1977, December 23: Letters from Peter and Marcy to G&H

These are a pair of letters dated a couple of weeks apart, but I suspect that they were both mailed in the same envelope.

The first one is a one-page typed note from Peter, written on paper that bears the logo and address of the computer center of the San Francisco school district, where Peter had what I think was his second computer job. (In a couple of previous letters, he referred to a job that I thought was this one, but now I think that that previous job had been some kind of training in how to use computers.)

The second letter is three pages handwritten by Marcy, on lined tractor-feed paper (the computer-printer paper with holes down the sides, though in this case the area where the holes are isn’t detachable).

The envelope is addressed to George and Helen “c/o Olness” at an address in Naples, Florida. The Olnesses were cousins of Helen’s, and I assume that George and Helen were visiting them during G&H’s trip across the country.

Content warning for (in Marcy’s letter) casual use of a racial term that’s more widely understood to be a slur now than it was then. Also, unrelatedly, for description of the death of a child.

Peter’s letter:

Computer center logo, showing a stylized computer tape drive and a stylized punch card.
Computer center logo, showing a stylized computer tape drive and a stylized punch card.

edp computer center


Address and phone number removed by Jed


December 23, 1977


This is to advise all parents of George Peter Hartman that he is employed here in a straight job, as a computer programmer-analyst. The job is only funded for a year through CETA, but his work has received the commendation of his supervisors, and he has been told that when the CETA funding expires, the school district will pick up the tab and employ him in a permanent capacity, at a higher pay rate of course. His starting pay is



$ 2 8 5 . 0 0 per week




Princely, eh? Quite munificent for entry-level position, I'd say . . . . Well I'm sorry I haven't told you sooner (I've been working a couple of weeks now), but I've been inanely busy,both at work and at home. Marcy is also working, she's being trained to be a counter-lady in the California State Tax Franchise Board in Santa Rosa. She gets $3.6014 per hour, and works about twenty hours a week. It's very boring work, but it's good that it's part time. Anyway, we are all well, and of course delighted to have two steady incomes, plus our financial diversification business that we've mentioned. (We'd love to show it to you when you're next in California.) Hope you're enjoying life in sunny Florida . . .

We've been getting drenched here for a week or so -- enough that the reservoirs are up to pre-drought levels again, hooray! Anyway, I'd better get back to work now . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Love,

Guess Who

Marcy’s letter:

Jan. 11

Hi, folks.

Sending some pkgs (two, to be exact) to G D, Perry, & hoping this reaches you at Naples.

The paper is real, live computer print-out, salvaged from the recycling pile at the S F school Dist.

We are beaverishly busy, try to take time to sleep but it’s generally vitamins instead of shuteye. Have to be up at 5, Peter leaves at 6, Jed wants to be up at 7 usually, to finish his homework, Quin wakes up at 6:30 or so if he’s gotten to bed on time; they leave for school at 9:15 (walking in opposite directions) and I have to be at work (x3/week) at 10, mostly. Except when it’s 9.

I get off at 3 (20 min by car, 45-75 by bus, including a wonderful 10-minute walk to downtown Cotati), Quin gets home at 3:15 and Jed at 3:30; Peter gets here at 6:20 and we eat and go to bed. Meanwhile nursing the car, which needs a new engine and just got a new battery (largely installed by me! what a high that was! Had to have help to lift it, tho.) and freaking out over the dog catcher, who is after our dog’s name, having seen her without a leash but couldn’t catch her. He’s also after the cat lady down the street, harasses her & kidnaps her cats and acts like a general ⛤$#☾☉︎!!!

Look about you for a town named Grant on the Indian River. The oldest sister of one of my dearest friends is Postmistress there. I’m sure she’d be glad of a friendly wave. My friend is Carol; her sister, Frankie; last name elided by Jed. Carol is the one in Maine who I went to see this summer, whose little girl was killed in a tragic traffic accident. Frankie was - and remains - a real tower of strength for Carol. Their father died this summer; he was rather aged & his death was expected. I would love to know Frankie - I do, really, through Carol’s eyes, and can’t help loving her.

J & J recieved the walkie-talkies this week & were very excited. They already had a pair, but had broken the antennae, and had had poor reception to start with. These are much better, & compatible w/ older ones. We can hear CB’ers from the freeway, but it always seems pretty dumb stuff they say.

On Monday evening, we are having a little ceremony to dedicate a shrine for our ancestors. Meishu Sama taught that it was important to honor their spirits, which we have tried to do, but this is a special way to do so. We’re pretty excited. Peter hopes the table he made in H.S. (??) is still around somewhere, and (if not in use) could you send it to us to hold this shrine? Or maybe we’ll come up to get it next summer - sounds pretty hard to ship a piece of furniture. expensive, probably. Meanwhile, we’ll make do with something-or-another.

I have loved every xxx line of your letters and cards. Travel is very close to my heart, but I’ve never been able to do so in style & comfort, like a turtle. So I love to hear about it, and about the American Gypsies.....

About the presents: The tree print was purchased from the artist (with several others). I bought the half-rounds, cut & stained ’em (with leather dye. If you’d ever like to spend an exciting day, try spilling leather dye on linoleum & then cleaning it up. I had this thing sitting in dry bleach (wettened) for 3 days and you can still see it) and pasted ’em on.

The paper “cut out” is from Mainland China. Makes a great window or lamp shade decoration.

Joaquin’s “traveling van” speaks for itself - or tries to. Or I tried to speak for it - or something. Please note his new spelling for his name (optional - he’s fond of it). The book (under separate cover) seemed hornblower-vintage from the cover; hope it really is.

I’m writing these last lines waiting for the bus (more car trouble) and had better get them into the envelope. Happy trails to you & love from all,



Presumably the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act.
In 2024 dollars, $285 is about $1,500; an annual salary of around $75k in modern money. Almost certainly far more money than Peter had ever previously made. Meanwhile, Marcy’s $3.14 an hour was about $16/hour in today’s money; at 20 hours/week, that comes to about $17k/year in today’s money.
“our financial diversification business”
This is presumably the business that Peter had mentioned a few months previous. I still don’t know what it was, but I don’t think it’s ever mentioned again. Also, it would not surprise me if the phrase “financial diversification” in this context was a euphemism for something at least semi-shady/scammy, like chain letters or something.
“G D, Perry”
I don’t know what that refers to.
“Jed wants to be up at 7 usually”
!!! This may suggest that I was replaced with a changeling at some point (possibly when my hair went from blondish to dark brown), because these days I cannot imagine wanting to be up at 7 usually.
moon symbol
Marcy drew the moon symbol as the mirror-image of that, with the horns pointing to the left, but I figured better to use the official Unicode character.
Carol is the one who, years after Marcy’s death, married Peter, and then got pregnant, and then left Peter and dropped out of contact for years afterward. Long story. Carol’s daughter who died had been about my age, I think.
“from the freeway”
Our house in Cotati was right next to the freeway.

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