Letter Posted November 8, 1942

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Dear Folks.

Today is the fourth of November but I’ll probably write a few lines when I have the opportunity as I don’t know how soon this will be mailed.  I’m feeling fine and haven’t been too seasick!

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Mom, did you get the little cactus plant yet?  I bought one for you the other day and the florist was to send it to you.  There were some in pretty vases but he was afraid they wouldn’t stand shipping.  I hope this isn’t the same as any that you have.  If I had liberty now I could get you a rock to go with the cactus.

I don’t know of any boy that won’t get anything for Christmas, though there will probably be a few who won’t get a box.  I know lots of the fellows but only a few quite well.

I won’t be writing often because there isn’t much news I can tell you.  We will get our mail fairly regular now, I think.

Do you have the corn shucked yet?  Has it been cold yet?

Paul, I enjoyed your letter.  Yes, I have been taking more rides, three times during last night.

Love to all.

Lester

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Gherardi on the Move

From:  Lester F Harris F 1/C

USS Gherardi

c/o Postmaster

New York, N.Y.                                                                  Saturday nite  October 31. 1942

Dear Folks,

I received your letters a couple of days ago but the past week has been quite busy for all of us so I haven’t been able to get any letters written.  A couple of weeks ago I was caught up on nearly all of my correspondence but I’m behind again now.  Be sure to use the new address as we are leaving soon.  I think I’ll have a chance to send some letters again in a few days.

We went out to Chesepeak Bay on Thursday and came back Friday afternoon.  The water was smooth and we had a nice trip.  We saw lots of ducks in the river and bay.  Suppose we could have hit any of them with our five inch guns and machine guns?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The weather was clear most of the way and there was some very pretty scenery along the river.  We saw a three-mast sailing boat that was fishing.  It was a novel and pretty sight.

Paul asked what kind of a bed I sleep in.  Well, it is just the width of the mattress I sent home. It is made of steel tubing and the bottom is wires spaced about four inch each way with springs at the ends.  It is pretty comfortable.  Three of them fold up real close together during the day.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt night when we let them down there isn’t room to sit up or draw up our knees.  A few of the boys have awakened during the night and tried to sit up suddenly and they bump their heads.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I can’t find your letter right now and I can’t remember any other questions you asked.  One of the boys is going ashore pretty soon so I’ll send this with him.  He is a young “rebel” from Georgia and you can sure tell that he is from the south.

I think I will send a suit of dress blues home if I have a chance as I want to keep one good suit and I don’t need two suits now.

Wallace, I’ll try to look at the radio equipment and talk to some of the fellows about it. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I was in the radio room the other day but I was checking the ventilation and didn’t notice the radio much.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI do know that you would need to know Morse code for this work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is it cold yet?  I haven’t worn my peacoat yet and my Jersey only one  morning.

Do you have much corn to shuck yet?  Tell Frances that I am leaving and I’ll try to send her a letter from my next port.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Love to all.

 

LesterGherardi at sea

October 28, 1942 Letter from Frances

Council Grove, Kansas

October 28, 1942

Dear Brother,

Had thought I would get a letter written to you yesterday but I was kept busy all day and didn’t get it done. I did remember that it was a year ago yesterday that you enlisted. Does it seem like it has been a year to you? In lots of ways it seems a long time and than again the time has gone quite fast. We still have lots to be thankful for and are lots better off than so many people. Mother called me Monday evening and said they thought maybe you had sailed but since they didn’t know for sure I am going to write and hope it will get to you. We are getting a package ready to send you for Christmas so I hope it will reach you okay. There isn’t much we can send so it won’t be very  large but we are thinking of you anyway and wish you the best of luck. I hope you will see lots of interesting sights and enjoy all your travels. Be careful and don’t take unnecessary risks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a hard freeze Monday night and the leaves are all falling now. It is nice to walk these mornings through them. The temperature went down to 22 that evening. It has warmed up since but it is cloudy today and seems to be getting a little colder. I hope it doesn’t freeze.

Gloyd’s dad has been sick with pneumonia since Thursday but he is getting better and is able to be up some now. He was quite sick though. Wayne left Friday morning but he is still in Leavenworth as far as we know. He is to be sent to Fort Worth. We were over there for supper Thursday evening and Harry’s were down. Dad took so sick that Harry’s stayed all night and I stayed all night the next night. No one stayed Saturday and Sunday but Harry came back Monday.

