1907: Cousin Mabel in Cuba

1907: Cousin Mabel in Cuba

February 7, 1907
Mabel Potter writes her mother shortly after arriving in Cuba to visit her cousins.

My dear Mother,

            If only it would always be possible to spend February in such a delightful climate!  This is so fine and makes one feel so good!  No trouble with skin here—and I might have left all my glycerine at home!  Of course the old Cuban regime—still adhered to in country and partly in city-of early rising and working—heavier meals later in day and siesta during intenser heat—is founded on sense and experience—The Americans—at least the army—get around to begin work about as the heat begins to wax stronger! 

Is warmer now but nights always cool—at least out here—quite a difference between here and Havana—Will likes Southern California much better, tho’—as to climate, people, and abundance of fruit and flowers–he says—

            This morning I went out early, tramping—and was just fine—brought home oranges and grapefruit blossoms—which resemble syringia, were growing wild—our cardinal flower, and several beautiful things unknown—Tell father I’ve enough castor bean seeds to plant the farm with—and morning glories which blossom all day—Birds here plentiful—the large black magpies with a black bird note—our meadow lark whose call I listed with great delight—the cat bird I think I’ve mentioned—and the real mocking bird which is a delight to hear—No brilliant colors on any birds I’ve seen—

Yes, I shall bring home plenty of coral, too—is to be found everywhere here.

Beach in Havana–recent photo–not 1907! But waves splash the same on coral rock…


Yesterday a.m. Ruth, Mrs. Patrick, and self drove to the beach—most beautiful coloring I’ve seen—an exquisite turquoise shade in the water—While others were taking siesta I helped Mrs. P—cut an eight-gored skirt—and a nice visit with her—like her very much—as we have more things in common and she is not the typical army woman—

            This noon when about half thru lunch telephone range for Geo. purpose of which message was that he would leave tonight for Lake of Pines with the wireless expert and two Signal Corp men for four days to a week to overhaul and adjust the wireless station there!  He was delighted and Ruth disgusted!  Meant he had to go first to Mariano on business and get in town before three to bank for the Dr. 

The cool way in which he went about hustling was delightful–telephoned to half a dozen people for men and things—finished his lunch—meanwhile saying what he’d take in suit case.  While [he was] off to Mariano, Maria ironed shirt, Will polished boots, I put buttons on a coat, while Ruth got things in case—He returned for a bit of final business and had just forty minutes to get to bank—but made it—I guess the mules did some sweating!  But you just never saw anyone get off in a hurry so reliably!  Expenses all to be paid by the civil government—and will be fine trip for him—tho sorely missed here—

            The Dr. leaves Friday for Florida—Key West first—Told Carl he could do as he pleased about going—he scarcely knew what to do—tho’t his father needed a valet and financial manager, but was not much good at either!, so no use to go along—then the Dr. talked as if he wanted him and Carl was quite in the dumps—this p.m. tho they’ve talked a bit more and Carl is way up because he can stay here a week longer—and then go home he thinks. 

The Dr. is not feeling as well the last few days—and anxious to get away—guess he didn’t sleep much last night.  Will said he (the Dr.) woke him up in middle of night to ask if he didn’t want a cracker to go to sleep on!  Says he didn’t mean to wake him.  Will answered that he’d better eat it himself!  … There are way more funny things—but I’ve not time to write them.

Ruth has just been reminded of this—What’s the difference between a snake and a flea?  First walks on his own belly and second doesn’t care a darn whose belly he walks on! 

            The Kents have just been in on their return from the wireless station to see if anything heard from steamer—they are expecting a friend in tomorrow—seems she has been talking with Key West this afternoon and will be in about eight in the morning!  Doesn’t this seem wonderful?  Saw an immense white steamer coming across Gulf today—best view we’ve had—

            Am sending some cards, these two give a little idea of jai alai*, and the third of the general scenery—this point and sea walk were built by Americans, a part of park system—directly across is El Aforro—and out to the right is line towards Fidaldo.  The coral rock of beach shows, over which spray usually splashes—

            It’s all so much more attractive than our American water fronts of large cities.  George has received mail  [your forwarded to me], and The and Standard very welcome—the report much enjoyed and papers all good…

            Your letter of Thursday came Tuesday—in good time—It’s been warm enough to go walking all the time—just lack of suits—and hope we may go soon now—also hope I may ride once—but do not know—Will and I would prefer that to anything else—Yes, Jessie’s gland has reduced itself all right—and she is all right.   Will says “for children” he thinks “they are pretty decent kids.”    Robert’s favorite tabooed word is “shut up.”  In his baby voice it is far from its usual expression—but he’s been spanked for it—and seldom uses it now—but once in a while in another room to Maria—Ruth will call simply in a reproachful tone “Robert!”—and he’ll quickly respond “I didn’t say shut up.”  It’s too funny!

I made a chocolate pudding yesterday—and it was pretty fine—so, persuaded by the family, I am going to make the snow one tomorrow—

            We have garbanzos, a Spanish bean shaped like a pea—pretty good—shall bring several home—are cooked in various ways by themselves—in stews, soups, &c—much rice—along with tomatoes, beans peppers, &c.  Things are not spiced as African cooking—platinas another favorite dish, a kind of banana—cooked as browned sweet potatoes—Another of cheese and tomato-done on top of stove—not baked.

You see there will be plenty of tent room—and shall expect to hear father is sailing on the 7th and you are going to North Adams as per schedule.

            Interesting to see Wadsworth’s letter—you needn’t think to keep me in ignorance of your happenings—We read Havana papers thoroughly—with news of the world—and have various ones from States—Chicago, Brooklyn, Iowa, &c.  Shall write Mrs. Deane a letter anyway—but she needn’t answer!  Must take this to mail now—Goodbye with usual love      Mabel—

* Jai alai is a sport involving a ball bounced off a walled space by accelerating it to high speeds with a hand-held device (cesta). It is a variation of Basque pelota.

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