Evening message to the Folks

I wonder what the topics of conversation included in Lester’s six minute phone call home. Perhaps a family journey to visit him in Detroit was suggested. The folks are missing Lester very much.


Tuesday evening: 2000


Dear Folks

There isn’t anything new since I talked to you Sunday afternoon except my new barracks letter.  We will be moved by the time you get this so use the new address.  I sure had good luck getting the call thru.  It didn’t take over five minutes from the time I started the call until I was talking to you.  All of the phones here were busy all afternoon so I went into Detroit & called from the YMCA.  It cost $1.45 for the first three minutes & I talked over-time three minutes for another 1.45.  That wasn’t bad, was it, considering that it is nine hundred miles apart?  I could hear you fairly well but not as well as the time I talked to Josephine from Great Lakes.

No, I never get lost, Mom.  Usually I go with someone who knows the town & we don’t usually get far off the main part of town.  It wouldn’t matter much if I did get lost because I can always inquire the right way & it doesn’t cost anything to ride the buses or street cars.  We always start back in plenty of time to get here before midnight.  There are lots of bums but they never bother us except just to ask for a dime or quarter.  There are always enough sailors around they wouldn’t dare start anything.  You would have to get around the same as we do—get on a street car & ask if it is going to the place we want to go.  The name of the street route is on the front of the car, too.  It isn’t so hard to get around.

The two white stripes on my cuff show that I am a second-class seaman.  One stripe is for apprentice seamen; three stripes for seamen first class.  That will be my next step.  We can’t get a higher rating here at the station.  Some of the boys in my company are already first class seamen.  They are the ones who went to sea instead of school.  The discipline here is getting very strict & most of the boys are glad to be going to sea.  I manage to stay out of the way so I don’tmind it yet.  We will have different guards when we move to the other barracks.  The diesel boys are the main guards at the gates but don’t have to stand any other guards.

It is 2020 now, the sun is just setting & colors has just been blown & the flag lowered.  The band usually plays in the mornings when the flag is hoisted.

I must close now so good-bye.  Hope everyone is well.









April letter to a brother

On the same day he wrote the previous letter, Lester received a letter from his younger brother Wallace. He started a reply that very evening, but finished it a few days later. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In this April letter, he again mentioned his uniform, apparently in answer to a question from his brother. This may be a good time to share images of a couple of Lester’s uniforms.

Woolen uniform for cold weather. Note all the buttons.
Woolen uniform for cold weather. Note all the buttons.
The back side.
The back side.

They had been carefully stored since 1942, turned inside out and kept in a box. I imagine my grandmother had stored them in her attic. After she was gone, they came to my father (Wallace in this letter.) After he was gone, they came to me. They’ve been through a flood or two, a move or two, and remain remarkably intact.

In preparing them for a photo, I felt awed by the fact that nobody had worn this clothing for over seventy years. I tried to imagine the pain Lester’s mother and father (my grandparents), his sister and his brothers must have felt when his clothing was shipped home without Lester in them.


April 1, 1942

Dear Wallace

I received your letter today after I had written to the folks so I will answer yours now while I have some time to spare.  You are welcome to all the clothes.  No, I don’t usually buy Our Navy because it costs a quarter but there are usually a few copies around the dormitory.  I got a Ford paper today which I will try to send to you.  I would be glad to get a copy of the Booster.

Yes, I was vaccinated for small pox the same way as you were except they didn’t take time to stick me fifteen times, about four or five, I think.  I got shot about a dozen times including Schick tests & none of them made my arm sore.  I was quite fortunate because it made some of the boys quite sick.

Yes, we have a radio.  It is a table model which sits on the shelf.  It is on continuously from 0530 to 2130 (9:30 PM).

Yes, I have two stripes on my cuff now but I haven’t started to draw second class pay yet.  I hope I will draw it this week.  We should get paid the last of this week.

Tuesday evening—April 7th.

Sturdy cotton. Ideal for summer wear.
Sturdy cotton. Ideal for summer wear.

Well, I didn’t have any news to tell you & not much time to write either so will try to finish this today.  We got paid yesterday afternoon & I drew my second class pay & also some back pay.  Twenty-four bucks.   I should get about sixteen each payday now & more if that new law is passed.  I managed to save some of it all along since I don’t take so many liberties & don’t usually spend much when I do go out.

The back side.
The back side.

I am sending you the Ford news & have numbered some of the pictures.  Number one is the large tool & die plant which we pass every day on returning from school in the morning.  Number two is where we attend classes.  We are on the floor with the first row of windows.  We enter at the door marked X.  The busses bring us to the walk at the front of the picture.  The white ridge just above. . . .


(The rest of this letter is missing. I have to wonder what else he told his younger brother.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA