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1. Christmas with the US Cavalry in Arizona
*** 1896: The Christmas menu for Troop C listed beef, turkey, and mutton. But about the B Troop and their dinner, Ed noted in disgust: Our Christmas table groaned beneath a load of bottled beer and I hope to God thatfor once in his life Lynch got all the beer he wanted. For the rest, B Troop had only an ordinary dinner, but it sloshed in the same beer that one could buy any day at the post canteen.
During this period Ed was part of a trio that organized "The May Have Seen Better Days Club." The men, all from different troops, had one thing in common: they really had seen better days and came from prosperous families. Ed could recall very few names, but wrote:
There was one chap whose father was a wealthy merchant from Boston; another was a Canadian; and the third was a chap by the name of Napier who had been an officer in the English army. We met in my quarters at the headquarters stables once a month, immediately after payday when we were flush. We usually managed to rake up a pretty good feed and plenty of wine and then through the balance of the month we were broke, for thirteen dollars does not go far, especially when one has a lot of canteen checks to redeem on payday. ~ p. 59
2. A Father's Love
*** 1908: With the failure of their gold dredging projects in Idaho, brothers George, Harry, and Coleman returned to Chicago. Major George Tyler Burroughs, at an advanced age, still headed his company, but the income had declined steadily. During this difficult period his deep love for Ed and the unfailing kindness of his nature were demonstrated in the letter he sent to his son on December 25, 1908. Written on the letterhead of the American Battery Company at 172 South Clinton Street, it is addressed to "My Dear Son Edgar" and contains a most unusual Christmas present:
Kindly accept from me the within paid notes. I have had them for quite a long time, and I think it only right, at this time to give them to you, that your mind may be relieved ofjust this burden. They would never have troubled you, had I retained them, it is just as wellfor you to have them. Coleman has been paid infull. It is betterfor you not to mention this transaction to either Geo. or Coleman as the latter did not wish to let me have them and only did so after repeated importunities. He did not wish to hurt yourfeelings. There is no reason why they should be. Coleman could not afford to carry these notes and you could not take them up at that time, therefore I did the only proper thing, I think. I took them myself. I hope you will soon be in shape to pay any other indebtedness you have, and now wishing you & Emma a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Thus, Major George, without saying anything, had paid off the notes for the $300 Ed had borrowed from Coleman in May 1908. Through the years he had kept this deed a secret from Ed. The signature of the major was as touching as his action; in closing, he wrote, "I am, and always affctly. Your friend and Father." ~ P. 104
3. Christmas Cards Created with Love
1909: A Christmas card with one of ERB's own cartoons, showing Santa Claus clinging to a tree while below him an enraged reindeer is snorting and butting the tree, has the following typed statement: "Uncertainty as to the movements of a certain stock has decided Santa Claus to remain where he is for an indefinite period. We are therefore sending you only our best wishes for A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year." The card has no date.
The end of 1909 brought no change in Ed's financial problems. He had no money to purchase the few Christmas cards he wished to send to his family and friends, and in these circumstances decided to use his own imagination and skill. Ed drew the cards in ink and created his own verses. Even those somber times could not repress his sense of humor. His Christmas card to F.C.B. (Frank Coleman Burroughs) read:
Please accept this little token It would be more were I not broken. In the drawings of two men on the card, one man is presenting the other with a paper containing the words, "Lease to 25th floor of any 24 floor bldg." This was Ed's comical idea of the only "little token" he could afford.
On another card he printed "Merry Christmas to Mother" and in one corner drew a picture of a woman in joyous pose, while in the opposite corner, next to a "Merry Christmas to Father,"
Ed outlined a child's speckled rocking horse.
His verse reads:A card addressed to his nephew Studley Oldham Burroughs at 1418 Jackson Boulevard is dated December 25, 1909, and Ed's verse is headed in large capitals "St.O.B." Again, he jokes about his financial state:
To giving you the things we'd like
We cannot come a mile
But its purpose will be wellfiilfilled
If this card brings a smile.
It is signed "Emma & Ed."
Please accept from Edgar Rice
The best he's got to give— advice.
