The purloined letter

By Corky Thatcher

Dear Elouise,

Greetings from the prairies! I know it has only been a couple of weeks since you left, but I really wanted to write. How are you? How’s life back in Toronto? I’m so glad you had a good time visiting here over Christmas. I’m happy to have a nice friend like you.

There was a dance at the nurses’ residence here at school over the weekend. It was okay, but there were all these guys there who thought they were so groovy but weren’t. What a laugh you would have had over it! They kept asking the girls with the big bouffants to dance. Mary Simpson was dolled up just like Annette Funicello, but she looked quite silly. Remember her? Anyway, they were playing corny pop music like the Archies and the Monkees, since the chaperones wouldn’t let the DJ play his Doors and Velvet Underground records. I bet you get to hear more of that sort of new music in the big city. I like it. All the records and movies and TV shows everyone likes here are so corny and square.

I’m glad I left the farm and moved to Saskatoon, but I imagined things would be different. Like I’d have an easier time meeting people like you, who thinks about things the same way I do. All these students around me seem like they’re just following the same path to a kind of life I don’t really want. You’re supposed to go to school, get a job, start a family, do all these things with predictable outcomes. I want… goodness, I don’t even know what I want, Elouise! I’m just not interested in the same kind of stuff the other girls are interested in. I’m leading a different life it seems. Josie Dolenz was parading around the dorm showing off her new skirt and new boyfriend’s football jacket, and I’m walking around in that same blue outfit grandma made for me before I moved out here. How crazy is that?

It doesn’t matter though. Clothes, boyfriends, hairdos, the latest dreamboat singer on the Ed Sullivan show… I just don’t care! Maybe it’s good that I don’t worry about fashion too much, since I don’t have the money for it. But money and clothes and fancy things aren’t so special. Remember when we went skating by the river downtown? I think it’s great that the fun things we do don’t have to be expensive.

You know that David Morrison guy we saw outside the A & W? He asked me out again last week, but I said no. The girls in the dorm said I should let him take me out, that he’s a good guy, but he’s too boring for me. The last time we went out he kept on talking about the rebuilt motor in the old Packard he was driving, and who he thought would win this year’s Stanley Cup. Complete snoozeville!

There’s got to be some guys around here who like books and hip music and something original, for pete’s sake! What should I do, Elouise? I don’t want to go to the other extreme and hang out with those crazy hippie guys and girls who sleep around and take drugs, but there’s got to be a happy medium. Sigh! You understand my frustrations, don’t you?

I have some good news! My roommate’s uncle works for CP Rail, so I might be able to get a cheap train ticket to see you this summer! Oh, that would be great! Gail and Elouise take on Yonge Street, Bloor Street, the U of T campus. Have you met any cool guys there since you got back? Maybe the creative, intelligent, truly original people are all down in your part of the country! It would be nice to visit you and meet some people of like mind there. I’m really hoping I can get that ticket.

Honestly Elouise, I’m proud to have a friend like you. We’re on a winning team. We’re smart, hardworking, interesting girls-we’re gonna make it! After I get my nursing certificate, I might move to a bigger city and get a job with one of the hospitals there. Maybe Toronto? We could live together! We’d be invincible! Oh what a complete gas it would be! It’s nice to be myself around you, Elouise. I would like to be myself more out here. Right now I’m wary about speaking up and opening myself up to someone who’s just another sheep. I look at the faces that glide by me in the halls on the way to class, wondering which of them are like me, and how I could ever cut through these social games we play and really connect with them. Is all this making me a shy and cautious person that I don’t really want to be? Oh, I am rambling again!

Perhaps it’s not as hard as I make it out to be. I guess on some level everyone’s the same. I want to laugh, to be around people who care about me, to do something I enjoy for a living, to maybe fall in love with a great guy one day. Don’t we all? Even though I know I’m different, I don’t see why these good things can’t happen. It seems like we live in an exciting time, Elouise. Things are changing everywhere. You’ve seen it too. I hope everything turns out for the best.

Give my love to your family, and we will surely be speaking face to face before too long!

Your dear friend,
Gail Miller
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Jan. 24, 1969

Leave a comment