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SBButler Letters, August 1916

August 29, 1916
August 31, 1916

Atlantic City, NJ, Aug 29 1916
Tuesday, A.M.

Dear Mother, (see a picture of Carrie Savage Butler)

I have had a fine night's rest, not getting up until almost nine o'clock, and expect to go out to Pleasantville right after lunch. This hotel is not one of the two recommended to me by Uncle Edward (Seaside and Haddon Hall) but was recommended to me by one of the clerks at Haddon Hall as a moderate priced and very decent establishment. I went to both of the places recommended by Uncle Edward, but as they were entirely American plan and I wouldn't be around for all meals, I thought I had better look elsewhere. This wasn't the only place mentioned by the clerk at Haddon Hall, but I found on personal investigation that it was the most reasonable; and it has proven perfectly satisfactory. The hotel is on the boardwalk, but my room did not front on the ocean, but on one of the side streets going at right angles to the Boardwalk. Across from my window was a living place with cabaret, and a very loud cabaret- not much on the "Sing me to Sleep" style, but I was ready enough to go to sleep so that it failed to prevent me from doing so.

Ernest and I got to New York about eleven thirty yesterday, and before lunch we went up to the Fisk agency, as I thought it might be well to drop in there to see if they had anything to say before I came down to Pleasantville, and incidentally to pay Mr. Kelley a social call. Ernest transacted a little business he wanted to attend to and then we went to lunch at a place called Reisenweber's, up on Columbus Circle, which was somewhat disappointing; I had some lamb chops which almost crumbled away when you touched them and after a bite from each told the waiter to take them away and bring me something else; I'm glad I kicked and told him what I thought of them because I succeeded in getting something else without extra charge. It was almost two o'clock when we finished, which gave us less than an hour before we should have to go back and get our suit cases at the Grand Central; so we took the subway down to 42nd St. and spent most of the time before we had to go over to the Grand Central visiting the Public Library, which is certainly a huge place.

We had to get to the ferry at Fulton St. by twenty minutes after three, to catch the 3:42 for Atlantic City, and of course we didn't have any trouble doing that. The ride down takes just about three hours, Ernest getting off at Windsor Junction, which meant he was with me about two hours and a half of the trip. The road is thru practically level country all the way, and miles on miles of it is thru apparently useless land, covered mostly with low scrub pine trees, and a good deal of the land appears to be quite swampy; as we came near Winslow Junction, it improved considerably, although there was still some of that kind of country between there and Atlantic City. I was mistaken in thinking that I would have to go to Atlantic City before going to Pleasantville, on the contrary. I passed right thru it last night, it being the last station on the Reading before getting here. I didn't have time to get much of an impression of what it was like, except that it was absolutely level; and shan't say any more about it until I've been there.

I got here a little before seven, and took some time, as you may guess, getting a room; most of the evening I spent strolling up and down the Boardwalk, and listening to the ocean, also keeping my eyes open for anybody that I might know but didn't see a soul. I rather thought that either here or in New York I would be likely to see someone, but the nearest I came to it was to see two actors on Broadway yesterday afternoon, who used to be in the stock company in New Britain, and of course I never knew them except by sight. I went to bed at about ten thirty, and slept practically right thru to quarter of nine when I got up.

I don't remember whether I ever told you much about Atlantic City last summer or not - The Boardwalk is a very wide substantial affair, about nine miles long, being from fifty to a hundred feet from the water's edge all along. On the side away from the beach are the hotels and then all kinds of shops, such as one would find in any city, except that I would say there were more soda fountains and candy shops than on a regular city street; then there are some moving picture theaters, merry- go-rounds, shooting galleries, and other amusement places; also any number of what I suppose might be called terminals for the wheeled chairs; being alone and still possessed of the means of locomotion employed when in Cromwell, I haven't indulged in the luxury. The bath houses are also on that side of the walk; and to get from them to the beach you go under the walk - I don't believe you ever see anybody on the walk with their bathing suit. On the beach side of the walk, there are here and there long piers reaching out into the ocean, and on these piers are the principal amusement places of Atlantic City - places of dancing, roller skating, concerts, moving pictures, etc.; Keith's has a vaudeville house on one of the piers; another pier is known as Steeplechase and is very similar to Steeplechase at Coney Island - revolving platforms on which you try to stay, tunnels you slide down and from which you land in a smooth dish shaped place in some ridiculous position, and loads of things of that character. I wasn't indulging in this sort of amusement last evening all by my lonesome, but it's rather enjoyable, I suppose, when someone is with you. The Underwood Typewriter Co. have a whole pier for a huge exhibit of their machines and at the entrance is a gigantic typewriter run automatically by power. I didn't hear anyone say what the dimensions of it were, but I should judge it was about fifteen feet long, fifteen feet wide, and ten feet high. Of course there are lots more things about Atlantic City than I have told, but it's about as much as one day's observation has shown me. I might say, however, I have had a chance to observe an abundance of paint, and a considerable diminutiveness in skirt length. The best thing of all here is the constant sound of the ocean breakers, of which I have always been fond.

[From David: I found this postcard of the huge typewriter at the Underwood Typewriter exhibit on the Boardwalk:.]
Underwood typerwriter from Atlantic City

Of course Ernest and I were somewhat excited about Rumania's entrance into the war yesterday, it came about so very suddenly; up to about a week ago, I had expected that Rumania would be neutral to the end, but reports for a week have indicated that there was considerable likelihood of her getting in sometime, but I don't believe many people had any idea it would come so soon.

I may go down to Bridgeton for a day, as well as Ern's coming up here; he had a letter from Tot just before he left home that she would like to have me come down to see them.

I don't believe I realize yet that I am down here for good. It seems as though I had come away so suddenly; probably because I worked right up to the end, and because my time has been so full that I have really talked and in fact thought so very little about coming down here.

By the next time I write you I hope to be settled in Pleasantville; I am going to take my suitcase over with me today, so that if I find a room today, I'll not have to stay in Atlantic City another night.
Love to everybody.

[Susan Czaja says: As Gramp (Sylvester) was born in 1892, his age is 24 at the time of these letters.
Dad (Sewall Butler) thought that Gramp had already been down there teaching before 1916, but from these letters its apparent that he hadn't, though it sounds like he had visited Atlantic City the year before. Another thing I can't figure out is why Gram would have still been in High School in 1916-17 as she was born in 1897 and would have been going on 19 at this point in 1916. I guess because she had a November birthday or, for some other reason, she started school late.
Ernie was Albert Ernest Binks, was a friend of Sylvester from his home town of Cromwell CT. Ernest married Flora Stieberitz (their Wedding Invitations appears later, see June 1917) who is Aunt Tot to his Uncle Ernie and they lived in Cromwell after they got married. What I would like to know is how she got the nickname "Tot".]

[David Butler adds: I received the following information and pictures of Ernest and Flora from their granddaugther Linda Largay:

Ernest and Flora Binks Ernest and Flora Binks
Ernest lived until 1993 reaching almost 102 years old. He practiced law in Hartford Ct until 1975 when Flora convinced him to retire. They sold the farm in Andover, CT and moved to Tryon, NC. Flora played the piano and pipe organ and at the age of 40 discovered she was an artist. From then on she painted and exhibited her paintings in New England and Washington DC. They had two daughters: Eleanor and Jean.
Dad says that he would often meet Ernest at a parking area by the river in Hartford and walk up into town during the late 50's and 60's when Dad was working at Travelers Insurance.]

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Pleasantville, N.J.
Aug. 31, 1916

Dear Mother,

It gives me great pleasure to say that I have just unfinished packing my trunk in my permanent quarters, which I decided on taking this afternoon, after a pretty careful search and sifting out available places. The place that I have picked is at once the most desirable and the most reasonable of any I looked at; I am to obtain both board and room here, although I shan't begin to get my board until the middle of next week. The family I am with is named Winch, and consists only of a middle aged man and his wife; there are to be two other teachers boarding & rooming here later, I believe. Mrs. Winch appears to be a very capable woman, and her cooking was highly recommended to me by Mr. Wilson. Mr. Winch is a good plain solid man; and both are very hospitable and I am sure will be very pleasant people with whom to live. Further than this I don't want to tell about the place tonight, as it is after nine already, and I want to turn in early preparatory to an early start for Bridgeton tomorrow. Sunday I expect to write you a fairly complete sketch of Pleasantville as I have seen it, and I thought I had better describe my location to you along with that - Aunt Lucy said something about wanting to see my letter describing the place, and in that case it would certainly be better to have the whole picture of my environment at once. (Anybody would think this was some choice literary gem you were going to get.)

