Letter from Lester: November 18, 1941

Ambassador Bridge at Night between Detroit, Mich. and Windsor, Ont. Photo from postal card, 1942
Ambassador Bridge at Night between Detroit, Mich. and Windsor, Ont. Photo from postal card, 1942

Lester’s letter from November 18, 1941, less than three weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, describes routine life for Navy recruits. Perhaps he did enjoy a “liberty” in town and was witness to a scene like the one in the post card he sent home. He is looking forward to a trip home over the Christmas holidays.

November 18, 1941

Dear Folks.

I have just finished writing to Uncle Loren & I guess I should have made carbon copies as I can’t think of anything that I didn’t tell him.  I hope your good weather is holding out as well as it is here.  The sun has been shining fairly steady the last few days.  It is still warm here.  You must have been having some bad weather there.  Did you have my anti-freeze tested?  Also did you get my battery from Fred?  I intended to give you the money to pay for it but forgot to do so.  Tomorrow is pay day but by the time we get our bills paid there won’t be much left.  I have a little other money so I will have enough to come home.

Lester and the automobile he was proud to own.
Lester and the automobile he was proud to own.

We received our grades yesterday but this is the first time I have had time to write to you.  Here are my grades:  English 87, Spelling 94, Arithmetic 95, Mechanical Aptitude 93, General Classification 93, with an average of 93.  I was one of the five highest in our company, So I should get to go to trade school.  I don’t know where the school will be but it may be here at the Great Lakes.

We have to go to a show or something tonight so I won’t have much time to write tonight.  Did Josephine tell you that I have received the rating of a petty officer?  I was made a squad leader as a result of the first bag inspection.  We had another inspection today & I made it ok, too.  There were about three or four others in the sixty on this floor that had good bags.  I didn’t tell you about my rating before because it isn’t permanent & I didn’t know if I could hold the job.  I’ve gotten along ok so far so chances are that I will make it now.

We go over to Paradise this Saturday so we will start getting some liberties then.  I haven’t found it bad here except that there isn’t anything to do on Sunday afternoons.  We’ve walked all over the place where we are allowed to go & we can’t just study or write letters all the time.  We usually have time in the evenings during the week to keep up on our correspondence.  If there is anything you want to know which I haven’t told you, ask some questions.  Frances sent me some papers & Josephine sends me clippings once in a while.  She sent me some candy this morning & I didn’t get time to open it until tonight.  I didn’t get to read my letters until this afternoon.  I got four letters today.  Everyone wrote on Sunday, I guess.  That means no more until the last of the week which won’t be long at the rate the time is going.  We got another haircut today.  Just when my hair was getting where I could part it.  It will grow some more tho, I guess.  I’ve gained almost ten pounds.  Paul, I enjoy your letters.  Keep on writing to me.  I will write you a special letter someday.


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.