The Indian Lake Letter
Click on the footnote number to go directly to the note.
I was contacted by a friend of Robert Long, who said that Robert had a letter that Ring Lardner had sent to his father, Theron. He was kind enough to let me reproduce it on this site.
Scans of the letter and envelope are included below. A transcription of the letter with notes follows. Punctuation and spelling are Lardner's.
12 August 1926
Great Neck, New York(1)
August 12, 1926.
Dear Theron: - (2)
Ring W. Lardner (10)
P.S. I never kick about our gas bills (11).
1. Printed letterhead. The Lardners lived in Great Neck on Long Island from 1921 to 1928.
Back to Letter
2. The letter is addressed to Theron Long, who was a co-worker of Lardner's at the gas company in Niles. Lardner worked at the gas company in 1904 and until he left to work for the South Bend Times in the fall of 1905. Long moved to Boonville, Missouri to manage the Missouri Power and Light Company plant in that town.
4. Lardner was not only busy in 1926, but sick. He had been diagnosed with TB.
7. The girl may be Ethel Witkowski, the only romance prior to his
wife his biographers mention. Donald Elder speculates his biography
that the relationship may have broken up because one or both sets of parents
disapproved of it on religious grounds: the Lardners were
Episcopalians and the Witkowskis were Jewish. Whatever the case,
Witkowski was from Chicago and vacationed at Barron Lake, outside of Niles.
He seems to have courted her until he met Ellis in 1907. He
mentions the same break-up in "Caught in the Draft," originally published on
9 Janurary 1932 in The Saturday Evening Post and reprinted in Some Champions
(27-34): "In the fall of 1907. . . I found myself in Ruth Etting's
usual condition--heart-broken. It was . . . because the only girl I
could ever care for had announced her engagement to somebody decent. I
saw her and we talked it over, and she said that her family held to the
conviction that I, like all other newspapermen, was en route to the gutter."
9. At one point Route 40 stretched from New Jersey to
California, expanding the older National Road which had its terminus in
Illinois. The designation "Route 40" was introduced in 1926 along with
its slogan, "The
Main Street of America."
10. Autograph signature.
11. One of Ring's jobs at the Niles Gas Company was bill
collecting. He didn't like the job and that part of the job didn't
like him. "Trying to collect bad debts and get new customers was a set
up; I have always been a person who could take no for an answer.
Reading meters was the rub, because meters are usually in dark cellars where
my favorite animal, the rat, is wont to dwell. When I entered a cellar
and saw a rat reading the meter ahead of me, I accepted his reading and went
on to the next house."