28. A son writes to his mother

In common with many young families, Jigg and Paula were finding life in New York City with their new baby a financial struggle.  Jigg, with a modest amount of journalistic experience gained in the West behind him, had to seek whatever employment he could find and, with help from Paula’s aunt Dorothy McNamee, was able to find a position in radio journalism. 

* * * * *
To Evelyn Scott

[269 W 10th Street, NYC]
August 9, 19401

Dear Mother,

Got your note and very much pleased with it. Things are going from bad to worse with us, although we are keeping our chins up, rather.  We land in a crisis and scrabble and beg our way out, and then before we have recovered from that, the same old devils are back haunting us again:  rent and bread and butter etc.  It is pretty hard at times; but we have gotten this far, and DV we will go right on to the very end in spite of all hell.  Still, it is a weary business and a burden of some weight that we have to share, although amply compensated for a hope of peace and quiet and all the things which are indubitably and rightfully ours if we can only wade through the present swamps.  The future has been much brightened for us both by Pavli’s Cousin, one Dorothy McNamee, who has done all that she could do to get me a job somewhere, and who alone among those I have recently known is disposed to weep on our behalf.  She managed to euchre the general manager of a department store into saying he would give me a job; and although he welched on it, it was not for lack of energy on her part.  That was the news I was hoping to give you; and now nothing has come of it.  Yesterday I managed to get a man who runs a display company to agree to pay me 70¢ an hour for a 44 hr week.  But it isn’t much and he may have changed his mind before Monday when I start working, and I may be up against manner of technical problems (cinematography illusions and so forth) that I cannot do.  Still, it is worth trying.,

As you know, I am a natural born coward, without spine.  But I daily blind myself to what I know I must expect, and charge in.  And in the long run they do not throw me out the back door, and I extract from the name of someone to whom I may apply for the luxurious privilege of regaining my self-respect and supporting my wife and daughter.  And I lie abut myself and claim all sorts of talents I do not possess and magnify what I have, and go home exhausted and degraded beyond hope.  But somehow it is all gone by morning.  It is my nature to sour quickly; and each night I swear more terrible vengeance in the world; but I know damned well that if I ever do get the job, I’ll forgive everyone, like the ass I am.

Parental love is a wonderful thing.  How strongly I would recoil from the stained drawers of even the most angelic person.  Yet Bumpy2 lades us and drenches us with all manner of things and we are privileged to change her pants; and what is more, when she holds levee on the potty we stand around and gawk and admire.

Dated 1940 but contents indicate it must have been 1941
2
Childhood nickname for Denise

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe

[269 West 10th Street, NYC]
[November 16, 1941]

Dear Mother and Jack

This will amount to little more than a note although it should be more, to thank you both for your birthday wishes and the beautiful neckties; and to tell you that, beginning tomorrow, Monday November the 17th, I go to work for the National Broadcasting Company, Rockefeller Center, as assistant to one Maurice English, who is head of the Propaganda Section of the International (short wave) Division.  I will be paid $150 a month, on a salary basis, until such time as I seem indispensable enough to sign a contract, on a yearly basis, with the company.

Jigg newsroom_20180415_0001
National Broadcasting Company news room, with Jigg on far left.

I don’t recall that either of you have ever tried to get into Radio; so let me say that it was a heartbreaking business.  I had to lie about everything on earth, and commit myself on countless dubious points; that was the only way.  My duties consist of editing the daily news, as provided by the Associated Press, the International News Service, and about six others, including the Office of the Co-ordinator of Information (US) where my application is still being considered (I haven’t had time to withdraw it).

In addition to the above, I have to digest the Editorials of about fifty papers, and keep an itemised file of the War.  My hours vary from 7 to 9 in the morning, to 5 to 9 in the evening.  Theoretically I should appear at my desk at 9 and leave at 5; but circumstances often interfere.  There are seven broadcasts daily, in the compilation of which I have a hand; not to mention intermittent news bulletins during the day.  That is about all I know of it so far.

Yesterday (Sat) I was given a cursory introduction to my job; and am wearily resting at the moment.  I will write you more fully when I have the poop—in about a week, I think.  Which does not mean that I have not appreciated your presents.  Bless you both.

