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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SMALL MEMORIES OF A LONG AGO WAR

Clifton's Cafeteria Newsletter 1944 - Gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from Gerald Fecht 2010
Recently we had our home re-carpeted. We’re still disrupted and I’m using the ordeal as an opportunity to sort through old books and prepare for a trip to Out of the Closet or packing up treasures for the next Museum garage sale.
Among the books was a biography of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that I will be giving to a lifelong friend, Burnet Brown. When I was cleaning it, I discovered three small historic treasures. Two were documents from the now defunct Home Federal Savings and Loan Association of Iowa dated June 30 and December 14, 1943. The third is a folded newsletter entitled “Food for Thot” published on June 1, 1944 by the beloved Los Angeles landmark cafeteria called “Clifton’s” 618 South Olive / 648 South Broadway.
Because your Museum is working with the young Van Nuys photographer Andy Hurvitz to secure the histories of the Valley’s Jewish-American WWII veterans, the discovery of the Clifton’s and Home Federal documents seemed especially timely.
Look at the Home Federal documents to see the intense patriotism the dangers to America generated in 1943. Here are two excerpts from the Clifton’s newsletter that speak about the “spirit of the times” in the summer of 1944:
“Personal War and Post-War Planning
The more you can travel under your own steam, the more national steam is left for the war and post-war effort. This nation was built by sturdy individuals solving their own problems. It can be strengthened by individuals and communities breaking big problems into little ones and solving them one by one. “Rip Van Winkle” days are over for America, for all of us. It isn’t hard to find something that needs doing. When you do it – that’s progress. When you and your fellow citizens do it together – that’s democracy. When you let George do it, that’s an invitation to a dictator.”

A question to Clifton’s: “With government urging we eat more eggs and the price of eggs greatly reduced why do you still charge 7¢ an egg?"

From Two Marines –
“... a few months ago we dined at your cafeteria and we unable to pay the check. We intended to fulfill our obligation the following week, but do to circumstances it could not be done. Enclosed in this letter is a money order to take care of the check and the remainder we would like to donate to the fund which we understand you have, to cover such cases as ours. Our meal was about $1.80. We hope that this long but unavoidable delay has not lessened your confidence in us, or in any other servicemen, who in the future might be confronted with the same situation.”
Answer:
Such letters as yours are the finest source of inspiration and encouragement to us in our service policy. We acknowledge with sincere thanks the receipt of your money order for $5.00 in return for the $1.80 meal checks you were unable to pay on your visit to us. What we did was not merely fulfilling Clifton’s policy but also the policy of thousands of friends and guests who support us in that policy, just as you have done.
You are not the first nor the last who have repaid us many fold for our desire to be of service to people in a pinch. So were are taking your five dollars, adding to it five dollars of our own, and putting it in the fund reserved for “other servicemen who in the future may be confronted with the same situation.” Thus your bread on the waters is returned doubled (plus the original investment of $1.80) for the service of the next soldier, sailor or marine who makes port at Clifton’s “in the same boat”.
Patriotism in 1943 - Documents from Home Federal Savings of Iowa - Gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from Gerald Fecht 2010.

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