Posted in Barbados, Sketchbook, Travel diaries, Uncategorized, tagged Barbados, paintings, sketches, Travel diaries, travel journal, Watercolor on March 25, 2013|
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These two letters show a side of my father that I’ve only really learned through reading his letters – despite the most intense adversity, he does his best to create a comfortable “nest” for himself! In the first letter he describes taking over a “room upstairs” that was a wreck and with the help of a buddy, they turn it into a “cozy little nest”! I’m remembering back to his various fox holes in France and his similar efforts. What a guy! In the second letter, he mentions that he can’t stand the smell of himself after not having taken a shower for two weeks! Many of us suffered power outages after Hurricane Irene blew through the Hudson Valley, and I know how I felt after three days of no showering – hard to imagine working under the conditions he describes and going that long without a shower!
14 MARCH 1945 V-MAIL
HELLO, SWEETIE YOU ARE BEING WRITTEN TO BY ONE BEAT CHARACTER! AH’M REALLY POOPED! THIS WORKING ALL HOURS IS CATCHING UP WITH ME AND I’M GETTING SO THAT I FEEL, AND MUST LOOK LIKE A TIRED TURNIP. I’VE MADE A DARN GOOD BUDDY OF MY FILE CLERK AND WE HAVE MOVED INTO A ROOM UPSTAIRS HERE IN THE OFFICE BLDG. IT WAS A MESS — FULL OF BROKEN GLASS, STALE BED CLOTHES, NUMEROUS CRUCIFIXES AND CATHOLIC PICTURES AND AN OLD FASHIONED UNDER-THE-BED TYPE POT!! AFTER A COUPLE OF HOURS WORK WE HAVE MADE A VERY COZY LITTLE NEST OUT OF IT WITH A COUPLE OF EASY CHAIRS, A DESK LAMP, DRESSER AND HAD REAL GLASS PUT BACK IN THE WINDOWS (BOY, A GLAZIER WILL MAKE A FORTUNE OVER HERE IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS!) WE MADE SUCH A GOOD DEAL OUT OF IT, IN FACT, THAT FIVE OTHER FELLOWS HAVE NOW MOVED OVER HERE, AND MORE ARE WISHING THAT THEY HAD KNOWN OF IT SOONER. THE FILE CLERK (SPALDING) IS A VERY WITTY GUY AND WE HAVE ALOT OF LAUGHS. HE’S ABOUT THIRTY, FROM CHICAGO, AND IS PRETTY WELL INFORMED ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS. BY THE WAY, DID I TELL YOU THAT THE LITTLE “GOOFY” PENCIL SHARPENER THAT YOU SENT ME FOR XMAS HAS BEEN A GODSEND TO THIS HQ? IT’S THE ONLY P S IN THE OUTFIT, AND DOES IT GET YEOMAN DUTY? WE’RE A PENCIL PUSHING OUTFIT (WE’LL GET THE BRONZE TYPEWRITER RIBBON WITH THE OAK LEAF CLUSTER WHEN THIS IS ALL OVER) AND A DOZEN GUYS A DAY COME UP TO BORROW LITTLE “GOOFY”! I’M A LITTLE GOOFY MYSELF ABOUT NOW. AND I’M GETTING GOOFIER ABOUT YOU EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY! GOLLY, BUT THE BIG TRUCKS REALLY GO A-ROARING PAST HERE ON THE WAY UP FRONT WITH BRIDGES, AMMO, GAS – EVERYTHING — ROLLING AND A RUMBLING, AND I THINK I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, MARY DEAR
17 MARCH 1945
OH, ME, HERE I AM AT ELEVEN PM JUST GETTING AROUND TO WRITING TO YOU, & I STILL HAVE TO SHAVE YET!! HOWEVER, I CAN’T COMPLAIN BECAUSE I TOOK THE EARLY PART OF THE EVENING OFF TO GO AND SEE THE BEST PICTURE I’VE SEEN IN THESE PARTS “GOING MY WAY”. THE FIRST TIME I’VE LEFT SINCE WE MOVED UP HERE, BUT I’VE BEEN WAITING TO SEE IT FOR A LONG TIME, SO I JUST TOOK UP AND LEFT A STACK OF PAPERS ON MY DESK (AND THEY WERE WAITING FOR ME WHEN I GOT BACK). HAVE YOU SEEN IT YET? YOU MUST IF YOU HAVEN’T