I will write Jack as soon as ever.  Wish me luck,

Jigg

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

[269 West 10th Street, NYC]
November 21, 1941

Dear Mother,

I appreciate that my correspondence is in a mess, but there is no help for it.  I have a dim impression of having written you about my new job, but, things being as they are it is very likely that I just intended to.  Here is the situation.  Last Monday—today is Friday—I went to work for the National Broadcasting Company as assistant foreign editor in the International division.  We are understaffed.  I get to my desk at eight ack emma, and leave it sometimes at six, sometimes at six thirty, sometimes at seven or even seven thirty, but never before six.  I have from ten to thirty minutes for lunch.

If you will just stop and picture for yourself the bulk of the New York Times on week days, it will help you visualise what I have to do.  The number of pages in an average Times varies from 25 to forty.  Well, an equivalent mass of material goes through my hands daily, and has to be edited and distributed to 12 departments.  In addition I have to read anywhere from fifty to seventy out-of-town papers and digest their editorials.  Not only that, but all the material from the office of the US coordinator of information goes through my hands as well.  This is merely a part of the job.  Every day I have to collect material for one half-hour broadcast, and write another.  My boss does the rest, and it is really something considerable.  At the present he is sick; I am new; and we are breaking in a Swedish department, and trying to locate the men for a Finnish department.

I don’t get Saturday or Sunday off until this situation improves.  I have already agreed to work on Christmas day and New Years, and I have worked on Thanksgiving.

God bless.  The baby is fine, so are we all.
Jigg

* * * * *

In October 1942, Jigg, Paula and baby Denise moved to Tappan, a small town on the Hudson River, where they rented a modest house.   No correspondence discussing this move survives, and is likely that they felt that, with one baby and another on the way, it would be better for them to live in the country, where Jigg could continue to commute to New York. Their second child, Frederick, was born in November 1942  In March 1943 Jigg began employment in the American Broadcasting Company newsroom; the commute from Tappan, although long, was just tolerable.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

National Broadcasting Company, Inc
A Radio Corporation of America Service
RCA Building, Radio City
New York, NY

Life Life[November 10, 1942]

Dear Mother:

It’s a boy. Everybody’s fine, although Pavli had a hard time of it.  I sent you a telegram the same day, only the telegram wasn’t sent, I’ve just discovered because I had already used up my expense account (Employees are allowed five dollars worth of telegrams per month) notifying people, chiefly Pavli’s family.  The kid was born November nine at six twenty am, weighed six pounds twelve ounces, and looks like a comedy Irishman.  The name is Frederick Wheeler Scott.

I am on the lookout for a new job, my present one having come to an end.  The government has taken over all short wave, and has banned all broadcasts to American troops abroad (on the grounds that such are not important) and so my section—which specialized in this—are out of work.  It would happen at a time like this.  I took a look at the office the war information’s headquarters here, but have decided against working there if possible.  While waiting I observed that Mr Edd Johnson, the man I wished to see, dictated his polemics to a secretary.  I just couldn’t work on that basis.  Also while I was there, Churchill made a speech, and when a someboy in the office proposed that it should be re-broadcast in its entirety, Mr Johnson said:  “Oh, no!  Because, whenever European listeners hear its Churchill, they turn off the radio.”  I just refuse to have anything to do with prejudices like that.  Naturally nobody knows what European listeners do, or when they turn off their radios.  The same man also referred to Gen Giraud as a “senile son of a bitch”—and unhappily I think Giraud is a fine man—with guts enough to fight, which is more than most of those draft dodgers at the OWI have.

So, I am looking around for a job.  Wish me luck.  For the time being everything is oke.  I’m terribly sorry you didn’t hear more promptly, but it’s the fault of red tape, and not me.

Bless you all.
Love
Jigg

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

[Tappan, New York]
December 9, 1942

Dear Mother,

After another unseemly delay, this is to let you know that we are all well.  The government has not abolished us so far; and in fact we are working harder than usual.  I hope it lasts.

