My parents were killed in a car accident on July 19, 1979. I was 27 years old. It was a tragic shock. Overnight, a narrow streak of hair above my forehead turned white. Within a few hours of being notified of their deaths, I was in the house where I was raised. Next to my mother’s bed, on the nightstand, was a stack of old letters wrapped in a thin pink ribbon. There were over 45 letters tied together. They were mostly from my father to mother, with a few letters from my mother answering him. The dates began from the time they first met. As I began to read them, I found that the one dated November 1939 was the first time he told her he loved her. He and his wife had separated and were getting divorced. He had taken the three oldest of his four daughters to stay with his brother Pete Flynn and his sister in law Molly in Musselshell, Montana. The baby stayed with her mother. My three half sisters were taken care of by Molly and Pete and my mother, Vivian, who was living with them. My mother worked as a typist and stenographer for the county Clerk and Recorder. She was fifteen years younger than my father. She thought she would always be single, devoting time to her photography and working in an office. Molly was not well, and my mother stayed at their home to help for room and board. My father worked for the Great Northern Railway, but his job made him move from depot to depot, not in one place to make a home for his girls. This is the letter where he first expressed his love.
Leo L. Flynn, Judith Gap, Montana, Nov. 23, 1939
to Miss Vivian McConnell, Roundup, Montana
I’ve missed your letters the last few days and I’m darn lonesome this morning.
Wish I could be down there with you this beautiful thanksgiving day.
I arrived here yesterday morning and went to work this morning. Tried to write to you yesterday, but was so darn tired, I just couldn’t think. Went 48 hours without a wink of sleep. I was dead tired when I got here. I’m staying at the Hotel and there’s a Beer Joint in connection, they play the Nickle phonograph all day long. Didn’t get much sleep yesterday, but suppose I will get used to it in time.
I’m a little closer to home now Wonder if I will get to see you more. Wish I had a car today would be tempted to drive down even though I am half dead for sleep.
Was talking to the Boss about laying off a few days at Xmas time. He said if I wanted to come back here to work, would have to lay off ten days as each extra man working an extra job is entitled to ten days work and this is an extra job. I can’t afford to lay off that long and don’t know what to do. He may be mistaken about that rule. I’m going to Write to the Chairman of the Union and find out just how that works. I’d hate to have to be away from home at Xmas time. I’ve planned on it too long now and still I just can’t miss ten days work.
Wonder what I have to be thankful for this thanksgiving day. If it isn’t one thing it’s another!
Suppose you will be in Roundup tomorrow working, so will send this to Roundup. Hope I’m doing right, as I want a letter just as soon as you can get one here.
This midnight to 8 am shift isn’t so hot. But it pays 75 cents an hour, and I am closer to home so will stick it out as long as I can. There’s a lot of mail to transfer here and my shoulder is starting to raise the devil again. Wish I could get to a doctor and find out what the trouble is.
Guess I better stop Crabbing, or you’ll think I do nothing else but complain.
Well my dear must close and write a few lines to Mollie, Pete, & the girls to let them know I am down here and on the job.
I’m just wondering Vivian if you will think me a Cad, if I tell you something that I have tried to keep secret for quite some time.
I know I haven’t the right to say this but can’t keep it any longer.
Wanted to talk to you last time I was down there and I think you knew it too.
Well my dear I love you and have ever since last spring when I got to know you and found out what a wonderful girl you really are.
It’s said now.
It has grown upon me more since I left this last time. I think of you every day. I just couldn’t help but tell you Vivian and hope you don’t feel angry toward me for doing so.
There is no harm in me loving you and there will be no more said about it if you wish it that way. Some may think I haven’t the right to love, considering everything. (You know what I mean). But I don’t feel that way and furthermore you can’t govern your heart.
I hope you are not offended. Please write to me soon and if it’s your wish we will say no more. But you can’t stop me from loving you.
Give my love to Mollie Pete & the Girls and Please write soon.
With love to you,