Never Will Be a Good Army Man

Thursday June 10, 1943

12:30 noon


Dear folks,

I’m back again. I’ll write until I have to go out. Last night after I finished your letter I wrote cards to the rest of the people I thought might be interested in my address. Since you said Mrs. C. gave Stachel’s my address I sent them a card too so they won’t write to Calif. or send it to Walt as that. That took up to about 9 o’clock. I got to bed at about 9:30 I guess but it’s too noisy to sleep until 10 when lights go out. I went to sleep right after 10 and woke up when somebody turned on the lights. I looked at my watch. It said 5:15 so I turned over and covered up my head and went back to sleep. We don’t get up until 5:45 so the lights were turned off until then. I got up then and dressed and fixed my bed up. We fell out at 6 for reveille. Then I came back in and cleaned up around my bed until time to go to breakfast. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, toast, butter, rice krispies, milk, and a BANANA. Can’t you get any bananas at all?

1:15. After breakfast we came back here and I took it easy until we fell out at 8 for drill. They divided us up into companies alphabetically and then arranged us by height. Then from 8:15 to about 10:30 we drilled in squads, platoons and companies. We had an occasional break but it’s still too hot. Finally we came in and had to arrange our stuff all the same for Sat. inspection. I fixed up my stuff, shined my shoes and then lay down and nearly slept until we fell out for dinner at about 11:30. We marched to eat and I was lucky to be one of the first. Since they rotate I will be nearly last tonight. The meal was good. We had beef (or pork), potatoes, dressing, string beans (or carrots), vanilla pudding (or chocolate), bread, butter, and milk. The stuff in parentheses is the choice we had but I didn’t take. I should have taken the chocolate pudding but I thought I was getting lemon. It was good anyway. I took my time coming back and got back about 12:30. I wrote until mail call. I got your Thurs. June 3 letter so I read it and the clippings and now I’m writing again. The mail is doing swell. It’s only taking a week to go back and forth across the country. Lots of times it has taken that long just to get to Calif. It sure is hot. It was sprinkling a little around noon but it didn’t last. It was raining yet no clouds were overhead. I don’t know what we’ll do this afternoon yet but I hope it’s easy. I’m signing off now at 1:25.