We want to thank you both for the presents to the kids.  No formality this time:  they were useful as we could hope, and filled a very decided need.  Bumpy, who is after all the one chiefly concerned, was tickled to death.  She held the dresses up under her chin—the way grown-ups do—and said “purry” (pretty); and could hardly wait to get dolled up.  But she had to, because she had a cold and her nose would have run over everything, especially the green dress.  Anyhow, bless you—the stuff for Freddy is immensely useful, although he hasn’t reached the appreciative stage.

There’s just one thing about it, though: we know you are broke as hell; and it doesn’t seem right that you should be sending us expensive stuff like that when you are being pinched.  We love it; but we also have some idea of what you’re going through.

Freddy is a pretty good boy, in that he does nothing but sleep and eat and wet; and he gives great promise, although of what I don’t yet know.  Still, its very gratifying to have a son.  Fond as I am of Bumpy, I always wished she was a boy; and now I don’t have to wish it any more, if you follow me.  She is growing up to be the prettiest and best child you ever saw.  She must have gotten her looks from Pavli; but anyhow, they are certainly there.  Freddy, on the other hand, is no beauty.  When he was born he had a boiled look; and now he resembles nothing more than a comedy Irishman, with a fringe of pinkish hair, pouches underneath his eyes, and a generally apoplectic look—especially around meal times.

We have finally managed to get our house fixed up a little—it was awful bare for a while.  Pavli made us a blue corduroy couch cover, and we managed to make the chairs presentable, etc.  But best of all we got hold of a grate, and now have a coal fire in the living room.  Most of the day we keep the furnace down to negligible; let the grate heat the whole house, which it does pretty well.  I had forgotten what a pleasure an open fire can be.

I may not act like it in the matter of correspondence; but I certainly wish we could see you folks—it would do us no end of good; and we are looking forward to it like nobody’s business.

While Pavli was in the hospital, I had a fairly disagreeable heart attack—the worst so far; and was so goaded into going to a doctor.  He says I shall probably live to be ninety; but that I have to watch myself in the matter of stairs, hills, coffee (I can’t have any, which is pretty convenient, seeing as how you can’t get any) smoking and excitement.  It about scared me to death, as this is the first time I have had any really spectacular symptoms—the others were only mild.  However, it does mean that I am definitely out of the running as far as the military are concerned (it would be hypocrisy to say that I was sorry) and that I am more or less inactivated for life where strenuous occupations are concerned.  I can’t even take a swim any more.

Just as you are feeling the pinch, so are we.  When the government took us over we were all supposed to get a raise (I haven’t had one for over a year) and in fact the boss promised me one.  But he’s afraid of the Vice President in Charge of Saying No, or something; and so I haven’t gotten it.  As a result having the baby was a pretty tight squeeze.  Babies cost upward of $200; and we just didn’t have the cash.  We still have to pay off the MD.  However, the end is mercifully in sigh, even in spite of this damned Victory Tax, which begins on the first.  I don’t mind giving up 5% of my salary in a good cause.  But I do mind the blasted arguments used by the powers that be.  The arguments are as follows:  that the rich can’t pay for the war by themselves, and so there is no reason why they should pay proportionately more than the poor.  In other words, however just our cause, this still a Preferred Stockholders’ War, from where I see it.  We have a four letter man for a boss in here who is always prating about “Social Goals” and who is keeping some men (with wives and children) on less than a hundred and fifty dollars a month.  I’m better off than most, thank God.  Anyhow, if I have to pay 5% he should have to pay 55%.

I have to get back to work now; but bless you all, and the best of luck to both—and DON’T send us any Christmas presents—we aren’t sending any.

Love,
Jigg

* * * * *

In 1943, the Federal Communications Commission had ordered the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to divest itself of its associated network, the Blue Network, thus creating the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and in March 1943, after what appears to have been a difficult period, Jigg found employment with the new network. He became editor of the new ABC newsroom and had a daily news broadcast syndicated over the 44 stations of the network. He held this post until 1946.

