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Monday, August 31, 2015

Would You Call That a Love Letter?

Having posted my grandmother Beatrice Boedefeld’s diaries of the summer of 1916 when she worked as a cabin maid in Yellowstone National Park (see posts for May 25 through 29, 2015), I expect you are wondering whatever happened to her summer love-interest, Ivan J. Allen. I have the answers now! I was perusing my grandmother’s scrapbooks and found that she had devoted half of one scrapbook to all the letters from the people she had met in Yellowstone that summer. Some became very close friends; some of the young men disappeared into the war in France. But Ivan J. Allen was at home in Texas.

You will recall that after he had proposed marriage, she had asked for a little time for him to come to Indiana and get to know her family, thinking an Easter wedding would work well. She thought he had agreed to that plan. But then he argued again and again for her to marry him as soon as they left the Park, without any thought for her folks at home, and upon her resisting, they had come to an impasse. He had “forgotten” to tell her about two other girlfriends he had in the Park. The couple ceased to communicate clearly. The last time she saw him was the day they left the Park, and he had simply shaken hands without anything being settled. And so apparently she wrote to him in Texas after getting home.

His first letter answers one of hers. It is on blank, heavy note paper, postmarked in Dallas on September 28, 1916.

Dear “Bee”

No I haven’t gone to Mexico and “got shot” but have been pretty near that far away from civilization. I stopped only one day in Dallas as I came through, back from the park. I went on out home and then on out to the ranch and have been there all the time until day before yesterday when I started for school. I am a little late for my work but by working a little harder for a week, can catch up all right.

Yesterday Fuller showed me some pictures Perla had sent him, one of the “Mule” team at Gibbon (Sept 2). That reminds me of one you took the same noon. Is it any good?

I am sending those we took on our hike. As soon as I get some printed from my others I will send the most interesting.



Hmmmm. “Kewpie”? Well, Kewpie dolls were popular at that time, and with his very blond hair and hazel eyes, maybe Ivan looked like one of them. The use of affectionate names is the only thing in this letter remotely lover-like, but since all of the workers at Yellowstone that season had become close friends, they all called each other by pet names, so this means nothing after all. Was Bea trying to find out whether there was any basis for her to hope for something more? This letter should certainly have been the proverbial dash of cold water on the spark of hope, in that case!

After telling her the bare bones of what he has been doing, he mentions Perla first before mentioning her at all, and it is only to ask about a picture of himself, including the specific date (as if she could have forgotten it) that his behavior toward her was cold and unfeeling.

And then he turns to the day of their hike, when they were supposedly engaged. This mixed message may have led to Bea’s next letter, for it may have reminded her of the time when they were close.

Here is his second letter, written on Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, letterhead stationery, and postmarked October 31, 1916:

Dear Bee—

Again I have come to life and have taken a spell of writing to the Savages. I have just finished getting all my pictures printed, and it seems that every one in the park are due several. A few more than nine hundred and fifty prints have been made from my negatives. I am about the only one from Texas who made many pictures, so of course all the Savages want some, then many who were in the Texas party have found I have them and have asked for pictures.

I am not only Asst. in Physics now, but they have given me one section of Gen. Chemistry to teach. It seems there will never be an end to work. Some one said Genius is 99% hard work. Turning that around, I ought to be a genius indeed. I don’t see why I could not have been some good rich man’s son instead of being so good looking, anyway that may be, I wouldn’t have to work.



And the cold water dash becomes a shower! He may be answering questions she asked about getting prints of pictures and about how his college was coming along—but his manner! He opens with an air of faint reproach that he has to write to all the Savages, then he is complaining that he has to print so many pictures for them all—and she had asked for some. His paragraph about school and his self-compliment surely left Bea with eyes wide open to the unsuitableness of his personality.

He shows no appreciation for her, no sense of having caused her any pain or even discomfort in the Park, and his very letter is a model of self-absorption. He is definitely reminding her that she is only one among a great many, nobody special at all. Then he spends the rest of the letter on his own work, never mentioning nor asking about hers, nor anything else about her. This letter smells very strongly of a sense of unwelcome obligation.

Thus ends the summer love affair!

But that is not the end of Ivan Jackson Allen. The United States Census records and draft registrations from both World Wars give a brief history of his life.

Ivan J. Allen was the eldest child of Felix Warren and Alice W Evans Allen, of Ranger, Eastland County, Texas. He was born September 18, 1892 (he was five years younger than Beatrice Boedefeld). His sister Maria was two years younger than he, his brother William was four years younger, and his brother Alton was 12 years younger.

He graduated from Southern Methodist University and married Vivian Ryder of Fort Worth, Texas, before 1920. He worked as a research geologist for an oil company and was fairly well off. He and Vivian had a daughter, Betty Lee, in 1923, and another daughter, Virginia, in 1939.

In 1940 the family employed a private nurse for their household.

Ivan J. Allen died in Texas in June 1969 at the age of 76.

This was not the end of Bea’s relationships with the people she met at Yellowstone and grew to love. More letters are coming! Stay tuned.

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