We went to Americus Saturday evening and Gloyd went to lodge. I stayed with Thelma. Irma hasn’t come back yet and doesn’t know if she will come. Howard is stationed in New York and they told him he might be there for the duration so she is staying with him. She still is not very well but had thought she would come back and get their car if Thelma would go back with her. Thelma said she couldn’t go back there just to buy her a ticket on the train and come home.

We went to the show last night and saw “True to the Army” with Judy Conova and Jerry Collona. It was a good show and one I enjoyed a lot.

We have been up so much lately and on the go all the time I hardly have time to get my work done. We went up to Ingmires Sunday for dinner and came home and went to Gaston’s for supper. The rest of them went to the show but we went home and I ironed and Gloyd went over to his folks awhile. Monday evening we went back to Gaston’s and stayed while the men went to drill then they decided to play pool after the drill so it was quite late again. Tonight we are going to stay home and wash. Last week we didn’t have a night when we could wash so we sent it to the laundry and I am going to send it every once in a while but I think I can do it this week. I don’t think I will do much of it this winter. It doesn’t cost much to get it done and everything comes back ironed except the starched things. It doesn’t take long to do them.

I asked Gloyd last night if he cared if I asked Mr. Kling if I could work Saturday evenings and evenings before the Christmas rush. He said he thought I had enough to do but if I wanted to to go ahead. Oh I musn’t forget to tell you I got a raise today. Starting the first of November, I will get $2.75 a day. That isn’t bad for just working a month and getting a raise but some of the girls are getting over three dollars now so I hope to get another raise some day. This will help though. They are going to start taking ten per cent out for war bonds though. But that is perfectly all right with me. If I could I would buy more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are invited to a Halloween party Friday night at Dikes. We will probably just play cards until late then have lunch and go home. I can stay up all right at night but the next morning is when it is hard on me. Gloyd had to go to work at six this morning so I went back to bed awhile. It doesn’t get light until so late now that it really does seem early. We will be coming to work in the dark one of these mornings.

Seems like I can’t think of much to write these days. There really isn’t much doing around here. Everyone registered their trucks, trailers and pick-ups last week and registration of cars and trailers is coming next month then I guess there will be less than ever doing when every one has to stay home.

Some of the wives think they will go with their husbands when they leave but everyone looks at things differently. Gloyd and I both feel that as much as we would like to be together the best thing is for me to stay here where I know people and where I have a good job than to go along. We would have a hard time living on army pay in a big city and I would have to work anyway so I might as well stay here. We probably wouldn’t get to be together very much anyway. If I can keep things together here we feel it will be better than breaking up entirely. It is hard to do but at least we will still have our home and if Gloyd does have a furlough or get to come home anytime he will have a place to come. I don’t feel that I want to go back home and just sit down and wait and I know the time will go faster if I am working. I do hope I can get someone to live with me. I don’t want to stay alone if I can help it.

Well I guess this is all for this time. Hope we hear from you soon. Write as often as you can and take care of yourself.

Love

Frances and GloydOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weekend at the “Y”

Monday evening   October 19 – 1942

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Dear Folks.

I received your letter today, in fact I got five letters today so I will be quite busy if I get all of them answered.  Three of them were ones I would have received Saturday afternoon but I went into town before mail call so didn’t get them until this morning.  One of the fellows had kept them for me so I could have them sooner.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It rained nearly all day Saturday but I went on liberty anyway.  A buddy and I got a room together at the “Y” for seventy-five cents apiece.  Saturday night he went roller skating while I saw the show “Across the Pacific”.  We get in the shows for twenty-eight cents which is very reasonable since many of the theatres regular prices are fifty to seventy-five cents.

Sunday morning I slept until nine-thirty then got up and went to a church close by.  I was the only sailor there though there were three army officers there too.  That church service seemed more nearly like those at home than any I have attended in the past year.  As soon as I stepped into the vestibule, an usher greeted me and shook hands.  As I started down the aisle another usher met me, spoke, and showed me to a seat.  The church services lasted from ten-forty five ‘til twelve fifteen but it was very interesting.

After the services I went back to the room at the “Y” and my buddy had just awakened so we went out to dinner together.  For dinner I had pork chops, mashed potatoes, baked beans and ice cream.  After dinner we walked out to the Franklin Institute which is a museum of mechanical inventions.  Wallace would have enjoyed it a lot.  We spent all afternoon there then went to the show “My Sister, Eileen” in the evening.  After the show I came back to the ship while my buddy went roller skating again. I don’t know what time he got home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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I bought a sweat shirt Saturday afternoon.  It should be very warm.

