Dreaming of Visitors

Anticipating a visit from the folks, Lester details his schedule of free time. Classes are drawing to a close and he is looking forward to assignment on a sea-going ship. Josephine’s visit has ended. She has gone home again.


Thursday evening

July 9 – 1942

Dear Folks

I received your letter today and am glad to hear from you.  I’m glad that you are planning on coming to see me.  However I can’t tell you very much for sure except the regular schedule which says we will have liberty from Wednesday noon until eight Thursday morning and from Saturday noon until eight Monday morning.  However the last draft stayed longer than scheduled and had an additional liberty from Friday at 4 PM until eight the following morn.

There is a rumor that we will get nine day leaves—but I don’t believe we will get them.  You can go ahead and plan to come. I will let you know as soon as I learn anything for certain but that probably won’t be until we get to the Lakes.  You asked how much time I would have before going to the Lakes.   I would go directly to the Great Lakes from here in a troop train. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We will probably leave here Friday morning, July 24th and get to the Lakes that same night.  We would have liberty from noon Saturday, the 25th until eight the following Monday morning.  Then again from Wednesday noon, the 29th until eight Thursday morning.  If we aren‘t sent out on Friday the 31st, we would probably have liberty again and might possibly get a leave.  That is something which no one can say at this time.

There is a small town, Waukegan, where you could stay if you wanted to do that.  It is only four miles from the station while Chicago is several miles farther.  Will let you know as soon as I find out anything new.

We hear every few days from some of the boys who have gone to sea duty.  All of them like it fine.  Everyone in my class is restless, tired of this place and wanting to go to sea. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I was surprised to get to talk to Wallace the other night when I called Josephine but glad too.  I had been wondering what Herb Clayton was doing now.  Well, certainly he isn’t too good for the job.

I met a boy from Emporia today.  We have been in the same part of the dormitory for two weeks and just now are getting acquainted.  He used to live in Toledo.  We both knew Einsmingers, south of Americus, and some other folks down there.  Another Emporia boy, Snyder, who drove the Camel tobacco truck, is here in another barracks.  More men are being sent to school all the time.

We had watermelon for dinner today.  It was good too.  We had peaches for breakfast but they weren’t any too ripe.

Guess I better close and write another letter or two.  I’ll be expecting to see you before too long.

The Folks
The Folks


Love to all




Letter dated May 20, 1942

The mailbox was stuffed in 1942 with lots of correspondence from family and friends. Letters hold the seeds of friendship and love. Lester would surely have known he was important to a lot of people from home. Likewise, they knew they were important to him.


Wednesday evening May 20 – 1942

The Folks


Dear Folks

If I answer your letter tonight you should get it before Sunday.  I received your letter today, one from Frances and a card from one of my buddies who left on the last draft.  He is on a ship on the east coast and likes it fine.  It is quite possible that I would have been sent with him if I had gone with the last draft.  All of the boys we have heard from like it fine on board ship.

You could never guess who I met up here last Monday.  James McIntire of Dunlap.  We were at the dinner table with only one person between us.  Someone mentioned Kansas so of course I asked who was from Kansas.  James said “I am”.  I didn’t recognize him so asked where in Kansas.  He knew me and said, “the same place you are from.”  I finally had to ask his name.  I thought of him but never dreamed of meeting him in the navy and especially up here.  It’s a small world, I guess.

I got the Booster this evening and it is very interesting.  There seems to be a number of the kids that I don’t know.  However, I enjoyed it just the same.  Would you like to have more of “Our Navy” magazines?

Dad, do you remember I asked if you knew someone from Algona, Iowa?  It was Mr Long, wasn’t it?  One of my buddies is from there and he knows of Mr. Long but he said not many people knew much about him.

Tomorrow is pay day so we will get paid in the evening.  We should have been paid today but don’t always get paid when we should be paid.

Thursday morning and I didn’t get to finish this last night.  It is nearly clear this morning so perhaps it will be nice for awhile.

Paul, did you put that rating badge on your suit or does it have one?  I wash my suit sometimes and have one of the boys press it with an iron.  A few of the boys have electric irons though they aren’t supposed to possess them.  It costs thirty cents for each garment to have them cleaned and pressed or we can wash them and the boys will press them for a dime.

