Monday, September 15, 2014

A family story, World War II and beyond

The series I am posting on my family’s experiences, photos and letters during World War II and beyond has attracted heavy traffic, for which I am grateful. It begins here and the posts run chronologically and are numbered sequentially. At this stage in the story, the spring of 1944, my father is about to arrive in the southwest Pacific islands as an infantry platoon leader. I'll post the next installment Wednesday.

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a look at the series.

Readership of the blog during the last month has remained strong. Here are the top 25 posts, with hits ranging from 231 to 1,073. The numbers in parentheses are last month's rankings.








8. A Gettysburg journal (part 3) (8)








16 (tie). A gift from the heart (15)

              Gallery: Old soldiers (2), a New England brigade (17)









Sunday, September 14, 2014

6. 'Be sure to pose pretty'

My grandfather, Evert F. Nordstrom, was a card and a photo nut. Both qualities show up in this letter, which he addressed to his granddaughter. Being just 22 weeks old when he wrote, Bonnie couldn’t read, of course, although I’m sure my mom was working on it.

Evert also mentioned his desire to see more pictures of Bonnie and promised to send his movie camera to Oregon with instructions on how to use it.

                                                                         Bridgeport Sat. Feb. 26, 1944

Dear Bonnie:

I suppose you’ll have to let your ma and pa read this letter but it is just between you and me anyhow. I have been writing to them just about once a week now for a year or more so I think they can forgive me this time if I write to you instead of to them.

Bonnie in a satchel, 1944.
So you are a big girl now. Over eleven pounds. I imagine some people would think that is still pretty small but there are not many grown ups who could double their weight in five months. And even if they did they wouldn’t be happy about it and worse than that they sure would be awful masses of fat. But for you it is all right and I for one think you are doing all right.

And I guess you know who is the boss there. I have looked a long time at the pictures your mom has sent here and I can see by the look in your eyes that you know very well how to take care of yourself. And while that may be an accomplishment, I can see that you also know how to take care of your mom and pop. It may be a little hard on them at times but it won’t do them very much harm. And besides, I’ll guess they even have fun doing things for you. Of course, you could ease up on them once in a while. Let them have a little fun. You will enjoy giving it to them.

Your uncle Dodie [Joseph A. Nordstrom, Mom’s older brother, had joined the Navy] is getting acquainted with lots of people in San Francisco – object, Sunday Dinners. And from what he says he is achieving his object with reasonable frequency. Also, he is meeting some California beauties now and then but I think his heart his still in the east somewhere; Brooklyn at last reports.

My cousin Joy Nordstom, better known as Carla, tells me her father was the shortest GI in every picture ever made of him. Here Carl Nordstrom stands second from left in the first row among fellow members of the 722nd Tank Battalion. The picture was taken June 9, 1943, during the battalion's training at Fort Campbell, Ky. When Carl he and my Aunt Jane visited Lindsborn, Kans., as  mentioned in this letter, he was stationed at Fort Riley. 
A closer look at Carl Nordstrom
And your Aunt Janie and Uncle Carl have become real natives of Lindsborg Kansas even to the extent of having coffee every afternoon. [Jane and Carl Nordstrom. Carl was the middle child of the three Nordstroms; the Nordstroms were Swedish in origin, and Lindsborg was known as “Little Sweden.”] Janie says that the town quits work at 3:15 P.M. daily in order to drink coffee. And Janie has enrolled in a couple of classes at Bethany college, one of them being piano. She practices all day and Carl plays the piano every nite so with the racket they make and the racket you make in the state of Washington, I’d say that our descendants are being heard from.

And back at home here, we are getting along as usual. And I am going to send my movie camera out there so your folks can take some movies of you. You can tell them I’ll send the instruction book along too so they can find out how to run it. I won’t attempt to tell either you or them by means of a letter. I’ll get it under way probably Monday or Tuesday.

