On 31 Oct. 1948, my mom’s younger sister — Rita Mary Laurence –sat down and penned a letter to a family friend, who recently shared a copy with me.
Although it was Halloween night, Aunt Rita must not have greeted the trick-or-treaters because she didn’t mention any ghouls or goblins in her missive.
Aunt Rita’s college home
What she did write provides a window into her life when she was a 19-year-old college student living at 63 Van Schoick Ave. in Albany, New York.
Dear Alicia, What have you been doing for excitement lately???? As you can see from my address, I’ve changed my residence in Albany again. This place is really wonderful — I’m practically one of the family — more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
Training for a medical career
Aunt Rita’s new home was near the college where she was studying to be a blood bank technician. She was clearly excited to be preparing for her professional career.
They’ve really been giving us the business at school this year — I think all the prof’s are going test crazy or at least it seems that way to me.
But truthfully it’s really fun — at the lab we’ve done all kinds of blood tests — we work on each other when we do venipuncture — lose more blood that way — We’ve also fixed, cut , and stained tissue sections for examination…
Wanderlust takes hold
And then came the hint of wanderlust that would send Rita cross-country six years later for a job in San Diego — a move that left my high-strung grandmother beside herself.
Tell your mother to start looking for a job for me — of course I don’t get thru here for 1 1/2 years yet but when I do I don’t want to stay in this next of the woods any longer than necessary — !!!!!!!!!
Alicia’s mother was a childhood friend of my maternal grandmother — Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — from Gloversville, New York. She had moved miles away to Florida and here was Aunt Rita considering doing the same.
But first — about a month after writing this letter — Rita would stand up as maid of honor at my parents’ November 1948 wedding.
We’ve got everything almost set for Peg’s wedding — I’m to be maid of honor — that should be priceless to say the least — Guess that’s all for now…Write soon — don’t follow my example. Love, Rita.
A precious letter in Rita’s voice
For a few years after college Aunt Rita remained geographically close to our family. She was around for my birth (when she stayed with my mom and dad to help out) and my early childhood, as shown above (when I lived at Whispering Chimneys with my parents and maternal grandparents).
I even remember going with my grandmother to visit Aunt Rita’s basement apartment in Albany when I was little. Used to country living, I was scared by the rickety metal doors on the sidewalk near the corner store — until my grandmother explained they covered stairs to the basement, just like at Dorothy’s farmhouse in Wizard of Oz.
But in 1955, Rita finally made the fateful trip to California, got a job, set up house and never looked back — and my later memories of her are from photos, home movies, family stories, presents at Christmas, and her occasional visits back east.
So the gift of this letter — from a young Aunt Rita in her own voice — is precious indeed.
Up next, one more maid of honor: My maternal grandmother in 1938. Please stop back.
© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.