Thursday 3 September 2020

"Sorry for Everything"

Dad never talked about his brother much. I've only pieced the story together from speaking with my auntie who in turn had based her version of events purely on a handful of postcards she received over 50 years ago.

Don was a dreamer. He left the UK in 1953 and paid his passage on a cargo ship that left Southampton bound for New York. Although his exact whereabouts were never known, it appears that he was washing pots in a sleazy Manhattan hotel in the Summer of 1955: an English school friend of his on vacation in upstate New York, and visiting NYC for the day, saw him quite by chance - in his kitchen whites - on the steps of the hotel and arranged to meet him in the bar when he came off shift. Don never showed.

In addition to the five postcards his sister received between 1954 and 1963, was a letter dated August 1st, 1964. The last communication from him she ever received:

"Dear Maj, sorry for everything. Getting married on Saturday. That's Betty on the red blanket. You'd love her. I do. D x"

And that was it. Until 1970, when Auntie Maj received a letter from the Home Office marked Private and Confidential. It said, quite matter of factly, that Don & Betty had been involved in a road traffic accident between Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, and were both pronounced dead at the scene. A cremation had already taken place and there were no wills, no estate and no personal effects. It's as if they never existed.


I'm away for a few days tomorrow. I'm conscious of the fact that I still have two remaining items in this silly little series of mine. I want to run them back-to-back but am waiting till I can locate a missing photograph. Hopefully I'll find it before Legacy Blogger is, like Don 50 years ago, withdrawn from service. 


  1. Wow, what a thought-provoking but tragic tale - one can't help but wonder about the rest of his (and their) story, but the lack of it also adds to the mystique. Wonderful photo too.
    Hope you enjoy your few days away... I had some marked on the calendar this weekend too!

  2. My word, this one has cut me to the core. Every family has its secrets, back-stories and never-to-be-spoken-of incidents, but Don's tale (or at least the detail you know of it) is so sparse - and that final postcard '...sorry for everything...' - wow. It sounds as though Don & Betty had just over six years together, I hope they were years full of love, laughter and happiness.
    Have a good break John. I look forward to hearing all about it on your return.

  3. Christ, John. That's a stopper.

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  5. This is the best thing I read on the internet this week. The photo is amazing. The story more so.

  6. Gosh that's such a sad tale - So many blanks that will never be filled in. Fancy having an old school friend bump into you as well - Of all the hotel steps in all the world.... . Shame he didn't keep the date or you might have known more. Great picture though.

    1. Just realised why the names were familiar - Mad Men of course and Don and Betty Draper.

  7. Thank you, everyone. Every now and again I write something that seems to resonate with you all.

  8. That's a jaw dropper. Must leave you scratching your head and wanting more. I know it did for me, and it's not my uncle. Will see this photo in my head for a good while.