Long-lost ‘I love you’s

Joanne Bello

1950’s love letters found in wall of Akron resident’s house

Claudia Phipps, academic adviser for the College of Business, found a wallet filled with love letters that dated back to the 1950’s.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Although you’ll never see this (I hope) I thought I’d write you a few lines while sitting here with nothing to do.

Jim I wish I could tell you how very much I care about you. Maybe you don’t believe in love at first sight, but I’ve loved you since I first saw you.

These words, scribbled in elegant handwriting on yellowed paper, tucked away in a black leather billfold and hidden behind three different layers of dry wall, preserve the memory of a blossoming love.

Twenty-three letters, written by a girl named Jan, who went by Chris, to a boy named James Cuckler, whom she also refers to as Jim or Jamie, were found buried deep inside the attic walls of an old Akron home 48 years later.

Claudia Phipps, academic adviser for the College of Business, was renovating her newly purchased home on Kling Street when her roommate came across the love letters.

“My roommate was upstairs and came running downstairs and was like, ‘Look, look what I found,’” Phipps said.

“If I hadn’t wanted to take down the walls, the letters would have been stashed inside there probably forever. No one would have ever found them.”

Like many teenagers in 1957, Chris and Jamie could rarely see each other outside of school and occasionally at night.

How I wish there was some way you could come over sometime this weekend. I’m really going to miss you an awful lot. But we do have the phone, we can at least talk even if we can’t see each other.

The letters begin with Chris confessing her love for Jamie and then document the time they spent together at Akron’s Central-Hower High School and at home.

Chris wrote about the feuding that went on between herself and her family, especially her mother. She wrote how unbearable home was and that Jamie was the only reason she didn’t run away.

Jim, this life around this house is getting me down … I’m about ready to give up on the whole damn family anymore.

By using common slang from the time, such as “going parking;” playing “freeze out;” “flicking,” or skipping school; getting “pickled,” or drunk; and naming popular songs of the time, the love letters give insight into life in 1957. Chris also expressed her desire for Jamie to get his driver’s license.

But if and when you get your driver’s license, it will never be lonesome. Right?

The letters also talk about what went on when the teacher wasn’t paying attention in class, what happened at the lunch table and where to go out. Along with day-to-day high school activities, Chris wrote about her most intimate thoughts about Jamie.

I only hope we can keep our love growing and we can spend the rest of our lives proving how much we care. At least we have phones and can talk to each other, which helps out a little, but very little when you want to see someone so much you could almost die.

While reading the letters in her office, Phipps points out her favorite lines.

“I love the part where she tells him that his class ring slipped and asks him to guess where it went,” Phipps said. “The sexual tension between them is very noticeable.”

It was popular in the 1950s for a guy to give a girl his class ring to show that they were a couple.

Phipps’ co-worker Kim Kearns, a receptionist in the College of Business, has been keeping the letters at her home while the Kling Street house is being renovated.

“I was so intrigued with the letters,” Kearns said. “I spent a whole night reading them. I just love a good love story.”

Kearns also said that she felt that if these two people had fallen in love today they would have never been able to communicate their feelings with each other because of modern technology. When writing about things that anger her, Chris used underscores to indicate a swear word.

Well Jim, I love you as much as ever and even more after this _ _ _ _ week ends.

“They were different back then,” Kearns said. “They used different words. You can say anything online now, not that you couldn’t in letters, but you didn’t say the same things.”

Phipps added that 50 years from now people won’t have letters like these to look back on. There are no records of a cell phone conversations, e-mails, text messages or instant messages to keep hidden in walls.

The fate of the young relationship is unknown, but one thing is obvious from the letters: As teenagers, the two hoped to spend the rest of their lives together.

To tell you the truth, if I lost you, someone might as well kill me because I don’t know what I’d do either. I’d be lost without you, I mean it! I love you with all my heart, soul and mind.

Phipps would like to return the letters to James or Chris. Anyone who knows either of them can contact her at the College of Business at (330) 672-1285.

Contact College of Business reporter Joanne Bello at [email protected].