but didn’t say much. She said he died very easy. She named Myron administrator. You have to sign some kind of paper. I told Myron to sent the paper here and I’d forward it to you.
From the funeral home we went to Aunt Blanche house on Cliff Park. I like her very much also her husband Henry. He wanted me to stay for a visit. We were there for dinner. About one o’clock Muriel and his wife came from Warren. The funeral was at 2:00 o’clock. Very nice services but stiff compared to ours. There were quite a few people there. All the Beemans etc. I rode in the fourth car and was I proud when the undertaker called for Mrs. Edward Beeman. Uncle Billy was buried at Belmont next to Aunt Lottie. Isabella sang two songs. We all gathered around and talked for almost a hour at the cemetery. We were at Marrion’s (Aunt Blanche’s daughter) for a lunch in the evening. We left Yo. about 9 o’clock. Guila & Jack brought me home first. That was about 10:30. So you can imagine how tired I was and what a comfort your letters were. I read each one twice before I went to bed. You are a darling the sweetest husband in all the world and oh! I love you. If you were here I break every bone in your body I’d hug you so hard. I’m expecting a visitor next Sat so think of me in my misery. I’m terribly tired so Good-night for now.
I went to the show last night with Helen R. and I called for her at the office. Kalb gave me your address. I thought it best to send this letter Special because he told me you were leaving Washington Sunday. I’m disappointed Honey that you haven’t send me some money I had to borrow money from Mother to pay Morris Plan Bank . I got $43.00 and spent—
13.44—Your life insurance
3.00—To Mother for Board
So you see dear I’m broke. Send me $10.00 if you can because I don’t want to owe Mother. Don’t get the idea that I’m mad at you because I’m not. I love you more every minute of the day & I know you are terribly busy. Is it so very hot in W.? How is your cold? Don’t get sick dear or I’ll quit work and come to you.
Went to show and dinner (Beanery) with Mary Louise Wednesday night & stayed all night with her. Stayed at our apartment last night. I got there at 10:30 and Roby’s were going out. They came home the wee hours this morning laughing and yelling. I stopped and said “Hello” to Ray & Bert. They weren’t with Robys. They seem sort of fed up on them. Our home looked good to me, you were there. I thought how nice it would be to have you in bed with me. Ho-Hum how many more days do I have to wait? I’m writing this during office hours so Good-bye and write soon.
Always all my love
P.S. I’d love to hear you say, “Yes my Love.”
Separation from her husband is beginning to wear on Margaret. Caught in the limbo between a home that belongs to her mother and an apartment deprived of Eddie, she rightly describes herself as “shoved around like an old shoe.” Between the odd night spent at Mary Louise’s place or alone in the apartment, Margaret is finding some respite from her mother’s “mad house” and “Agnes telling everyone what to do.” In important ways her life is on hold while she waits for Eddie to return. All the while, she lives day to day. She eats out with Mary Louise at The Beanery, a popular Akron restaurant located at 54 W. Market St. and famous for its quick service. A sign inside the door displayed the restaurant’s slogan: “The Beanery, A Meal A Minute.” She takes her younger sister Ruthmary to the Crystal Pool, the largest mosaic tile pool in the country, at Summit Beach Park. Imagining her whisking her towel off the sand and huffing away when “some bold guy” had the gall to lie down next to her on the sun deck brings a smile to my face. Her spirit remains undimmed.