Let's see, I believe when I finished writing my last letter it was Tuesday noon.- After that, I wrote another letter and then took lunch, expecting to go over to Pleasantville immediately thereafter. First however, I wanted to go over to the Seaside House, because I had told Ern to write me there telling me where to telephone him to make arrangements for the rest of the week; The Seaside House was the first place Uncle Edward recommended to me, and I expected to stay there until I found out it was altogether American plan. When I got there Tuesday afternoon, instead of mail waiting me, I found that Ern and his lady were actually in Atlantic City, and had been looking for me. So I dropped Pleasantville for a while and went out to try to find them, with as much chance as of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack; I didn't come across them anywhere, so I decided to leave a note for them at the Seaside House if they should go there again on the surmise that I would have been there in the meantime looking for mail, telling them to call for me at Hotel Schlitz anytime after six thirty, if they were going to stay in town thru the evening. Then I went back again to the Schlitz, signed in again for the night, and then went out to Pleasantville for a couple of hours. I found Mr. Wilson at the Pleasantville Trust Co. for whom he works, and, although he was unable to do anything for me actively that afternoon he gave me the names of one or two people I looked up then, and promised to go around with me the following evening, which would be Wednesday. Before going back to Atlantic City I had an hour or so I could kill and so went around taking observations of Pleasantville, mostly around the northern and central part of town.

Ern didn't show up at the Schlitz, in fact never called again at the Seaside House, so that I spent another evening alone on the Boardwalk. I spent most of it strolling up and down, watching people, wondering where they came from, looking mainly for somebody I might know, and so on; this really being more interesting and a surer way to relieve lonesomeness, for me at least, than going into the various amusement places alone. I did however go on to the Steel Pier, of which I sent you a picture postal yesterday. The structure at the entrance has only seats for people who want to sit down and watch the crowd go by, but there is a hall above which I believe is a Woman's Suffrage Headquarters. Beyond the seats at the entrance is a long seating place called the Arcade with a raised platform in the certain, where an Italian band (known as Vessella's band) holds forth twice a day: the place will seat hundreds and hundreds of people. Beyond this place is a moving picture theater, and then quite a stretch of pier, and finally out at the end a large hall called the Casino, where a musical organization called Martini's orchestra gives two concerts a day, and where they have dancing every evening. In addition to these things there are, I believe, one or two minstral shows on the pier everyday, and one or two other features of which I can't remember the exact details (they weren't going on while I was there). To none of these things is there any admission fee; at the entrance to the pier you are charged 10 cents thru the day, 15 cents at night, and this entitles you to the run of the pier; there are countless numbers of people going in all the time, and as they continue to run, I imagine there's no money lost in the scheme, but you certainly get a great deal for your money. I heard several selections by the band and watched the dancing out at the Casino. This pier is particularly beautiful at night, the way it is lighted up.

Wednesday morning I got out at about nine o'clock, but did very little except sit in the hotel lobby or on the veranda, and read my faithful Times. There was alot to read, the time being the morning after President Wilson's address to congress proposing means of settling the present and future railroad labor disputes. It was of no use to go out to Pleasantville until mid-afternoon, as I wasn't to see Mr. Wilson until evening.

I find that I was not correct in intimating that no one ever appeared on the Boardwalk in their bathing suit; I have seen several since but they are comparatively very few. An interesting feature at Atlantic City just now is two aeroplanes which make several flights a day all around the vicinity starting from the Inlet, at the northern end of the Boardwalk; I suppose they are an old story to most people now, but the number I have ever seen is very small.