Be sure you pose pretty when they have it. I want to see some nice pictures of you and I know from the still pictures they have sent that it should be no trouble for you to look nice and pretty. In fact I have been showing those pictures of you sitting in the big chair to such an extent that everybody in our office would know you if you walked in there some day.

Your grandma wants to go to bed now so I guess I’ll have to relax from this for a while. It isn’t too late but just the same you know that us growing adults should have our rest.

We are having a little snow and sleet tonite but we have had spring like weather for a week or more so we really can’t complain – not that it would do any good if we did complain.

So . . . adios now. All OK here. Love from us.

                                                                            Grandpappy

Next: To War in the Pacific

Thursday, September 11, 2014

5. 'They think I'm tough but they all like me'

This is Dad as a corporal, the rank he held as an
officer candidate in 1943. He won his lieutenant's
 bar, trained in tank maintenance at Fort Knox,
Ky., and was sent to the West Coast.
Twenty-three years after Dad enlisted in the Army,
and under very different circumstances, I followed
in his footsteps. Here I am in 1966 as a squad leader
and acting corporal at Fort Jackson, S.C.



























My father, Charles M. Pride, spent the late months of 1943 and the early months of 1944 with the 104th Cavalry, a Pennsylvania National Guard unit assigned to guard the upper West Coast. My mom Bernadine and their daughter Bonnie moved to Washington State near Fort Lewis. They did not accompany him when his unit was transferred to the beaches of Oregon.

The location made it pretty obvious where he would go next, but a soldier never really knows.

Dad wrote this series of letters to Mom from Oregon. The first was datelined only “Tuesday night” but was almost certainly written on Jan. 18, 1944. Gold Beach is just north of California.

Late in life when Dad began talking more about his military experience, he told me he disliked the coastal duty in part because the Pennsylvanians treated him as an outsider. In these letters he seemed satisfied with his unit but also flashed anger at the hint of a less qualified officer, presumably a Pennsylvanian, being promoted over him.

*

                                                                                         Tuesday night

Well here I am at Gold Beach. I really do get around, don’t I? I miss you and love you more than ever. I can’t get used to sleeping alone. At six o’clock I awaken and I guess I roll over to see Bonnie being fed, but nothing doing.

The weather here is beautiful, warm, sunshiny. I wish we were going to stay here, you’d love it. This is the first troop I’ve been to where there is some real training going on, they really are “on the ball.” Gee, I miss little Bonnie, and I’m so worried about her cold. I wish she could shake it. We are supposed to be prepared to move the week of the 24th so you can plan on seeing me sometime that week. You had better stay put until we can get something together.

The reason I was sent here was that there are only 2 officers here and they need help. You don’t know either of them Lt. Stokes and Lt. Strothers. They are both 1sts.

Here is a letter from your gal-friend I received. I hope you sent Bob’s [Dad’s brother] stuff to him. I’m kicking myself for bringing all of the damned junk I brought with me, but that’s life, I guess.

Magnus is a lucky pup going to San Diego. I wish we were going. I can’t get excited about Ft. Lewis. 

I suppose Libby took most of the food that was ours not theirs that I brought home, but I know you. The class of men here and their state of mind is better than any I’ve seen in any troop. If I knew something about new troops I wouldn’t mind being left here. Who knows I might be anyway. I’ve ceased to worry about such trivial matters. Lt. Ux just got back from school and they put him in F Co. and he’s never been in a tank in his life. He’s a new man, and they send me here instead of him. Capt. Throckmorton is madder than hell. There is a 1st open in F Co. If they give it Ux, and then I have to teach him all about tanks, I’ll really give up.

I’ve folded this letter backwards but I guess you’ll forgive me cause I love you so.

I’m sorry we couldn’t celebrate your birthday a little more.

I’m sleepy – hope you can read this – I love you – kiss Bonnie for me.

                                                                            Charlie

P.S. If she doesn’t improve take her to the Drs. again.