Is Benny still working at Frank & Katie’s?  Do you know who is helping him now?  I imagine it will be rather hard to find someone to stay in town and look after his folks but perhaps he will be able to find someone.

Do you have the corn planted yet?  It has been quite rainy everywhere I guess.

I will have to close if I am to get this mailed today.






Tidbits from Home

Lester must have received notes from everyone at home, to make sure that Josephine had arrived safely. He apparently caught up on lots of home news in the process.


May 16 – 1942


Dear Folks

This is Saturday morning and we aren’t having any inspection this morning so will write a few lines.  It has been raining quite a lot the last few days and it rained especially hard last night.  I was on sentry watch at one of the gates and when I went to chow the water on the sidewalks was over the tops of my rubbers.  My feet got soaked but I dried them good before going to bed and don’t feel any worse for the experience.  It is still raining at times this morning.  I guess the captain must have been pleased with our show for the admiral the other day and is letting us off without an inspection to show his gratitude.  Also the boys who get liberty are getting off at twelve oclock instead of four this evening.  There really isn’t any reason why we couldn’t get off at noon every Saturday but we just don’t get to do that.  Those of us on the duty section are supposed to go on a parade Sunday afternoon at Belle Isle.  I hope it isn’t raining.

I had a letter from Lawrence Cessnun yesterday.  He is still in California and is driving a jeep.  One of my buddies who left in the last draft three weeks ago is in New York City now.

I talked to Josephine a while ago. She had a letter from Mabel saying that Melvin was still at Camp Cooke.  His training period should be about up.  No, we aren’t planning on getting married—yet.

Paul, what color are the kittens?  We have an old grey cat here on the station that came last winter & has stayed with us.  She was sure skinny when she first came but she gets plenty to eat now, I guess.   Where did you get the banty chicks?

Mom, I picked up a couple of rocks for you and will send them as soon as I can get a box to put them in.  They aren’t very large and are very light.  They really aren’t rocks but have been formed from the slag or melted ore here at the plant.  I thought they would be more interesting than the ordinary rocks.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to find any cactuses for you tho, at least up here.

Wallace, I got your letter today so will answer it now.  Yes Josephine got here okay a week ago this morning.  One of those sailors was from Madison and he rode with her and helped her to change trains at Chicago.

You did very well in the typing contest.  Congratulations.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Write again.  I’m closing now.


Love to all




They just couldn’t stand it any longer. Lester’s intended headed to Michigan to be close to him. She found a place to stay and a job nearby. What a special time for the two of them! Like many farm families from that time period, Josephine’s family and Lester’s family were all good friends. Lester and Josephine grew up together and had known each other most of their lives. Lester’s younger brother and Josephine’s younger brother were best pals through their school years.


Monday night

May 11 – 1942

Dear Folks

I haven’t much time tonight but will write a few lines at least.  Thanks for the candy you sent with Josephine.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was very good.  I went in and saw her Saturday evening and all day Sunday.  We went out and met Allen’s cousin Sunday afternoon.  They are rather old but seemed very nice.  They asked her to stay with them awhile but I don’t know what she is going to do.  Yes, I wish you could have come with her, Mom.  Perhaps you will be able to come to Chicago when I go back to the Lakes.  You could visit Audrey too, then.

Josephine just called me now.  She is out at the cousin’s tonight.  She looked for a job today but didn’t find anything yet that she wanted.


The president of Peru is coming tomorrow to review us and visit the station.  We have been drilling for the performance and he probably won’t stay long enough to hardly see us when he does come.  Rear Admiral Downes is coming Wednesday to see us so we are going to have to watch our step, you see.  Mr Downes is the commandant of the ninth naval district.  He is at Great Lakes.

Tuesday morning.  Taps blew last night before I finished this so I’ll try again this morning.  We will probably have to go to chow pretty soon now.

Is it still raining at home?  We have been having quite a little rain here, not so much at one time but frequent small rains.  It is a little chilly but not cold.

Well, chow is over and we had hash, French toast and syrup, oatmeal, an apple and a donut.  It was pretty good.  When it is warm we usually have cold tea, lemonade or orangeade to drink for noon and evening.

You might tell Mabel that if she wants to write to Josephine before she gets a permanent address, she can send it to me and I will see that she gets it.