I packed up my suitcase and started for Pleasantville about three o'clock yesterday afternoon, and until evening spent most of the time in quite a long walk around the southern and western part of town (one thing fortunate for my peace of mind here is that I am straight on directions, and things seem practically just what they are). From one lady I had seen who had just a room to rent without board, I learned of a place called Pleasant-Villa where they furnish table board either by the meal, day or week - it looked at first as though I might have to room and board in separate places, so I decided to go down and sample their fare at last night's supper. It would be good enough for a week or so, and it is a perfectly clean place, but I didn't thrill at the idea of living at its table for a steady diet. It not strangely proved impossible to find and decide on a room last night, so I finally also stayed at the Pleasant-Villa overnight; and incidentally shall eat there until Mrs. Winch can accommodate me, which will be about the middle of next week. After supper I went around with Mr. Wilson for a while looking at available places, but even then he didn't have much time, as he had the rehearsal of a minstral show to attend and conduct from eight on; this show is to be given by an organization known as the Pleasantville Athletic and Musical Association, a men's club here which seems to be very much alive; Mr. Wilson, I imagine, is quite a leader in community activities, and between these, his regular duties at the bank and his school board secretaryship he is a pretty busy man, and under these circumstances, I feel he has done all for me that I could expect; for in addition to going around with me some he gave me the names of a few others whom I looked up myself. He reminds me very much of a classmate of mine, Ralph Taylor; he is just the same height, the same general build, and talks almost exactly like him, except that he is a South Jersey man and Ralph came from New York State - perhaps also it isn't quite as heavy, but it has the same quality, the same speed, and is enunciated in just Ralph's manner - rather short and quick, but very even, not at all harsh.

This morning I spent looking up three or four more places, and getting a little more information from some I had looked up; and had almost decided to take a room only at Mrs. Bosler's. But just before noon Mr. Wilson called up the Pleasant-Villa and left word to have me see him this afternoon; what he wanted to tell me was about Mrs. Winch's place, as she had been in to see him in the morning (she knows Mr. Wilson well, and he has boarded with her, although not at the house they are in now) . After I saw her place, it so strikingly combined fitness with ideas of what I wanted and reasonableness in price that there was scarcely any question in my mind but that I should take it; I gave the matter a little more thought, however, but finally phoned her that I would stay there. Of course an added advantage was that room and board were together. I might say that I have an understanding with Mrs. Winch, that if things are not perfectly satisfactory, I am not bound to keep the room for the entire year, or any longer at all, after it proves unsatisfactory, which I don't believe is very likely.

This morning I had a letter from Miss Stieberitz inviting me over to Bridgeton for tomorrow, so I am going over; just what we shall do all day I don't know, but I know they have a doubles tennis match planned for the morning.

I suppose Aunt Lucy got off today; it seems as though she has been going much earlier than usual lately.

I didn't expect you could send things to eat with my laundry this winter, and of course shan't need them. If my laundry ever causes additional expense please be sure and let me know. The coat hangers were hardly needed, so you didn't need to think much of leaving them out; most hotels supply those things.

It doesn't seem as though I had done very much around home the past year, and I guess there are many thanks due from me, too, for the extra looking out for I made in the way of putting up lunches and everything. Don't get too tired being "chore-boy" this winter; better get Uncle George's Swedish Home boys to do what they can for you.

If you still happen to have last Sunday's Times would you please look and see if you can find, in the main news section probably, the statement issued by the conference of railroad Presidents giving their attitude toward the President's proposal for settling the threatened railroad strike, and their side of the controversy in general. I didn't see it when I read the paper, which was done hurriedly, but noticed in Monday's paper a reference to such a statement having been printed in the Sunday issue. It's no great matter if I don't have it, but if you do happen to find it, I should like it for my book of clippings. The strike certainly seems inevitable now, and perhaps it will prevent your getting another letter from me for some time; I shall write on Sunday according to schedule, anyway.
Much love to everybody,

P.S. It seems as though there were other things I wanted to say; perhaps I shall think of them when there is a little less to chatter about.

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