Back at 7:00 – 8 for you. Let’s see, if I remember rightly Baby Snooks should be on. About 5 minutes after I quit we fell out and drilled until 3:00. We drilled in squads and each of us had to take turns in commanding. I didn’t do bad or very good either. I don’t think I’ll ever make a good driller. At 3 we came in and changed to fatigues. Then at 15 to 4 we fell out and marched to the tennis courts and basketball fields. We had our choice of basketball or volleyball. I like basketball but I knew it was too hot to play such a fast game. I took the volleyball at which I was a complete flop. I can get the class work but they’ll find I’m a complete bust at these games, most of which I never played. Incidentally they say we will drill only once a week when classes start. They didn’t say how long though. Maybe it will seem better when we get into our permanent quarters and start regular classes. We played until 4:30. We came back and I grabbed a shower and put on clean socks. I can’t put on clean underwear as I have none. I washed the sweat off but it’s all back in a short time. I’m sitting here now with my shirt off and I can feel the water on my back. Incidentally my forehead, nose and especially the back of my neck feel pretty touchy from too much sun. I guess I didn’t burn my back much though. I changed to my suntans and we had a physical exam again at about 5. They asked if we had fevers or sore throats and looked at our chest and backs. I think they’re hunting measles. I loafed around until supper time. My shoes were red from playing in the dirt so I had a little trouble with them. I was near the end of the chow line so I sat down on the lawn under a tree and waited until the line shortened. I wasn’t going to stand in the sun and fry if I didn’t have to. It’s really nice here in the shade but in the sun it’s very hot yet the temperature is not so high as in Frisco. It’s the humidity. I wish I could wander around and look at the campus and town and the swell wooded hills all around. When we are released I’ll have too much work to do. Supper was beef, potatoes, gravy, tomatoes, little radishes (can you picture me eating radishes?), cake, biscuit, w.w. bread, butter and milk. After supper I came back here. Mail call was over but I didn’t get any anyway. I got mine this noon. Now I’m writing. I suppose tomorrow will be the same again. Saturday we have an inspection by the Colonel. I don’t know if we’ll have Sat. afternoon and Sunday off or not. If we do we’re still confined to barracks. I should shave but this shaving every day is making my face tender and besides there’s too many waiting to use the sinks now. Maybe I’ll wake up in time to get up early in the morning. There’s no drinking fountain in the gym. We have to go to the lobby and we can’t go out there without shirt and tie. I put some in my canteen, but it doesn’t stay cold. Now to your letter of Thurs. June 3. – That’s quite a graduating class. I know or know of some of them. The mail may have slowed up over the holiday. That’s why you got 3 at once. That makes air mail seem sort of useless though. If it’s as hot there as here I can see why dad is worn out. Why doesn’t Dad ride the buses or are they so crowded? I won’t sit up to write because I couldn’t if I wanted to. When lights go out we go to bed. It isn’t like the camp in Col.Sq. I really don’t know what the chem. engineering will lead to but it isn’t building bridges and roads that’s a cinch. I’m bound to learn some chemistry which I can use. Maybe I’ll like it better than straight chem. My buttons look awful now and my shoes don’t polish up right either. I need a buffing cloth. The one you sent to McCoy has ripped into several small pieces. I get a glow but no real shine. They need to be washed with saddle soap. I have lost about 7 pounds according to the last time I was weighed but its still 155 or 6 more than Pop. I can’t get the milk and ice cream here like at Sequoia. I can put the hand cream on my sunburn. It will cool it. I could and do get things but right now I’m where I can’t. I expect to be here 3 months and maybe 5 or 6 so this address will last awhile. I put just a couple drops of hair tonic on. My feet would smell but I wash them at least once a day. I really should have clean socks at least every 2 days. The same with underwear when it’s this hot. You remember how I sweat at the store last summer. I’ll be paid in full on June 30. I didn’t get the shoes. If you have a spare sugar stamp that no one is going to use don’t let it go to waste. Get a pair of 9 ½ or 10 oxfords, brown with plain toe either laced like the ones I have or with the buckle. Just a little large for Dad will fit me. I’ll pay for them. But if anyone needs it don’t do it. See. You have until June 30 on that stamp don’t you. I have to get these tapped if I can because the soles are shot. I can probably get a certificate here but it will take a little time. I wish you could do up my wash and patching. It wouldn’t cost me any more than laundry. $1.40 for what I had this time. It probably would have come and gone for $1.00 postage but it’s a little impractical from such a distance. I would complete the course if I went thru but I would not get a degree. I might get a commission but I doubt it. I guess I’m in Term I but I’ll be able to do work. I doubt if we basics will ever finish. They may take us out as soon as we get the main points mastered. I may be wrong on that. We work on the cadet system which means demerits for this and that. I’ll get plenty of them probably. I am not and never will be a good army man. I can learn the class work but I don’t give a rap for the rest. I wouldn’t have gotten the A in R.O.T.C. if they hadn’t marked solely on tests. The same goes in part for Phys. Ed. It was the final exam. Gramp’s memory is terrible. I think you know when you were born O.K. You ought to, you were there. I haven’t had a letter from Gram since May 17 that I can find anyway. Oh yes, here’s one I got June 1. It was postmarked May 27. Is that the one you mentioned? There is no swimming pool on this campus. There is one in town but I hardly think we’ll use it. You know I’ll get home as soon as I can. I wish it were right now and I mean it. Nate is a lucky guy if he doesn’t know it. A whole year in school makes quite a difference. The pre-meds are here as engineers though. That’s the army way.

Well that brings me up to date to 8 p.m. today. I think I’ll quit and take it easy the rest of the day. After I use up these air mail envelopes I’m going to use Free mail. I doubt if there is much difference from this distance. So for another day so long and take it easy. We just got another group of men in. This place is really full. Well good night.





Pretty crude but it’s entirely from memory.

[map sketch of the Midwest, with dotted line from Fayetteville to Lansing]

Just the Tops!

[Enclosed with a card – message “Happy Birthday, POPS! Pajamas have pants an’ a jacket! (Of course you know that Pops!) But I don’t need to send you BOTH – Because you’re just the “TOPS”!”]


