March 28, 2015 by auntkatefirmin
Here is the text of Kate’s first letter from cousin Nellie, along with a few thoughts and comments. (If Nellie sent a snap of herself, it’s hiding from me …)
31 Caversham Road,
My dear Katie May 18.1948.
This letter I hope will reach you safely in your “Carmel” in California. Well dear, Cousin Fan Firmin (Mrs. Hall from Witley.[)] Now she gave you my address here; & to my most wonderfull surprize arrived here a most lovely parcel of “goodies;” & also Amy Mrs. Summers at Four-Marks, W. Alton, Hants got her lovely parcel this week. My twin Sister “Mrs. Price,” lives with Amy (Mrs. Summers[)]; but strange to ?  Mrs. Price my twin sister was staying with me for a week as it was our Birthday, & the parcel arrived for us while she was with me; for our Birthday was on the 30th April. Now I have explained to you who we are [(] & I am Nellie Savage Laura’s Sister) we are real cousins to you; for you are named after our Mother (Katie Maude Firmin [)] & Mother’s name was Mrs. Baynham; & we had a Chemist’s shop kept by my Father at Woking Surrey. Well Katie dear now to express Laura & my very deepest love & very greatfull  thanks for all that lovely parcel contained. Laura is a Widow; & we are 60 years old; she has to work for her living (with Amy) but Amy is comfortably off for she lives in her own bungalow; & Laura does the housework for her; she gets a small Widows pension & does Amy [(]for she is a Widow now 3 months) Poor Laura has been a Widow 5 years. We have both gone through hell’s fire in England during War time; & poor Laura once had a nice home; bombed one afternoon 1st year of the War; We  have very little food in England; & very little clothes & we are both short & fat (worse luck) so we have to have 46 bust measurements & 44 or 42 length; so old clothes would be a boon to Laura & I. Think of Laura & I dear & send any underclothes or top clothes any of your friends could spare. If you send dear again Katie send to me here & I share all with my dear twin Sister (Lollie) her nick name by me). We have 2 oz Tea per week; 2 oz butter per week, 1 oz lard ¼ margerine [sic] per week; ¼ lb  of sweets each week; 20 only of clothing coupons; & if we buy a big coat that takes 18 coupons. Half the time we can’t keep tidy re stockings they are even 3 coupons per pair; cheapest 2/6 per pair. Now Katie dear I feel so overjoyed to find a relative abroad who belongs on my dear Mother’s side; do you know there were 8 brothers in all different parts of the World belonging to the Firmin Family. These are the name of the “family tree.” John, Osborne, Henery, Tom, George, Fred, Micheal & Edward. I am now adding this to the  Family Tree” (Emily, Kate & Harriette.) Now I follow on to say, which was your (Father?) my Mother was Katie; I also knew, all these Uncles I write here[:] George (coz Fan’s Father) Fred (A Widower)1Son) wife died young) Micheal from S. Africa) Ostritch farmer & Engineer) also Uncle Edward) Gun Mounter & maker a[t] Portsmouth Dockyard. I regret to say dear; all of the family tree are dead now) only cousins live different places. Katie dear please excuse my writing being large; but am waiting  for some new glasses. Now dear I am sending out to you; by registered mail; all Photographs I can; & an album of my dear Mothers (with you in it as a little girl) named after my (Mother Katie Maud Firmin). I hope you will like it. It also contains Uncle John’s 3 children) and Mr. Fouracre (Grand Pa’s Firmin (Steward & Valet.) I will write on the back of all Photos & you are to keep them for ever; it is very little I could send you; in return for so such a most lovely surprize parcel.  Oh! Going through some stuffing in your nice box; I came accross a torn piece of your lovely “Carmel”-on-Sea; I am 20 miles from the Coast. What perfect detail your Photos are in it; would love to visit you; but alas too old; & have never been abroad not even to France, 2 hours journey from “Dover to Calais” never had the money. I have a Husband a Sadler soon to be out of work; on account of all horses in London; coming off the Streets; for Cars only. I have once seen your lovely “California” on the Film’s; how beautifull  all coloured; a series of Pictures were shown of different parts of the World; & that lovely red high stone cliffs were showing. (I would rather see (Travels round the World & also “Pathes’s Gazzette;” than any other Films.) My Film Stars are very few I love (Jean Macdonald) Singing Star) (James Mason) Dramatic. Anna Neegal) most clever in most always bar singing etc). & a Greta Garbo & a few others. If my husband falls out of work Katie) I have to do cooking for a living dear.) I am a fully qualified cook  Have cooked for (100dreds) in, school, Hospital & soldiers etc during War time. I have told you all Katie dear; & with my arms round you (in my mind & kisses if you will accept them; & once again for that most beautifull usefull parcel, I thank you on Laura & myself.
Your loving cousin
Hello!!! } Nellie Savage.
Twins. } Laura Price. xxxxxx
P.S. With appology Katie; & I hope you wont feel too tired; after reading this letter. The Album will come separate from this letter.
For my collection) Kindly let me have P. Stamps of your California on it.
Nellie’s letter is written on both sides of gray paper that measures 3 7/8″ by 6 3/4″; writing paper with a nice weight and crispness. The top edge is slightly rough as if it was torn off a pad. There are very faint lines embossed in the paper which allowed Nellie to write with very even spacing. Her writing (in blue-gray fountain pen) is very easy to read for the most part. The only difficulty is her creative punctuation – I believe I have transcribed the letter as she intended but as you can see she has a quirky style of her own. Nellie numbered each sheet at the top & I added the brackets around the page numbers.
Nellie was a faithful correspondent for many years, and her letters continue in the same friendly tone almost as if she is speaking across the ocean and the years. She did indeed send the photographs later. The photographs have been separated from the letters so I cannot be certain which were sent in the first package.
This letter only gives basics for the family tree and has some obvious errors – for example there is an extra son, Henry. Clearly Nellie did not connect Kate with her father John, perhaps because John was not in the photo of Kate that Nellie mentioned in the letter (as he had died before the photo was taken and sent to England). Another omission is that Nellie, like the rest of the cousins, was unaware that Uncle Fred also had a daughter Susie. I doubt that Mr. Fouracre ever considered himself a valet, but as his executor he was a steward of George Firmin’s estate.
For the most part all the cousins focused on everyday concerns in their correspondence, with a little bit here and there about the family. To read the letters as a group is to gain some insight into the lives of women who had lived through three wars (the second Boer War and the two world wars). They are usually cheerful but all of them struggle to get by and much space is taken up with thanks for parcels sent by Kate.
As time goes by I hope to make an effort to get back to posting all the letters.