I thought my bonds were to be mailed to you every three months, three bonds at a time but it doesn’t matter, just so you get them.  August was supposed to be the first month so guess it is okay.

I intend to make out an allotment tomorrow and will probably have it sent to the Americus bank.  That is the only way I’ll be able to save any money and I do want to have something to start on when I get out of here.  I’ll have to pay an income tax this year unless I can get married.  I’d probably do that if I could get a leave to come home.

It is sure nice that you have been having fair weather.  We are still in our shirt sleeves though some of the boys think it is cold and have to wear their sweaters or peacoats.  Wonder what they will do when we get up in the North Atlantic?  Maybe I’ll be the one who gets cold then.  The leaves are starting to fall but aren’t turning colors yet.  I’d sure enjoy having a picnic in the timber but I guess that will have to wait.  Some of the boys are getting five day leaves but I can’t get one because the officers say I need ten days to go home and they aren’t granting anything over five days.  Oh well, I guess all things come to he who waits.  I’m waiting.  Almost one of my four years is gone and it hasn’t seemed so long.

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Yes, quite a few folks are in Washington.  I didn’t know that Leslie Rutledge was there until Alice told me but she didn’t know his address.  I would like to go to Washington again but guess I had better save my money.  I had a letter from Alice today and she sent a picture of Irene and Anne which I am going to have Josephine put in my album.  You can have her show it to you if you wish.  It was taken before I was there but it is raining just like the day I visited there.

No I haven’t seen any cranberries, in fact I don’t even know if they grow around here but I don’t have a chance to see them even if they do.  I haven’t seen any farms around close and on the trip to Washington the farms I did see were rather small.  Lots of the land seemed to be swampy.  No, I don’t have much trouble getting around in the cities now. In fact I’m sorta like the Indian who was wandering around in the forest when he met a white man who asked if he were lost.  The Indian replied “Me all right, wigwam lost.”  Of course, I don’t always know just where I am or East from West but I always get back to the ship on time.

We are rationed pretty close on food but it is cooked good, the best navy food I’ve ever eaten.  We don’t go hungry, in fact I can’t begin to eat as much as I could a year ago.

Yes I have my job learned fairly well but all of us have enough to learn yet.  I have charge of the refrigeration and the heating system with a chief over me and others who will help if I need them.  The others have specific jobs and I’ll help them if they need help so you see we have to know something about nearly all of the ship.

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I have a lot of letters to write tonight so guess I’d better get started on some of them.

Paul I believe you have a birthday soon, haven’t you?  About Friday, maybe?  Happy birthday, brother.

Love to all,

Lester

Another Letter from Frances

Lester (upper right) with his sister Frances, little brother Wallace, and their grandmother.
Lester (upper right) with his sister Frances, little brother Wallace, and their grandmother.

Council Grove, Kansas

October 16, 1942

Dear Brother

Since I never got the other letter mailed yet I will write a little more this afternoon while I am not busy. August is gone again this afternoon and we are going to have a birthday party afterwhile so I guess there won’t be much work done this afternoon. I did work all forenoon though. I believe I am beginning to get on to the work a little now but at first I thought I never would learn. It still makes me nervous when I have to make out a loan in a hurry. They say that after harvest the men come in and we sometimes have to make as many as twenty loans a day. There is so much to it. The worksheets have to be made out, then the loan, then the folder must be labeled and put in the file. A record is kept of every loan that is made and all the feed wheat that is sold.

It started to rain last evening and we had a little shower but it didn’t make things very muddy for which we are glad. The weather is going to get a little cooler I believe but that will be all right too for it has been so warm it has taken all the pep out of me.

Mae and Bill are in town today. Bill is home for a week. They are trying to sell the farm and he thought he would come home and see about it rather than sign things down there. They were going out to Delavan this afternoon to see about getting on out there. But he said if it wasn’t quite a lot better than his present job he wouldn’t change. He is making pretty good now. They wanted all of us to come down Sunday so he could see everyone but Gloyd has to work so I know we can’t go until after dinner anyway. If it is nice we might drive down in the afternoon. Since we are rationed on gas we won’t be able to go much.

They are creating new boards here all the time and some of them meet up here. They have a new gas rationing board and one to check the tires. I guess they call it a transportation board. They are in need of a new secretary for the board but so far they haven’t been able to find one. Dolly Collins worked one day and decided it was too much work. The state man was here Wednesday and told Helen that any one that wasn’t worth $2.50 a day wasn’t worth having. We decided we might as well go home for we are only getting $2.25. We hope for a raise before too long though.

