November 12, 1941

I’ve had a challenge to keep up with Lester’s letters over the past week, given a whirlwind race a thousand miles distant to greet my new granddaughter, with three letters dated during the week. But the amazing thing about today’s technology is its availability from almost anywhere you might go. Hours on the road provide ample time to ponder the circle of life, from a peek into history through letters written more than seventy years ago to a peek into the future through a fresh, new life. My new grandchild, Arya LaRue, is Lester’s great-great-niece. Perhaps life is more than a circle. It is more like a spiral, cycling ever upward and onward, built on the foundation of the loops which precede us. The loop which represents each of us starts rather tight and small. With age, it will expand to support more loops as the spiral grows. So Arya, meet Lester. His story is part of your own.

Nov 12, 1941

Dear Folks

I received your letter today just before drill so didn’t get to read it until this evening.  Sure am glad that it isn’t raining all the time now.  It cleared off here today & the sun shone for the first time in a week.

No, I haven’t had any more boils except the one on my arm which had started when I left.  It went ahead & developed & is ok now with no signs of any more.  I do have some pimples but I’ll be careful of them.  Too bad about Ola, hope she gets along ok.  Is Mabel Bruton still working at St. Marys?  No, I haven’t been out on the ‘big water’ yet.  In fact, I haven’t even seen the lake.  Of course, since I haven’t seen the lake, I haven’t been on a ship, either.  We sleep in barracks, not ships.  The barracks are built in this shape.

Sketch of barracks floor plan.
Sketch of barracks floor plan.

The ends are where we sleep, sixty on each floor & each end.  The toilets, work rooms, showers, clothes dryer & clothes wash room are in the center.

We will have our pictures taken Friday but I think that I will wear my hat.  It doesn’t look so good but it is better than the haircut.  I watched the clock when the barber cut my hair.  It took him one minute & twenty seconds.  He was a little slow on me.  We don’t think anything about our hair but sure notice the shaggy locks of the new recruits.

Lester F. Harris. (He didn’t wear his hat.)

How much did it cost to get my suitcase?  We weren’t allowed to pay for it here.  I don’t remember what Ernest had except a bottle of hair oil.  Did you get my film from his suitcase?

What’s the matter, can’t Junior get along without his mama?  I had heard that Wirsigs were going out there.  You don’t need to send me any papers unless I get settled for awhile & that won’t be until after I come home.  Josephine has been sending me a few clippings & you might do the same if you want to.

We took a bunch of tests this morning which will help to decide our entrance into trade schools.  I think that I made it OK.  Sure hope so.  If I didn’t, there will be a lot of the others that didn’t pass either.

Yes, I do like it better all the time.  When we first came in we were the target of a good many jokes & remarks.  The tables are turned now & we are the ones that shout, “rookie.”

Well, Aunt Mabel did have to answer Uncle Loren’s letter after all.  I’m sorry if she felt left out.  I didn’t mean it to be that way.  I wrote to Aunt Nelia the other day so she knows that I am ok.  Is granddad ok?  I’ll try to get him a letter some time.  I have written about fifteen letters so I should have some coming in along.

The boys are sure busy tonight, rolling clothes.  We will have a bag inspection tomorrow & most of them haven’t kept their clothes rolled.  I just have one jumper to roll so that won’t take long.  I had a good bag the other day.  Hope I get by tomorrow ok.

I guess that we will probably get off from here Dec. 12 & so will have to be back here Dec. 23.  Pretty close isn’t it.  That isn’t certain yet but that is the schedule now.  If I could get some new recruits I could get an extension on my leave at the rate of one day for each of first three recruits, two days for the fourth & three days for the fifth.  If you hear of anyone who wants to join, let me know who they are.

We’ve sure been having good eats lately.  Tonight we had chili minus the broth, rice, apple & cabbage salad, butter, two slices of bread, a cookie & cocoa.  Usually we have coffee.  I haven’t tried to drink it yet.  For dinner we had boiled meat of some kind, sweet potatoes, gravy, carrot & raisin salad & cake.  The carrot salad was made of shredded carrots, raisins & cream, I think.  It sure was good.  We have ice cream two or three times a week.  If you want to send me anything, make it candy.  You don’t need to send anything as we have enough to eat & can buy candy at the canteen if we want to.  We aren’t allowed to have much except what they furnish us.  I’ll have to get busy now.  I’m always glad to hear from you.  Hope all is ok with you.  Everything is fine here.

Lester

November 4, 1941

The Folks
The Folks

Nov. 4. 1941

Dear Folks

I won’t have time to write much of a letter tonight as we are really quite busy all of the time.  Of course we don’t drill so long each day but we have to do our washing & cleaning up in leisure time.  Also I want to do some studying before we take any more exams which will be next week.  We took one exam today.  It wasn’t bad so I think that I made a fair grade.

Sorry to hear that you are still having rains back there.  I hoped that it would dry up some time.  It has been nice here since Sunday & probably will stay that way for awhile.  I can’t think of very much to write about as life is very much routine here.  About the same every day.  I’m liking it better all the time as I get accustomed to the new way of doing things.

As I told you, we sleep in hammocks & we have to air our mattress & blankets every day & then make them in the evening.  We are learning something new all the time so that keeps it interesting.

Postal card from the U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Ill. 1941
Postal card from the U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Ill. 1941

We got our first mail Monday & when Earnest got a letter & I didn’t get any I was rather disappointed but the tables were turned today when I received two letters & he didn’t get any.  We have been together all the way through so far.  He sleeps right beside me.  I am number 17 & he is no. 18.

We all have certain duties toward keeping the barracks clean.  The jobs are passed around so that no one has a bad job very long.

We went to a show last night but it wasn’t too hot.  I think I will stay & study tomorrow night.  They have shows on Monday, Wednesday, & Friday.  Josephine sent me a clipping from the paper saying that we could attend the roller skating rink, bowling & a few other activities that I haven’t heard anything about here yet.

Keep writing whenever you can & I will do the same.

Love,

Lester