At this time Jack, an officer in the Royal Air Force Reserve, had been called up for active service when the war started. In 1941-42 he and Evelyn were living together in Ontario where Jack was on assignment training the Royal Canadian Air Force, but as Jack was being posted to duties in England, Evelyn needed somewhere in the US to stay while she was awaiting authority to travel and join him. This was wartime, and though she was not a British subject, as the spouse of a serving British officer, she was entitled to a passage to England on a convoy. Even so, there was a considerable amount of red tape involved and Jigg, to help out, invited his mother stay with him and his family while this was being arranged and while Jack was making the necessary payments for her passage.

Jig Denise Paula Tappan
Jigg and Paula Scott with Denise (18 months) in Tappan


To Evelyn Scott

[Tappan, New York]
[August 1943]

Dear Mother,

You are more than welcome for as long as you want to stay.  With some embarrassment we have to ask you to pay for your own food—about $6.00 a week.  The rest of our economy is unaltered, and your visit will be a first class treat.

It’s only fair to warn you of the following:  my job comes to an end on August 22 and I start another on the following day, hence chaos for about 3 months thereafter.  We are moving to a somewhat cheaper and pleasanter house in September—more chaos, but you can help.  The present house, where we are somewhat camping out, is small, and so is the other one.  I’m not in the best of health and pretty crockety.1  It costs $1.00 round trip from Tappan to NYC and is a bore.

All this is merely forewarning—P and I will be tickled pink to see you, and only hope that the inconvenience won’t get you down.  We also think it’s a rotten shame that J can’t come too.  Still we envy you like hell going to Britain.

I’ll send you dope on trains instanter.  A warning:  don’t bring too much baggage here.  There are no porters, no taxis, and no nothing.  And it is absolutely Verboten for me to carry loads up the hill from the station.  So, travel light, be prepared for about 1 mile walk from the train to the house.

Wish me luck on my various ventures, and lent let us know the expected date of departure pronto.

God Bless, and all our best to Jack,
Jigg

1 Jigg had suffered from a mild heart condition since early childhood; he was to die of a heart attack in 1965, aged 50.

* * * * *

To Creighton and Paula Scott

[Robbins House, Red Hook, New York]
[September 1943]

Dear Jig and Pabli—

Thanks for Pabli’s lovely letter, which was a pleasure to have.

I am aghast that ES plans to dump herself on you for such a long stay.  It’s terrible, but I suppose there is nothing to do about it.  However, I hope that if she starts any funny business whatever, even the slightest, that you send her packing instanter.  With Jack’s position, she has plenty of money, so there’s not the slightest reason she should stay with you a moment longer than is a complete mutual pleasure.  Don’t make the kind-hearted mistake of starting in to handle her with gloves.  She doesn’t understand kindness, courtesy or good taste—or anything except first principles.  And she will be awake nights trying to make a rift between you two—so stick close together no matter what the merits of a discussion appear on the surface.

As I said to you, my position with regard to the lady is briefly this:  I don’t want her to have my address or know where I live, or anything whatever about Ward Manor estate1.  As soon as you know when ES is coming please drop Gladys a card immediately and tell her not to give ES my address.  For Jig’s sake, since she is after all his mother, I might just possibly see her once in New York, if it is mutually convenient, providing she will behave herself and cut out all Evelyn Scottisms.  And I want her to keep her fingers out of my book.2  Of course she will find out about it, one way or another, and doubtless get to read it.  She will say it is not true to facts, meaning that I have omitted to say that from the time we returned to New York from Brazil she slept with other men and tried to rub my nose in it, that when we went to Europe she took along a lover (Merton) whom she began to sleep with in Bermuda and slept with him in my house in Collioure and Banyuls, that when we went out to North Africa in my car she took along a lover to sleep with, whom she afterwards married (Jack), etc, etc.  She will be furious because I have left her some self-respect to live with, and myself some self-respect to die with!  But the book is true to my life.  I stood for all this for Jig’s sake, trying to seek some semblance of a home for him.  And if I have refrained from telling the world what kind of a mother my son had, and she says a word about it, either in public or in private to any friends, I shall be her bitter enemy and never see or communicate with her again as long as I live.  And I think she knows me well enough by this time to know that I mean exactly what I say.

