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Letters to Helen Lahiff

  These are letters that my Grandma Helen Gerber (nee Lahiff) had kept from her high school years (1917 - 1922). During this time Helen was living at 1412 14th Ave North, Minneapolis MN. All the envelopes have their original stamps too. I have transcribed them in date order.
These are from Elmer, Helen's future husband, while he was at St. John's University in Collegeville MN  

From: Elmer Gerber
Sept. 19, 1918

Dear Helen,
I supposed you wre surprised when you heard I came back here, but I am glad I came back now, although I didn't like to leave you and the rest. Oliver wouldn't even say goodbye to me and you can tell him it will be a long time before he ever gets a letter from me unless he writes to me in a short time.
I am taking up an engineering course and hope I will be able to finish it before I have to go to war, but I suppose I will be drafted before June.
I stayed in St. Cloud one half day with three of my chums and had a swell time. There was a dance down there Tuesday, but we didn't go because it was raining and quite chilly.
In a week or so I will send you some pictures of the places up here, I know you will like them, at least everyone that comes here or sees a picture of the place thinks it is swell, but after they are here a few weeks they find out different. If they could take pictures of some of the other things it would be all right but they only take pictures of the beautiful things.
I think I have written enough for this time and I expect to hear from you in at least a week. You know you promised to write to me if I would write first. So if you do not answer in a week I will write again and make sure you get that letter.
Say hello to everybody for me and tell them I will write to all when I have time.
From your friend
Elmer C. Gerber

Elmer Gerber
Sept 24, 1918
Dear Helen,
I received your quickly answered letter and was very much pleased to hear from you. I am sending you enough pictures of the place as you can see what it looks like, but I have not any pictures of myself yet, there is one inside of my camera now and will send one to you as soon as they are finished. I think you could send me a picture of yourself though I am quite sure you have plenty on hand.
We have no military training here and I am glad of it, for I will get enough of that in a little while. I started St. Thomas because they had military training but that is the worst school I ever went to, and I hope I will never have to go to one like that again.
I received a letter from Oliver the same day I got yours, you don't know how good I felt when I got two letters in one day. He said you had a bad cold but that he would see that you would get over it.
We will start playing football here in a week or so; I suppose they have started playing down in the city by this time.
I almost got "canned" Sunday for going to St. Joe without permission, I went over twice and the last time I came back the prefects asked for me. They wanted to know where I was during Vespers. I had skipped vespers and went to St. Joe, but I told them I was sick and stayed down by the lake, so I came out all right.
Tell Eleanor and Mary I will write to them in a few days, you know it is a little difficult to get letters out of here without sending them through the Rector, but they come in all right. Ask Emmet and Eddie to send me their address so I can write to them also.
I think I said enough for this time and hope you enjoy the pictures and didn't forget yours.
I remain your loving friend,


Elmer Gerber
Oct. 10, 1918
Dear Helen,
I received your letter and was very glad to hear from your. I will enclose a picture of myself this time and hope you will be satisfied with it, although I tried hard enough to have a good one of myself and this is the best.
We haven't had a free day up here since I arrived, but hope we will have one soon. I suppose you are having a fine time with all those free days.
I suppose you will be glad when your brother comes home, for he has been gone quite a while, at least he left before I ever got to know you. I didn't get my questionaire yet, I suppose I will be getting it soon. I didn't think they would examine the last draftees so soon, but I don't think Ray will have to go until after Christmas. At least I don't think I will be called before then.
We have not the Spanish Influenza up here yet, and I don't think we will get it, at least I hope not. There are a few fellows in the hospital now but I don't think they got it. One of my friends broke a bone in his ankle playing football Wednesday. I hope I don't break my neck.
I suppose you will have a fine time when your sister is married, I don't think I know her. Are you going to be bridesmaid?
I haven't been receiving many letters of late and was beginning to think the Rector was keeping them back, but I got yours, so that is all right. I don't know when you will receive this letter, for you know I don't send mine through the Rector for fear he might not send them through, so you might not get this until Tuesday, but maybe you will get it by Saturday.
I tried to go to St. Cloud last Saturday to get my eyes examined, but the Rector wouldn't leave me go, so I think I will be home before Christmas. My parents are thinking of coming up in the Ford to see me in a week or so, and then I intend to have a good time.
If I would of continued going to St. Thomas you would see me marching in uniform, but I guess I will get one soon enough without going there. Art wrote me that he thought he looked pretty good, for he had such a good shape, that made me laugh. I wonder if I got a better shape then he has, if I haven't I wonder how I am going to look as good as he does.
I am a little anxious for skating myself, but up there I will not have anyone to skate with, but when I get home I will have "someone". I am writing this during study time, but have not got caught yet, but now I have to go to Catechism so I will stop for awhile.
Catechism, supper and free time is over, it is now 7:30 PM and am supposed to study now, but I think I will write a little more.
I suppose Mary is waiting for a letter from me, but I hav enot got time just now to write to her, but she will be getting one in a few days if I can possibly find time.
I think I have written enough for this time, I will cloase,
From Elmer.


