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It’s a Wagner Week and here we have a letter to a young John Henry from his friend, J. C. Doyle, up in Tennessee. There’s a special place in my heart for people who were sick in the 1800s, even when it’s just a chest cold. Oh man, the misery. His cold was so bad that his entire chest feels stopped up. That sounds potentially fatal, but his heartless boss seems to care none.
This boss has really pulled one over on ol’ Doyle. He’s drunk the drugstore Kool-aid. Doyle can’t travel and is dropping out of school to work the soda fountain. I think he’s actually scared to quit the drug store. He’s basically begging John to come bust him out. I wonder if this is what it’s like working the soda fountain at Turnage’s?
And Miss Ida — she’s always getting pulled into the boys’ gossipy conversation about girls. This happens in other letters, too. I think she’s a mole.
July, 31st, 1887
Dear Old John,
I did not write the night I promised as I was too sick to do anything but go to bed. I was sick all that afternoon and am not well yet. My chest is so stopped up that I can scarcely breathe. I am at work now. Working in a Drugstore. My Boss, L. Harrison, I like very much. But he will allow no idleness. The clerks are not allowed to sit down at all during business hours. He is the hardest man in town on his clerks. When I first began to stay there, some said I would be there two weeks. And others actually gave me one month! But I have stayed longer than anyone thought I would. I like the Drugstore splendidly. My principle part is to attend to the “Soda Fount.”
John, Old Boy, I can’t possibly come down to Water Valley this summer. But I thank your Mother and Father, and you for your kind invitation. I may stay with Harrison until next summer. But if I were to leave before then it would be “for good.” I would very much like to come if I could. Don’t much expect I will go to school at all next session.
But John, I see no reason at all why you should not come to see me. I am off duty every other night. We have some sweet girls here, too. One of them is very sweet. Ask Miss Ida about her. Am going with her to church tonight. If there is any reason why you cannot come, just state that reason in your next letter and I will give you a better reason why you should come.
I’ll tell you what, if you will come you may go to see my girl. Now ask Miss Ida if that is not a great inducement. She went to school with Miss Ida. Consequently, she can tell you all about her.
John, be sure to come.
Must close as “duty comes before pleasure.” Give my love to Your Mother and Father. Write real soon and tell me you are coming.
Your Old Friend,
J. C. Doyle