*
                                                                             Thursday night
                                                                             Jan. 20, 1943 [actually 1944]

Darling Bern,

I’m sorry I haven’t written as often as I’d like to but I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been here. I have learned a lot here also. Today we wanted to get rid of all our ammunition rather than move it so we had a gala time firing mortars, throwing hand grenades (the real ones), firing machine guns, and blowing up sand dunes with T.N.T. Some fun, luckily no one was killed.

I give calisthenics every A.M. at 6:30 and take them for a run (the whole troop). They think I’m tough but they all like me. If they only knew the exercise was killing me, they’d get a real laugh. I can hardly move right now I’m so stiff.

Gee I miss you. I never realized how much I’d miss Bonnie either. I’m dying to make her laugh again. I hope she is getting a little better. I worry an awful lot about the little tyke. Don’t forget to take her to the Dr. if she is no better. I want her to be well, the little stinker.

We are moving out of here Sunday A.M. at 5. We will spend the night in Newport and then on to Salem and then to Ft. Lewis. I will come and see you as soon as possible. I can hardly wait. I hope you miss me and love me too. I wish we were going to stay here. You’d love it. What a setup. Here are a lot of letters and my license that finally caught up with me.
Hope to see you soon. I love you. Bonnie, too.

                                                                                XXXX
                                                                                XXX Bonnie
                                                                                Good night Sweetie
                                                                                Pappy
*
                                                                                Friday night
                                                                                Jan. 21, 1944

Darling,

Well I just got through talking to you, so I haven’t got much to say. Did you notice that I told you I loved you right away. I guess when you give me hell it means something. We are going to pack up tomorrow and leave Sunday A.M. at 5 and spend the night in Newport and then Salem. I don’t know how long we’ll stay there, not long I hope. I have heard rumors that C troop is going to Portland air base for guard duty, and this one to Seattle are base for the same thing. I hope not. I think we’ll go to Lewis. Anyway F Co. is going there and maybe I’ll be with them.

Gee I wish we could be together. I miss you like the devil. I love you with all my heart. I may not be able to write while we’re on the move but I’ll be thinking of you and loving you always. Kiss Bonnie for me.

I love you – See you soon I hope.

                                                                                XXXX
                                                                                Pappy    

Next: 'Just between you and me'

Monday, September 8, 2014

4. 'It is a very tuff unit, I believe'

PFC Fong Sing wrote my dad from the Springfield, Ill., State Fairgrounds, where he had been sent to further his training.
After completing Officer Candidate School at Fort Riley, Kans., my father, now Lt. Charles M. Pride, went for ten weeks to tank maintenance school at Fort Knox, Ky. There my mother joined him. The following letter was written to him later by PFC Fong Sing, a Chinese-American soldier who also trained at the fort and met my parents there.

What is remarkable to me in thinking about the letter is how unremarkable it was in 1943 America that soldiers of Chinese descent were segregated, even in the Army. In a letter near the end of the war, when my father was a motor pool officer, he referred to the men who washed the vehicles as “my Chinks.” Acceptable lingo in his world, not in ours. We have yet to vanquish all the prejudices about race and ethnicity in our culture, but at least we have made progress.

Records on the web indicate that a Fong Y. Sing, Chinese-born but a U.S. citizen, enlisted in the Army on Sept. 5, 1942, and later made PFC. He was born on Aug. 10, 1912, and died on May 6, 1981, in Calverton, N.Y., where he is buried. Whether this is the same Fong Sing who wrote my father I do not know.

The stationery on which Fong Sing wrote to Dad included his picture and rank. He wrote the letter from the State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill., where Chinese and Chinese-American soldiers trained at an Army Air Force supply depot.

Richard Wong was a 407th bugler in Springfield.
An Aug. 14, 2014, story in the Illinois State Journal gave a brief history from the paper’s archives about the Chinese-Americans, who, even if they were citizens, were referred to as Chinese. One archival story, published May 6, 1943, covered the soldiers’ first night of liberty in the Illinois capital:

“Many Springfield residents paused and stared as they saw the lads sauntering down streets of the business district,” the paper reported. “But the soldiers were accepted without much comment. ‘They’re very polite and well-behaved,’ was the opinion of one observer.”

