All This Formality and Crap

Monday June 14, 1943

7:45 a.m.


Dear folks,

I’ll write until I have to fall out for something. Last night after I finished your letter I read a little. I saw a fellow going to the field house to mail a stack of letters so I gave him mine. There is a large box over there. This morning the small box here, like the one on Elm & Cedar, was jammed full and there was a Gerber baby food carton full on the ground besides. I went over to Johnny’s apartment of [for] awhile. They were having a bed check at 8 so I came back here. I read some more, and played on my harmonica for awhile. Finally I took a shower and went to bed. It thundered and lightninged a lot last night but it cleared away without raining. I woke up this morning and looked at my watch. It said 10 to 6 so I got up. The fellows were all up in the other rooms. The charge of quarters is supposed to turn on the lights in each room at 5:45 and wake them but I guess he skipped us. I dressed, splashed a little cool water in my face and smoothed out my bed before reveille. After reveille I had to tear my bed apart because instead of making it now we have to fold all the bedding and pile it up on the head of the bed. Then while the other fellow swept, I dusted and wiped off the mirror, etc. If never before, I now appreciate the value of using door nobs. All the doors are ivory and you know how fingerprints show on that. I can see that will be a daily job – washing woodwork. We fell out for breakfast at 5:45 but by the time I waited through the line and ate it was 7:30. I had scrambled eggs, toast, butter, Krumbles, milk, and an orange. Then I came back here and dusted my shoes to go under the bed. I gave a brushing to the ones I have on and we finished up the room. Fall out somebody says at 8 a.m.

Back at 10:10. I wrote on this then until 8. We fell out and were formed into platoons with our own cadet officers. Then at about 8:30 we started drilling. We marched until 9:30. Then they told us a few things and sent us back to get ready for an inspection. I have the room pretty well in order I guess so I’m writing while we wait. They say they will try to get us out next weekend. If this isn’t the screwiest deal I ever saw. There isn’t a thing to have to stay in all weekend for. We have no studying to do as yet. We probably won’t start classes till next week. Another group has just come in from Stanford. The latest Stanford group went to Ohio State. Maybe in a few days I’ll be more cheerful but they are treating us like a bunch of rookies. They tell us every time we turn around that we are all considered future officers. Maybe because as near as I can tell this is modeled on O.C.S. It’s supposed to be an organization with our own Cadet officers. Most of them are the boys who had stripes when they came. I’m not kicking because I think I should be one. I know I can’t drill a group of men. I didn’t come here for all that junk anyway. I came to study and learn but that appears to be only secondary from what I have seen or heard. We are still waiting for the inspection. It probably won’t come off like the rest. I hear there is a huge stack of mail from over the weekend. I hope I get some. Well I guess I’ll quit for awhile at 10:30.

Back at 11:45. I was reading some more dog stories when somebody yelled mail call. I thought it was a joke because mail call is supposed to be at 12:45 but I went down and there was a huge accumulation of mail from over the weekend. I got the Fri. June 4 letter and the big one – June 5-11. I also got a card from Julius which had gone from Frisco to Stanford, to here. Then there was a short letter from Bart forwarded here. He answered much better than I thought. Most fellows say they’ll write but don’t. So for the last 45 minutes or so I’ve been deep in that 28 page letter. Those letters probably came in yesterday so I can’t judge the speed very well. It’s about 2 days by air mail and from what you said free mail goes just as fast. I think we may as well use regular mail. It will cut your postage in half and erase mine. What do you think? Anyway lets both do the same. Now I’ll have some mail to answer and something to do. There still hasn’t been any inspection but we’ll probably have to play ball or something this afternoon. I still say we could just as well have had this week off because we are just passing away time until things really start. But I guess the Colonel is a little more important that I am (yet).

