Tuesday, June 24, 2008

September 1919 -- "I am the only woman"

Tantie took a train from Charleston to New York City in the fall of 1919 and enrolled in the E. Brunel School of Photography.

Uncle Teddy supported her financially and arranged for her to live in the home of his friend, Robert Elzy, and his wife. Elzy was executive director of the "Brooklyn Urban League for Social Service Among Negroes." Her first letter from New York, penned September 15, was written on the organization's stationery.

Monday Evening

Dear Ted,
Your telegram came last night and I went for the money this morning, got it without much trouble and went to school where I was cordially received.

I am the only woman, there is one other colored, a young man from Wilson, N.C., and a Jap. The others are Jews, Germans and Irish. They are very polite and today, every one wanted to show me something.

The instructor is a very young man, German, I think. I can hardly understand him. He started me at retouching negatives to see if I have an artistic touch. He didn't say wether I have or not but very encouragingly said it would take practice to develop what he wants. The Jap is the model of the school, every one seems to try to retouch as well as he.

Thanks very much for the extra. There was $1 for lockers, $1 for album. I had no parasol so bought one, 'spec that's alright? Carfare does eat a hole in one's cash. I have 20 cents carfare per day & lunch.

Why don't you write?

Shall attend N.A.A.C.P. meeting tomorrow night. Gee how I do wish for you.

Several days I have been home alone all day. It is such a nice place, I feel so contented and would be happy if you were only here. ... Please write.

Your own Lise

This next letter was undated but obviously written soon after the first.

Dear Ted:
I went to the Studio this morning where I was courteously received and invited to come in any day during the week and make myself at home.

I told him I'd be ready to start next Monday, so I am writing you as per instruction to let you know he said $100 down and sign contract to pay $50 before the end of term. If it's all the same to you, send money payable to E. Brunel.

Am a little tired so bye bye.

Much Love,
Your Liza

P.S. Tell everybody Howdy and love to all. Kiss Gus & Sylvia Elise. And W.R.I.T.E. soon and say something extra nice. Call my Ma and ask if I gave her the correct address.

Teddy must have been surprised to learn of the $150 fee for Tantie's course work. He had been told it would total $100. The school wanted her to take a "moving picture" class.

Money was an ever present problem for Uncle Teddy. He had grown accustomed to surviving with little when he was an art student in Boston. But once he went to work for his father, Teddy had hoped his finances would improve. Captain, however, controlled the pursestrings tightly, doling out small amounts to Teddy and Elise as he saw fit.

The couple hoped their investment in Tantie's education would pay off once they launched their studio -- and that they could free themselves from Captain's grip.

121 Calhoun St.
Wed 24th Sept.

My Little Lady,
... I was very glad to have your letters and the snaps and to find that you are about your business at the school, and of course I hope you will continue to like it and to do well. While you are at it you will, of course, make every inquiry as to paraphernalia of every description, lighting, appliances, furniture, screening, etc etc. etc.

I am hurrying this letter while a funeral is in the church that you may receive it Friday morning. This change (15.00) is all I have for you this week but hope to send some more next week. Do not fail to let us know what you need. Maybe I can supply it.

I gave your mother the message and she said she would write you. ... Have a good time but work hard, and oh yes, keep a complete notebook of your stuff. I miss you so much.

With love 'neverything.

121 Calhoun St.
Charleston, S.C.

My dear L. Lady,
Your very pleasant letter came last week and strange to say I read it with a grin -- it didn't seem that you had been gone that long.

Oh child, yours truly has been some lady's man since you left. Such entertaining you never saw (by me). I certainly wished for you with your excellent managerial ability.

You might inquire of the rate without moving picture work for I can hardly see the need of your taking the latter, and unless I am mistaken the assistant to Mr. Brunel told me that without it the fee is one hundred in advance only. I wired you one hundred and five ($105.00) and let me know early what are your needs in any way as early as you find them out.

I am depending upon you to use your time to the very best advantage without any directions or restrictions whatever, for you ought to know that I am satisfied if only you keep the big things in view.

I will close with several things -- but wishes for your success, and early reply and of course with love.

Lovingly, Teddy

As a postscript to this letter, Teddy wrote, "Marie says she misses you dreadfully and hopes nothing happens before you return -- whatever that is." Tantie's sister Marie had lost a lot of weight and was so weak she occasionally had to be carried into the house. It is possible she thought death was imminent.

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