Camp Ritchie, Oct. 29, and 1943
This day ends a strange and eventful furlough. After a couple of days among the Amish in the Pennsylvania Dutch country (the autumn colors were incredibly brilliant) I ended up in New York where a whirlwind courtship culminated in a flat refusal. Hence in a cumulo-nimbus mood to Washington…
I have been made a Master Sergeant and in the great press of affairs take the liberty to saddle you with all my financial affairs on this continent. That means you will receive an allotment of $100 a month plus a war-bond. Such a sum would only embarrass me in the field — as it is I will get $40 a month — and you might find use for it. The enclosed bond was picked up during a drive. I will let you know what and when I can.
It is unbelievable how many people there are in New York with nothing to do but look for something to do. No artist is so bad, no art so bizarre, that it will not command an instantaneous and eager audience. Everyone seems waiting and hoping that something good will show up. This situation is vigorously exploited by the most pitifully ill-equipped performers in every field. They fool nobody, of course, but get by simply on the vast and restless reserve-pool of first-nighters. Perhaps I have not seen enough but to me it appears next to impossible for a good artist to go unnoticed for 36 hours in N.Y. Reid should give it a try — just for the fun of it. A horrible city, but big and lavish. I must rush off now.
Editor’s note from Alex Nibley:
This letter was written shortly before HN shipped overseas from Camp Richie, which was the training facility for Military Intelligence during World War II. The incident HN refers to as the “whirlwind courtship [which] culminated in a flat refusal” was when he proposed to one Anahid Iskian, something he mentioned in other letters he was planning to do. (Hasty marriages as men were about to ship out were common at the time.)
After I wrote Sergeant Nibley PhD: Memories of an Unlikely Screaming Eagle, I heard the other side of the story. The friend who had introduced Hugh to Anahid read Sergeant Nibley PhD told me that after reading about it she had asked Anahid about the incident. Anahid had no recollection that Hugh had made her any offer at all. Apparently whatever proposal he had made was subtle enough or abstruse enough that its target failed to know that it even happened, and Anahid Iskian never married.
This was Hugh’s second attempt at getting married, the first time actually resulting in an engagement in 1941 to a Prussian modern dancer with Nazi sympathies, who also never married.