Gloyd got his notice to take his screen test Tuesday. Of course they aren’t really reclassified until they take that but there isn’t any doubt but what he will be all right for there has to be something decidedly wrong with anyone now before they are turned down. He thinks maybe he would like to get into the ground crew of the air force. I would rather have him there than in a lot of places. I was in hopes he wouldn’t have to go before Christmas anyway and maybe he won’t if Kirk can get him deferred. Wayne took the test to get into the radio school for the signal corps or something of the sort and heard that he had passed but hasn’t been told to report yet and has already received notice to go to Leavenworth for his physical the 27 of this month. He is very much in hopes he will be accepted in the school before he is inducted otherwise if he gets in after he draws army pay. He may join ghe ground crew of the air force if nothing else develops. Melchert has received his call to report the 26 of this month. That will just about leave Council Grove without any doctors. I guess Miller and Kerr will be here as long as Council Grove is.

We went to the show Tuesday night and saw “This Gun for Hire.” We neither one cared for it as it was very much a gangster picture. I don’t know whether the money was given away or not. We never got it. Wednesday night we went on a weiner roast with the bunch. The rest of them went to the show afterwards but as we had already seen it we didn’t want to go again. They planned the party Monday night but I wasn’t there so didn’t know about it and they forgot to call us until noon Wednesday. Gloyd always has a meeting on Wednesday night anyway. They signed up another recruit last time but they still don’t have the company up to full strength.

Mother called Wednesday evening. They are all well. They had been to Emporia on Saturday and she had gotten some things for me that I couldn’t get up here. I have been needing a little washboard and there just weren’t any here. I thought it would help a lot to have one that could be put in the sink. Then I have a sunshine sister that has a birthday the 21st of this month so I had her get a serving tray for her.

The town has been full of soldiers the last few days. They are out on maneuvers from Fort Riley. Yesterday there were jeeps and tanks but every day nearly there are jeeps. They are quite a contraption. Gloyd thinks they would make a good mud car for mail carriers. The tanks were all named. One of them was named Eisenhower, Wainright, Vinegar Joe, and I can’t remember the names of the others.

Well, I guess I have told all I know again this time so better get started on another letter. I think I will write to Paul. Seems like Gloyd doesn’t have much time and in the evening he is so tired he doesn’t feel like writing.

Love to you

Frances and Gloyd

The Folks. Paul in front; Charley, Georgia, Gloyd and Frances; Wallace and Lester in back.
The Folks. Paul in front; Charley, Georgia, Gloyd and Frances; Wallace and Lester in back.

A Letter from Alice

3416 Baker St, N.E.

Washington, D.C.

October 15, 1942

Alice, DHS class of 1936
Alice, DHS class of 1936

Dear Lester,

No bad effects from our soaking. I’ll bet you thought we all had double pneumonia and died—not hearing from us sooner. I’m really sorry I haven’t answered sooner. I haven’t written Helen K. yet either, but still intend to, soon, I hope.

Speaking of rain, it’s really pouring down now. What we went thru that Sunday was a sprinkle compared to this. You should know it’s bad because all three of us had intended going out and didn’t.

Worst of all, my only umbrella disappeared at work today. Either someone mistook it for theirs or plain needed an umbrella. I’m hoping it will be back in the morning. Optimist ain’t I?

I have enclosed one of those street pictures of Ann and Irene. It’s complete—wild hair, wrinkles, and umbrella. They really don’t register “dampened spirits.” We all had a grand time—and I’m not jus’ a foolin’.

Too bad the weather couldn’t have been nicer. Maybe you’ll have another chance. Lea’s still planning on getting to D.C.  I hope he makes it.

Got a letter from Floyd, during the week after you were here, telling me their brother Edgar, had the worst kind of a nervous break-down. (Mom said, “violently insane” in her letter.) They took him to Topeka. He’s Marie White’s husband. Too bad.  They blame it on the war situation.

Incidentally, my camera is still at Walter Cobb’s place. I haven’t seen or heard from them since. If and when I get that one picture developed, you’ll get one regardless of how it is, for memory’s sake—‘er somethin’. That’s a promise.

By the way, you were a little late getting back, weren’t you? You must have been about dead from loss of sleep, etc.

