I Didn’t Throw the Vicks Away

Wednesday February 24, 1943

About 9 in the morning


Dear folks,

Well here I am. I got to bed at 10:00 last night and they got us up at 6:00 this morning. I dressed, washed, and made up my bed & dusted my shoes before we fell out for roll call at about 6:25. Then I came back to the barracks till breakfast. I had 2 eggs fried, a box (bowl) of Kellogg’s Wheat Pops and a slice of toast with about 3 pieces of butter. That is the first time I ever saw Kellogg’s Wheat Pops. They must be something new but they are like Quaker Puffed Wheat. Shortly after breakfast we went over to the office and the Battery Commander told us what he liked and didn’t like as they usually do. Tom Brenneman just came on with Breakfast at Sardi’s. Then the Lieut. told us the different jobs there were and gave us a chance to take our choice somewhat. I couldn’t qualify for the range finder or director because they are optical instruments and they need men with perfect eyes. I know no radio so I was out so far as 268 goes. 268 is some secret weapon which is highly technical. I asked for the clerk job but we have a former Co. clerk so he got that and there was another kid with 2 yrs. college & 2 ½ years of clerk experience. He went to Regimental Hdq. for personnel work. Another fellow had been stock clerk 3 years so he got in supplies. I’ve never done any work to get experience in anything they can use. I’ve studied a lot of stuff but I didn’t have time to specialize. I know nothing about motors so I couldn’t get in power plant work. I can’t cook and I don’t drive trucks so here I am. He assigned each of us to something for the next week. Then if there is something else we can do better we will be put on that. For now I am assigned to a 90mm. gun. They don’t leave a person out of the army long enough to learn a job or get any experience. I don’t know if I’ll be on the guns for good or not, but there eyes aren’t so important. The directors and height finders take care of all the eye work. When the lieutenant finished talking the first sgt. said a few things to us too. We have to build ourselves foot lockers & wall lockers by next Mon. morning. The wall locker is a box with shelves nailed in and stood on end. It is to put toilet articles, etc. in. The foot locker is a small trunk like with a cover. It is to keep our clothes in. They have cases which we can tear apart and use for lumber. Boy I bet mine will be good and straight. What do you think? They tell us we have to learn all we can because the regular service men will be moving out and we will take their places. We in turn will have to instruct the new men who come in. The 1st sgt. seemed to think that if we don’t get ratings (cpl. or sgt.) it will be our own fault. Right now I don’t care whether I get [to] be anything above private or not. A private doesn’t have many responsibilities. Later in the day I may feel more progressive and decide I’ll get to be sgt. I still doubt if West is a sgt. yet. I have been told that ratings aren’t given until a person completes basic which in his case would be 13 weeks. He has had about 7.

Back again about dinner time. When they got through talking to us we came to the barracks and I began to write. Then I had to break off and went outside. Four of us were told to report to the mess sgt. I told myself that I might have known it. K.P. the first day. It wasn’t as I thought though. I worked about 2 hrs. or so. I piled old lumber and boxes, picked up paper and trash from the ground, mopped in the kitchen and picked up more junk and trash and put wood on the fire under the hot water for washing our silverware after we eat. Now I am back in the barracks waiting for dinner. This afternoon they are going to take us into Benicia four at a time to get haircuts. We haven’t had any since we left McCoy. Mine isn’t bad but I may as well get it cut now and then I won’t have to do it on my own time. They have a barber shop here at the P.X. and a barber but he has no instruments to work with. I hope I can get to a drugstore or something but I don’t suppose I will. Well I’ll stop for now and be back later.

Back again after dinner. Four fellows have gone in after hair cuts and the rest of us are here in the barracks. I guess we are supposed to stay here until our turn comes. I will go in the third group. Dinner was pretty good. I had potatoes, gravy, carrots, green string beans, salad, bread, butter, and plums. We have dishes here, cups, bowls and plates. All we have to use is our own silverware. The dishes were bought by the fellows themselves and we each have to put up $1 towards some more. The big problem for me will be to build my foot and wall lockers. I am no carpenter as you know but maybe I can get it done O.K.

Back now after supper quite awhile. I was pleasantly surprised to get 2 letters this noon. One was that long lost letter of Feb. 5, the other was from Hugh and was one of these good luck chain letters. My faith in the postal system has been restored and this mail has helped to fill the gap until my mail catches up with me again. I don’t know whether I’ll bother with that chain letter but I suppose I will. I was just finished with reading them when I was told to go out. They took 3 of us with another gang and at 1 o’clock we went out to the gun positions. We were there an hour. We 3 knew nothing about it so we stood back and watched while the rest practiced. We were given some basic information about the gun and then the others practiced with a dummy shell. I don’t know how much I dare say about the guns positions. They are a short distance from our camp and are on a high hill overlooking an arm of the bay. It is rather windy up there but the view is nice. There is a railroad track down below and the train looked real cute going across a long bridge. There are rolling green mountains all around. They are building concrete underground quarters for the men right at the gun positions and eventually they will live right there. After we finished out there we came back to the camp. From the hills I could see concrete doors all over the hillsides in the distance. They lead to an underground arsenal which must honeycomb those hills for a great distance. That and the navy yard at Vallejo are the reason for us and the guns being here I guess. We were in camp a few minutes and then they took about 8 of us in a truck into town to get hair cuts. We were there about 3 hours in all. First I got my hair cut. That didn’t take long. Then I had a lot of time left so I looked the town over. It isn’t much of a town. I would have felt better if I had had my O.D. uniform on. I had my dirty fatigues and that old “Joe College” fatigue hat but I saw all I wanted anyhow. The town is about 8,000 and most of the buildings are pretty old. I walked around and saw all I wanted to. I was in 2 jewelry stores but couldn’t get my watch fixed in either. I spent about $1.96 altogether.