Julius sent a very pretty card of mountains and rivers. The mts. are about like the Ozarks – rolling and covered with trees.  He wants my address which I have already sent. He got A’s in Chem. and physics. He is taking calculus and mechanism in summer school. Evidently the army has forgotten him. I wonder how some fellows stay out so long as they do. I got a kick out of Bart’s letter. He said he was on the graveyard shift and writing to stay awake. I judged my successor rightly I guess. Bart and Haxton both wish I were back. The new fellow thinks that in 2 weeks he knows more than either or both of them. Bart says personally he doesn’t care for him. I didn’t either and I only saw him one day. The new system is in effect but he says it is harder to read than the old one. I just noticed the letter is dated April 7. He must have been pretty sleepy. He says now that I’m not there he’ll have to buy a dictionary. Bart is a funny guy in a lot of ways but I like him. He’s quiet but nobody’s dope.

Now to your letters. First Fri. June 4. – Nate won’t be out much longer. As if he were the only one who wishes the war would end. He has time for things he really wants to do the same as I had at school. I sent him this address but I won’t write unless he writes to me. Palo Alto is about 15,000 people and about a mile from Stanford. You figured out S.O.S. O.K. You got the idea. The muskmelons were pretty good. I wish I could dig into watermelons like I did last year. We had a broken one very day it seemed. When I think of the spirit I had last year and then look at myself now there’s no comparison. We have no chambermaids. This is the army! Ginger bread is O.K. I like it quite well. I haven’t had my brain crowded much yet. All we’ve had is hup, two, tree, fo,——. I think my nerves will hold up O.K. I have no bathing trunks so I was in the water without them. (Dinner at 12:30)

Back at 4:45. I went to dinner. I had spaghetti, red beans, salad, bread, butter, milk and chocolate pudding. Then I came back and put on my fatigues. At 1:30 we fell out for athletics for two hours. I played volley ball all afternoon. At 3:30 or so we came back here. I brushed half of Arkansas off my shoes and then polished them. Then I took a good shower and except for clean socks put my dirty clothes on. I should get my laundry this afternoon. Then if I send my suntan pants to the cleaners they should be back before Saturday. In that way I guess I’ll be set for inspection. Now back to your letter. Nobody laughed because I waited too long before running. They wouldn’t have made us go in with a cold. They warned us to get out if we felt chilled. There is a sick call every morning for fellows to go to if they don’t feel well. I doubt if you could get those glasses put in these kinds of frames. These are [sketch of glasses] whereas the others were [sketch of different shape glasses]. They would have to make a whole new set of glasses. I believe I would like a set with their rims for dress as you say although one feels funny when he changes. It ought to be cheaper to get those repaired than to get a new set made. I don’t think they would bother to grind the glasses to fit a different frame. Anyway I could use another pair. These probably won’t be broken but it’s a good idea to have 2 pr. just in case. If you get plastic ones they will just throw those away and it seems to me as if a new nose piece could be put on and they would be O.K. again. You do whatever seems best to you. You’re there and I’m not but let me know what it costs. See. Dad better keep his dollars. I got a good enough pennant for 50 cents. The books were issued to us free. After all it’s part of our equipment. The payroll is usually signed on the 15th. We’ve turned in our pay books and they promised us every cent we have coming up to July 1 on June 30. That will give me over 90 bucks plus whatever I’ll have left. I’d have plenty if I’d been paid. I don’t know anything about the new income tax setup but I hope I get some back. Maybe you will too. That covers the Friday June 4 letter. Lomax must be approaching 18 if you know what I mean.

I tried to go get my laundry before supper before the crowd but the C.Q. said we couldn’t go. If this isn’t the screwiest, nonsensical, downright crazy, idiotic, and moronic system I ever saw I don’t want to see any other. They treat us like a bunch of prisoners so help me.

Now to the big letter – Sat. June 5 – I’m a lot nearer home yet the mail goes no faster. You got my Tues. letter on Fri. the same as from Frisco. I guess we’re lost in the sticks. Don’t let Dad run off down here too soon. In the first place the only time I might (I emphasize might because demerits etc. could make a difference) be off is on Saturday from about 2 until 10 and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. We can’t stay out overnight. They do in other schools but we are an exception. Then again it’s a long trip down here and I don’t know how hotel space here would be or anything like that. Train accommodations are pretty lousy now. This is undoubtedly one of the hardest places to get in and out of. Sun. June 6 – Does dad have to use ration coupons for work shoes or does he get an order from his boss. I’d rather be back in the store I think than being a soldier in civilian clothes. The big mountains aren’t between us now but some mighty punk railroads are. Dad needs a good diet and plenty of rest. Union meetings, council meetings, he really is on the go. I don’t expect to celebrate the 4th. We’ve been here a week and can’t even walk on the campus yet. I think myself that the young doctor is better. Calif. is terribly damp in spots and that isn’t good for sinus. There is no pool on the campus so I guess the swimming is out for awhile. Stanford had a really swell pool. It was better than M.S.C. I guess little George will get his share of K.P. and the rest whether he did or didn’t like it at home. I think they should put men where they are fitted. Hugh picked his job and got it.

