Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen



Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen


Admits issues about his previous life and loves that he had not previously disclosed. Goes on to speak of her recent letter and professes his love for her. Writes of the possibility of her coming to America and tells her of his decision to live in New York area. Continues with more love letter material and writes of music he has heard. Signed Heathcliff.




Temporal Coverage




Five-page handwritten letter


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244 ALLEN St.

Jan. 11-1946

My dearest Darling Cathie:

I wrote a letter to you dated Dec. 16 – 1945 – a very unusual letter; only once before did I ever conceive a like epistle – and that was immediately after I arrived in England and was terribly lonesome & was to Dolly – of whom I have told you everything concerning her & me – how I was sorry for her, and thought pity could develop into something more substantial – however it never materialized, and now she is happily married, I hope, after I told her I could never love her. How could I possibly love her, or any other girl as long as there’s a little “runt” somewhere in Yorkshire who has the power to make my head do tailspins flip-ups, and won’t let it come down???

Cathie, there is no use beating around the bush (haven’t I always told you everything? Well, practically) and when I say you are the only girl I’ve thought about since I’ve come home – in fact – from your letters, most of my relatives & friends have seemed to learned & loved you. Aunt Cat in Alexandria especially – she says that if I don’t send for you she will; my Mother says that if I want you, you must be wonderful (how true!) and if we (you & I) approve, she endorses that approach.

Yesterday I received your letter of Dec. 9 – took it a long time to arrive – and since then I’ve debated over & over with myself whether or not to mail the last letter I wrote. (There’s a murder mystery – good too – on the radio, & I’ve got one ear on it, and yet I’m attempting to contemplate (I mean concentrate – you see, now, what happens when you try to listen to a young detective trace down a killer who likes the song “Poor Butterfly.” – Now that the killer has been caught & justice dealt to him in the form of 5 .38 bullets, I can continue with a bit of coherence – next week, the announcer says, will be “Ladies In Retirement” – the classic mystery about the little English servant girl who murdered to save her insane sister. Ida Lupins was in the movie.

Getting back to the letter I received from you:
Should I send the letter of Dec. 16, or not
You’ve got a good chance now to fulfill [sic] all your dreams,

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darling Cathie, you don’t know how proud I am of you. To think that all the time I knew you, I never heard one word about your plans; your dreams; your past accomplishments, your future hopes …. And I thought you talked a lot …. How stupid I am! God, but if I had known then what I know now (my feelings, I mean) I’d have applied for [inserted] a [/inserted] marriage permit & ---. But now? Thousands & thousands of miles of fathomless ocean; obstacles to be surmounted – I suppose it’s man’s nature to want that which seems hardest to acquire that which we have to fight & work for.

But if you make your name in England, if you came to America all that would be lost …. every iota. You’d have to start all over again. I realize this isn’t exactly fair to you – who am I that I should ask you to forsake a promising career for life with a dreamer? Those dreams usually are punctured like some fragile soap-bubble, to disintegrate and vanish into thin air. The longest & most important one of these being you.

Dear Cathie, I’ve made up my mind to live here; the scenery is truly panoramic – either in winter when the hills and valleys snuggle down ‘neath their icy blankets, for a prolonged siesta, or the summer, when high in the hills – which, I imagine – are not unlike your beloved Yorkshire hills – the air is crisp, and fresh, and life seems beautiful. I’m planning to buy 60 acres of land with a house on the property which I want to convert into a real old Southern pre-Civil war, ante bellum home – just bringing a dash of the old South into this land of Yankees.

Cathie, I’ve walked to the summit of the tallest peak, where the eye could scan the view for twenty miles, let the wind tear violently at my face, and feel free …. and happy. I’ve thought of you being there beside me, and of me taking a photo of you – with a color [sic] camera – the rugged firs, and scenic beauty a pitiful backdrop to your face, and eyes, and smile. I’ve thought of us walking, running hand in hand across the terrain until we’re breathless, but happy, and the turbulent wind still beating, uselessly; tugging at our bodies in a giant symphony, finally admitting defeat and dying on a sour note in the valley.

Every time I approach the peak of this hill, I seem to

[page break]


hear music; wonderful, strange, violent music – a complete orchestra – almost – woodwinds, brass, everything but the soft, harmonious strings – there are no mellow violins with their singing strings; their soothing motif – there IS NO CATHIE!

I can’t write – yet. I’m in no mood; and I have to have my heart into it before I can compose a single phrase. If I wrote my book now it would be a sad, longing, desolate theme, when I want to infuse the laughter, gaiety, charm originally designated for this particular story I must tell.

So, honey, there it is: You’ve read the final letter, and now you have this one. Whatever you do; which course you decide to pursue, I am not going to be influential by making any demands; you know how I feel about you. I want you to be fair to yourself and follow the strongest current. This is to prove that your imminent success (I’m sure you (will) (would) be a success) hasn’t gone to MY head. I feel that you have a great opportunity, and after you’re a success you can have any numbers of eligible young bachelors from the procession that will undoubtedly flock to your dressing room, or stage-door each evening. Then maybe one day I can & will write a play for you, and tell you (within the opus (play) just what my feelings are.

