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Big papa, Stanley and me.

The summer of 1943, I turned fifteen. My peers were dating on a regular basis, but I felt misunderstood and lonely. I took refuge in my correspondence. I wrote letters to everyone I knew. I began to live for the mail every day. Usually, our mail came around noon, but after a while I realized that Mr. Albert, our postman, picked up the mail on the corner by my grandfather's house, then went across the street to sit on the shady front porch of the Hardys' house for a lunch break. Every day before noon I would walk through our backyard and past Big Papa's house to the street corner, where I would wait to see if there was any mail addressed to me. There rarely was. It was Big Papa's custom to rest in a big porch rocker after lunch, and he frequently consoled me as I trudged home empty handed.

Then one day, THE LETTER came:

Dear Miss Johnson,

While in Brookhaven on a business trip recently, I attended Sunday worship where I saw you on the church steps and was captivated by your charm and beauty. I inquired of Mr. Sam Moreton as to your identity, and am bold to write and request that perhaps you would be kind enough to allow me to call upon you when I return to your fair city in the future. If I may dare hope that you will respond, you may do so in care of general delivery.

With my sincere regards, Your ardent admirer, Stanley Jones

I was stunned! As I reread the letter, the handwriting seemed familiar. The shape of the paper was unusual--perhaps a sheet of stationery with the letterhead cut off? And the envelope was exactly like the ones in the pigeonhole in Big Mama's secretary. Then, it dawned on me--Big Papa! I hurried home to compose my response to "Mr. Stanley Jones."

Dear Mr. Jones,

Or, if you would not consider me a bold and forward girl--

Dear Stanley,

How flattered I am to be admired by a distinguished visitor to our community. I only wish my grandfather had introduced us on the spot; then I would not have to wait until your next visit to make your acquaintance. Or course, you may call! I shall look forward to hearing from you in the very near future.

With great expectations, Joan Johnson

I copied over the carefully worded message, tucked the note into the envelope with a sprinkling of lavender sachet, and addressed it to Mr. Stanley Jones. Suddenly, I hesitated. Certainly I couldn't send my letter to General Delivery--there might be a real Stanley Jones! So I directed the note c/o Mr. Sam Moreton.

I affixed a stamp to the envelope and pedaled my bicycle to the post office, where I asked Johnny Guess to hand cancel the stamp and post mark it, after which I pedaled to Big Papa's house and slipped my letter to "Stanley Jones" into the mailbox.

Thus began a long-term correspondence with my special pen pal. Big Papa and I never let on to each other that we knew the identity of Stanley, but we each knew the other was in on the ruse. I asked Big Papa from time to time if he had run into Stanley when away on business trips, and he often asked if I had heard from his friend lately. Stanley frequently sent small gifts, but our paths never actually crossed. Our relationship was doomed by poor timing, and even now I smile inwardly when I think of all the dinners, dancing, concerts, and theatre outings I missed, promised by Stanley a week early or a day late.


This mail order romance with my secret admirer lasted throughout my high school and college years, and even beyond. The last time I heard from Stanley Jones was on the eve of my marriage to Tom Peyton. Stanley wrote to tell me that he was heartbroken when he had learned of my engagement, but that he had met my fiance and considered him to be a fine gentleman. He wished us happiness in our future life together, and gave us his blessing.

I never again heard from Mr. Stanley Jones, Esq., but I have never forgotten him.
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Title Annotation:heritage matters: on being southern
Author:Peyton, Joan
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Previous Article:How well do you know your state?
Next Article:Bata & Howarth.

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