Back at 6:50. I fell out and marched to supper. It was potato, dressing, gravy, spinach, pickled beets, w.w. bread, butter, cake and milk. After supper I signed out and went after my laundry. It won’t be back until tomorrow or Wed. If I send out this set of suntans I’m wearing so they’ll be back by Saturday I’ll have to wear wool O.D.’s and I sweat enough as it is. This shirt I’m wearing will be so dirty they’ll never get it clean. I notice a snag on the sleeve too. I guess the best thing for me to do is send them to the dry cleaners instead of laundry. They cost more but come back in 3 days or so. I think I’ll send these out tomorrow. Then I’ll wear O.D.’s for 3 days. These should be back by Sat. so I’ll have 2 clean sets and once I get started I may be able to keep it going O.K. It takes a lot of planning but if the company doesn’t come through we are up a limb. What a life. Now I’m back so I’ll go on where I left off with the letter. Now to Mon. June 7 – I’m glad you got the cards O.K. and I thought you’d like them. I don’t suppose they have them here but then they might. How do those pictures of soldiers get into the paper? Aren’t they sent in? I mean the Journal doesn’t hunt around for all that. It’s sent to them. I’ll probably like the work but I don’t like the methods. The people here have a prominent drawl and “you all” to their talk but I sort of like it. I’ll be talking the same way in a few weeks maybe. I guess Jan 2, 1943 is a date we’ll remember quite awhile but it’s not so important as some others. I guess by now I’ve answered your question if this is a warm state. I imagine though that it gets cold here in the winter. Now Tues. June 8 – I just took time out to watch the air corps boys march and sing. It must be a graduation or something. I’m glad I have seen things but I still would rather have stayed at home. So you sent the mail order out. Then maybe I’ll be getting some things in a week or so. I imagine a parcel will take 3 days. I have been thinking of that laundry idea and it doesn’t sound so bad. I could get a laundry bag (about 3 of them) to send the stuff in. That would eliminate boxes and string and stuff which I wouldn’t have. I could send it out on Sat. You’d get it Tues. Then say on the next Mon. you’d send it back. I’d have it by Fri. In the meantime I would have sent some more on the next Sat. That would make 3 bunches. If I got enough stuff I could do it O.K. I’d send my uniforms to the cleaners. You could handle underwear, socks, towels, hankies, wash cloths, fatigues, and the like. After the first week you’d be sending some to me on Monday and getting more on Tues. I’d get it on Thurs. or Fri. and send on Sat. Once it got rolling it ought to work. Maybe we’ll try it. I don’t know how the cost would run. The blimp is like the Akron and others the Navy used to have. I’ve kept the pennant flat but the one from Kansas City is a little wrinkled. I don’t play as well as I used to because I don’t keep in practice. I wonder if Walt really learned. I’ve learned a few tunes I didn’t play before. Johnny is German I believe. There is one thing wrong with him – he’s married. It doesn’t seem possible. He’s too much of a kid himself. He has a Thorens something like mine only not plastic. The way things are run around there we probably won’t get any time off at all. We could have had this week off. I never thought Miss Scott would get married. I’m glad for Walt that he could get to Illinois. I wonder if he has any stripes yet. He’ll probably get them. Wed. June 9 – That makes all the cards I sent from California. I have a bunch of cards and folders to send soon. I wrote on the train with the window curtains down and the lights on. Then I turned off the lights, closed the curtains on the berth and pulled up the window shades to look out. I never heard about the zoot suit gangs until I left Cal. I guess most of them are in L.A. They are just kids who think they are somebody because they are the oldest ones still out of the army. 160 of us came all the way from Frisco here without an officer in charge. We had just a buck sgt., one of the boys. A line to the mess hall whether it’s in a station or where is habitual in the army. Wherever we see a line after we get out we’ll automatically get on the end. I hate