Over the last few months I’ve been slowly reading my way through the correspondence between Radoslav and Corinne Tsanoff from the mid-1920s, just on the odd chance that a needle I’ve been looking for might be found in that particular haystack. I think it probably isn’t but my gratitude that this collection somehow survived and wound up in the Woodson has grown immensely. It is my great privilege to have such an intimate acquaintance with these wonderful people, to see first-hand their intellectual curiosity, their respect for each other and for their children, and the gentle tenderness that permeates every line of this correspondence. In legible handwriting no less.
Tsanoff spent the summer of 1925 at the University of Texas, a hot, dusty six-hour train trip from Houston. His arrival was noted in the Daily Texan:
(Ten bonus points for spotting the error.)
He wrote his wife every day during the course of his absence, and she him. If a letter somehow failed to appear one day, two arrived the next. They are warm and convivial, detailing Tsanoff’s daily routine and commenting on the news from home.
His days passed in simple and regular fashion, much of it familiar to academics today: classes in the morning, study in the afternoon, writing in the evening. What I found most interesting, though, were the things that have changed. With no electronic entertainment nearly all his leisure time was spent with . . . people. He ate dinner at the homes of colleagues, sat on front porches in the evenings chatting and hoping to catch a breeze, swam with friends every hot afternoon at Barton Springs or Deep Eddy.
Back in Houston part of the summer was dominated by a single event. The Tsanoff’s older daughter, Nevenna, was playing barefoot in the yard and stepped on a needle. This set in motion a long series of visits to doctors and what seemed to me to be nearly obsessive attention in the correspondence. Then I understood. There were no antibiotics yet.
I chose this letter for today because it was sitting on the top of the pile on my desk but really, they’re all much like this one:
Bonus: He wrote both daughters every day too. This one to Katherine describes his first glimpse of something now commonplace, someone floating in an inner tube.
Here are the girls during that summer. Nevenna is on the right, Katherine on the left.