You aren’t just ‘a talkin’ when you say it doesn’t seem like we’ve been out of school so long. I don’t suppose very many would have answered this year. I’m sure I wouldn’t have. In fact, from the rumors going around here, it sounds like very slim chances for a civilian getting to travel by train, around Christmas time especially.

I too, have had a lot of fun and new experiences, but I wouldn’t mind trading for some of the times back when – – – -.

Remember, among other things, the constitution of U.S.A. Ha! Ha! Don’t tell me you missed out on that.

Note from Alice in Lester's autograph book
Note from Alice in Lester’s autograph book

“Bing” is now singing “White Christmas” for us (radio). I really love that song.

Got a letter from Ruby today. She’s getting along swell with her school and is having fun between times. She and the “kids” had a picnic last week.

A few of the boys around there have the idea they have to spend their money before going into the armed forces. Ruby seems to be having a good time helping Charles, Vance and others do it.

I know you must already have an enormous mailing list, but I’d enjoy hearing from you from time to time.

Your former classmate and

Very good friend,

Alice D.

Irene, Lester and Alice, Washington, D.C. September 1942
Irene, Lester and Alice, Washington, D.C. September 1942

Letter From His Sister

Up to this point, the correspondence from 1942 has been one-sided. Now there are a few letters written to Lester from his sister and a few friends which were returned with his personal property and saved by his mother. They provide a glimpse into the kind of brother he was to his siblings, and the kind of reliable friend he was to many people. Lester’s sister Frances was the closest sibling to him in age, his only sister, and his only older sibling.

Lester with his sister Frances about 1920.
Lester with his sister Frances about 1920.

Council Grove, Kansas

October 13, 1942

Dear Brother

I started to write you a letter with a pen but it was too slow. I work using a typewriter so if you will pardon me my letters in the future will probably be typed. No doubt they will be OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmore easily read than if I had written them by hand. I don’t make nearly as many mistakes now as I did when I first started and have picked up on my speed too.

We haven’t been very busy today and August is taking the afternoon off and going to Emporia so we are having things our own way. They really worked me yesterday. Seems like there are so many things that don’t mean a thing to me—such as warehouse receipts, certified checks, proof of loss, etc. etc. Maybe it will gradually soak in but at times it seems doubtful. Yesterday they sent me down to the bank to get a certified check and I had no idea what the thing would look like but they gave me one and it was all right. At least they knew at the bank what I needed.

Our nice weather is still with us and we hope it stays for a long time. This should give farmers a chance to get their work done. Several of the high schools are dismissing in the afternoon so the boys can work. I don’t know whether Dunlap has dismissed yet or not but Parkerville and some of the others have. In Arizona nearly everyone turned out on Sunday to help pick the cotton which is so badly needed. I read in the paper about it.

Gloyd is working this week and next for Nystrom. They are all trying to get all the time off they can while Gloyd is still here to relieve them. Kirk told Gloyd the other day he was going to try and get him a deferment until after Christmas but of course we don’t know if he can get the job done or not. Gloyd told Kirk that he would have to ask for it because he wouldn’t. Tomorrow is the day he is to be reclassified.

I stayed home last night while Gloyd went to drill. We girls usually get together but I didn’t feel very well last night so went to bed early. Gloyd didn’t get home until after twelve so I was glad I hadn’t gone. He had a non com meeting after the drill period so they could try and think of some way to get some new members. About thirty of the guards have gone into the army and it is getting harder and harder all the time to get new recruits. These business men are all so busy they don’t have time. They are just like a lot of other people. They want the war to be won but they want someone else to do the fighting. Council Grove collected a nice pile of scrap the other day but not any more than some of these smaller towns around. We will still have to dig deeper I guess.

The Cresses had a family dinner Sunday out at Uncle Elmer’s but we didn’t get to go as Gloyd had to work. We had thought we would drive out a while in the afternoon but we were both tired so instead of going we stayed home and slept. I had worked all morning getting the house cleaned and something cooked for dinner. After we had rested all afternoon we decided to wash that evening and have it all ready to hang out Monday morning. We borrowed an old stomper of Mrs. Pickett’s and it didn’t take us so long but of course it isn’t like using a machine.

Seems like the washing is the biggest problem of all now since I am working. If we only had a machine of our own we could get up and get it done early of a morning and it wouldn’t be any trouble at all but this way we just about have to do it the night before. I ironed an hour before I came to work this morning and it won’t take long to finish now this evening. When Gloyd has to get up at five I usually go back to bed but I get a lot more done when I stay up and work. Sunday I spent half the time putting things away. Of course the house gets dirty too but it doesn’t take so long to go over it if everything is in place. So far this week we have done pretty good but I don’t know how long it will last.