That fall the soldiers marched at halftime of a local high school football game. They also went to a dance for which Chinese-American women were imported from Chicago as dance partners. And they were invited to an exhibit of Chinese art at a local museum.

The men, who comprised the 407th Service Squadron, left Springfield in January 1944 for Patterson Field in Ohio. Eventually they served in China and Burma.

When PFC Fong Sing wrote to my father, Dad was stationed in Oregon. Among other things, he took a three-week course as a swimming instructor. He was a good swimmer, a skill that came in handy later when he was sent to the Pacific Theater,

Here is the letter:
                                                                                      25 Nov. 43

Dear Lt. Pride,

I am very sorry to miss you and you are getting all right. I am getting much better in my language and thank you and your wife very much. I have no trouble to make friends over here. Everyone is Chinese and we are all friendly.

We have approximately seven hundred Chinese soldiers of the United States Army in this unit. They divided into different classes, according to the men who came in soon or later. We are very busy studying and training. I am assured that I will have a lot of chances to go back to China after finishing the trainings in certain period. It is a very tuff unit, I believe.

Our group has not begun yet because we have to have certain amount of men before they begin to train us. I am assured we will start in a very short time.

I want to write a letter to a Captain but I am very sorry forgot his name. Please say hello to him for me.

Thanks again to both of you and your wife.
                                                                                  Sincerely yours,
                                                                                  Fong Sing

Next: Guarding the coast 

Friday, September 5, 2014

3. 'A bonnie little lass'

My grandfather, Evert F. Nordstrom, selling war bonds.
The previous post in this series consists of two letters written the day Elizabeth Jeanette (Bonnie) Pride was born. During the war Bonnie became a talisman for the family. My father, Charles M. Pride, and my mother’s two brothers, Joe and Carl Nordstrom, all went to war in 1944. Bonnie was the daughter my father could not hold; she was the baby daughter of Carl and Joe’s kid sister, the first Nordstrom child of her generation and the third Pride (mu Uncle Bob and Aunt Jean had twins born in 1934, Don and Ron). In a personal sense, Bonnie represented the future for which the boys were fighting the war.

But as will be seen here and in future posts, the family letters also disclose class differences between the Prides and the Nordstroms. My dad’s father, Royal D. Pride, had lost a good job during the Depression and had become downhearted. By 1943 he was a quiet man who disliked the menial jobs he could get. By contrast, Evert F. Nordstrom, my mother’s father, was a successful businessman in his late 40s and a conspicuous figure in the campaign to sell war bonds. In 1940 he had built a large house in Fairfield, where my mother and Bonnie lived with him and his wife, Frieda.

Here are two letters written to my dad, who was stationed in Oregon, shortly after Bonnie’s birth. The first is by Frieda, his mother-in-law, the second by his father.

Evert and Frieda Nordstrom flank their daughter Bernadine (my mother) on her wedding day, Sept. 2, in 1940. She was 19.
                                                           Saturday [Sept. 25, 1943] Bridgeport
Dear Charlie,

You may appreciate a few lines from me too. I’m afraid it will only be a few tho. This has been a busy week. Now I’m cooking and baking to be ready for the callers tomorrow. They may all come here as they are prevented from coming to the hospital. I know things will taste good to Bernadine. There is no time in a womans life when things taste so good as after having a baby.

I dont know just what condition she will be in. The doctor said she could come home tomorrow only because she is assured of care here. Premature babies dont make the easiest kind of births. But she will be alright. The reason the baby isnt gaining is because it was early, the doctor said. Once it gets started she will also be fine, Im sure. Ive had considerable experience with premature babies, and I’m not at all afraid . 

Bernadine seems worried about the baby tho, which is natural. They make a little more work, and you have to be very careful of them when they are early, thats all

Dont you worry about anything. She will be a bonnie little lass when you come home.

