Washington Street, Charleston, W. Virginia in the 1920's
I tell Minnie about receiving my pay and making a trip into Charleston with my buddies to spend our money and raise a ruckus.
Addressed to Miss Minnie G. Frey, Stockdale, KS
Nitro, West Virginia
Sunday, [January 12, 1919]
Dear Kid –
Well, Minnie, you can tell the folks that you got a letter from Ward while he was in the guard house because that is where I am now. I am on guard & am now stationed at the guard house. This is only my second guard since I have been here. I missed my turn while I was on my trip.
We have been having some nice weather lately but today is especially nice. It reminds me of coming spring at home. It is warm, the sun is very bright, the sky perfectly clear & blue, but it is nasty underfoot. Minnie, it is just the kind of weather that I like to walk over the hills with you. It seems as tho such beautiful weather is wasted unless I do, but perhaps if the fortunes of war favor me I can walk over the dear old Kansas hills with you next spring or at least early summer. Just to think – back to Kansas again.
Minnie, I am sorry you didn’t have faith in me to think I wouldn’t care to come back. You know it is the knowledge that their sweethearts have faith in them & believe in them that often times keeps the boys from going to the bow-wows. And if they find out that no one believes in them or cares for them, it is very hard for them to stand up under the temptations which come their way. Since I have been in the army, I have seen & learned lots of things that would cause lots of boys to take a slide but I have always thought of you & mother & have still got my head above water.
We were paid Friday & as our Company’s basketball team had a game with Charleston, anyone who was not on duty could get a pass to Charleston until Sunday or Monday. Of course nearly everyone wanted a chance to spend all his money as quickly as he could so several of us went down to see the game & take in the city too. I went with a fellow called Nick Sousen. He & I left on the 2:30 P. M. train. We walked up town, had some barber work done, shopped a little, & then went to a picture show. After that, we walked around town a little & then got supper. It seemed good to order what you wanted to eat once more. We went to the game at 8:00 and saw our team get whalloped. Charleston went over, under, around & thru our team – score 17 to 40. We had lots of fun at the game tho. There were about a dozen of us 20th men sitting together & we weren’t afraid to say most anything we could think of but that didn’t help win.
After the game, Nick & I fell in with a company of other E Company men. They were happy-go-lucky, don’t-give-a-damn sort, so we sure had a time. We didn’t want to go to a good hotel & spend our month’s wages all in one night, so we set out to hunt a rooming house. We found a place down town where we could all four sleep in the same room. It wasn’t a very nice place but we didn’t care a bit. We thot it was fun. Well, it wasn’t very late so we went out & ate another supper & fooled around on the streets some more. When we went up to our room, we took some peanuts & candy….
Monday morning [January 13, 1919]
I couldn’t finish my letter last night because I had to go on post & after that I had to get what sleep I could or I might go to sleep the next time I went on.
Well, we threw peanuts all around & the floor was covered with shells. A peanut lit on one of the beds & one of the fellows jumped after it & broke the bed down. We made so much racket that the proprietor came in & told us to make less noise [because] there was a couple in the next room trying to sleep. Well, we fixed up the bed as good as we could & went to bed. As soon as those other two fellows got on that broken bed, down it went again & made an awful racket. We could hear the other folks sputtering but we were out for a good time & didn’t care. They finally took the springs & mattress off the bed & laid them on the floor & settled down.
We slept as late as we wanted to for once. After we got up, the old lady came in & raved about the broken bed & the peanut shucks, etc. She said, “You’alls will have to pay for this or I will call a police man.” As we were in uniforms, we weren’t afraid of any policeman & they couldn’t send our names into the company because we registered under different names so we just walked out. We went to a café & ate a great big pile of griddle cakes apiece & then started out & walked all over the city. After dinner, we went to a [picture] show & caught the afternoon train back to Nitro.
The other day our Captain announced that after the 16th, this plant would be turned over to the Ordinance Department & that the guards employed here would be discharged. So we will have double the amount of guarding to do after that – one guard every four days. That won’t be very bad tho because there is no drill whatever. I would just as soon drill part of the day because when a fellow is idle, he hunts mischief because it is so monotonous.
I am sending you something. I don’t know what they call it but I can tell from the looks of it what they do with it. I haven’t been around folks enough lately to notice whether it is used or not but the girl said it was alright. I am afraid it is not very nice but I got the best I could find in Charleston's three department stores.
It is another fine day today. I hope it keeps up this kind of weather & then I won’t mind staying here so much because it is probably bad in Kansas.
Last Thursday night the Y. W. C. A. secretaries invited thirty boys from each company to attend a party at the school house. I went. We had quite a nice time. There were as many girls as boys & so of course that made it lots nicer. We played games & did some fancy marching & drills.
Well, I have said about enough for once. I believe I will try and get a little sleep now because I didn’t get much while on guard. Yours as ever, -- Ward
- After researching the WWI Draft Registration cards, I could find no one by the name of Nick Sousen (as Ward spelled it in his letter). Ward appears to only have been a casual acquaintance and may not have known how to spell Nick’s last name. The closest name I can find in the registration cards is that of Nick Sauzan who was born in 1885 and hailed from Chicago’s north side.