The complete Morris Soskin and Rose Hyams collection has been digitized and is now available online in the Archives. In this collection, you’ll find a fascinating series of approximately 275 love letters written between Morris Soskin and Rose Hyams from February 1921 to July 1921. The couple met at a Zionist meeting in Montreal and became engaged only days later. Morris had to return to Vancouver and Rose stayed in Montreal, so they bridged the distance by writing. Impressively, they wrote each other long letters often every day and sometimes twice daily. On July 21, 1921 they married in Montreal and moved to Vancouver soon after.
This collection is particularly valuable as both Morris and Rose’s letters are available in the archives and can be read together as a conversation. As I digitized each letter, Morris and Rose’s story unfolded before me. Their correspondence provides fascinating and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings, and activities of a young couple in love in the 1920s. From bonfires at English Bay to their secret engagement to discussions of philosophy and books (which Morris calls “the world’s best silent friends”), no topic is too trivial or too lofty for them to share with one another.
Although the collection is nearly 100 years old, it is in remarkably good condition and seems surprisingly modern. Morris and Rose sent telegrams to convey brief and important messages, like text messaging for the 1920s. They sometimes attached small cutout photographs of their faces to a letter, like sending a selfie to a distant partner. Morris also sent Rose postcards of Vancouver, newspaper clippings with cartoons, and dried rose petals inscribed with notes of affection.
For me, the highlight of the collection is Rose’s writing style. Her letters are peppered with witty expressions but also convey thoughtful reflection. Her early letters are cheeky and joyful. Her first letter to Morris opens, “I do not know whether I am in a dream, the most wonderful one it has been my fortune to experience…” On March 18th, 1921, she signs her letter “Your mischievous sprite.” Rose’s later letters depict her struggle with depression, which she calls “Mr. Doom” or “Dame Homesickness.” What I find striking about these letters is how she describes her depression and treatment with honesty, openness, and eloquence.
The collection also includes documents, for example their Ketubah (marriage contract) and photographs, such as this one below of Morris and Rose swimming together on July 11, 1926.
This is just a small glimpse of Morris and Rose’s long distance love story. Stay tuned for an upcoming online exhibit that will weave their story together with digitized items from this captivating collection.
Cristen Polley is the 2015 Digitization Archives Assistant at the JMABC, where she is working to bring numerous archival collections online. This position has been made possible through the generous support of the Irving K Barber BC History Digitization Program.