After I see her Ill write you again and try to describe her. Mean while we will take pictures, if I know grandpappies.
   
                                                                                   Love
                                                                                   Mother

And here is the letter to Charlie from his dad, Roy:

                                                                                   Bridgeport, Conn. 
                                                                                   Sept. 29, 1943

Dear Son,

Received your letter Friday and was going to answer Sun but thought I would wait until I saw your daughter. That hospital was tough and Berns Mom & Pop was the only ones who got to see her all last week, they are short of help up there and don’t want visitor.

Bern came home Sunday and Bob [Charlie’s older brother] came down Tue afternoon and took me up to see them. Well Bern is fine and the Baby is a beaut, rather tiny with long legs and perfect small hands and quite dark hair. Bern wanted to know how she could get fat when you pour her dinner in one end and it comes right out the other, but I guess Bedelia will do all right with all the attention she gets. Mother has not seen her yet. She went to N.Y. Sunday a.m. to her convention and will not be home until Thur, but she went to see Bern several times last week.

This is Wed morn, 8:00 a.m., just got home from work. Back on a twelve hour shift and feel like a zombie. Got a new job now as boss of filing on receivers and have a gang of women filers and they are an awful headach. If I don’t get eight hours soon will chuck the whole thing overboard and take a month off to catch up on some sleep. Well I don’t feel too ambitious right now so will try the bed in about five mins.

You have a great wife and fine daughter and at last we have a girl in the family so you do your job out there and later you will be glad that she will be proud of her Dad.

There are some other things to write about but am crossing my D’s now for T’s so will write again soon.
     
                                                                                   Love
                                                                                   Mother & Dad

Next: A letter from a passing acquaintance.      

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2. 'We decided she was satisfactory. You would too.'

My mom with Bonnie (Elizabeth Jeanette Pride). probably in the spring of 1944. 
In the last post, my pregnant mother joked about what a stir it would cause if she had her baby in church, where her mother was playing the organ. She never made it to church. When she went to bed Saturday night after writing my dad, an Army lieutenant stationed in Oregon, she was nearly three weeks from her due date. She felt ill at midnight and woke her Aunt Lenny Johnson, who was also living at 147 Davis Road in Bridgeport, Conn.

Let’s hear what happened next, first from Lenny and then from my mother’s father, Evert. F. Nordstrom. On Sept. 19, both wrote to my dad, a cavalry lieutenant stationed in Oregon, to give him the news. Dad’s brother, Bob, the delinquent letter-writer mentioned in the last post, sent a telegram.

Lenny first:

                                        Bridgeport, Conn., Sep 19 – 43 (Red Letter Day)
Daddy
Dear Cholly,

I can’t think of anything but that song and you,

In my arms, in my arms
When will I ever get a girlfriend in my arms.
Now you have two.

Well this has surely been a hectic day. Your little girl Bride of three years made the first allarm a little after midnight, and said I don’t feel good. Oh, I wish I knew more about getting babies. My advice did on regester very well and she was reluctant to call Daddy & Mommy for Mommy was to play communion service in the morning, but I said nothing doing she can get someone else to play, so off she trotted and called Daddy [and said] I have to go to the hospital. What he said that must be a false allarm. That kept her a while but at 4 they called the Dr. and he advised to give her 3 aspirin. Well, it ended up at 4:30 the little mother to be marched off to St. Vincents. They seemed to be in a cloud, all of them. Bernadine said right after she woke, if Charlie had been here he would have had me at hospital double quick. Yes I said even in a wheel barrow if he could not have come over anything else.

Evert called the hospital before starting for church and they said no change, so off to church we went, and right after the offering the telephone rang and the janitor came, and called Evert. That was Bob’s [my dad's brother's house]  they had called here and then called there. It was laughable to hear the new Grandpappy say how the whole choir looked at him and asked what it was and he whispered a girl but the new grandmommy it did not make any effect on whatsoever. He said he had to very near poke her in the ribs before she caught on. I had seen nothing, so all at once I heard 2 grand thumps on the organ as I said to myself all is up, she is going to fall down on her job but on she went to the finish, so on our way hime we went to St. Vincents so they two gained addmittance but me I was not big enough only the new Daddy and Grandparents can go once a day.