In the illustration the "advice" being handed out is simple:
"Start a Bank Account."
4. The Tarzana Ranch Zoo
*** 1920: For Christmas of 1920 Hulbert and Jack received unusual presents from Harry Rubey of the National Film Corporation. They were each given a lion cub, and Joan was presented with two monkeys, described by Ed in one caustic phrase "as tractable as a pair of rattlesnakes."
About the lions, Ed, supplied details to his brother George:
"They are not very big lions although each of them is capable of devouring three pounds of raw meat a day and tearing it from the bone in a truly lion-like fashion. The children go in the cage and play with them . . . They were brought up with a little female puppy who lives with them in the cage and they are a never ending source of amusement to the children. The monkeys are vicious things and as far as I can see are utterly useless."
Not exactly pleased at the menagerie set up behind the house, Ed remarked,
"The only thing that I can imagine that would have been less acceptable would have been an elephant." Burroughs lost little time in finding a more suitable home for the animals. ~ P. 336
5. Correspondence with a Young English Fan Through the Years
*** 1920: Irene Ettrick, who at the time of her first correspondence with Ed was about twelve years old— the same age as Joan Burroughs— was the daughter of the Reverend Maughan Ettrick, Rector at Little Ilford at Essex, England. On November 9, 1920, she wrote to acknowledge the books Ed had sent her. In replying, Ed noted his hope to come to England some day.
*** 1923: For Christmas 1923 Irene's present to the Burroughs family was some English candy, and to her, on January 17, Ed explained that relatives on his mother's side had come from Staffordshire.
*** 1924: Ed regretted that he must disappoint her and confessed that he had travelled very little: "I should be able to tell you that I had walked all over Africa, Asia, Europe, and the North Pole, but as a matter of fact I have never been off my own continent. . . ."
*** 1927: Inspired by Ed, Irene turned to writing stories and in December 1927 Ed was pleased to hear that Irene had become a "motion picture actress"; he hoped to have an opportunity to see her one day in a British film.
*** 1937: The correspondence with Irene was maintained regularly throughout the 1930s. On December 20, 1937, Ed acknowledged her Christmas card and wrote, "I wonder if you have a recent snapshot which you will send me? I have pictures of you since you were a very little girl, and I should very much like to have a later one. ... I look for you in every English picture we see, but so far I have not been able to recognize you. . . ."
*** 1938: In May Irene told of the death of her father, the Reverend Maughan Ettrick, and on the sixteenth Ed sent a letter of condolence. In December of that year, a card from Irene revealed that she then lived in Brighton, Sussex, England. ~ P. 377
6. A Bitter Sweet Homecoming from WWII Hawaii
*** 1944: On November 5, 1944, Emma died unexpectedly of a stroke. Understanding the misery and suffering she had endured as a victim of alcoholism, Ed viewed her death as an escape from an agonized life. To Weston and Ted Landon he noted, "It was a relief, as her condition was hopeless. ..." He was granted a forty-five-day travel order by the army and Hulbert received a thirty-day leave. It was the first Christmas in eleven years that Ed had spent with his children and grandchildren. Also at the family gathering were grandchildren James Michael Pierce and Joan Pierce and two grandsons (Jane's and Jack's) that Ed was seeing for the first time.
The home stay, however, produced a complication he had hardly expected. At the end of December he underwent surgery for a hernia, and a month of convalescence followed. ~ P. 571
7. Journal Notes
1903: Ed and Emma spent Christmas in Parma, Idaho. Christmas letters go out on the letterhead of the Sweetser-Burroughs Mining Co.: Geo.T. Burroughs, Jr. Pres., Walter S. Sparks, Vice-Pres., Lewis H. Sweetser, Sec'y., Henry S. Burroughs, Treas., Minidoka, Idaho. They received a mounted Gila monster from Bert and Margaret in Beatrice.
1908: Ed received a warm Christmas letter from his father in which he reported that he had paid off Ed's debts to Coleman. Business apparently had turned sour for all of the Burroughs clan.
1908: George and Mary Evaline moved to 493 (1418) Jackson Boulevard.