God bless you all four
Love
Dad

1 Cyril had moved to this secluded estate just outside Red Hook, New York
2
Life Is Too Short, Cyril’s autobiography, published in 1943. Evelyn did not see it for several years and when she did she took great exception to his account of their life together.

* * * * *

Evelyn arrived in Tappan some time around September/October 1943, while Jack returned to England at around the same time. He had recently been left some money by an aunt, and that, with the proceeds of the sale of Jove Cottage was used to buy a property in London where he stayed whenever possible. The house was a large detached Edwardian dwelling on four floors, and his plan was to convert three of the floors to flats, and to use the rental income to support himself and Evelyn the basement flat. In the event, the house became a massive financial drain.

* * * * *

To Paula Scott

[Red Hook, New York]
[November 1943]

Dear daughter—

I just have your long letter, begun Oct 25th and concluded Nov 7th, and am much touched and pleased that you felt that I was a father to whom you could come in a time of perplexity and sadness.  I am glad you sent me these letters, written in a time of trouble, instead of destroying them when what you dreaded had passed, for they are one more realization that you are a really-truly daughter to me who love you as my own child.

Jig and you are more Christian in your attitude toward ES than I am.  To me her psychology is not human.  It really rests on choice of the highest available degree of emotional tension at any cost to anybody, and is thus a spiritual drug habit.  I pray that I may never become comparably oblivious to the sufferings of others, and admire the spirit of Christ-like compassion that Jig expressed and you joined him in.  I also pray that your home may be delivered from her soon.

God bless you all four
Love
Dad

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

[Red Hook, New York]
[November 1943]

Dear Jig—

I wrote Pavli last night after I talked with you on the phone, and today I want to write you.

Listen, old man.  If and when a thing no longer lies within your control the only means of safety resides in the way you meet it.  Let’s hope for the best, son, but I advise facing the alternative right now, even if it doesn’t come.  Let’s face anything that may come, with heads up and determination to win through.

I wrote to comfort Pavli, but you are the only one who can comfort her.  It’s a woman’s role to stand by in small crises—it’s a man’s role to stand by in a great one.  Start in right now to get Pavli in the best frame of mind possible to meet whatever eventuates.

It’ll come out all right, whichever way it goes.  And you are your father’s son, and you will be like him in a tight place.

All this doesn’t mean that I have lost hope—but just in case.

God bless you my dear son,
Love,
Dad

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

[Red Hook, New York]
[late 1943]

My beloved Son—

I understand perfectly what you and Paula are going through—I endured it for years.  I hope and pray that by hook or crook you can get that octopus’s tentacles out of your home right away, and when you do, for the sake of your children, of Pavla, and your own sake, never let her enter it again, no matter what the pretext or circumstances presented by her.  She’s killing you and Pavla by inches, but you can rationalize it and think of the great day when she finally has to leave—your magnificent babies, when they are a little older, not having experience and perspective, would have their poor little souls completely wrecked by her satanic emotional instability and complete inhumanity.

God bless you
Love
Dad

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

January 28, 1944
NITELETTER
SQ/LDR W J METCALFE
26 BELSIZE CRESCENT HAMPSTEAD LONDON NW3

THIS URGENTISSIMO ET CONFIDENTIAL YOUETME1 STOP AM DOING ALL POSSIBLE OBTAIN EXIT PERMIT EVELYN YOUR WIFE BUT EXTRAORDINARILY IMPORTANT YOU EXPEDITE PASSAGE ARRANGEMENTS YOUR END UNDERSTAND PASSAGE MONEY ALMOST ACCUMULATED IF NOT EYE GLADLY CONTRIBUTE FIFTY DOLLARS OR MORE MAIN POINT GET EVELYN ENGLAND PRONTO OTHERWISE HELLISH FAMILY SITUATION COMING TO HEAD TELL ME HOW SEND YOU MONEY IF NEEDED REPLY COLLECT THIS ADDRESS LEAVE EVELYN OUT OF IT UNDERLINED

CREIGHTON SCOTT, BLUENETWORK NEWS RM 276JA

Telegraphese for “you and me”

* * * * *

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