Young recruits taking a lunch break at Camp Funston. Note the variety of uniforms, including overalls!
I tell Minnie about my mother’s visit to see me at Camp Funston the previous Sunday. I also describe our duties as new recruits in the Detention Camp. We're given denim overalls to wear instead of uniforms!
Addressed to Minnie G. Frey, c/o J.E. Parkerson, Stockdale, Kansas
Detention Camp 2
Wednesday, September 11, 1918
My Dearest Girl:
Please excuse the pencil again as there is no pen & ink on this table. I received another letter from you today & was sure pleased. My, but I wish I could see you. The folks came up last Sunday & said that you went down to Topeka. Maybe you can come up next Sunday. It would be just my luck to be on K.P. or guard that afternoon because they are taking the squads in order & they will be down to mine about that time. I do wish I could get a pass a week from next Sunday but I’m afraid I can’t so you must try & come. If I am off duty, I will be hanging around the hostess house up here. It is a rustic building they are just putting up right in front of headquarters. If I am on K.P., perhaps I might be excused if it were known that I had visitors. I’m sure glad you are making such a success of your school. I knew you would.
We recruits sure get the worst of things. In the first place, every once in awhile we have to climb up those hills just back of the camp & carry down rocks for the roads. It is hard work, but we must have hard work in order to match old Fritz. In the next place, we are in tents with only two blankets & no straw for our ticks. The shoes issued now are altogether different from the soft leather shoes they formerly issued. It is very heavy & stiff, and many of them are hobnailed. These are awfully heavy.
I suppose you will be glad to hear that I haven’t smoked since I came up here. You said in your last letter you just loved to write to me, so write whenever you get a chance & I will do the best I can. I am sure tired tonight. My feet haven’t filled my heavy, big shoes yet & so they hurt me yet. I wear three socks in my left boot to help out. We have to keep all our belongings in a big bag that would hold about 2 or 3 tons of grain. They gave us overalls to work in & mine are big enough for the biggest man in camp. Even my uniform is not fit to be seen. If I ever get to town, I will sure buy me a few things but we have to be careful what we wear around.
Call to quarters shortly, so good bye little girl. My, but just one more chance to see you, dear. – Good night. – Ward
The next day, September 12, 1918, I tell my mother and brother Willis about camp life.
Addressed to Mrs. H. P. Griffing, R.7.D.8., Manhattan, Kansas
September 12 , Army "Y[MCA]"
Well we sure got worked today and will be from now on probably. Some of the men couldn't stand it. The first platoon of our company had to march at Guard Mount this evening. They had to stand at attention for some time & two of the men fell out into the street. The plucky fellows wouldn't give up until they had to. The vaccination is beginning to take & of course it makes some of them sick. I don't believe mine will take this time.
We haven't gotten any straw for out ticks yet & this morning we were all stiff with the cold. Some of the boys bought blankets and others brought some with them but we were only issued two.
The other day I sent to town by the supply sergeant to get me a wrist watch. The other is so unhandy in a place of this kind. I gave him a ten dollar bill and told him to get the best he could for that. He brought me back a dandy little radio-lite but he paid $12.50. He said he wouldn't advise anyone to get a cheaper one. It has a good Swiss movement & a case like my Ingersoll.
We get up before daylight & have some setting up exercises, then mess, & then we have to police up (clean up the camp). We then drill until 12:30 when we again have mess. We have to bolt our dinners & fall in again at 1:30. If you are unlucky to be at the far end of the street, yo shure have to "shake it up" in order to get anything to eat.
Yesterday our company commander was promoted & he dug down in his own pocket & gave us an extra good feed -- ice cream and lemonade, etc. I received those books all O.K.
Well I wonder what you are doing at home. I suppose Willis must have the wheat ground nearly ready [for planting] by now. I expect a rain wouldn't hurt things any, would it?
I sure hope you folks can come up Sunday, but I am afraid that it will be just my luck to be on K.P. or guard about that time. Each day 2 squads are chosen for fatigue duty, 1 for K.P. & one for guard. We get out next shot Saturday.
These "Y's" shure are crowded. Men standing around waiting to grab an extra chair. When we get down to Funston, it will not be quite so bad. I have been wearing three socks on my left foot because it was getting sore across the heel.
Saturday night they had a free for all boxing match out in front. Any one who wanted to could put on the gloves & of course no one knew what he was getting up against. One little red-haired fellow said he would put 'em on. Another fellow a little bit taller took him on and he sure knocked him all around before they called time on him. A man wants to know something about boxing before he puts on the gloves at an army camp or he is liable to be pounded pretty badly.
It was awful hot today & they take us way out toward Junction City where the bluestem grows waist high. Here we had to drill. After drilling quite awhile, we would have a "rest" period & they made us play a game that nearly tore the lungs out of some of us. We had to get in a circle and stoop over and shut our eyes and hold our hands behind us. They gave a belt to one of the men and he [would] turn & hit the man on his right & hit the man on his right, & hit him as hard as he could all the way around. With our heavy shoes & the thick grass, some would slip down but the non-coms made the other other hit them anyway. If a fresh man got behind, a man who had run around there two or three times, the poor fellow shure got his.
From the time we go out early in the morning until 12:30, we can't get drinks. In July they had to haul the water & the men got only two drinks a day & had to drill hard too.
I shure will be glad if I can get off on a pass in 2 or 3 weeks. Well, lots of men are waiting to write so goodbye. -- Ward