SWEETHEART, IT IS REALLY VERY GOOD, AND WHAT A JOB OLD BARRY FITYGERALD DOES — WONDERFUL!!! I GOT YOUR MAR FIRST LETTER YESTERDAY AND BIG STOOP MARY NOTICED THAT I HAD MOVED BACK TO HOLLAND BUT NOT THAT I WAS IN A NEW ORGANIYATION!! BUT IT WAS A VERY NICE LONG NEWSY LETTER SO I FORGIVE YOU. MAIL WAS PERHAPS SNAFUED AND YOU GOT ONE OF THE LETTERS AHEAD OF TIME. IF I DON’T SEEM TO MAKE MUCH SENSE TO YOU IT’S BECAUSE I’VE BEEN SHUFFLING PAPERS AROUND UNTIL I’M SEEING SPOTS, AND I CAN ALSO HARDLY STAND THE SMELL OF MYSELF!! HAVEN’T HAD A BATH IN TWO WEEKS (TODAY) BUT EXPECT TO TRAVEL ABOUT FIFTY MILES TO GET ONE TOMORROW!! SHAVE IN COLD WATER EVERY NIGHT (COULD GET A CUP FULL OF OF HOT IF I WANTED TO BOTHER TO HEAT IT OVER A LITTLE STOVE, BUT WOULD RATHER HAVE MORE COLD WATER AND CLEAN THAN A DAB OF HOT AND DIRTY! DOGGONE, I STILL HAVE TO LAUGH EVERY TIME I LOOK AT THE PICTURE OF OL KAREN! AND AT NIGHT WHEN I CRAWL INTO MY SLEEPING BAG I THINK ABOUT HER SAYING HER PRAYERS FOR ME. MAKES ME FEEL DAMN GOOD. GOSH!!! BUT I LOVE YOU GUYS **** MORE & MORE & MORE!!
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Posted in Uncategorized on August 25, 2011|
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11 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Hello, Cutie – Kinda expected some mail today when I didn’t get any yesterday – but had to settle for my 1st copy of Equity Mag and a couple of Varietys. Woke up to our coldest day yet this morning. When we went to breakfast there was just a sliver of a moon, and the silver frost has made telephone wires almost an inch thick. Patches of fog, and pin point snow made visibility very low indeed. Guys who were out any length of time came in with frost tipped collars looking like silver foxes. Had to pull my wool knit cap way down to keep my ears warm – on trip for mail – and my big schnoz is still beet red. Thank gosh there is no wind – or this bldg would be really rugged.
I ate the last of your date-nut cookies with great regret last night, sweetie. They’re really delicious. Do you suppose you could whip me up another batch? (PM – please note – that’s a request!) Bt the by – if you ever send cigarettes, pack ’em in a different shaped box. Seems as though a single carton of cigs is too great a temptation for some guys along the postal route. You know I love you don’t you? And miss you & Miss K terribly?
12 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Good afternoon, my darling – a good mail day! Six letters including yours of Dec 6 – and Xmas day. You don’t sound too happy, sweetheart. But I’m so glad you had a good day – and Karen – cripes, I’ll bet she was wonderful!!! I also got a “confirmation” (carbon copy) of your Dad’s Nov. 21 letter (mailed Nov 22-I got original couple months ago – an idea of BTO mail!) Mercedes & Dolores certainly went all out in presents for us, didn’t they? They should not have spent so much, but you tell them for me, I think it was mighty sweet of them. You done mighty good in the gift dept, no? Did my picture arrive in time? Mailed it Nov 23, so it should have. Sending individual packs of cigs is a fine idea.We get 5 packs per week now, but could easily use a couple more. By the way, how has my mail been coming through? You haven’t mentioned any of my letters for a long time, and I’m curious.
