This is the beginning of a long essay written by Daisy Bacon in her first years at Street & Smith's LOVE STORY MAGAZINE. As far as I know it was never published. Entitled "Dear Mrs. Browne," it's about her days at her first job at LOVE STORY writing the advice column "A Friend in Need."
Probably for fear of getting into trouble should this essay ever be published, Daisy calls the magazine "Love Affairs Magazine" in this essay and says her pen name for the column was Mrs. Louise Winston Browne." In actuality the magazine was LOVE STORY, and the name used for the column was Louise Alston Brown.
Daisy started work for Street & Smith in 1926. In March of 1928 she was named editor of LOVE STORY, and the reins of "A Friend in Need" were handed over to someone else. It could very well have been her half-sister, Esther Joa Ford, who would later become assistant editor of LOVE STORY.
"Dear Mrs. Browne" by Daisy Bacon
You ought to see my mail. You would think that I was a movie actress,a philanthropist, a millionaire, or at least a murderer. Every morning the mail trucks back right up my door and throw quantities of letters off. Most of them are addressed in longhand and the postmark from every state in the Union; all the large cities and every hick town west of the water tower.
My desk, which is a roll top model of the vintage of 1890, is always covered with disorderly piles of the country's worst and best examples in stationary. Carelessly open letters with bits of gold or gaily flowered linings hanging out of the envelopes greet me the first thing in the morning. One corner of the room in which I sit is taken up by a large wooden packing box piled halfway to the ceiling with letters. Envelopes of every size and color repose therein; red ones and orange ones which fairly cry aloud for attention, small pale blue ones, plain square white ones, yellow ones and occasionally one with a black border.
I first made the acquaintance of this pile of letters two years ago. It was in the summer time and the hot breeze coming in at the window stirred them restlessly. Every now and then a letter fluttered down from the pile and land in the center of the room with a light thud. That thud seemed to me like a cry from an anguished heart, for these for lovelorn letters and I was new at the game - of answering them. According to the name and address on the envelope, I was Mrs. Louise Winston Browne, in charge of the When You Need a Friend department of Love Affairs Magazine. Mrs. Browne was an entirely mythical person, whose name had been selected for its euphony. But she was a perfect oracle of worldly wisdom and her name went on forever – only the users of the name changed occasionally. I was the latest recruit to give up my true identity for that privilege and in return for it, I was getting $35 a week.
Later on I lost the feeling that the world would come to an end if I ceased to hand out advice, but how seriously I took my first few weeks as an adviser in affairs of the heart. I used to actually lie awake at night turning those weighty problems over in my mind and trying to think of helpful answers.
Love Affairs was a weekly magazine with a circulation of about 400,000. It was put out by one of the oldest firms of publishers in the business, who also had nine other magazines. Weeklies, semi monthlies, and monthlies, but all of the same caliber, printed on cheap paper – halftone or novel news – and with a gaudy colored cover. The policy of the magazine and the type of story we used I learned gradually. The first six months on the job, I had nothing to do with that part of the work. I was concerned only with the lovelorn letters.
I was given no instructions by the editor as to how to answer these letters except I must never come right out and recommend divorce as a solution to a woman's problem. Further that if a person's question were very difficult or one that would take a long time to answer, it would be wise to say that the subject would be taken up in the magazine shortly. This meant that the person would probably never receive an answer, for no files were kept and as soon as you laid a letter down, it was snowed under. The editor and I belonged to different schools of lovelorn letter writers, I could see that, right from the start. She preferred to write a long chatty letter with lots of "my dears" and superlatives and expressions such as "I am sure that time will take care of your problem" sliding over a person's question and recommending stories coming in the magazine.
She said they would buy the magazine to get the stories. Perhaps so, but I had an idea and still have, that most people who wrote and asked questions were more likely to buy the magazine if they received an answer to that question. I tried to answer every question to the best of my ability and if that wasn't always the best solution, at least I never resorted to the purring, milk and water note. Although I came to the work with no special training, I think I did better than an older woman would have done on the job. For I was still young enough to have idealistic views about life, and considering the class of people we dealt with, this was a big help. Our readers had great respect for high ideals even if they didn't always understand them. And then, although we received letters from people of all ages, the majority of them came from women under 30. And being on the sunny side of 30 myself, I could better understand the hopes and despairs that feminine hearts feel with that age staring them in the face.