Jim Ingebrigtsen


The letter, written on company stationery, from an address where the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall now sits, is dated March 26, 1923. The time is entered as 9:30 a.m. It is hand written in cursive and begins with “Dearest Little Sweetheart”. It is just over one hundred years old. In essence, it’s a love letter written by a man who was twenty-four to a girl who was sixteen at the time.

By today’s standards, given the ages, this would be unusual, suspicious and likely considered dangerous if not illegal. However, at that time, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Back in the day it was quite common for a young lady to be wooed, courted and then married to a man much older. As many families, especially farm families, had four, five, six or more children, if an opportunity arose for a young woman to marry a suitable suitor of some means, so be it. One less mouth to feed.

The groom to-be quoted his mother’s concerns about this young lady stealing her only child away. She wrote, “Get a girl that doesn’t want you to always be buying you presents and chocolates and taking her to the pictures, save your money to buy a house. Also, this young lady must be sensible and not use powder and paint like some hussy.” He then went, in well-crafted words to extol his love for the young lady.

Not long after this letter was written, they were married. Although only sixteen and having lived most of her life with a single mother (as her father had died young) she was already adept at cooking and keeping a house. Although times were tight, it wasn’t long before she was pregnant with her first child, a son who was soon followed by two daughters.

Although the family struggled at times, as did most others, they lived together and loved together. That is, until the husband decided to love another. Somewhere in the late thirties they parted ways. The husband left with the two eldest children and the youngest daughter stayed with her mother.

The following years were tough for the still relatively young mother but she endured and did what was required to make a living. She found work at the Ninette Sanatorium which provided care for people living with tuberculosis. Her young daughter often in tow. Then, moving back to Winnipeg, she worked at the Fort Osborne Barracks during most of WWII. It wasn’t long before all three of her children were married and had moved to other parts of the country and had families of their own.

Now, in the late nineteen forties, she met a man who caught her eye and, as it turned out, they had a lot in common. Cupid struck again.

The now forty-three-year-old woman was long past thinking about, let alone wanting, any more children. So, in 1950, the year of the famous flood in Winnipeg, with some surprise mixed with consternation, she found herself in a family way once again and gave birth to a little boy. More than forty years after the woman passed away at eighty, that son was going through some old boxes in the basement and came across the old love letter his mother had hung on to for so long.

The letter closed with “Yours with love and lots of kisses. Till we meet again. Your future hubby. May God Bless you and keep you. Till death do us part”. It was signed with flair. Monte Cristo XXX

The two young lovers are long dead. So too, are their three children and her last husband. The only one who remains … is me.

Jim continues his on-going mission of cleaning out the basement. Who knows what he might come across next. Listen to his podcasts on Lifestyles 55 Digital Radio.

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