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A great coaling station

Katheryn McMahon Newton album, cards 60-63

First a card from Europe without a message–or is there one after all? This card, by the way, I do not think comes from Billy. Based on the handwriting, there were at least two people in Europe sending postcards back to one or another Miss McMahon in Chicago. (They may have traveled together–the lack of information leaves that a possibility.)

Given the absence of an explicit message, what might the implicit message(s) be? For one, that the sender is/was alive and well on the date when the card was sent. But what about the image and poem on the front? The image I don’t find particularly romantic (it does rather beg the question of what the umbrella is hiding–and what’s he doing with his hands). The poem is also open to interpretation. Now, sometimes senders don’t have much choice of post cards and basically take whatever they’ve got time to locate. I have at least one in a different set where the sender only had a holiday postcard at hand and explicitly explained the disconnect. There’s nothing to indicate the same here–so we’re left with mysteries.

The other cards I’ll be sharing today also have mysteries, despite featuring comparatively lengthy inscriptions. (Yes, they’re all from Fred.) There’s also a bit of a naval theme going here, in images and messages (with some vaudeville mixed in).

In March, Fred sent Katheryn a card of the S.S. Minnesota in the Seattle Harbor. Note the additional salutation written as though he’s on the boat greeting her.

Unless Katheryn had traveled much from Chicago (other than to Wisconsin), her experience of watercraft would be restricted to vessels suited for the Great Lakes. Fred’s too, for that matter. Therefore Fred’s appreciation for “block long” freighters that “look like a small mountain” and for the busyness of Puget Sound may be as much him enthusing as hoping she’ll find it an extra reason to come West.

Mar 11th 1908 Babe: This is an every day sight along the water front. These big ocean [reverse] freighters are a block long + look like a small mountain when you [illeg] along side of them. [illeg illeg] a fellow who is a second mate on board one of them + he took me all through it last Sund. Morn. Seattle is right on Puget Sound + a sea port town and is also a great coaling station for the navy beside a few miles from here is the Bellingham navy dry docks + next sund. I am going over to see 2 large gunboats they have their in dry-docks Well dearie may this reach you as it leaves me – Thinking of you. With love

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 11 March 1908

Within a month, Fred also sends Katheryn a postcard of the cruiser U.S.S. Pennsylvania–but the inscription is about a very different ship.

This is actually a slightly short message for Fred, as was the previous one.

Seattle Apr 7th 08 My, but some one is becoming conservative? Am mailing you under separate cover Seattle Times which gives a more adequate idea what I witnessed this P.M. abut 3 oclock. The sight was most impressive, the cruiser stood out clear + distinct against a background of mountains Blue sky overhead sun shining colors flying + a 1000 smaller boats + water craft escorted the Washington up the Sound. You understand dont you? Am waiting your letter with best regards to “Kate”.

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 7 April 1908

Here’s a bit of a mystery–what does Fred witnessing the arrival of the cruiser U.S.S. Washington have to do with suggesting he’s “becoming conservative”? This likely reveals my lack of political knowledge of the time It’s one of the perils of moving from being an Early Americanist to studying more modern history; I know the general picture but not enough of the subtleties. Something else to research! I do appreciate Fred referencing a Seattle Times issue (presumably from the same date–another matter for research) while offering his take on the “most impressive” scene.

Oh, and who’s the “Kate” he’s referring to–complete with quotation marks–while addressing Katheryn? Inquiring minds want to know. Whether or not the other cards will provide any type of answer is doubtful, but there’s always a chance. (My guess is that either Katheryn’s family repeated names and there are various other Kates, Katies, Kathys, and such wandering around–or that Katheryn has a friend by that name.)

Just in case anyone was wondering what was so impressive about the U.S.S. Washington and its arrival–two months later Fred sends a card showing a photo taken while the ship was in Seattle.

Here he’s back to his usual practice of using just about every available bit of space on the card save where the stamp goes and allowing some white space around the address.

Seattle June 6th 08 Dearie: I just finished supper (it being Sat. night I usually stay downtown for supper) + am waiting for one of the boys to join me as we are going to take in the vaudeville show at the Coliseum How I wish you were to be in that seat beside me (I have the same kind of an arrangement with the treasurer of the box-office as I used to have at the Majestic in Chicago + besides dearie I have exactly the seats in the same location – 3rd row in center aisle for every sat night I would sit + watch you laugh + enjoy it Dearie I asked you to get an idea of the beautiful view of the [unclear] [unclear] the Hay[?] They look as if they were about a block away but they are exactly 3miles away from the hills you see in the foreground Did you get letter with all my love

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 6 June 1908

Unlike the previous cards, his message doesn’t have much to do with the image. There is the line (where I wasn’t able to decipher a couple of words) which might refer to the distances in the various parts, but it could also mean a different card. I included this in today’s post because the cruiser was mentioned in the card above.

The card also indicates some of Fred’s practices. He usually stays downtown on Saturdays and goes to the vaudeville. In fact, he has an arrangement for the same seats every time, identical to the seats he used when in Chicago escorting Katheryn. In short he’s a season ticket holder (whether or not official).

And that’s enough for this post. More ships next time!

“A great coaling station,” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.

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