When they came out they notified me they had seen both Mother & child, a 5 & 3 ounce bit of humanity. Must not have been very good looking at that for Frieda said has it been hurt. No said the nurse., she only need a good bath so she will turn out allright, a little redskin turns out all the whiter. I could not help to but think of the twins they said if it is a girl throw here in the ashcan. Frieda said she won’t go to church next Sunday she is going to bathe that baby well said Evert I’m going to stay home and help you, for they said her Mommy will want to do it afterward.

They went off to hospital tonight and was to take your Mother with them so will wait and let you in on the news. Just came back and they said all is well so maybe you will get your every day letter from your little wife soon again. Your Daddy was working, they said.

Had a card from Del he is E.M.’s in the Navy stationed in Williamsburg, Va.

I will sign off have wanted to write you for some time and I know you will like it at this time to hear.
                                                                
                                                                          Love, Len
. .
My grandfather Evert, standing and laughing here, was a confident, happy-go-lucky family man.
And now from Evert F. Nordstrom, my mother's dad:

                                                                                Sunday Sept. 19, 1943

Dear Charlie: — Congratulations! Your daughter weighing 5 lbs 3 oz arrived at 10:13 this morning. And we have seen her. And she’s swell and lovely and Bern is fine. Bern became sick right after she went to bed last nite. She called us about 12:30 this morning. We stalled around as long as we could and brought her up to the hospital at 3:30 a.m. There we left her. At nine o’clock, I telephoned the hospital but there was no report at that time. So, since Frieda had to play in church today and there was no way to do anything for Bern anyway, we went to church. In the middle of the service, the janitor came and got me saying I was wanted on the phone. It was Jean [Bob's wife; Mom and Dad's sister-in-law] . Since nobody was home at our house, the hospital had phoned your mother and she (Jean) then called me at the church.

So, as soon as the service was over, we went up to the hospital. There, I had a heart to heart talk with the sister on duty and the upshot of it was, we were permitted to go up and see Bern. We found her sleepy and still a little dopey from the anesthesia but otherwise cheerful and happy. Also – she was hungry – and I don’t know of a more healthful sign!

Then I talked to the nurse on the floor and the upshot of that was that we got a preview of the baby. She’s little! She’s fat! She has a double chin! Sge was dirty! (They hadn’t washed her there) She was red! She has head hair! I don’t know about the color of her eyes. Guess she didn’t want to spoil her entrance into the world by looking at me. She waved her arms, clenched her little fist – opened up and then had a most prodigious and toothless yawn for herself. So we decided she was satisfactory. I’m sure you would too. No other visitors may see her now. The rules are that the baby will be shown to the father just once during the week it is in the hospital. And I guess we usurped your place in that.

Bern has a corner room which she shares with another girl. So as soon as she gets rested and something to eat, I’m sure she will be quite content there. The only visitors she can have – aside from you – are the grandparents. She can have only two at a time and only between 7 & 8 p.m. So we are going up there tonite. I’m going to bring your mother up tomorrow nite. She couldn’t go tonite because it would be at a time when your father was going to work and she had not made the proper arrangements to be away then. Anyway I suspect Bern will be a little more presentable tomorrow nite.

However, you can be sure that both your wife and your daughter are ok and I’m sure Bern will have time to write you from the hospital during her stay there.

I think the matter of coming 2½ weeks early is simply a matter of miscalculation or error in arithmetic. Bern didn’t slip or fall or do anything yesterday that would bring it on. It was all as normal as could be.
So – that’s the news up to the minute. Love from us.

                                                                                        Pop

                                                                  Or should it be Grandpappy Nordstrom.