to think what will happen when kids blow whistles. That boat ride was I believe the smoothest ride I ever had. I compares with Mac’s hydramatic. Boy that drove smooth too. I guess I didn’t gain anything by mailing that letter in Imlay, not even a post mark. I have a lot more cards I hope you’ll enjoy. Thurs. June 10 – You should have seen the boys scratch fleas at Columbia Sq. About 2/3’s of them had fleas in their bedding. They would lay it on the grass to sun or to lie on and I think that’s where they got the fleas. I never had them bother me. Well a flag on the house too. Does it go up at reveille and down at retreat. Retreat is at 5:15 p.m. Didn’t you think I was still a kid? I always will be as long as I can. I’ll probably have to get another haircut. We are supposed to get one every week. I think I’ll get a butch and then I won’t need to bother. I was never drafted before. Next time I’ll know what to expect. If I thought there would be a next time, I believe I’d go over the hill and head for Guatemala or someplace. Fri. June 11 – Since my air mail to you and the free mail to Dad got there together I think I’ll use free mail for awhile. The service in air mail is no better than at Frisco. I sent Pop the Father’s Day card because I wanted to. It was a bit early but I guess that won’t matter too much. There. That answers your letters and catches me up thru last Thurs. and part of Fri. I ought to get another letter tomorrow unless you wrote a combined letter over the weekend. I’ll be glad when I get all my mail coming direct. Everybody has my address by now so it shouldn’t be long. I sent it out Tues. & Wed. of last week. You got mail on Fri. so by now even the farthest ones have gotten it. Tonight there was no mail call but my room mate found a letter for me at the desk. I guess there were a very few. It was from Pvt. Fred Kircher at Ft. Custer. He is at the station hospital. They’re given his leg the once over and he is going to get a C.D.D. (Disability Discharge), we call it a Section 8. You see he is a member of the E.R.C. and has to have a discharge in order to get out. I believe I’d rather be here than have the leg he must have by now. He had been there 11 days on June 5. He wants to get to summer school at Bay View June 28th. Boy what I’d give to be up there again. Even the army would be pleasant there. He mentions a P.X., Red + canteen, pianos, radios, & library so I guess he finds enough to do. 6 months after his discharge he is eligible for the draft. I can’t see that. Nate’s brother got a section 8 and is still on the loose so far as I know. That’s my mail today – 4 letters and a card. I’ll dash off letters to Fred, Julius, and Leldon (Bart – his real name is Leldon Eugene Bartlett) maybe tonight before I go to bed. We may start classes in a day or so and then I won’t have too much time to write. I guess you’ve probably noticed from my letters lately that I’ve felt a little low. Those letters from home today, especially the 28 page one helped a lot. Once we get the real work maybe it will be O.K. If you send a box please throw in a good big shoe polishing rag. Maybe I can buy one here in town but nobody knows when I’ll get there and I guess we are on the merit (mostly demerit) system now. That’s the part I’m going to like the least about this. If we’re here to learn and to specialize why throw in all this formality and crap of the old peacetime army. I’ll admit it looks good but it still wastes valuable time. I don’t know what our schedule will be but if [is] going to be tough I’m thinking without having to measure the fold on our bed and all that old foolishness.

Well I guess I’ve run down for tonight. I have 7 pages of paper left. If I write to the 3 boys tonight, it will leave me just 4 sheets. I have quite a few envelopes and a notebook so I can tear out sheets and write on that until I get some paper. They are getting some stuff for us from town tonight but I doubt if I’ll be able to get any. Well I’ll call it quits. This may be the last really long letter for awhile if classes start. Anyway we’re both caught up. Write as you always have. Take it easy.



Buck, Woody, Arkie


Just plain Son


I think I’ll save those stamps until I hear whether it will really make much difference.

Share your thoughts