Elmer Gerber
Oct 17, 1918
Dear Helen,
I received your letter and was very glad to hear from you. I haven't heard from Oliver for a long time, in fact he only wrote to me twice.
I haven't got the Spanish Influenza yet, but my chum has it. I don't think we have the real sickness here. There are about twenty five in the hospital now, but they are not very bad cases. I dont' suppose there is much doing down in the city now if every thing is closed up. You don't even have to go to church, while we have to go all the more.
There is not much to do up here either, about all we got to do is to breathe that smoke from the fire, is there very much smoke down in the city?
I suppose your brother likes it much better home. Is he going to go across pretty soon?
I am writing this letter on the seventeenth but I don't know when you will get it, I have to wait until I get a chance to get it out.
I will have to begin studying pretty soon for we will be having our quarterly examinations on the first of November. Tuesday I will have examinations in English and French. I didn't study any English since I came this year and how I have to make up for lost time.
Too bad you had to postpone the wedding. My mother wrote that she saw it in the paper but I knew it before her. She said she thought she might go to church that day.
As I have no more news I will close.
With Love, Elmer.


Elmer Gerber
Nov 7, 1918
Dear Helen,
I am back again at St. John's, I left home Monday morning at 9:15. Oliver was over to my house before I left. how are you feeling now? I hope the party didn't effect you any. I am sorry I didn't see you any more after the party but you see I stayed home a little with my mother and father. I took them out riding Sunday. Saturday afternoon I went to see St. Thomas play Hamline. I think I will go to St. Thomas after Christmas if the war is still going and providing I am not drafted before that time, I intend to join the S.A.T.C.
Wednesday I saw three good games of football up here, in the major league the teams that played were fighting for the championshiop.
Soon skating will begin, at least I hope so. I heard they weren't going to flood North Commons or any of the parks this year. Do you know the reason. I should think they would flood the parks to give the people an opportunity to take a little exercise in the winter.
I came out well with my examination for the draft. I passed and am in class A1. My order number is A1049. I suppose your brother Ray will be leaving soon.
I think I have written enough I will close.
With Love, Elmer.


Elmer Gerber
Nov 20, 1918
Dear Helen,
I received your letter and was very glad to hear from you. So you are glad the war is over too. My mother just went crazy (almost) when she heard it was over. She went downtown that morning and stayed till late in the evening.
What did you do with the mouth full of powder you got downtown that day? I heard all about it already.
I think it was about time for the schools to open. I suppose you will have to study much harder now. Art didn't get much of a vacation out of it. I suppose he wished his school would have closed sooner.
I came out fine in my examinations, at least I think I did. I got A in French, A in Typewriting, A in shorthand, A in Christine Doctrine, B in Rhetoric, B in Literature, B in Composition, B in Elocution, and C in Chemistry. I suppose you don't understand the way they mark up here, it is a new way they have and this is the first year they are using these marks. A stands for 90% to 100%, B from 80%-90%, C from 80%-85%, D from 75% to 80%, E is conditional and F is failure.
I am captain of a basketball team, our name is "Huggers". I also joined the gym team and am in the major league in bowling. Yesterday we bowled our first match game, I averaged 180, that is a pretty good score or don't you know anything about it.
I received a letter from Florence the same day I received yours. I answered Mary's letter the other day. I suppose she has it by this time.
With Love, Elmer.