(On the envelope) 6:15 p.m. – Jean just phoned & said your mother would go up with us tonite. Swell.
(And this note from Bern in shaky hand) Hi ya honey. How does it feel to be a Papa?

Next:: 'A bonnie little lass'

Saturday, August 30, 2014

1. We’re losing a lot of men. It all seems so useless'

A drawing of my dad done at Fort Riley, Kans., on Dec. 12, 1942.
Shortly before my father died in 2007, he gave me many letters he wrote and received during and after World War II. Recently I found a dozen or so more family letters written between 1943 and the early 1950s. The letters tell an interesting story – heart-wrenching at times – and while this story is personal to me, others may appreciate it, too.

I already shared one post  “Somewhere in New Guinea” – about a poem my father co-authored while serving in the Pacific during World War II, and readership was high. All the writers of these letters are dead, but I will provide some context where it might be useful. 

.My father, Charlie Pride of Bridgeport, Conn., was a few days short of 26 years old when he joined the army on Jan. 14, 1943. He had worked before that as a men's clothing salesman in a department store, a salesman for a Ford-Mercury dealer and a toll-collector. The day he joined happened to be the 22st birthday of his wife, Bernadine, the daughter of Evert and Frieda Nordstrom, who had recently built a large house in Fairfield.

My grandfather, Evert F. Nordstrom (right), sold refrigeration  equipment. 
Dad was a high school dropout who, as the letters disclose, considered himself and his family inferior to the Nordstroms. Evert Nordstrom, known as Nordy, was a successful salesman, an expert in refrigeration, a community leader and a church choir director. He had written a book about refrigeration technology. His wife Frieda was the church organist, a graduate of the New England Conservatory. Their two sons (my uncles) were on the way to careers as college professors, although the war interrupted their journeys.

My dad trained at Fort Knox, Ky., and went to Cavalry Officers Candidate School at Fort Riley, Kans, He was a good rider and thought of the cavalry in the original sense as soldiers on horseback, but by the time he joined the First Cavalry as a second lieutenant, the horses were history.

Mom managed to spend some time with dad at Fort Riley, but she lived mainly with her parents during the war, as did her Aunt Lenny. She wrote to my dad nearly every day they were apart. He did not keep all her letters, but he kept some.

We begin our look at their story with two letters she wrote to him on Sept. 17-18, 1943, a Friday and a Saturday. At the time he was across the country as a member of Troop F, 104th Cavalry.in Salem, Ore.
                                                         Friday Sept. 17, 1943
                                                         3 weeks from today [a reference to her due date]

Dear Charlie –

I can’t be using my good stationery on you so I bought this at the 5&10 – Poor neglected little boy. You don’t care as long as I write, do you? – I don’t know why I shouldn’t use good stationery – you’re better than everybody else – Boy, I won’t be able to touch you.

We had a blackout tonight – It lasted about a half hour – Very exciting – Helmer was here for supper so also got caught here – We had just finished doing the dishes so we can’t complain –

Of course dear little Bernadine ate bananas tonight and has a tummy ache – I thought when you were pregnant your whole system changes and you can do things you never could before. I still can’t eat bananas – I’ll learn tho – not to eat them.

I didn’t know you skipped the night of the alert cause I got a letter today anyway. I didn’t understand half of what you wrote about the alert – It must have been quite an experience tho – something different – It’s too bad some of the boys got hurt – I just read your letter to Dad so now I know what you’re talking about – I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what a “ford” was – He did – Why don’t you tell me these things –

Gee, from the sound of it Capt. and Charlie are hitting it off fine – I hope you continue to do so and also hope he’s nothing like Putt Putt – In personal matters I mean – I know – none of my business –

Why didn’t you let your men drive? You’re going to get yourself in real trouble one of these days and then you won’t act so smart – I have to bawl you out once in a while – I can’t be so sweet to you all of the time –

