Nov 16, 2012

Tue, Nov 16, 1942: exemplary character

“...Mr. Brown is a young man of excellent appearance, apparently sound physical health, pleasing manners, fine personality, exemplary character, and the highest ideals of loyalty, patriotism, and devotion to duty.
“Mr. Brown is an excellent student, keenly intellectual, a very hard worker, practical, efficient, and capable in all that he undertakes to do.  He is never satisfied with ‘good enough’, but always aims and plans to do his best in whatever he undertakes....”

--Letter of recommendation from Leroy Allen, professor of religion, Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans., dated Tuesday, November 16, 1942, in reference to my father’s application to enlist in the U.S. Navy.
          My father chose to enlist in the Navy, knowing that he would soon be drafted in any case.  He enlisted on November 17, 1942, and would begin his military service in July 1943.  He would later write, “More than high patriotism, my youthful signing was a maneuver to avoid being drafted into the infantry when I turned eighteen.”  I obtained this letter by ordering my father’s military service records from the National Archives (  You can order military records of a deceased veteran, if you are immediate kin.  If the veteran separated from the service more than 62 years ago, anyone can order their military record.  (Source: Letter from my father to Elliott Nickell, March 18, 2001).

Nov 10, 2012

Tues, Nov 10, 1942: inspection

"...We had a 'shake-down' inspection Monday morning.  It was quite an ordeal for we had to lay all our equiptment on our bunks for a check up. An officer checked every item that we were issued.  If we were short any thing it was charged against us and too if there was too much, we either had to hide it or turn it back to the supply room....”
--Letter from Dale Sooter, my Dad's cousin, an Army private, Wilmington, Calif., to my father, a college sophomore at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans., Tuesday, November 10, 1942.

Nov 8, 2012

Sun, Nov 8, 1942: new pony

“...Lois and Billy Mitchell are married.
"Billy Alley has a new pony.  It is sorrel and has a white strip down its head.
"I hope you get good grades.  Please tell me your grads.
"Yours truly,
--Letter from my uncle Stanley, age 9, on the farm, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, 17, a sophomore at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans., Sunday, November 8,1942.

Sun, Nov 8, 1942: Homecoming (complete letter)

                          Nov. 8, 1942
                          Winfield, Kans.
Dear Barbara:
     I've finally got around to writing you folks to let you know that Joyce and I arrived in Winfield safely last Sunday Evening.  I didn't get time last week, because it was about the busiest we've had since school began.  Besides having mid-semester examinations, I had to get some papers in for Social and Economic Problems, prepare a debate, and it was Homecoming Week.
     I think I did fairly well on some of the examinations, I got all of the problems right in Algebra for a perfect paper.  Our grades will come out next week, but I already know that I got an A - in Health Education (3 hours).
     You may have noticed in the papers that Southwestern was beaten 20-7 by St. Benedict's in the Homecoming Football Game.  Our team started off good, made the first touchdown, and didn't let St. Benedict's make a single first down until near the end of the third quarter, but after that our boys played out or something and they won.  The night before the game, I went to the Campus Player's Homecoming Play 'Out of the Frying Pan,' and then to a big pep rally and bonfire.  After that we went down and worked on the Kappa Rho float for the Parade the next morning.  For the float, we had a great big 1923 Buick all painted up with inscriptions, and a bunch of boys dressed like Arkansawyers chasing with shotgun's Bud Helm dressed up like a Raven (St. Benedict's Ravens).  After that we got our quartet together to serenade some of the girl's dormitories, and finally we studied Health Education for our regular Saturday morning test before going to bed.
     I suppose you heard that Joyce was rejected by the army.  It looks like he may get to be a college graduate yet.
     Be sure to write and tell me what's going on around Augusta and home.  I hope this gasoline rationing coming up November 22 won't interfere with your schooling.
     I'll see you all next Sunday up at Augusta.  Joyce and I plan to see the Wichita U. game on Saturday, stay all night and came over the next day with King's.  Tell Dad that I may be available for a day's work on Monday, is he's got anything to do out on the farm.  I suppose Stanley's mighty busy, and tell him we'll have another aeroplane ride, the next chance we get.  How does Mom like schoolteaching by this time.
                        Sincerely Yours,
P.S.- Please have the folks bring my birth certificate into Augusta Sunday.
--Complete letter from my father, a sophomore at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans., to his sister, Barbara, on the farm in Bloomington, Kans., Sunday, November 8,1942.
      This portrait of my father’s lifestyle as a 17-year-old college sophomore provides quite a contrast with the lives of his friends and relatives that were going off to the military.  For a change, I thought I would post an entire letter, to give you some sense of the documents from which I extract the brief quotes I've been posting.  This three-page letter is a pretty typical length. When my father was in college, most of the letters he and his family sent were about two to five pages.  They also occasionally sent each other postcards.  As with this letter, they typically wrote on Sunday or midweek (Tuesday to Thursday).

Nov 1, 2012

Sun, Nov 8, 1942: married

"...We were over at Katherine's for dinner to-day.  Papa, Mamma, and Robert rode over with us.  Flo and Everett and Lois were there too.  We had a lovely dinner.  Lois Arlene and Billy are just announcing that they were married last Feb. 7th.  Guess Flo was the only one who knew it.  Lois intends to finish school this year.  LaVerne cried when she found it out...."
--Letter from my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Winfield, Kans., Sunday, November 8, 1942.  Katherine, Robert, and Flo were my grandmother’s siblings.  Lois Arlene and LaVerne were the children of Flo and her husband Everett.  I'm not sure why Lois and Billy waited nine months to announce their marriage.  The wedding took place two months after the U.S. went to war and was part of a nationwide surge in marriages in the early months of the war (on marriage rates in World War II, see my earlier post “July 15, 1942: married”).