Addressed to Mrs. Hattie P. Griffing, Manhattan, KS
Nitro, West Virginia
December 26, 1918
Well, Christmas is over and it is safe to say I never spent a less enjoyable one in my life. I went on guard at 10 o’clock A.M. and got off this forenoon. I found out that it doesn’t always rain here – sometimes it snows. Yesterday afternoon it started snowing and snowed off and on all night with the wind blowing from the N.W. It got pretty cold on the two night watches. We had to go way off up a ravine and guard what they call the “proving grounds.” It is where they make tests with cannon using the different ammunition. There was a lot of shells and powder stored there. They brought our dinner and supper out to us but we didn’t get breakfast until we got off this forenoon. The dinner wasn’t so bad considering the way we had to get it, but it wasn’t like sitting down to a Xmas dinner at home.
Now I won’t have to guard again for eight days. If I had enough money to pay my way there and back, I could get a 7-day pass and go to see [my sister] Gussie [in Washington D.C.] but I will have to wait until I go off guard sometime after payday.
They are treating us pretty good here and if everyone will behave himself they will continue to do so. But if someone gets smart, he will queer the whole business and our liberties will be taken away. Anyone who is off duty can get a pass to Charleston any afternoon. The train leaves out 2:30 and gets back at about 11:45. We can come in at anytime of night here and no one cares but at [Camp] Funston we had to be in at 10.
Christmas morning some Y.W. ladies gave each one of us a tiny box of chocolates and a package of cigarettes. Some of us went to a Xmas doing at the schoolhouse Xmas eve and we each got a box of crackerjack.
The “Y” made us a present of a Victrola and some records and they said they would lend us about 100 books and a piano.
I haven’t gotten any mail from you in quite a while and I am beginning to wonder how everything is getting along. What did you folks do for Christmas?
We haven’t drilled since we have been here, I expect for the simple reason that there isn’t a piece of ground large enough that isn’t nearly upside down. We have a little of the manual of arms in the forenoon and usually some little job like making cinder walks, etc., and then aside from policing up, that is all we do. But even if it is easy, it will get awful tiresome because the weather is so bad. We stay inside nearly all the time.
I believe I said that about 50,000 people worked here. Well, that was a mistake. When the plant was running, 25,000 was the most ever employed, but now there aren’t more than about 5 or 6 thousand. The plant, when everything is finished, is liable to be taken over by some corporation for manufacturing purposes and then, of course, they will not need any guards here any longer.
I don’t know whether I told you or not, but before we left [Camp] Funston, we were issued another suit of clothes. Some of them were better than the others, but most of them were the same. I got a pretty fair pair of pants to go with the blouse I drew first.
Let me know how everything is doing. With lots of love, -- Ward
- The "Proving Grounds" where black powder was tested by firing it with a cannon was located in Rock Branch Hollow north of Nitro. The road that winds up this hollow is now named "Limeberger Creek."