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The Book

"Elmer & Virginia is a beautiful reflection on love and war that has the ability to transport you back to that time and let you inhabit the personal lives of two very intriguing people."

"Elmer captivated Ginny with his dance moves the moment she set her eyes upon him. The reader will be surprised to discover true love amid inconceivable tragedies and joyous victories."

Listen to this audio from a podcast, where John Odell talks about and reads from his book.

Elmer & Virginia

Between 1939 and 1944, Elmer and Virginia exchanged hundreds of letters, which sat in shoeboxes for decades, waiting to be read again. Their letters brim with fears, frustrations, dangers, adventures, tears, and joys. They’re filled with anecdotes of everyday life and the tenor of the times.

Here are the best of them. These missives vividly chronicle their separate odysseys, their growing love for each other, and their love of music. Everywhere they went they were a sensation on the dance floor. To open this richly illustrated book is to dance with Elmer and Virginia as they struggle through the turbulent years of World War II.

Virginia standing on a porch bent over with her hands on the steps looking back.

“Everything is hotsy-dandy at Syracuse. The kids are swell, the campus is the nuts, even the profs are nice. The only trouble I’m having is with Chemistry and the Lindy! I still haven’t found anybody who does the Lindy like it ought to be did! The hicks up here are still waltzing, practically!"

“I have just been listening to Glenn Miller and I have never heard him play a better set of numbers. Man Alive! Did I wish I was with you then. To top things off he swung out with his arrangement of the “Anvil Chorus.” Would Wagner turn over in his grave if he could hear that!”

Elmer holding a tennis racket, balls, and shoes

The Author

Author of book Elmer and Virginia, John Odell
Photo courtesy of CCSF/Monica Davey

John Odell

John Odell is faculty emeritus of the Broadcast Electronic Media Arts Department at City College of San Francisco. Prior to teaching, he spent more than twenty-five years in television news as an award-winning video editor, also doing stints as a writer, producer, and reporter. John holds a BA from Columbia University and a Master’s in Mass Communications from San Diego State University. A U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, John served on aircraft carriers as a photo intelligence officer.