Letter from Alexander Salley Heyward to Virginia Nicholson regarding his father's dismal economic fortunes, 1 November 1929
Alexander “Sandy” Salley Heyward, Jr. wrote this letter at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland to his high school sweetheart, Virginia “Nick” Nicholson, who was attending school at Winthrop College in Rock Hill. Along with a discussion of daily activities at the Naval Academy and future plans after graduation, Sandy mentions his father’s dismal economic fortunes since the end of World War I. The paragraph that starts on the first page and goes on to the second explains how his mother was forced to take work as a stenographer to supplement the family income, as his father has been unemployed for several months and is struggling to pay his debts. Sandy’s description of his family’s misfortune echoes the story of many southern homes, as men struggled to find work when their farms failed or industries returned to pre-war productivity levels, and women had to take on additional roles to make ends meet.
Heyward, Alexander Salley, Jr., to Virginia Nicholson, 1 November 1929. Nicholson Family Papers. Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
[pmk 1 November 1929]
Nick Darling, [Virginia Nicholson, Camden]
I’ve been trying all day to think of something to do after taps to help celebrate the occasion, but there isn’t really much one can do around this place. Everything around here is well anchored in its place so you can’t move it, so I decided the really proper thing to do would be to write to the sweetest girl that ever lived and tell her how much I love her. Do you think that’s a good idea? Darling, darling, I never have missed you like I have since Sep. Leave, and instead of wearing away a little it’s getting worse every day. That’s a fact, I miss you more every day that goes by. Lord, but I’ll be glad when I’ll have you within reach all the time!
I got some good news to-day, our class will be eligible to go to Pensacola next September, providing the applicants can pass the physical exam of course. Doesn’t that sound good? Gosh, imagine being able to go to Pensacola three months after graduation! Seventy give will be eligible I believe, and I’m hoping to be able to squeeze into the first seventy five. What do you think of the idea, Sweetheart? There’s going to be plenty of competition I’m thinking, everybody I’ve talked to almost, is planning on trying for it.
Your letter came this afternoon, just when I needed it, but I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to answer it tonight. I had so much to do, what with studying for tomorrow and writing up four days report sheets and extra duty. I was griped as the devil to-day for some reason, or reasons, and your letter was just what I needed to help get rid of the blues. I hasn’t heard from home in over a week and was beginning to get worried about
that too. I got a long letter from Dad too, this afternoon, but it didn’t sound like Dad at all. He’s changed an awful lot since last year, what with being out of a job since the first of June, and worried about his debts and all. He’s so darned quiet, and his letter read like a funeral or something, none of the sparkle his letters used to have. Mother is taking stenographic work now and making enough to get along on I reckon, but you know how that makes Dad feel. I know how I’d feel in the same circumstances. I swear, Dad has had the damndest luck since the war, it seems to me it’s time he was having a few strokes of good luck now.
Listen here, sweet child, you stay out of those wrecks, hear me? It’s bad enough, Lord knows, being away from you now, without having you banged up in a wreck. The irritation, I reckon, will wear off in time, mine used to Plebe year, or at least one set of “feelings” would be wearing off when I ran into the next broom, if you know what I mean.
It’s almost midnight now. Charlie and I have painted signs all over the glasses of the bulletin boards, and I reckon it’s time for me to go to sleep. (We’ve been painting pep signs on the bulletin boards before each football game since Youngster year).
Goodnight my own Nick. I love you love you love you.
Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.
Indicator 3-5.5 Explain the effects of the Great Depression and the New Deal on daily life in South Carolina, including the widespread poverty and unemployment and the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Standard 5-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the economic boom-and-bust in America in the 1920s and 1930s, its resultant political instability, and the subsequent worldwide response.
Indicator 5-4.2 Summarize the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, including economic weakness, unemployment, failed banks and businesses, and migration from rural areas.
Standard 8-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of South Carolina’s development during the early twentieth century.
Indicator 8-6.4 Explain the causes and the effects of changes in South Carolina culture during the 1920s, including Prohibition, the boll weevil, the rise of mass media, increases in tourism and recreation, the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, and the Southern Literary Renaissance.
Standard USHC-7: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the economic boom-and-bust in America in the 1920s and 1930s, its resultant political instability, and the subsequent worldwide response.
Indicator USHC-7.4 Explain the causes and effects of the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, including the disparity in incomes, limited government regulation, stock market speculation, and the collapse of the farm economy; wealth distribution, investment, and taxes; government policies and the Federal Reserve System; and the effects of the Depression on human beings and the environment.
Note: Although this document was originally posted as part of a lesson specifically designed to teach the above standard(s), other Social Studies Standards may apply.