To My Chemist’s Eye

Tuesday, Feb. 2, 1943

About 3:30 p.m.


Dear folks,

Well I’m on my way. At the present time we are sitting in the railroad yards at Winona, Minn. We just crossed the Mississippi River. It isn’t very wide right here.

I was up about 6:30 this morning and had breakfast at the usual time. I had oatmeal, grapefruit and creamed beef on toast. After breakfast I finished packing and then we loafed around till about 9:00 when we took our rifles back. After that there was nothing doing till about 11:00. Then we took our sheets and pillowcases and our overshoes back. They had early mail call and all I got was a letter from Walt. Your Sat. letter came Monday so I probably wasn’t due for one from you folks. Any that you wrote since Sat. will have to be forwarded. We got our dinner early too, right off the stove. I had potatoes, beef, rhutabagas [sic], bread, and butter and 2 pieces of apple pie. Shortly after dinner we left. Boy my barracks bag weighed plenty and so did my grip. I was just about done out when I got to the place we were to gather. It was between ½ to ¾ of a mile. There we got on trucks and were taken to the R.R. yards of the camp. I saw more of the camp then than I have anytime while I was there. It really is a huge place. We are on Pullman cars so I guess California is a pretty good guess of where we’re going. I know it’s going to be a long way. We left Camp and went through Sparta and several other small towns before we got to Winona where we are now. I think you’ll remember this is where our milk came from.

The view is not so good because the windows are double and dirty as the dickens. We have passed some huge hills but they’ll seem pretty small when we get to the Rockies. There are 4 cars on our train and several fellows from our barracks. There are 8 or 10 from Lansing. There is a real large bridge across the Miss. here and this is quite a railroad town. There are lots of tracks.

We’re moving again now. There is a huge range of hills off the north, I guess it is. There is a lot of calculating of which way we are going and where we’ll end up. You want to keep track of the states I go through. On my way to McCoy I hit Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Now I am in Minnesota. I’ll sure pass a lot of country but I don’t know how much I’ll see.

Back again. It’s nearly dark and we are in Waseca, Minn. We haven’t been going too fast. That range of hills really got high. There was one place where the place for the tracks seemed to be chiseled out of solid rock. These hills are all rock. It looks like limestone to my chemist’s eye, CaCO3. After awhile the country began to flatten out and there aren’t many hills anymore. We went through Rochester, Minn., home of the Mayo Clinic, at 5:15. We have gone through several small towns which I can’t remember.

We are moving again. Our supper was pretty slim. We hook on to a diner in the morning but tonight we had 2 sandwiches and the jam was pretty thin. I still had one package of cookies so they helped and my candy bars too. I just took a walk the length of the 4 cars with another fellow. His name is Carlson. He is a Swede from Detroit and before that from upper Mich.

There’s not much I can say about the country so far. It’s pretty regular except for that one range of hills which are mountains to you and me. I expect that we won’t get there till Friday.

Happy Ground Hog Day. If he came out he sure saw his shadow because the sun shone all day. The snow here in Minn. has been pretty deep judging by the piles plowed back along the roads. The roads look pretty good and the pavements are all cleaned off. The temperature here on the train was 80 when we got on but it’s a lot more comfortable now. I hope it’s not too hot where I’m going because I still have my woolen underwear and socks on. My summer stuff is in the bottom of my bag.

Well we’ve stopped again for something out here in the country, but not for long. We’re moving off and I guess there isn’t much more to tell tonight so I’ll quit till next time.


Wed. Feb. 3, 1943

About 6:45 a.m.


Dear folks,

Well if I had thought, I could have mailed this letter this morning. After I quit writing, I read on The Good Earth. We got to bed at about 9 I guess. I slept down below. It’s not too bad. We’ve got 2 more nights.

When I woke up we were in Omaha, Nebraska. We got up about 5:30 I guess and I washed and dressed. Then we went outside the train and did a few exercises to loosen us up. After that we all went up into the beautiful station for breakfast. It was swell. I had cereal, tomato juice, milk, tea biscuits and butter, potatoes, and good scrambled eggs. After breakfast I stopped at the souvenir counter. It cost me 35 cents for a pennant but I may never be in Omaha again so I bought it. It will be in pretty bad shape when I get it home. I started to buy some cards but I saw that they had folders so I put back the cards which were in the folders and ended up buying 2 cards and 2 folders. Total in Omaha 70 cents. I could just as well have mailed the cards too but I didn’t have 1 ½ cent stamps.

We are moving off pretty fast now but it’s still pitch dark out. I wish it had been day so I could have seen the city a little. The card showing the interior of the station is the place where I was and that’s all I saw of Omaha. Gee I wish I could take this trip by car and enjoy seeing everything. Well I’ll be back when I have more to say.