One of the girls had to go home awhile ago. She and some other girls have an apartment over Kenwell’s. When they were home this noon they put some meat on to cook so they could have beef and noodles for supper tonight and they forgot to turn the fire out when they left. Mr. Kenwell called and said something was burning, for them to come home and see about it. She said you could smell it all down the street and the apartment was full of smoke. When she came back she smelled like smoke so much the rest of us could hardly stand to have her around. She said the smell in her clothes was making her sick so she went home to clean up but I imagine everything will smell the same way. I don’t envy her the job of cleaning up after such a mess.

Ned went over one day last week and painted the porch railing and put the storm windows on so now we are ready for winter. He sure does like to potter around. I wish he would decide to paint our kitchen but I don’t suppose he will. Wilkerson’s asked him to paint theirs but he said he couldn’t now. We thought if he wanted to paint ours he would with out our asking him and if he didn’t want he wouldn’t do it anyway. But it does need it bad. Our neighbors think he is doing more for us than he is for them but we aren’t always asking for something.

I haven’t talked to Mother since they were up last Sunday. I tried to call last night but the line was busy then I got busy and didn’t get it done. We were up nearly every night last week. Wednesday night we went to the show and saw “Sweater Girl.” It was fairly good. No one got the money though. Tomorrow night they give away $260. Thursday night we went out to Roswurm’s and practiced our play. Friday night we went to community meeting and were up late. Saturday night we went over to the folks awhile. It isn’t any wonder we wanted to sleep on Sunday.

Did I say awhile ago that I had improved in my typing? I must have been mistaken. I have made more mistakes on this page than I have made for a long time.

The Navy Recruiting officer is in town today. He has two boys to take back with him. Willard Boyer from Wilsey and some other boy are enlisting. They are just out of high school. The officer had more gold stripes on his arm than I had ever seen before. He almost needed more sleeve. One boy who enlisted about six months ago is home now and one of the girls said he was an admiral but I think she must have been mistaken about that don’t you? At any rate—that is going up quite fast. It usually takes years to get that far.

Well I believe this is all for this time. Maybe I can think better next time. Hope you are well and everything is going well with you.

Love and Best Wishes,

Frances and Gloyd

Frances, Lester and Wallace, 1926.
Frances, Lester and Wallace, 1926.

Whaleboat on the Delaware River

Lester describes his first experience with the diesel engine whaleboats. He would become very familiar with these boats–perhaps too much so in the days to come.

The photos in this post all come from the USS North Carolina World War II museum in the Wilmington harbor, a fascinating place to visit for anyone in the area.

 

Saturday Night.   October 10, 1942

Dear Folks,

What is everyone doing?  I’m in the duty section this week-end so I’m staying aboard tonight.  I guess I have told you that I am in the auxiliary crew. We don’t have to stand any watches yet but we have to stay aboard so they can call us if we are needed.  The chief in charge of the engine and firerooms asked me if I wanted to get out of the auxiliary into a fireroom but I didn’t think I wanted to change. I’ve spent quite a bit of time learning my job and I didn’t want to have to learn another new one so soon.  He changed some of the others without asking them and they didn’t like it very well at first but they really have it easier where they are now.  Haring got changed to one of the firerooms.

I have a Jewish buddy that I run around with. We work together nearly all the time.  His name is Joe Feingold.  He is a second class motor machinists mate so he has charge of the diesel boats.  I am the only other one in the auxiliary gang with diesel experience or school so will probably help with the boats.

A whaleboat such as the one Lester mentioned in his October 10 letter. This one is on display on the deck of the USS North Carolina museum, Wilmington, NC.
A whaleboat such as the one Lester mentioned in his October 10 letter. This one is on display on the deck of the USS North Carolina museum, Wilmington, NC.

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Four of us, two coxwains, Feingold and myself, took one of the boats today and went up the river to town.  I had never run the boat before so I took care of the engine.

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The boats are steered by a coxswain who handles the rudder.  He rings a bell to signal to the engineer.  One bell means go ahead slowly, two means stop, three means reverse and four means full speed.  I enjoyed it a lot.  Some places the water was a little rough, but not bad. The waves weren’t over a foot high.  The most fun was when we would meet another boat and their waves hit us.  We always headed into a large wave so it wouldn’t come over the side and swamp us.  When we hit a large wave it would pick us up then drop us.  We planned on going out all afternoon but we had to bring the boat aboard after dinner so didn’t get to go.

