Title:The bean ticket letter collection: an unpublished manuscript by Nellie Blair Greene; edited by Beverlee Calvert, 1930-1948
Creator/Contributor:Greene, Nellie Blair, 1882-1953, creator
During the years 1930 to 1948, Nellie Blair Greene corresponded with her friend, Mrs. Marshall Smith (Delia), in Jackson,
Michigan. Mrs. Smith saved Nellie's letters and some years later they were given to Beverlee Calvert, who hoped to publish
them as "The Bean ticket letters". Calvert spent several years researching and developing a manuscript but was unable to find
The collection consists of the original letters, the completed manuscript and Calvert's research. The research notes and correspondence
are incomplete; a few photographs are included. Of note are several appendices by Calvert that do not appear in the draft
manuscript: Nellie and the political system; Nellie and the economics of survival; Nellie and Ernest; Nellie and Marjorie;
Nellie and Ernest's sons.
Nellie's letters provide an intimate account of a middle-class family's struggle during the Depression of the 1930s. Her voice
is direct (never maudlin) as she presents personal details: "Really, when you try to live, four of you, on $32 a month, it
is rather appalling. The boys get no lunch at all, and all I eat is toast and coffee (when we have any) in the morning, and
a few potatoes, fried ones, at night. Don't you love all these harrowing details? I get up at 6 a.m., wash clothes and mend
ragged shirts. Howard has only two, one of them all gone to pieces, and Billy, who hasn't has a new shirt in three years,
wears a bathing suit all day long. I scrub floors. I bake muffins when I have flour and bacon grease, to take the place of
bread. I assure you I was so hungry the other night that I actually ate the scraps of ham Marjorie had left."
As she forsakes her DAR background and becomes radicalized, Nellie presents a wider perspective as she discusses the social
and political movements of the day. Thus we have her comments on such contemporary figures as Debs, Sinclair, Townsend, Father
Coughlin, Al Smith, Hoover, and Roosevelt, and concerning socialist and communist organizations such as the 600 Club, American
Indigent's Association, Farmer-Labor Party, Inter-Professional Association, SERA, Union for Social Justice, and Workers' Alliance.
The letters also offer a participant's view of the social programs designed to help people during the depression -- the various
state and federal programs offering "Relief" whether it be through the distribution of food or providing jobs under the WPA.
Nellie saw herself as a chronicler of her times. During this period she was also keeping a journal and hoped to publish it
someday as she discusses in a letter written on Jan. 21, 1938: "Really, no one can imagine what a family goes through when
being ground down into the mire of poverty. Everyone of us has suffered terribly. Robert is cheated of his education. Howard
is dead. Ernest has lost everything a man can lose. Marjorie has gone way below par, beyond the pale. William is being deprived
of a good home, benefits, special education and privileges. And I? Well, no one but I can tell what misery really means. I
think that the Journal would be talked about, if it were ever printed. If Dreiser hasn't used the name "An American tragedy",
that would just fit it." Nellie's journal has not yet surfaced -- but her letters are here to speak for her.
Box 2316: Bound ms., typescripts, photographs, research. -- Box 2317: Original letters.
Greene, Nellie Blair -- 1882-1953 -- Correspondence
Smith, Delia A -- Correspondence
Depressions -- 1929 -- California -- Personal narratives
California -- Social conditions
California -- Politics and government -- 1850-1950
San Diego (Calif.) -- History
Public welfare -- California -- History
United States. -- Work Projects Administration (Calif.)
Nellie Blair was born in 1882 in Jackson, Michigan, to a prominant family descended from the former governor, Austin Blair.
She married Arthur Greene in 1905 and their daughter, Marjorie, was born in 1906. Nellie Blair Greene was active in social
organizations such as the DAR and wrote articles for the local newspaper, the Jackson tribune. In early 1930, she and Arthur
were divorced and shortly thereafter Nellie married Arthur's cousin, Ernest Greene. In the spring of 1930 Nellie and Ernest
along with his three sons, Robert, Howard and William, relocated to San Diego, California, in an effort to find employment
during the Depression.
Ernest was not very successful, finding only occasional work with the WPA as a laborer. But Nellie was able to capitalize
on her training as a writer and in 1936 began working for the WPA, first writing local histories, later participating in a
curricula development project with the local schools. As a result of her final WPA posting with the San Diego Public Library,
Nellie obtained a civil service position with the library and worked there throughout the 1940s. During these years Nellie
also wrote sports stories for the San Diego union under the byline Eleanor Green.
Nellie and Ernest separated in 1941. Marjorie, who was suffering from a lifetime of alcohol abuse, often lived with Nellie
thereafter until her death in 1949. Nellie's first husband, Arthur, who had moved to California with his second wife and sister,
was a frequent visitor. Nellie Blair Greene died in San Diego in 1953.
The bean ticket letters collection.
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.
2 ms. boxes (ca. 145 items) : ill., ports.
MANUSCRIPT Boxes 2316-2317
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.