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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Letter 125 ~ January 8, 1919

I tell Minnie I received a promotion while on furlough. I describe my return trip to Nitro, West Virginia, from the east coast and poke fun of the camp cooking.

Addressed to Miss Minnie G. Frey, Manhattan, KS

Nitro, West Virginia

Dear Kid,

I got back from my trip Monday P.M. & was very glad to get my mail. You should have seen the amount of mail that had accumulated while I was away -- three packages & about a dozen or more letters. It was over three weeks since I had heard from you & [your sister] Bertha couldn’t tell me much so I didn’t know whether you were still on earth or not.

Minnie, you must be a mind reader. How in the world did you know that the very thing I needed was a pen? I expect you were weary of my pencil scribble. That sure was fine candy & it melted away like ice in a skillet.

I am sorry you didn’t get my mail but as you say, my letters to you and to the folks are nearly the same so if you saw their letters perhaps it was alright. Your telling me about that party at Munger’s made me feel left out for a fact. We used to have such good times before this war. When I get out next summer – as I hope and pray that I will – we won’t lose any time in having a little fun, will we kid?

I was very glad to get Ercil [Hoke]’s letter & am glad to hear of his promotion. He will make a good corporal I am sure. Those boys will be coming back before long & I for one will take off my hat to them. I have talked with overseas men who have come back & I tell you those fellows have been through war & you know what war is.

It is too bad your school can’t be kept running but it is much better to shut it up then to get the flu. I am evidently missing lots of winter weather by not being home. It snowed here but only about an inch or two. It is pretty sloppy but not very cold.

Both companies assembled at 8:00 o’clock today to honor Ex-President [Theodore] Roosevelt. Wouldn’t that beat you, his dying that way? It certainly surprised me.

I was made a first class private while I was on my furlough. That means $3 more pay per month. It is easy money because my chores are just the same but I am supposed to show a little more intelligence & willingness than a buck private. I was surprised to get it, having been put into a company of trained men & said as much to one of the fellows. I said I didn’t suppose the captain even knew my name. He said don’t you fool yourself, the captain knows every man in this company & he has been watching you & you didn’t know it, of course. That is as good as I can expect because as it is, that is better than lots of the men who were here all last summer.

The night I wrote you that letter from New York [City], I started back to Washington & got there the next morning. I had promised to let Billy [Harlan] show me through the zoo before I left so [my sister] Gussie, Billy & I went to the zoo. It is in Rock Creek Park & is a very good collection of animals & birds. As near as possible everything is in its natural setting & as the park is very beautiful, it was quite interesting.

That [same] night I left for Nitro & got in the next afternoon. On the train was a man who had been overseas & had been gassed & suffered from shell shock also. A corporal of the Medical Corps was taking him home from the hospital at Plattsburg, New York. He was very talkative & one could tell from the way he talked that he wasn’t quite right. One time we met a train & I saw him jump clear out of his seat, so nervous you know. Well, we met other trains & he finally broke down & had a fit – cried like a baby & shook all over. They laid him down & finally worked him out of it, but my how I pitied him. He certainly gave the best he had for us. His case is mild, however, compared to many others.

While I was away, the grub got so bad that some of the fellows posted some cartoons & signs on the door of the mess hall knocking the cooks & mess sargent & the quality of the grub. One of them showed a skinny mouse chasing a weenie & the mouse said, “Oh Lord, still no change.” Another showed two of the cooks. One is a little dried-up fellow & the other is fat of course. They are exaggerated. One said, “Well, we fooled them again didn’t we?” The other said, “Ha Ha.” They were shown sitting in the kitchen after mess. The mess sargent was wild & he showed them to the captain. The captain said if the fellow who put them up wouldn’t come into the orderly room in a half hour, he would have the whole company fall out with full packs & double time for awhile. Of course no one knew a single thing about how those awfully insulting signs got up there. Why, who would be so mean as to say a word about the beautiful grub & nice cooks. They had to double time good & plenty alright but everyone thot it was such a good joke that they didn’t mind it a bit. The grub has been a little better since. However, there is still room for improvement. I think we will eat off dishes again pretty soon because there was a big pile of them in the kitchen this evening.

Mama said that you were getting fat & that it was improving your looks. Gee, I sure would like to see you. I can never imagine how you would look if you should really get fat. The fact is, I don’t believe you ever will. Your school work must be agreeing with you or perhaps it is because you don’t sit up till morning as often as you used to. Believe me, when I get a chance, I am going to make you sit up once more. I mean, of course, if you don’t mind.

You said you wanted me to tell every little thing about the camp. Well, the most expressive words to describe every little thing & every big thing is to say mud, rain & clouds. That is varied by now. I’m not going to describe this old place. I will tell you about it when I see you. We can’t go to the theatre here or visit at the bungalows on account of scarlet fever.

Well, I’ve raved long enough so good night. If I was on your porch at this time, I would take calisthenics exercises in this manner. Raise arms forward at count of one. Squeeze at count of two. Smack the lips at count of three. Resume position of attention at four.

  • Ercil Addison Hoke was the 20 year-old son of farmer John Lewis Hoke and Mary Clarissa Perry of Hays Township, Dickinson County, Kansas. He was a student at KSAC at the time of the 1915 State Census. He was born 22 April 1898. He died in Issaquah, King County, Washington in June 1968.
  • On January 6, 1919, at the age of 60, Teddy Roosevelt died in his sleep of a coronary embolism at Oyster Bay, Nassau County, New York, and was buried in Young's Memorial Cemetery.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Ward:

    Good news on your upgrade. More speed to you. The extra quid sure comes in handy in this game. We have been moved out of the line now and are heading southeast to the next place. Talk about French boxcars, if you don't have cooties going in you sure have them coming out. Stop by for a read when you can.