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I don’t know why my letter was so long in getting to you.  Yours usually get here in two days though it sometimes takes longer.

I lost my watch tonight but it was my own fault.  I had taken it off in the washroom and was washing when chow call blew.  In my hurry I forgot to pick it up.  A bunch of apprentice seamen came aboard this evening and some of them came in just as I left for the mess hall.  I didn’t miss it until I had finished supper but it was gone when I got back there.  If some of the older crew had found it, they would have turned it in and I could have claimed it.  It may turn up yet.

How is the scrap drive turning out back home?  You should see the junk that is piled up in the streets here in Philly.  They had a big drive for scrap and there is sure lots of it.  It has been accumulating in the streets for almost two weeks.

Yes I got the cake from Frances okay.  It was mashed a little but it was still fresh–and good!

Yes the trains are crowded and so are all other means of transportation.  Quite often I stand up because I haven’t learned to shove quite as well as most of the people here. I also don’t like to occupy a seat when some ladies have to stand.  Men around here wouldn’t stand for their own grandmother.  Sometimes I feel like knocking their teeth out for them.

There aren’t any mountains around here or on the way to Washington.  There were some hills but no mountains.  I did see some mountains around Johnstown in western Pennsylvania as we came from the Lakes.  They weren’t very large though.  Yes, Philly is on the Delaware river.  I don’t have a map either so I don’t know much about the size of the states or the route I traveled.

(Sunday night)

I didn’t get to finish this last night so will try again tonight.  We fueled ship today for several hours.  A tugboat brings the oil barge alongside then the oil is pumped into our tanks.  No smoking is allowed while fueling ship.  Wednesday we are to go down the river for a trial run.  It lasts only a day, tho.

I’ll have to close now.

Love to all.

Lester

 

 

October 5, 1942

 

Monday night October 5 – 1942

Dear Folks.

Have you had any snow yet?  I suppose not but everyone has mentioned how cold it has been, I was just wondering.  We are having rainy weather here but one nice thing, we don’t have to wade around in the mud.  Most of my time is spent below decks so the rain doesn’t bother much.  Frances spoke about you shocking corn.  How much did you cut?  Did you sow any wheat this fall?  Have the leaves started to fall yet?  They are dropping here but they haven’t colored much yet.  On my trip to Washington I noticed a number of pretty red trees, something like sumac but larger.  This should be pretty country when the leaves do start to turn.  People talk about the wasteland in Kansas but there is five acres of marsh and wasteland back here for every one at home.  The corn doesn’t look as good as ours either.  The corn shocks don’t look big enough to stand but I guess they do.  The rivers are larger than the Neosho but they aren’t all timbered.  Lots of the hills are covered with trees.

Corn crop in early summer on the Kansas farm of Lester's childhood.
Corn crop in early summer on the Kansas farm of Lester’s childhood.

I saw a show the other night that I wish you folks could have seen too.  It was a marionette show and it was really good.  One of the marionettes played a toy piano and even turned the pages of music.  One couple did a dance together and lots of other numbers that I can’t remember.  Near the end of the performance the top curtains were drawn so we could watch the three men and a woman who manipulated the strings on the marionettes.  They really have to have nimble fingers.

We aren’t allowed to write, keep or possess diaries anymore in the navy.  I just thought I would mention it as some one might be planning to send them to some of the boys.  I don’t know if that affects the army boys or not.

I bought myself a belt knife when I was in town Saturday.  I looked all over town before finally finding one like I wanted and had to talk the salesman into taking it out of his show case.  I was in the machine shop Sunday, sharpening it when a couple of the officers came in and saw me so they had to sharpen theirs too.  They are really a swell bunch of men.  Today while some of us were in  the shop a call came over the speaker for Lieut.  McKinsey to please report to the quarter-deck.  Without looking up, I remarked to the other fellows, “now that’s funny, they never say please to me, it just, ‘Harris, report to the quarter-deck, on the double’”.  When I looked up, there was an officer, smiling at me.  Boy, I was sure glad he was smiling.

It is time for lights out and I’m sleepy so guess I better sign off.

 

Love to all.

Lester

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A knife Lester carried in 1942.
A knife Lester carried in 1942.

 

 

 

Visiting Friends from Home in the Nation’s Capital

Lester with his 7-year-old brother Paul.
Lester with his 7-year-old brother Paul.