June 8, 1943


Hi Dad,

I’m jumping the gun a little with this card but I guess it will be only about a week early. I have the date written down someplace. I think its June 20. I bought this card at the Stanford bookstore and carried [it] across the country with me. I hope you like it. I’m at the University of Arkansas but I don’t know yet how I’ll like it. Things are pretty confused yet. I hope it will go O.K. for me. I don’t want to have to wish I were back in Frisco. Well Pop I hope you have a nice Father’s Day and that you feel O.K.




Here Is I Again

This still isn’t my address for sure.


Monday, June 7, 1943

7:35 a.m. Central Time


Dear gang,

Here is I again. I’m bouncing along somewhere in Eastern Kansas headed for Kansas City. I finished your letter last night just before we got to Pueblo, Colo. We stopped there to unhook the diner so we had quite a bit of time. I went over to the depot and mailed your letter and then bought a couple folders. One shows pictures of Southern Colorado, the other shows the Royal Gorge with the Bridge and everything that I tried to describe as I saw. Pueblo is quite a large sized city with trolley cars, etc. We left there just before dusk. A short way out we passed another army camp but this was much smaller than the other. I learned that the big one was Camp Hale. From Pueblo on we hit the plains and left the mountains behind. As soon as it started to turn dark the porter began to make up the berths. There wasn’t anything to do so I washed up a little and went to bed at about 9:00. We passed through a fairly large town and then stopped at the next town while they repaired the water tank on a Pullman. The fellows were getting off so we jumped into our clothes and got off. It was La Junta, Colo. They didn’t have much but I did get a folder on Denver Mountain Parks. Some of these folders aren’t the exact places I’ve seen but they give a good idea of the type of places anyway. I got back on with my folder and went back to bed. I looked out a couple of times during the night but I could see only about 100 feet for fog. When they called us for breakfast my watch said 4:30 but we entered the Central time zone during the night so it was 5:30. I got up, dressed and washed and then went out on the platform. It was and still is very foggy although it is very slowly lifting. We stopped at the town of Newton, Kansas and ate breakfast in the station lunch room there. It was scrambled eggs, potatoes, fried corn meal, jelly, toast, butter and milk and an orange. After breakfast I bought a folder on Kansas and its capital and 3 cards. I sent one to you and have the rest here yet. Johnny found some card maps so he gave me one of those also. We were there quite awhile. We finally pulled out and I sat and looked out the window until the porter made up the seats. Then I started to write. We passed through Peabody and Strong City and stopped a couple of minutes at a nice little town called Emporia.  We just now went thru Lebo. I remember from literature that Emporia is the home of Wm. Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette and a famous journalist. You probably remember his son Bill White who used to report from Helsinki when the Russians invaded Finland. When we left there I came back to writing and here I am.

When I saw Kansas in Feb., I didn’t think it could ever look good to me but it does now. It’s the nearest thing to home and Mich. that I’ve seen in 5 months. It’s still flat although it is slightly rolling in places here. I am south of where I came thru before. But now the fields are green and the trees are leaved out and in places it looks just like a little corner of Michigan. The god forsaken appearance has disappeared for me. The fields are green with hay, corn, or wheat and cattle are all around. I guess I’m pretty clumsy at saying things but in plain words it looks swell to me. The mountains are beautiful and awesome but aside for seeing them on a vacation or trip I wouldn’t care to live there. I’ll take Michigan. The towns here are quite frequent. They are neater and better looking than the ones out west and they are something more than just railroad sidings. We used to say out west in Kansas but it doesn’t seem like the west to me. I guess my conception of distances has changed. Remember 53 miles to Cheboygan? We asked the girl in the restaurant how far it was to Kansas City. She said it was an awful long way. I suppose it was to her but 200 miles doesn’t seem like much anymore. We are really hitting it off now as you can see from my writing. We are to reach Kansas City in about 2 hours.

I now have a lot of folders and cards. I suppose I should have mailed them at the places I bought them so they would have the postmarks but I didn’t. For one thing I didn’t have stamps and also I didn’t have time to put the little arrows and remarks that I like on them. Johnny just said it seems good to see something besides palm and eucalyptus trees and I agree. The only tree I recognized in Calif. was the elm. We are going thru farm country that very easily could have been whacked out of Michigan and set in Kansas. Well I guess I’ve run down for now so I’ll stop for now and be back later. This will probably be mailed from Arkansas. 8:55

10:30. We’re 10 miles from Kansas City now. We’ve been rolling along pretty fast. We went through one section of woods and ferns and stuff on low rolling hills that sure was like Northern Mich. We’re out on flatter ground now and we are following the Missouri River. There are a lot of gravel pits along the river and the towns are getting closer together. The gardens are pretty far along out here. The tom. plants are real large and the spuds are in blossom. We’re in a big R.R. yard now so Kansas City must be close. Off at 10:35.