Noon:  The president of Peru has been here and gone again.  He is just a little fellow, about middle-aged I would guess.  Mr Henry Ford was along.  This was the first time I have seen him but he looks just like his pictures.  He wore a light grey suit & an old brown felt hat.  He was just as common as anyone.  He looks like he is getting pretty old.

Guess I had better mail this cause it is about time to go to school.  I talked to Josephine at noon and she has taken a job doing housework near here.  Will write more later.




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.









Running commentary from Sick Bay

May 3 – 1942

Sunday night

Dear Folks

Is it raining at home?  It is here, a nice spring shower.  It has been raining an hour or so now.  I’m glad I don’t have to be out in it.  I won’t have to stand any more Seaman guard watches.  The diesel boys just stand the gate sentries & we have little guard houses to stay in.  That shouldn’t be bad at all. Some of the seaman guard boys didn’t have their raincoats when it started raining so I expect they got wet.

We started wearing our white hats the first of May.  They look very nice, I think.


Monday noon

Its pretty chilly today, guess the rain cooled things off.  I am still in bed here in sick bay but I never felt better in my life.  My temperature has been normal for several days.  Today is my eleventh day so I should be getting out of here soon.  I have a pretty fair-sized boil on my neck.  You should have seen my nurse dance with joy when she saw it.  She says that she just loves to squeeze those things & I believe her.  It didn’t take her long to get started on it after I told her that she could squeeze it.  Its getting better now & I don’t have any more.

Monday evening.

Well I’ll see if I can finish this letter this evening.  I’m afraid it won’t be 18 pages though.  A hundred players from Hollywood are putting on a show in Detroit tonight.  Seats cost from one dollar to five hundred dollars.  Only three & five dollar seats are left & not many of those.  The money is to be turned over to army & navy relief societies.  It should be a good show with Bob Hope as master of ceremonies.

Tuesday afternoon.  I’m going to mail this today even if I have to let it go unfinished.  The doctor said I might be up two hours today so I’m hoping to get out before long.  The reason this is harder to read than usual is that I’m laying on my side with a hot water bottle on my neck so I can’t get in a very convenient position to write.  We have a quiet hour from one until two each afternoon & it is time for it so I will close.  I’m feeling fine.




Wednesday noon

May 6 – 1942


Dear Folks

Well, the mumps are all gone & the doctors have said that I may return to duty this evening.  I’m glad of that.  I haven’t had any fever for a long time & am feeling fine.  They don’t take any chances of us developing any complications.  There isn’t any danger now.  The swelling has been down about a week, I think.  The boil on my neck is practically okay.

I hope you don’t have any floods from the rains you have been having.  We have just had a nice little rain & it is still cloudy.  This river seems to just stay the same, never rises or falls.  It has been quite warm but is a little cooler now.  Is the garden up yet?  The grass, trees & shrubs are all green up here.  I believe it is warmer here than at home because it hasn’t been nearly cold enough to freeze or frost.  You certainly must have had a lot of mud to burn out two clutches in the car.  You may take the fenders off if you want to make a mud car out of it.  You had just about as well do that if you can use it only for the route on account of the tires.  I helped rebuild some V-8 engines up here but I didn’t work on any model A’s.  I have liked my work fine but haven’t gone to any diesel yet so don’t know what it will be like.  The boys tell me that is hasn’t been very interesting but perhaps it will get better.  Some of the fellows brought my lessons over so I have just about kept up with them.  I won’t be penalized for what I have missed.  I was getting a little anxious because if we miss ten school days we are set back with the next class & I want to go ahead & finish with my bunch so that we may get to go to sea together.  I have missed eight days now.  Don’t worry about the mumps because the doctors won’t release us until they are certain we are safe.  They don’t care if we miss two days or twenty.

Teachers are scarce this year, aren’t they?  You will be fortunate if you can keep all of them.  Will there be only four in high school?

So Caroline still feeds you, does she, dad?  Its rather odd but I was just telling my roommate yesterday about the cookies she gave us.  Did you tell Wallace & Paul where she gets her water to make that cake?  No need to spoil it if the cake was good.  Josephine sent me some candy the other day & I still have some of it.  It was good.  You don’t need to send any cookies or anything that uses sugar because you probably need it & we have all the sweet stuff we need.  Of course, the cookies are good.