Perhaps that’s why we understood each other (or did we) both of us are privileged (?) to contain properties in our constitution that only the few – minority – are gifted(?) with; with you it is the theatre; with me it’s the 4th estate (Do they call newspaper, etc. life in Eng. 4th Es. too?)

Dammit, I wish the Air Ministry would see fit to give you a release from the WAAF. Is Sir Arthur Tedder chief marshal of the R.A.F. If not, please send me the address of hizzown [sic] highness & I’ll get a protesting epistle into the mail pronto!

Cathie, dear, do you mind if I stroll down memory lane once again. It seems such a short while (in reality it’s been almost 2 years) since we were together at the base near Cyderstone [sic] – see, it’s been so long that I can’t remember the base. Darn, how time flies. Never will I forget the public house, & the “batallions.” My “romance” with this 2-ton Tessie never progressed beyond the hand-holding stage, and was never pursued outside the pub. I still laugh when I

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remember how the guys kidded me about her running her hands through my hair. I had to be half-tight before I’d be seen with her. And when I asked you to let me play Heathcliff to your Cathie. If you’d asked me who they were, (as one English girl did) I don’t know what I would have done.

Nice music coming from the Waldorf Astoria in N.Y.C. A lot of strings and good piano; nice tempo – “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” – from something by Chopin.

Cathie! Whatever you do see “This Love of Mine” – with Merle Oberon & Claude Rains – I don’t know if it’ll be under that title in England, but if it has those 2 stars, see it. Aunt Cat & I saw it together & Merle O’s expressions and actions are yours. So much so, that before the picture was over she was looking like you. I’m going to see it over & over. The picture you sent has drawn various comments. You look like Susan Peters, the actress; and some do say Oberon, I still want a tinted photo of you.

I’m having some made – large ones. I saw the proofs (I’m in civvies) and it truly flatters me – sans moustache, though - (if you ever come over I’ll grow it back – it takes less than a week, but darling it adds 10 years to my age, the folks say. So now I look 13 1/2 with it off. Pretty good, eh?) – the photographer said it looked liked Crosby. He didn’t know I was listening! It’ll probably be March before they’re completely finished.

The orchestra is playing 2 songs – medley – and it hits the nail on the head – “Wait and See” --- “We’ll Be Together Again.” Have you heard “Symphony” – “You are my symphony of love”? It’s sweeping this country – a French impostation, [sic] leading all others in the race by head & shoulders. Nice melody – good lyrics. Has it reached England yet?

It’s 12 midnight here in New York now; I’ve been on this book since 10 (with interruptions) and have writer’s cramp. My buddy slammed the car door on my thumb, & I had to go to the hosp. to have holes drilled into the nail, so the sealed blood could be emmitted. [sic] Now the nail is discolored [sic] & hanging by one corner – but I haven’t nerve to lift it out. Lucky I didn’t break it. However I couldn’t write for a couple of weeks.

The orc. seems to be hitting every nail on the head just playing: “Dearest Darling.” …. “Come to Baby, Do,”

[page break]


This music reminds me so much of London – London, sinful, and fine; shabby and cultural; terrible and wonderful. How I love that city! A brief respite, in the form of a 48 in London, from monotonous, routine Army life – the one thought uppermost in a G.I.’s mind; the thought that carried him through dark days, weeks – just knowing a pass was coming --- sitting in Lyon’s Corner House at 3 A.M. drinking coffee and having a light snack, and walking around the bustling metropolis until dawn – to catch the final movement of human life as a night threw back her covers and prepared for day. I achieved this ambition one morning when I found myself still downtown at 4 A.M. and dawn just a few hours away. I forgot my hotel room and kept myself awake so I might do this.

I wonder – is she the same? With the passing of the G.I. has some sort of civilization and peace been restored to this once staid & correct city? I wonder if she would be a lonely sea, despite her teeming millions? I wonder? Oh, God, don’t let her change; let her remain as I knew & loved her; let her always be boisterous and gaudy; warm-hearted & gay.

My darling, it’s getting early 12:30 A.M. It’s 6:30 tomorrow morning for you. How dare you – take the day before I get a chance to see it? “’Tain’t [sic] fair; no; ‘taint fair.

So, dear, for this time I’ll be signing off with the fervent hope that you can decide – which way you think best – but regardless of your decision please write – often. I miss your letters (which came; sometimes 8-10 at a time) and I miss you terribly & love you with all my heart, and always will. I’ve yet to get an interest in another girl; maybe I’ve tried to fool myself, but I can’t, and since I’ve met you, I can say – with a clear conscience – there has never been another girl who carried the slightest interest for me. No, darling, I’m not mad. I’m just a little confused. The orchestra is playing an appropriate selection for the closing of this “note” – “Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart, will you love me ever …. Will you remember the day?” Romberg’s classic from Maytime. Now I’ll say

“Goodnight, Good morning, & sweet Prince-ss” (allow me to stretch “Hamlet” just a fraction. & I love you

As ever & ever, your Heathcliff”



F Killen, “Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 18, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/39807.

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