James Dean famously crashed his Porsche Spyder on 9.30.55 but this letter from The Box from 10.23.55 makes no mention of Dean or his tragic death, which had teenagers across America mourning the loss of their rebellious hero. Instead we find the teenage letter writer Susie getting her own driving permit and dreaming about taking a road trip up north some day to visit her relatives.
Sunday, October 23, 1955
Dear Nani and Dantie:
I know I haven't written in weeks and am really ashamed for it. I hope you all are having a grand time way up north but I think about you so often and I wished you lived a little closer to us.
Please excuse the notebook paper but I am over at Sandy's house, you know the girl that wrote to me this summer. I don't usually spend the night out on Sunday but we were together all day Saturday and she spent the night with me last night and all afternoon today so I got over here about 8 p.m., it's now about 9:30 and I have just finished my homework. We got our reportcards Thursday and I got the best grades I ever have, all "a''s except for a "d" in typing which I don't get along with very well. And another wonderful think that happened this week you know that I have been taking Driver's Ed. don't you, well anyway Wednesday I passed my test for my restricted license, which means I can drive as long as there is a licensed person sitting in the front seat. I've been driving around the house in the Oldsmobile and it works just beautifully and as soon as I learn to drive well enough I can have the restrictions removed so I may drive up to see you some day.
Last night mother, daddy, the Bar------'s, the Cowans, and the Boudrett's all went to a masquerade together. You should have seen them, it was just a scream, they all wore long night shirts, the men in matching caps and the women with bows in their hair. The men had long sideburns and black mustaches, daddy even had black hair painted on his forehead which looked hilarious.
Mother may have already told you this, but she got the most beautiful present in the whole wide world for her 20th anniversary, her engagement ring was reset and it looks just beautiful, daddy got a pair of diamond cufflinks that are just gorgeous. It was a very happy occasion and daddy took mother out to dinner that night.
The whole family is well and happy and everything is going along just fine. I hope you all are getting along fine, too and I hope to hear from you soon.
Once again I'm struck by a family whose letter-writing was so frequent and heartfelt that a break of just a few weeks in correspondence would be a source of shame and necessitate a sincere apology.
I remember my own mother drove a great big Oldsmobile back in the mid-'60's; a gleaming blue boat that seemed to glide along on summer days as we cruised over to the Waveland tennis courts. If I remember, seat belts were still optional back then, but we felt safe inside that car which seemed as big as a house on wheels.
What do you remember of your own family history on those days, however rare they might have been, when everyone was "well and happy and everything is going along just fine"?