Haircut                                   .75

Book- Mission to Moscow  .25

1 cent cards                            .25

Scenery cards                         .20

Other                                      .19

Candy bar                              .05

Eraser                                     .05

Piece of ice cream                  .05

Pie & ice cream                      .16

Weight                                    .01



I was really extravagant wasn’t I? I got my hair cut quite short but it is warm here and I won’t have to bother so often. They really soaked it to us at 75 cents. I bought the book, eraser, and some of the cards at a little variety store. I had always intended to buy a bound copy of the book (it was $1.89) but this is the first I’ve seen it in the pocket book edition so I grabbed it. I have nothing to erase with so I bought a small eraser. Of course you know why I bought the cards. They aren’t very good though and I haven’t seen any [of] the things in the pictures as yet. I bought the penny cards to send out to people to give them my new address. I have no more but 2 of those free cards and I didn’t want to take time to write letters to everyone. The other cards mentioned you will get by free mail and I’ll leave them as a surprise to you. I hope you like them. You watch the mail very closely. There that ought to put you in suspense. I bought the candy bar “Old Nick” in a drug store. They sell only one to a customer. I weighed myself and clothes and all, its 154 so I guess I am the same as when I came into the Army. I bought the square of ice cream from a vendor with a cart. I tried to get some in one drug store but the fountain was out of order. I got the apple pie a la mode in a bakery with a fountain. It was very good too. If I had had a spoon with me I would have bought a pint of ice cream. All in all I had a fairly nice afternoon. This was the first time I have been on a street since Jan. 2. I was off the train once or twice but I didn’t go anywhere. The rest of the time I have spent in a camp. It seemed pretty good to be free for a little while but it makes me feel a little funny when I see shoes and sport shirts and pants and sports jackets and things which I would like to buy but can’t wear in the windows. There are two theatres in town which show not very new pictures. They are 2 months behind the Michigan back in good old Lansing. So far as I am concerned there is nothing in Benicia that I care about except the shows. One or maybe two nights a week will probably be plenty for me. I wish I could go see Fibber & Molly & Charlie McCarthy Sat. but I can’t. We left town about 5:20 I guess when they got everyone rounded up out of the beer garden. An old lady who ran a beauty parlor gave a couple of us a big stack of magazines from her shop and I was in the truck looking at them when the others got there. We got back to camp when supper was over but I hurried over and got plenty for myself. I got potatoes, spinach, corn, salad, bread, and doughnuts. And here I am. I find that when I write during the day like I have today, my letters are longer because I have more time to think of the things I want to say. I doubt if we will have much spare time. Besides our training we will have alerts at dawn and at dusk every night so that will take more of my letter writing time. I’ll write though if I have to get a flashlight and write under the covers at night. Well that’s a pretty good coverage of my day’s activities. Now to your letter of Feb. 4 postmarked at Lansing Feb. 5 – 11:30 a.m. and at McCoy Feb. 8 – 4 p.m. I hope the mail deliveries keep steady so you will get a letter every day. When you get 2 letters you will have to save one for the next day. Kay Kyser is on now. Are you listenin? Most of the things you asked then are probably answered for you by now. That’s good service, boy. 20 days from Mich. to Cal. I hope my next graduation will include a diploma. I could have got the money order for my tax today but it was in my money belt yet when I was in town. I doubt if we will be paid although Mon. is pay day. We haven’t signed the pay roll this month. I didn’t throw the Vicks away. I always like to be depended on even if I did make a lot of noise about things. I still have my pennants. Boy that makes milk 14 cents doesn’t it? There is a 3% sales tax out here and it starts on 15 cents. I would surely like to get home for Oct. If they give them by regular order I will get it when my turn comes. Why don’t you use the new oil mop? Or don’t you like it? I bought it for you to use. Don’t fear, I’ll always like your food better than any other. I will be glad to go to a good show. Well that is that for today and today’s mail. I will call this a letter. It’s only 4 pages but I think it is equal to about 10 or 12 of your size page. These pages are large and I have written very small. I have twice as many lines per page and the pages are twice as big. I hope you are getting these letters O.K. So far as I know now I will be stuck here for the duration so keep the mailman busy. I’ll write as much as I can. So long till next time.


Love to you all,


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