Harvey Duck

During World War II virtually every young man was serving America in some capacity. High school buddies from small towns and insular neighborhoods were separated and scattered all across the country and the world, in different branches of the service.

This letter to my Uncle Frank is from one of those friends, and he brings Frank up to speed on the doings of other buddies from their West Side Chicago high school, Austin. Chicago’s West Side produced some pretty amazing achievers, including Harvey Duck, one of my uncle’s best friends. Harvey was one of the original Public Relations proponents of  motor sports, and especially NASCAR.


Chicago, Ill

11 February 1944  Friday

Just Frank:

I am surprised you call yourself “just Frank.” I think you rate better than that so I’ll start over again and say Dear Frank:

I am sure glad to hear from you and answering your letter of Jan 6, 1944, Thursday. I want to say “Thanks.” I am sure glad you were so negligent and let me know how you are but of course I think you are a swell fellow and will overlook such a gross error.

Well Frank I know how busy you fellows are and have very little time for yourselves to play around so I don’t blame you if you never write. Gee! I am glad to read that you are now in the cadets and I don’t believe they have entirely forgotten you. You just imagine so.

Aerial view of Great Lakes Naval Air Station in the 1940s

I am sure it is a swell base. You sure are in luck to be so near Hollywood. Gee! You must have had a swell time at Earl Carolo. Harry James Band. Did you dance with Mrs. Harry James (Betty Grable)? Well Frank I think you would make a swell navigator. After all a Navigator is really a pilot because he has to tell the pilot where to go. Have you been upstairs yet? I would like to – to get a thrill.

Do you hear from Harvey* He is on the west coast too—so his sister says—but I haven’t seen her lately so have lost track of him. He did come in most every day when he was at the Great Lakes. [Great Lakes Naval Air Station, Glenview, Il] Swell kid Harvey.

Well the Senate [a movie theater on Chicago’s West side]** is pretty tame now. The balcony has a copper all day Sunday so naturally they can’t pull any rough stuff. Jerry Wirsberg is now in 1-A and will soon be on his way. I have a lot of letters to answer and they run up around 50 letters some weeks from all over the world so it keeps me busy writing.

Well Frank I have never forgotten you and even tho’ you were busy and didn’t have time to write I was still thinking about you. But as I have

Senate Movie Theater well past its heyday

written before after a hard day’s grind studying—why who wants to write letters when you want to get out and have a good time—so I don’t blame you. Well Frank I hope your folks are all OK and that you write your Mother often. So I’ll say Bye Bye Frank—and when you get time drop a few lines to say hello! I am as always.

Sincerely, Just Art

Arthur Atkinson
5436 W. Monroe St.
Chicago 44, Ill.

*”Harvey” is Harvey Duck, one of my uncle’s best friends from Austin High School. Under his senior yearbook photo, his stated goal was to become a “successful sportswriter.” He achieved his goal, writing first for the Chicago Daily News. He then went on to become P.R. Director for Richard Petty, seven-time NASCAR champion. Harvey also represented  STP Motor Oil. You can read more about Harvey Duck in “Legends of NASCAR.” Unfortunately, I only discovered his whereabouts after reading his obituary in the Chicago Tribune in March 2005.

**The 3,097-seat Senate Theatre was originally opened on February 12, 1921 in the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. The theatre was located on Madison Street near Albany Avenue, close to Garfield Park itself (just east of Kedzie).

Original Letter