Unrequited Love in the 1930s

J.W. Key lived to be 101 years old.  He was born February 4, 1878 and died July 9, 1979.  His wife, Vivian Davis, died in 1932 at age 24 from a complication with her first and only pregnancy.  He did not marry again, though it seems he had several admirers after her death.

The letters today are from one of those admirers, a woman named Annie Kate.  Judging by the context of these letters, one can surmise that she wrote him more frequently than just twice, but so far I have only found these two letters from her.

This letter is stamped October 11, 1935:


Odum, Ga.


Dear Mr. Key,

Well, I have written you once before, and I doubt if you got the letter.  If you did you just wouldn’t answer.  Do you honestly never want to hear from me again?  but until I know you don’t care one thing about me I’ll keep on worrying you.  please, answer and tell me just how you feel about me.  I’m coming home some day, and then will be soon enough for you to give me up completely.  

I may not hear from you, but I’d like to.

Annie Kate.

The second letter from Annie Kate is almost three years later.  It is stamped January 8, 1938, which is strange because it reads as if it is her first letter to him.  It is written on a Seale High School letterhead, leaving me to wonder if perhaps Annie Kate was a teacher there.  She never signs a last name, so I may never be able to research who she was.  A few aspects of these letters are interesting to me.  First, she refers to him formally as “Mr. Key” in a love letter.  Second, her honesty and transparency are bold, and not representative of the stereotypical 1930’s woman.  Lastly, I have so many unanswered questions about how they met and what their relationship was like (or if there was ever a relationship at all).

Keep in mind J.W. Key was 60 years old when he received this letter in 1938:



Dear Mr. Key,

I’m sure you will be greatly sur-prised when you get this letter, but for a long, long time I have tried to get up this much nerve.  you may not even answer it, but you’ll be breaking a bigger heart than you know of.  I guess I should just tell you what I want to and not try to fill in with some-thing that will never amount to a “hill of beans”  Here goes the thing that I want you to rest assured that is quite true and right str-aight from my heart.  

Mr. Key- I want you to please be frank with me and promise to write me just how you feel.  I have known so long that I loved you and I’ve never been bold enough to come out and tell you.  Do you think you could ever love one whose whole life is wrapped up in you?  If you will I shall be most happy.  If you don’t and never want to hear from me again then I ask you to write just what to expect.  I know you must love others much better-and I ask you never to mention this letter- and if you do love others better just for get that I ever existed-But I shall always love you-

Annie Kate.

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Welcome, I'm Jessica. I renovated and moved into my grandparents' old home in early 2018. When my grandmother Jane was alive, she loved to sit outside on a swing with her cat Boots (who still lives here) and read. As we were cleaning up around the house I found a box of letters sitting in a swing outside that she was going through in the time before she passed. I stored them away and recently started reading through them myself. 100 Years of Letters is intended to share those family letters (some of which are over 100 years old) with the world and to keep the history behind them alive. Curl up with your coffee, a cozy blanket, and possibly a cat, and join me on this journey through history!

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