Life in St. Petersburg – Christmas, 1934

My Aunt Biss, the fourth child and the only girl, lost her mother when she was 14. She is 15 now and living with Aunt Anne, helping with her children, Don and Gwen, and going to school in St. Pete. She expresses herself very freely which gives us an idea of what this teenager was thinking about.

2101 3rd Ave. N.

St. Pete


Dear Dad:

It is 2:55 Wednesday afternoon in the Study Hall of the St. Pete High School. I have written a letter to Dick and to Dan in this period. I’ll finish this letter in seventh period this afternoon and I’ll also write one to Edna Traphagen. I enjoy your letters very much and enjoyed the pictures you draw of the family. I didn’t misunderstand about that Florida trip at all so I am sorry if I gave you that impression. I haven’t read any books at all since I came down here. We don’t run on any sort of schedule and all. Sometimes we eat out and sometimes at home – sometimes we go to bed early and sometimes late (early- 7-9, late – 8-10).

Thank you for sending that leaf and those articles from the paper. I found the leaf very pretty and colorful. Has David had any colds lately? Ask him to answer my letter and he can send it in one of your letters to me. We have had to have the fireplace going because there is no heating system in the house and it is about 40°. Aunt Anne made a mistake last night and said 40° below and told me I ought to write home and say that, as long as I said 300 miles that time in Ced’s letter.

I am very sorry about Cousin Charlie for I liked him immensely. If you don’t mind I would rather not write to Mrs. Burnham for I have no writing paper and no extra stamps. Perhaps when they come south they will write to me or look me up. If you don’t mind you may answer her questions concerning me. I didn’t write immediately this time so I find myself rather mixed up but I think I am straightened out now.

I couldn’t tell you how I spend my leisure time, in fact, I don’t think I have any. We go to town almost every night and I drive the car quite often. The library is on the other side of town and I haven’t been in it yet.

My clothes are O.K. I haven’t made any friends yet. I’ll tell you how I spend my five dollars in a separate piece of paper.



P.S. You write just as faithfully as I do.

2101 3rd Ave. N.

Saint Pete


Elizabeth (Biss) Westlin Guion

Elizabeth (Biss) Westlin Guion

(Read this yourself first and then to the family.)

Dear Lad,

That letter has made me homesick for you so you have to come down at Christmas, especially since you have a new front tire and feel safer.

I haven’t written to the Page’s because I forgot the name of their street. I think I asked you in one of the letters but I’m not sure. Perhaps I mentioned it to someone else in the family.

I feel very much ashamed of myself for not writing to the family especially when you reproved me. I shall remember and make it a point to write to them the next time Aunt Anne writes, for I haven’t a cent and I’m using my last stamp for you.

I admit frankly I’m at my wits end trying to figure out how I can answer Dick Garitty’s letter which came tonight. I would rather not have you write and go to bed for you need every sleeping moment you can get.

Will you go in and see Mary tonight and ask her if I may borrow one of the French books – a story – not less than 50 pages? If I may, please send it as soon as is possible for I am supposed to have it by the end of next week.

I have been all right most of the time and never too sick to stay home from school, although I wanted to. You have to make up the time you missed so that is why I went regardless of how I felt.

We go out to supper every night now or have been for these last four nights. Tell Dave I haven’t heard from him yet in case he doesn’t know it I actually look meet for once. I promise I’ll try to look very trim all the Christmas vacation if you and Erwin come down. I will, to some extent anyway, of course. My nails are almost fully grown – once in a while I forget.



The holidays are very hard on many of us, whether we are close to our family or quite distant. Biss is really missing her family and longs to be near at least one family member. For me, there was a six year period that I just couldn’t involve myself emotionally in the holidays. I had lost my 2nd husband in April and my Dad in December of the same year. I then moved to CA to care for my Mom until she passed away in December, a year later. Having lost both my parent’s in December, a year apart, after loosing my husband, I was an empty shell for quite a few years. I can feel her pain.

Judy Guion


11 thoughts on “Life in St. Petersburg – Christmas, 1934

  1. gpcox says:

    Biss is quite homesick and this letter made me feel so bad for her. I’m afraid I can relate to your pain, our lives are more similar than we first suspected.

  2. Gallivanta says:

    I am amazed at how well she is coping in the circumstances. I think the constant letter communication is an important factor in the well being that she has.

    • Absolutely. I have long believed that communicating through the written word- letters – is a powerful glue that keeps families and friends together. How often do you “save” a text or email? How long do you keep a card with a note or a letter? With the written word, you can always look at it again and the feelings it evoked the first time return just as fresh as the first time you had them.I think in this day and age, we’re going in the wrong direction.

      • Gallivanta says:

        Which brings me to a subject which has been on my mind; how best to save my blog posts. I am not sure what is the best solution.

        • I have my posts on my computer and I back up on a thumb drive sporadically. The most important part of my posts are the letters. The originals are wrapped in acid-free tissue paper, put in acid-free plastic boxes, which are in cardboard boxes. That won’t protect them from a firs, but other than that, I think they are pretty safe. If they were historic documents worthy of preservation, and if I could afford it, I’d put them in a fire-proof, moisture-controlled safe, but neither of those points are true
          .I have copies of all the letters. They are in acid-free plastic sleeves in binders, sitting around in my living room and my office.
          All of this is leading up to the possibility of printing your posts and storing them. Now one of my daughters would have a fit if she read this… she’s all for going paperless and saving a few trees, but I’m old-school and like contingency plans.
          Maybe someone else who sees this will have some thoughts… or you could write a blog about it.

  3. Mrs. P says:

    Although I have been fortunate enough to have never lost someone close to me, I had to make adjustments when my husband and I started dating as he had lost a fiance to cancer. She died in November…on his birthday. Previously, I had celebrated both occasions (birthdays and Christmas) but knowing that those days represented painful reminders, I learned that sometimes we need to change how we do things. We are both beyond gift exchanges and can now do something fun, just the two of us which makes the holiday still special.

    This must have been a terrible time for her as she mentions in her first letter that she has not made any friends…a very isolated feeling, indeed.

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