Doggone it. Every time I write, I get about this far and then can’t think of a thing to say. It’s very different trying to keep letters interesting – and still give you an idea of what I’m doing – without giving away military info. But I’ll never be able to tell you how homesick I get for you and Karen
All my love, Rollin
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20 July 1944 V-Mail
Hello, honey – Today I sent a pkge – a little project I’ve been working off-and-on for a wk now – to you. Really for Karen. A Dutch girl and a Chinese boy – they turned out to be – carved with my own itsy hands with only me trusty blade. Thought maybe before you present them you could sand ’em a bit, and maybe add a dash of edible paint here & there, to brighten them up a bit, and maybe (I hope) she’ll enjoy them. I’m particularly pleased with Great Scott (the man has no face!) and his hind quarters. You can see that he has character. The gal is just kinda cute, perhaps you can give her something with the paint brush.
Hey – we’re getting fresh meat now! We’ve had pork chops, baked ham and tonight roast pork. Delicious. Comes frozen, of course. We have a darn good mess Sgt (a blessing on the little man) and get hot cakes for breakfast, occasionally, hot cereal every morning, most of the time fruit juices, doughnuts once in a while, bread once a day, occasionally a good ol’ orange – and the weather has been fine – up to right now, when a slight rain is starting – but I love you (what a sentence -maker I am) and here’s a big & little kiss for you & Miss K.
22 July 1944 V-Mail
(says “Letter #23) but the last one was also “Letter #23)
Happy 5 yr 7 ms anniversary, darling – Exactly a month I’m here now – and still no mail. The rain has let up some. It rained so hard yesterday at lunch that I couldn’t finish my coffee. I keep sipping away at it, but each time the cup was fuller. Was finally drinking straight rain water so said to hell with it. Started out with a blob of custard but by the time I got around to eating it it was eggnog. Was happy crawl into a dry bed in my truck last night. Today I was out test driving my truck for a sgt. He’s going to get me a G.I. drivers license so that I can drive the Msg Center truck when we move. Yesterday I drove my Sgt (in a jeep) down to pick up our mail and around about 20 miles all together, I guess. It was fun, and I was glad to get out for a while. Keeps me going here. I’m breaking in another fellow, which will make it easier, but there really should be 3 men here. Parts of these towns are certainly a mess, but I can’t tell you any better than Ernie Pyle, so read his column and you’ll get an idea.
Say hello to the family – Merc & Dol – Corny & Tamie – The Boardmans – and anyone else around. All of my love to you, sweetheart
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In this letter my Dad recounts his misadventures with animals in his foxhole. And he’s pleasantly suprised to have been assigned to a communications unit. (I remember my Dad telling me that he joined the Army as a conscientious objector.)
6 July 1944 V-Mail
Hello, Cutie – I’m sitting in the Communications trailer here – keeping dry (which has been a bit of a problem here in France). What my poor ol’ foxhole is going to be like, I dread to think. I rigged myself up a pretty snug little place – using ration cartons – but the way this rain keeps coming down it’s bound to seep in. But after sleeping wet so many times without even a sniffle I guess it doesn’t make any difference. I have the darndest time with animal life in my holes. Remember the ants in the last one? Well, last night I was lying there – just about asleep – when I feel a scrunch – scrunch under me! Now what? I slapped around and waited. 15 minutes and same procedure. Then I went to sleep. Today when I had my blankets out for airing I investigated and found a tunnel the whole length of my bed – and by a little digging found the instigator – a big old hoptoad! So I carried him across the field & told him not to come back. I hope he doesn’t. I’m working in communications here now. Am learning the whole set up and think I’m going to like it. This being assigned to a unit really is fine after being kicked around Replacement pools. No lines to stand in for anything. ‘S wonderful. Here’a big kiss for you – and a little one for Karen – All my love, Poppy
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I’m just amazed by these two letters written the same day, one to his wife and one to his Dad. Interesting how he speaks about some of the same things but has a different focus with each person.