Mom, I am sending you a little money as a mother’s day gift.  I haven’t had a chance to get out & get anything & I want to give you something.  Buy whatever you want for yourself but don’t send it back to me.  I have all I need.  When I get ready to leave here I expect to have a good deal of my pay be put into defense bonds or something.  I don’t spend a great deal in here.  Some of the boys are always broke but I have saved fifty dollars up til now & we get paid again soon.  The check is yours too.  Guess I’ll have to get me a date book & put down all the anniversarys & birthdays.  I forgot Frances’ wedding. I was thinking it was June 5th.

It is evening now & I have got moved back into the barracks & done some washing.  I’m going to bed pretty soon.  If ever you want to call me, the number is Oregon 9482.  That is different than the old number so don’t get them mixed.

Love to all.


Wallace, I found the Bulletin you sent me this evening.  Some one had put it in my coat.  Thanks.












Burn the letter!

A long disruption in the missiles from Michigan is explained. Lester is ill. He’ll be fine, but his concern for the health of his folks is a bit humorous here. Burn the letter so you don’t get my mumps! This is the first letter that arrived without a stamp. Postage evidently was free to servicemen for a while.


Saturday evening

Dear Folks

I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t get to come home because I am in sick bay again for awhile.  Now don’t get scared because I’m not very bad.  I have one of the nicest cases of mumps you ever saw!  On both sides, too.  No need to make two cases of it when one will do, is there?  I came in Thursday evening.  I wasn’t really sick then but I just had a feeling that it was going to be mumps so didn’t want to take any chances.  I am feeling pretty good now though I still have some temperature & my jaws & neck are still swollen.  I’m not allowed to get out of bed for several days yet.  I don’t even sit up except to eat.

It was just three months ago tonight that I entered sick bay the other time.

Most of my bunch left here yesterday morning.  The new ones got here last night.  I never did write to Nelson Parrish.  Do you know if he is still at Great Lakes?  Wayne Howard is in the army in California.  Dad, do you have a friend at Algona, Iowa?  The name sounds familiar.  I know a boy by the name of Hardgrove from there.

There is a possibility that you might contact the mumps from me thru a letter so I probably won’t write any more until that danger is past.  Please explain to Josephine why I’m not writing to her.  I’m getting along ok & have the very best of care so there is nothing to worry about.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABetter burn this immediately!







Obviously, nobody burned the letter. Not immediately. Not even after seven decades. Apparently the folks didn’t believe they’d contract mumps from reading Lester’s words.

Letter home from February 8, 1942

Lester and a young cousin with the farm dogs.
Lester and a young cousin with the farm dogs.

Given the frequency of his previous letters, it is hard to believe that none arrived home from early December until now. Surely there are a few missing in the collection. Perhaps he called home a time or two. Since his last letter, Lester has been accepted in the US Navy Service school at Ford Motor Company and moved to Dearborn. He spent some time in the hospital, so must have been quite ill for a while. He writes again:

Postmark:  Dearborn, Mich.  Feb 9  11:30 AM, 1942 US postage 3c

Sunday, Feb. 8, ‘42

Dear Folks:

I have just returned from church so will try to get a letter off to you before chow.  We have church at 8:30 here & it isn’t compulsory as it was at Great Lakes.  Today was my first time up here as I was in the hospital the other two Sundays.  It is getting colder & the wind is quite sharp but the sun is shining so it isn’t too cold.  We have had some snow but it has been above freezing most of the time so there isn’t much snow on the ground.  We have had pretty nice weather so far.  Hope it continues.  We didn’t get liberty this weekend as we were supposed to because someone has measles or scarlet fever.  That means I won’t get liberty for two more weeks as only half of us get liberty each week.  Guess they must want to help us save our money.  About one more month & I should be getting my $36 per month instead of $21.  Yesterday was inspection day but that is about all we did except hear a lecture on firearms & march around the station for an hour.  We have a little more time here than at Great Lakes but not too much at that.  I went to the show last night “All Through the Night”.  It was a propanganda film showing the Nazis work in the U.S.   Our shows aren’t all like that.  We have the same shows here as at home.  I haven’t been out on liberty yet & we do the same thing every day so there isn’t much to tell you.  I wrote to Myron this morning.  Maybe he will get it by the 4th of July.  I should answer a letter from Frances today if I can.