5:00 p.m. Sitting in the Kansas City yards waiting to leave. It will be pretty late when we hit Arkansas now. We got in here right after I quit writing. We got off the train and lined up and walked over to a lunch room in the basement of the station. For dinner we had tomato juice, salad, potatoes, peas, buns, butter, milk and cake with lemon sherbet. After eating they took us upstairs to the lobby and told us to be back there at 3:45. Johnny and I headed downtown. It was quite a walk. We stopped in a barber shop and got our hair cut. I hadn’t had one for close to two months. I got gypped I think. Haircuts are 65 cents. He asked if I wanted anything on it. I thought he meant to dampen it a little so I said yes. The guy put some goo on and gave me a massage and it cost 90 cents. From now on I don’t want anything but a plain haircut. From there we went on downtown and looked around in several dime stores and just walked around. I got a pennant and some cards and a folder. We were going to go to a show to see Gildersleeve but it didn’t end until 3:42 so we knew we wouldn’t have time. We started back and I got me a shirt on the way back. I figured if we wear suntans I’ll need another shirt so I bought one. – $3.01 with tax. The tax here is by mils. They have little tokens they use for tax. Johnny got a handful in his change and he gave me one. He got a shirt and belt buckle in another store and then we came back here at about 2 or so. We looked around at all the stores and shops in the station and then we went across the street to explore the Liberty Memorial Building. I bought some pictures of it so you’ll see a little of what it’s like. It is really a joke now because it is a huge memorial to the peace of World War I. In the middle is the tower which we didn’t go up. The city was covered with smoke and haze so we didn’t figure we could see much. We did explore the buildings on each side. One is a sort of church. The other is a museum of clippings and odds and ends of the war. We spent some time there and left at about 3. By then it was beginning to rain a little. We went back to the station and looked around. There is a book store, a drug store, a toy shop, a lunch room etc. in the huge station. We wandered around and I got a few cards and another folder. I also bought a couple of little trinkets for you which I’ll mail later. I don’t like them as well as I thought I did but I think you’ll like them maybe. I hope so. We’re moving out now. I’ve added a new state to my list – Missouri. I’ve got a lot of stuff to send home now. I don’t know just when I’ll send it but I’ll do it as soon as I can. We’re angling south now so this is the closest I got to home. Arkansas here we come. We waited around the station until 3:45. Then they got us together and we went down to supper. It was grape juice, salad, turkey, macaroni, peas, bread, butter, milk, and cake with sherbet again. Then we got together and they counted us to see if we were all here. We got on the train and here I am. I’ve got to watch how I spend for awhile. I wasn’t paid so I’ve got to make it last until July 1. I have 30 bucks now. I had 43 when I hit Stanford 2 weeks ago. I spent 5 today and the other 8 went here and there for candy, ice cream, stamps, shaving cream and this and that. I broke one 5 since I started this trip but it’s gone for cards, folders, etc. etc. I really don’t mind because I don’t go on these kind of trips very often. I’d have plenty of money if I get paid. I’ll get 93.50 next month I hope. I’ll make what I’ve got last O.K. I think. I don’t want to draw on what little I had saved because it had a purpose. We are going thru a moderately woodsy sector now a lot like parts of Michigan. It will be very late when I get to Arkansas so I may not write any then. I’ll leave this open and may add an ending tonight or it the morning. Right now I guess I’ve covered everything except I don’t care for Kansas City very much either. So for now I’m signing off at about 6 p.m. somewhere in Missouri.

Back at 8 p.m. somewhere in a freight yd. in Kans. or Missouri. We’ve been going along the state lines so I don’t know which one we’re in. We won’t get there until about 6 a.m., so I am going to finish this and mail it. I hear we make to [two] changes and stopovers. It sounds to me as if Fayetteville will be a hard place to get into and out of. It will take a lot of time off a leave. Well I’ll quit for Monday June 7. I’ll try to mail this tonight yet.