8 July 1944 V-Mail
Dear Dad, I’m gradually getting organized and am sure that I’m going to like it fine here. I’m working in the headquarters (battalion) message center. A lot of the procedure was unfamiliar to me, but I’ve practically got it whipped – now it requires care & accuracy & common sense more than anything else. Some evenings now I sit on my helmet and listen to the radio by the mess tent, and watch the farmers wife in her wooden shoes pull a two wheel cart with 2 five gal. cans into the field. Then she gets out the milk stool and sits down & milks about 10 cows – filling the 2 cans! Some job, huh? One night (when it did not rain – a rare night, believe me) I played some soft ball with the boys. Kept pulling ’em foul off third at first, but finally got the old timing and got a couple solid singles and a double! Chip off the old blockhead, hum?
I have my fox hole fixed up nice and homey now. Shelves & hooks to hang stuff on, and knocked down ration cartons for a roof. That way, I can make an envelope roll with my 2 blankets & shelter half to sleep in. Nice & warm, and I need it ’cause nights are cold. But I’m fine – don’t worry, Dad. Love to you all
as ever, Rollin
8 July 1944 V-Mail
Hello, Cutie – I’m getting pretty well organized here now. You may note, for instance, that the usual Bauer scrawl is a bit more legible now? Result of this fine “desk” that I’ve thrown together from a couple of box ends tied together with telephone wire. Makeshift, yes – but a good solid job, if I do say so – and I do say so! I’ve rigged up shelves & hooks in my foxhole so that I can reach or pick up practically anything at a moments notice. And my old “pack-rat” tendencies (which you’ve scoffed for years) are paying dividends in the form of small comforts and conveniences – heh heh (me scoffing contentedly to myself). When I have time (or an evening) I sit on my helmet and listen to the radio (Kay Kyser, and stuff you couldn’t drag me to at home, but here it’s good) and watch the farmers wife, and her little boy, come into the field in her wooden shoes, dragging a two wheel cart with two 5 gal milk cans, and go to work milking the cows. And she fills those cans alone, but golly! Some of the boys buy a canteen of milk, but I prefer not to take chances. I’ll wait for that good ol’ watery Borders back home. Damn, I wish I’d get some mail. But I love you, don’t I? I do! Pappy
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In this letter, my Dad starts out by saying there’s not much to talk about so he’ll just fill up space on the page. Then he proceeds to describe his daily life in his foxhole! Check out this fascinating newspaper clipping from 1942 about foxholes: http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1005/m1/2/
28 June 1944
To Mary at same Riverside Drive address
Hi Cutie Pants – not a gosh darn thing I can write about, really, so I’ll just try to fill up a page. Took a bath and washed clothes (all in stark, bright outdoors, of course) all in one helmet full of water today. You think that’s good? Ordinarily I brush my teeth, shave & wash ears & neck, and usually wind up washing my feet (you take better care of feet than anything else in the Army) – all in one canteen cup of water!
Did I tell you that I bumped into Joe and a few other guys from basic? Yep. They’re just a few fields away from us. Mighty good to see them and get the news about all the rest of our gang.
Bill and I are gradually getting our little hole fixed up into a very comfortable little nest. We have about a bale of grass on the floor and cardboard (waterproof ration cartons) walls. We even dug out a shelf for stuff we can lay out. We’re worried about it being too good, however – as we discovered a colony of ants moving in! Really – eggs & all. We’re trying to head them off but they’re insidious. If all else fails, we’ll take off our socks and fumigate ’em.
How’s my lil ol’ Karen? Golly, but I’m anxious to get some mail. Say hello to Corny & Teenie, the Boardmans and naturally the menage. You know I love you. Here’s a big kiss —— Give Karen a bit of it.
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