It’s getting light off to one side now. We must be going southwest. The fellows have guessed at everything from Kansas, Utah, Texas, and Arizona up but I still think we’ll be pretty close to San Francisco when we end up. I can see a little now and there isn’t much snow anymore. It rained in the night. I’m not too sure but I think we cut through the corner of Iowa during the night so add 2 more states, Iowa and Nebraska to the list. I hope we hit Denver in the daytime. It’s getting light fast now and we must be on the great prairies. The trees just aren’t. I hope you can read this. I’m bouncing around a lot but I’m still writing every day. See. I’ll try to mail this and the Omaha folders the next time I get off. They won’t be postmarked Omaha but that won’t matter too much so long as you get them. I put 3 cent stamps on so I wrote something in each to get my money’s worth. Those stamps dad got me are coming in handy now.

We just went through a station called Prairie Home and whoever named it wasn’t kidding. The houses are miles apart it seems. Just passed through Havelock. We are running parallel to a paved highway. Looking out it looks like Mich. would appear in March or early April. The roads are all good. We just passed the state fair grounds and are coming to a stop in Lincoln, Neb.

I don’t know how this letter will sound as I just jot things down as I think of them.

Lincoln is a pretty good sized place. There is one big building sticking up all by itself about the size of the Olds Tower and if my memory serves me right it looks just like pictures I’ve seen of the Nebr. state capital. It looks out of place all by itself. Time – 8:45 a.m. Boy it sure looks muddy out. We just passed some TENNIS courts. Most of the fellows are reading or playing cards but I can’t read when it’s daylight. I want to see everything. A few are writing like I am. Time out.

Latest towns are Plymouth and Jansen. Nothing but prairie. I just saw a Peter Pan bread sign along the highway. Now we’re stopped for some reason out here in the country. We’re moving off again now. We are going to pick up a diner somewhere along the line. I’d rather they would let us eat at some station. Then I could get off and get some cards or stuff. I’ll be back when I see something interesting again.

Now we’re stopped in a town called Fairbury, still in Nebraska. Well I got out for a few minutes and got a little fresh air while they took on water or something. I was out about 5 minutes. It is just like spring out. An old fellow told us they have snow but it doesn’t last and it never gets below 20 below here. It sure seems good to see grass again even if it isn’t green. It seems unusually warm but I imagine this whole part of the country is having warmer weather because it was starting to warm up when we left McCoy. Well we’re off again. We just passed a small sized dam. Gee I wish I could take pictures of what I see so you could get an idea of what it’s all like. Those scenery cards at McCoy were the best I’ve ever run across.

We pass a lot of fields with the corn stalks still standing from last summer but they are just as short as the ones in Mich. I can see only what’s on my side of the train because the sun is on the other side and makes reflections on the glass. I’ve been lucky tho. All the depots are on my side of the tracks. I am in the first coach and there is one refrigerator car between us and the engine. If it’s the same engine we had in Omaha, it’s a big baby. All of these larger towns, 10,000 or so, have huge railroad yards larger than anything I’ve seen in Mich. It must be for the wheat and corn and cattle & stuff. The yards are all busy too.

Boy some of these little country roads are a mess. Now we’re stopped in Bellville Kansas to hook on our diner. It’s about 11:30. Don’t forget to add Kansas to the list. I heard from the conductor that we are going to go through Denver. Time out for dinner. Back at last from dinner. It must be about 2:30. I waited awhile for dinner and finally got a little sleepy and I guess I dozed off for a little while. Then I looked out the window some more until finally they called us to dinner. It was pretty good. Creamed chicken, mashed potatoes, green lima beans, salad, pineapple, bread, butter, and milk. I ate the first piece of whole wheat bread I’ve had since Jan. 2. Now I’m back in my seat. We’re rolling along pretty fast now and way way off in the west I can see what almost looks like shadows. It’s the mountains and they are a long ways away. We probably won’t hit them until tonight. The towns are not very thick or populous. I wouldn’t care to live in this part of the country. It’s too barren looking. The last town we passed was Phillipsburg. We just passed another so-called town – Almena (Kansas I suppose). Your never told me you’d been out here but there are acres and acres of burned over land so you must have been. We’re running parallel to another pavement but there is no traffic at all. I don’t think I’ve seen a dozen cars outside of the towns.

We just went through a pretty good sized town called Norton. Just passed through Dellvale, population 18 or 20, a little town called Jennings, and now another called Dresden. The main thing in these jumping off places seems to be 2 or 3 grain elevators. For miles and miles you see nothing but fields with an occasional farm house outlined against the sky.

We’re stopped now in Seldon. We’ll be out of Kansas in an hour or so. Then Colorado.

I see by the headlines on another fellows paper that canned food rationing starts March 1. Will they stop sales of stuff before then like they did sugar? We just passed another small town sitting out here on the prairie all by itself. I’ll bet it is really hot out here in the summer. Not a tree in sight for miles. Even around the houses there is little shade.

Well I don’t know what kind of a letter this will make but I’ll cut it off here and get ready to mail it. When and where it will be mailed I don’t know. If I keep on I’ll have more than 3 cents worth and I want it to get through O.K. This will be continued in another letter. By the time you get this you will probably already [have] heard from me from my new station. From what we learned at McCoy, we are to go to San Francisco. Whether we will stay there or be sent somewhere else is something else. I may be back near home in a month or two. Keep writing. I’ll do my best too. Till next time, Love to all—


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