Tuesday evening   September 29 – 1942

Dear Paul

I enjoyed your letter very much and I can imagine that you had a lot of fun on your train ride and at the fair too.  My train ride to Washington was fun but coming back it was very chilly on the train.  I never did get to see the white house as it rained nearly all the time I was there.  I had quite a time to find a room but another sailor and I finally got a room together.  It is almost impossible to find a place to stay in Washington.

After getting the room I called the girls at Mrs. Eaton’s.  Irene answered the phone but she didn’t know who I was.  Mrs. Miller had told them that I had asked for Anne’s address but they weren’t really expecting me.  I talked to all of the girls for awhile but didn’t go out to see them as it was raining. Irene and Anne were going bowling while Alice was expecting a call from another boy.  Alice had to work on Sunday so Irene, Anne and I planned to see the sights, go to dinner then pick up Alice after work and go out to Cobbs.

The next morning it was still raining so we cancelled the tour.  I went out to the house about two o clock to get the girls. Who should open the door but Alice.  She had gotten off work at noon.  It wasn’t raining right then so Anne took a picture of Irene, Alice and myself.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out to Cobbs, it started to rain.  We were riding the street car but got off so that Ann and Irene could buy a couple of umbrellas.  We finally got out to where Cobbs live.  They live about fifteen miles from where the girls stay.  We rode the last ten miles or so on the bus.  Walter lives about half a block from the end of the bus line.

When we got there it was raining cats and dogs so the bus driver let us off right at the gate.  We ran up on the porch but the door was locked.  It was only a small porch and the wind blew the rain right in on us.  I went around to the back and the door was open so I called the girls and we went inside.  Our shoes were wet so we took them off and left them on the kitchen floor.  I forgot to tell you that no one was home.

The bus had already gone and it was half an hour until the next one so we made ourselves at home.  We closed the windows for them then made ourselves at home.  They had some Cappers Weekly and Kansas Farmer papers which we enjoyed.  We missed the first bus but Walter and Mildred came soon after the bus went so we were glad that we missed it.  They were surprised to see us and especially to see me.  Floyd Cobb had been with them but he joined the navy on Wednesday.  We left them about a quarter til seven, went downtown and finally found a place to eat supper, then went to the show “Holiday Inn”.   We saw the Three Little Pigs too.  I think it was the same as you saw in Council Grove.  We got out of the show at midnight so I took the girls home.  It was one o’clock when I started back to the station.  I got on the train to leave at one fifty but it didn’t leave until three.  The train was so cold I couldn’t sleep and it was after six when we got into Philadelphia.  I came on board at a quarter til seven.

Lester and high school classmates. Alice is in the upper right hand corner.
Lester and high school classmates. Alice is in the upper right hand corner.

Mom, you asked what I could use for Christmas.  Well I can buy nearly all my clothes cheaper than you can but I could use a pair of black leather gloves.  We don’t have to conform so closely to regulations now.  Also I could use a thin, small pocket knife to carry in my dress clothes.  My whites fit so tight that I can’t carry a regulation knife.  All of us are supposed to carry sheath knives.  Even the captain carries one on his belt.  I can buy that myself, though.  It looks as though we will be getting winter clothing after all.  We were told we wouldn’t need any woolens but I think we will be getting some.  The woolen sweaters cost two dollars which is less than you would have to pay, I imagine.  I had my shoes half-soled and heels put on for a dollar and a half a pair.  The laundry has finally started to function so I don’t scrub many clothes any more.

Mom, I don’t suppose I’ll get off to get a present for your birthday but I’ll be thinking of you and I wish you many more happy birthdays.

You mentioned that the club intended to send packages to the boys.  May I suggest that they don’t send food unless it is certain to be delivered immediately as it would no doubt be stale by the time the boys would get it.  Probably most of the boys would appreciate cigarettes as much as anything.  There really isn’t much we need.  What do you folks want for Christmas?  You know, I believe I would rather have a shower of letters than any gifts the community might send.  It wouldn’t cost them much and would be a lot of fun for me.

It is getting rather chilly back here but not too cold.  I like it better than when it is so hot.

I forgot to mention the states I went thru over the week-end.  I was in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.  In the buses in Virginia there was a sign directing all negroes to sit in the rear of the bus and whites in front.

I can’t think of anything else right now so will write again later.

Love to all.

Lester 

P.S. I won’t be able to send you a picture of me in whites as we are wearing blues all the time for liberty now.  Sorry.