1918: Crossing car tracks at Cicero Avenue in bumpy snow ruts, Ed slowed to first or second gear, but a Yellow Cab crossed his path and stopped. Ed was not able to stop because of icy conditions and slid into the cab.
1934: After leaving Emma Ed was staying temporarily in a house at 7933 Hillside Avenue in Hollywood. He and Florence selected an engagement ring, and at a special 1934 Christmas breakfast held at the Gilbert home on Lexington Avenue announced their engagement. With the arrival of the new year, 1935, Florence and Ed began house-hunting; the one they chose, then occupied by Maurice Chevalier, was in Beverly Hills at 806 North Rodeo Drive. The publicity for the marriage was unavoidable and they were hounded by paparazzi.
1935: Lee received a large mechanical train set from Fred Mandel. Virginia and Charlie Farrell and Katherine and Ralph Bellamy visited at 8:00. The men spent much of the evening playng with the kids' mechanical toys -- while Lee watched.
ERB Bio Timeline and Journals
8. ERB's War Journals: Christmas in Australia
*** 1942: Christmas Eve Notes that I've pulled from the ERB War Journals from the personal collection of Danton Burroughs:
ERB arrived in Sydney, Australia. Ed arose before dawn on the Christmas Eve morning of 1942, admiring the Southern Cross on his way over to the kitchen where he cajoled the cook into opening a can of tomato juice. An army truck took him to the airport where he joined a dozen service men in boarding a DC3 marine transport bound for Sydney, Australia. It was a tiresome and uncomfortable eight-hour trip. Because of the onboard auxiliary fuel tanks they were not allowed to smoke. The passengers were hungry and cold and many of them had to lie on the floor as there were not enough of the notoriously uncomfortable seats for everyone.
Upon arriving at Sydney's Mascot Field they boarded a navy bus for downtown Sydney. The bus came to a sudden stop, however, when the baggage that had been stowed on the roof -- including Ed's typewriter -- fell off onto the concrete pavement. The hotels were packed, but with the help of the billeting officer, Ed and his friend, Ham Freeman, each got a room at Usher's Hotel. Ed's room had a bath and lavatory but no W.C. Ed reported to the Public Relations Officer, who telegraphed General MacArthur's HQs to check for mail. There was none. He was expecting a letter from Ralph Rothmund with information about which banks held ERB, Inc.'s frozen Australian royalties. The PRO invited him to a nearby office where Australian officers and civilians were being treated to piles of great food and Scotch. Ed returned to the hotel to pass his laundry on to the "housekeeper" but she warned him that it probably wouldn't be returned for almost a week because of the Christmas holidays. Ed and Ham joined an Australian captain and three girls for Christmas Eve drinks and dancing at The Princess.
ERB in Australia: Notes from his War Journals
ERB: The War Years
*** 1942: Christmas Day: More notes from ERB's War Journals that grandson Danton Burroughs shared with me. I spent many days going through them and edited and condensed them for my Daily Events projects that I've featured through the years. Ed's description of his December 1942 exploits in Australia were particularly interesting. Today's entry included:
*** 1942: Ed had an early Christmas morning Australian breakfast -- everything passed the test except for the coffee which tasted like ether. After a walk around the city to deliver a message he returned to his room to write a story. He spent the afternoon in the hotel lounge chatting with a P-38 pilot just in from Guadalcanal. Ed and Freeman then took a tram to King's Cross for a Christmas steak supper.
One of the stories he wrote said: "I have no business being here and shall probably lose my job and have to go back to writing Tarzan and Martian stories and other factual and scientific works; but when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn't resist the temptation. So here I am 'down under' on Christmas 1942, and glad of it."
He added: "Christmas down here happens in mid-summer. Today is warm and sunny. Everything is closed up tighter than a drum, to remain closed for four days. It seems that tomorrow is Race Day, the next day is Sunday, and Monday is Boxing Day, or something like that." The column he wrote this for was published on Jan. 4, 1943 and it is featured in ERBzine 1756
ERB War Journals
ERB Finds Aussie Customs Odd
9. A Burroughs Christmas Celebration
Our Annual Burroughs Christmas Greetings