Elmer Gerber
Nov 16, 1918
Dear Helen,
I received your letter a few days ago and was very glad to hear from you. I am a little slow in answering because I had quite a bit of work before me. We are having our quarterly examinations now and so I had to do a little studying. I will let you know in my next letter how I came out.
We are having a War Work Campaign or rather a Peace Work Campaign up here now and I am one of the fellows who have to do the collecting. We are trying to raise $500, but I think we will get $1000. Each class has a team of five men, I am on the graduating class. I have collected $40 already. The team which gets the most money will get a large pennant. Our team has not got much chance because we only have twenty seven in our class while the other teams have fifty.
I am score keeper for the basketball team. I am also playing basketball and bowling. The days are getting dreary now so I have to keep amused some way or otherwise I will always be thinking of you and home.
I don't know if Oliver is sore at Helen or not. I haven't heard from Oliver or Art since I am back, they both owed me letters before I came home so I am going to wait for answers. Tell Helen I will write her soon, for I told her I would write when I get back, but I haven't found time yet.
I guess the war is about over now. My mother went downtown three times that day when the armistice was signed. She was just home to cook the meals, I wished I was home that week. We had a pretty good celebration up here, the best was the free day. We are going to get another free day when this was campaign is over.
Did your brother in the marines go over seas yet. I suppose if he didn't go by this time he won't have to go anymore.
As I have no more news I will close.
From your friend, Elmer.


Elmer Gerber
Nov 27, 1918
Dear Helen,
I was very glad to hear from you. I haven't been getting very many letters of late, so it made me feel good when I received yours. I had heard from Helen Butler a few days ago.
Today I got my box from home for Thanksgiving, it contained all kinds of good things. A roasted chicken, a cake, some apples, about a dozen bananas, a box of chocolates, a box of stuffed dates and a jar of cranberry sauce. Don't you think I ought to be able to fill up on all that?
Yes, I do know a boy up here by the name of Frey, I chumed with chumed with him the first part of the year but now I am getting away from him. He likes to shoot the "breeze" a little too much to suit me.
Just think, we have had skating since Monday already. I'll bet you wish you were up here. The lake is just like glass, you can see the bottom of it through the ice and can even see minnows swimming in the water. The ice is not very thick yet but it will hold the students. It is the best it has been since I have been up here. When they flood North Commons it does not get even as smooth as the ice is up here. I suppose you won't be able to go skating for a couple of weeks yet.
You talk about having so much school. You ought to be up here once. we get up at 5:30 A.M. start school at 8 and keeps up all morning until 12, then again from 2-6, this is on every day except Wednesday and Saturday, on these two days we have the afternoon free. So you see you don't have any more or not as much school as we do. How do you happen to know the Frey boy? I don't think he knows you.
I haven't heard from Art or Oliver since I have come back. I don't know what is the matter.
I think we will have a show up here tonight. We usually have one the evening before a holiday. I suppose you go to the show again. Do they have very big crowds at the shows now? I suppose the shows were filled up tight the first night they opened.
As I have no more news I will close, hoping to hear from you soon and receive a little longer letter than last time.
With Love, Elmer.


Elmer Gerber
Dec 4, 1918
Dear Helen,
I received your letter a few days ago and was very glad to hear from you. So you are having a fine time now, at least the way it looks, going to dances and shows about every night. It won't be long when I will be able to do the same thing for a while. It is only sixteen more days before I come home. That sounds pretty short, don't it? But believe me it will seem plenty long. You can't imagine how we long to be home for a while again. My father always scolds me for he ways I always want to come home but when I get home I never stay home.
This afternoon the student bowling team bowled the Fathers. I bowl with the students, they beat us by a total of sixty pins in three games. I had an average of 165. My team in basketball won another game. We won two games out of four already.
We had a free day today in honor of the close of the United War Work Campaign. We collected about $1200, don't you think that is pretty good for 275 students. The members of the teams had a banquet last night, we had all kinds of good things to eat.
Thanksgiving I got a big box from home, but it is all gone now. I got a roasted chicken, some apples and bananas, a cake, a box of chocolates and stuffed dates and a jar of cranberry sauce. I suppose you wonder how in the world I got rid of it so fast, but it is gone and I am trying to figure out myself where it all went.
We had some snow up here the other day, but I think you had snow before Thanksgiving and we didn't.
Tonight the Rector is going to read our conduct notes. He reads them in public.
As I have no more news will close.
Love, Elmer.