1: By The Skin Of My Teeth.

Sunday night[1]

Dear Folks,

Well I did make the train–by the skin of my teeth, which is quite sizable by now as I forgot to bring any toothpaste.

The room here is really very attractive–smallish but very comfortable for one–fireplace, a luxuriously cushioned window seat, comfortable chairs (2) and a nice springy bed. Of course I couldn’t get the blasted trunks out of the freight office, being Sunday, so I don’t have any sheets–one blanket that I borrowed from a guy down the hall. I’ll get them tomorrow. Light bulbs, but no [illegible].

I think I’ll be eating at the Beta house–undergrads can’t eat at their frat more than once a week, so they allow Law Students to for $7.50 a week, which doesn’t include breakfast.[2] I figure that would make it about $1.50 more–less than that if I can fix up something in the room.

But that runs cheaper than meals in the Commons; anyway, I don’t have to decide, they let you try around at the different ones. No contracts or anything–on a weekly basis.

My address is 2618 Yale Station, New Haven, Conn.

Went over & saw Bill B. tonight–had a long talk with him, about 3½ hours to be exact.[3] Tell you some of the news later, I’m pretty tired now, and have to get up tomorrow in time for classes.

This is a beautiful place here, except for the encroaching city–and this room is very conducive to study, thank the Lord. Tho I’m facing on the street, still I don’t have the courtyard noises.

Probably I’ll be at it by tomorrow night.

I’m going to try to do my best for you.


Editor’s Notes:
Arriving at Yale Law was the pinnacle of Phil Wood’s academic career to date.

“Phil was an outstanding student at the Hastings public school,” recalled his sister Gretchen. “At that time they hadn’t created any special programs to supplement studies for smarties, so they just skipped him several times so that when he graduated he was only 15. He chose to attend Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, partly because he had read a lot about it and partly because our mother went there, if only for a year and a half. He went into dramatics…. double majored in History and English, not knowing what he wanted to do, career-wise… [he entered the voluntary “Honors Program” and] came out with a Magna Cum Laude degree.”

Though his interests tended towards the literary and dramatic, Phil eventually decided on law school. His precise motives aren’t known, but the prospect of economic stability likely played a major role. The Woods were never wealthy; Philip Wood Senior’s acting work was fairly regular, but by Gretchen’s account the contributions and help of their many friends went a long way to keeping the family afloat. Philip Senior began appearing in films and the family fortunes were on the upswing when, suddenly and unexpectedly, he died shortly before the premiere of Our TownThe estate left to Margaretta Wood totaled a little over $3,000; the family left their cherished house in Hastings-on-Hudson and took up residence in Swarthmore so Phil and Gretchen could attend as day students. Finances are a recurring concern throughout Phil’s letters, as by 1940s standards he was expected to be the primary breadwinner for the family. A law career would go a long way towards security for his “Dear Girls”–and, as will be seen, Phil was thinking about starting a family of his own.

Thus Phil’s seemingly simple statement, “I’m going to try to do my best for you,” is pretty heavily weighted with expectations for the future–expectations which would not pan out according to plan.


[1] Undated, but presumably at the start of the 1941 fall term at Yale Law School.
[2] Phil’s fraternity was Phil Delta Theta.
[3] Unknown acquaintance.

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