It’s blowing out right now – I guess it’s pretty cold out – The wind blowing reminds me of Kansas – I’ll still take Kansas even though we didn’t like it there –

Mother bought a dress today and I bought a pair of shoes – Remember the ones Jean had without toes and heels and I said I liked them –

I called Ethel today – She’s fine – Poor Kay, she feels lousy – She’s changed doctors so maybe he can help her – She said he seemed to take a personal interest in her instead of this matter of fact stuff – I sure hope he can help her – She mentioned how Normie had a toy gun and one day tried to balance a penny on the gun and she asked where he saw that and he said – Remember the soldiers at Auntie Ethel’s who did that – Boy, I don’t even remember your doing that. In fact I’ve never seen you do it –

Pappy, can you buy me some bonds this month? It’s the 3rd war loan you know and it’s money saved – Next month I’ll buy one for the baby –

Gee, I’m getting scared – 3 more weeks – I’m getting fidgety – I’m not really scared – I guess just anxious – I feel the same way as I do when I go to the dentist’s office –

Del is in the “Seabees” stationed at Williamsburg, Virginia – I wish he’d given me that negative – now I’ll probably never see it –

The news is pretty good but gee they must be doing some awful fighting and I know we’re losing a lot of men – It all seems so useless –

Good night, pappy – I love you very much – Take care.
Lots of hugs and kisses
Always from me –

                                                                              Saturday
                                                                                          September 18, 1943
Hi ya honey child –

They are playing “Put Your Arms around Me” – Mmmm – How about it?

I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m going to write about – I didn’t do anything exciting today – My days are usually so full of excitement – It gives me a lot to write about – Maybe you’re interested that I just washed my hair & took a shower I’ve been trying to do it all day but it was a necessity so I finally drove myself to it around 7:30 –

Mother plays in church tomorrow for communion – Here’s where I lose 10 lbs – It would be funny if I lost the 24½ pounds – Huh – that would be some excitement – I wouldn’t go only I haven’t taken communion for over a year and besides I can help Mother –

I received a gift today from Peggy Ann Calderwood – It is a very cute sweater and bootie set – Martha also enclosed a picture of the baby – I think she’s adorable – I’m sending it to you so that you can see it but don’t forget to send it back to me – I’ll shoot you if you don’t – I mean it – I keep looking at her trying to figure out who she looks like – She’s so darn cute – I like that pout –

Dad had a fire in the fireplace – It’s pretty cold out – He just said we’d have to go to bed pretty soon cause we’re just about out of wood – Gee, they have to pay about $16 a cord here – and we paid $4.50 – Course it wasn’t logs but it would serve the purpose –

[The dog] is down here – He’s been here all day so we finally put him out seeing Helmer was home – Helmer went away and left him so we left him out anyway and I was pressing my dress down the cellar and he just cried and cried to get in so I finally let him in – I couldn’t stand that anymore – He looks so forlorn and lost – Still is about eaten up tho – Poor dog –

I was talking to Jean today and Bob [my dad's older brother; Jean was his wife] was sleeping when I called so it woke him up so I told her to tell him you said you wanted to hear from him – She gave him a big line so he said sure he’d write – That was just to shut us up – The results remain to be seen –

Gee, the time sure seems to be going fast – I’ve been home now 2½ months – It seems like always but also seems like it went awfully fast – These next couple of weeks will be the longest I guess –

I didn’t get any mail today I probably won’t Monday either – I don’t usually but maybe I’ll get today’s letter today –

I sure hope you took care of your income tax – You never mentioned it – No one knows what’s going on out there anyway – but if you didn’t file, the gov’t sure will.

I can’t think of anything else except that it’s getting pretty cold at night and I could use a bed warmer – especially when I get up about 69 times and the bed is cold each time – I’d probably get pushed away anyway – seeing you’re not crazy about me when I’m cold –

Good night honey child
Again you’re finishing supper
and I’m going to bed – Do
you still have retreat? What
time do you eat now?
Lots of hugs and kisses
always from –
Me