Apr 27, 2013

Tue, Apr 27, 1943: free as a bird (complete letter)

                    Leon Kansas
                    April 27, 1943
Dearest DeVere
alias Sid the Kid;
     School was out last Friday and I'm almost as free as a bird out of a cage.  We had a fine time the last day of school.  The patrons brought in baskets of dinner and it certainly tasted swell.  In the afternoon we had a short program and everyone was happy until I gave out the grade cards and didn't let Pistol Houser's twins pass then both the Mrs. and Mr. had to argue with me for awhile.
     Ray Parry and Clint were up this evening wanting me to sign up for another year.  I am supposed to let them know to-morrow, whether or not I'll take it.  They only offered $110 a month and I'd like to get $125 but don't know yet what I'll do.
     We were really disappointed because we didn't get to see you Sunday we went to Aunt Edith's.  Stanley thought it was awful you didn't get there before we left.
     We enjoyed your letter so much.  You write such interesting letters we can hardly wait to open them when we get them.  I know how it is to be so busy you can scarcely take time to write.  It seems like all winter that is the way it has been with us.
     We have been remodeling the kitchen but the work is not done yet and things are sort of torn up around here.  The cabinets are pretty nearly completed but are not painted and the walls are as dirty as can be yet.  But maybe some of these days we'll get things fixed up.
     We will be looking for you and your roommate next Saturday (guess he won't mind if things are sort of torn up will he?) We shall go to town either Sat. afternoon or evening; probably not until evening.  However if you go to Augusta and we aren't there yet you could go to Aunt Stella's a while.  She would be glad to visit with you.  Barbara stayed in town to-night as she was to play a piano solo at a club meeting (the club which sponsored her in the contest in Wichita).  Then she is counting on staying Friday night so she can get a permanent Sat., then come home whenever we go to town.  Say, if you want to you could send your laundry home now.  I'll be so I can get it done now.
     To-day was Senior freak day at Augusta.  Lee had on a thin dress with embroidery ruffles hanging below his dress a hat with a big plume and a feather fan.  His rouge was a little too prominent too.  I would liked to have seen the whole bunch of them.
     We were over to Katherines awhile Sunday.  They moved at Christmastime you know.  I think they like this place a little better than they did the other.
     It's about to strike 12:00 o'clock so I'd better go to bed or I can't get Stanley off in the morning.
     Hope you win in your vice-president election.  Those jokes limericks etc. were pretty good.
     With Lots of Love and hoping to see you soon.
-- Complete letter from my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Winfield, Kans., Tuesday, April 27, 1943.

Apr 25, 2013

Sun, Apr 25, 1943: potent stuff

"I think they are expecting gas to be used in the war before long because they have sure been preaching & teaching it to us.  Brother it is potent stuff."

--Letter from Everett “Sammy” Samuelson (a college friend), Camp Hood, Texas, to my father, Winfield, Kans., Sunday, April 25, 1943.  Italy had used mustard gas in Ethiopia in 1935-1936 and Japan used it in China in 1937.  In both cases, the other side had no chemical weapons with which to retaliate.  Both the Axis and Allies had chemical weapons stockpiles in World War II.  However, it was never used in the fighting in Europe or the Pacific, where both sides had gas weapons.  (Source: James W. Hammond, Poison Gas: The Myths Versus Reality [Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999], 43-49.)

Apr 18, 2013

Sun, Apr 11, 1943: a popular boy

"It gets awful hot down here.  I hate to think how hot it will be in another month.  Do you know yet how soon V1 & V7 will be called out?  Are you still hitting it off with Broadie?  I imagine you are quite a popular boy around there now with all the boys gone.  How I envy you.  I am telling you I sure miss the gals….

"I know how you are about writing, bad as I used to be.  When you get in the army what you really appreciate is a letter.  Get the hint?”
-- Letter from Everett “Sammy” Samuelson (a friend from college), Camp Hood, Tex., to my father, Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans., Sunday, April 11, 1943.
V1 and V7 were naval officer training programs, which kept enlisted men in college while preparing them for Midshipmen’s School.  My father would join a different such naval program, V12, in July 1943, but he may have initially thought he'd be called out with V1 or V7.  The enrollment of both men and women in college declined during World War II.  The enrollment of men declined by 68.7% from 1939-40 to 1943-44 school years.  Women were not subject to the draft.  However, their enrollment declined by 11.7% as they volunteered for the military or took civilian defense jobs.  When my mother arrived at Southwestern College in the fall of 1944, the student body included 137 women and 13 men.  The men there were exempted from military service, as farmers, or ministerial students, or were physically or mentally ineligible (4-F).
            (Sources: V. R.Cardozier, Colleges and Universities in World War II [Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1993], 116-17; Henry C. Herge, Sr. Navy V-12 [Peducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Company, 1996], 21-22.)

Apr 11, 2013

Sun, Apr 11, 1943: 18 rats

"Stanley said to tell you that we have about 20 calves. Also that he was over at King's today and he, Keith, Kenneth, Charles, Edward, Lloyd, the preacher and the dogs killed 18 rats."

-- Letter from my aunt, Barbara Brown, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Sidney DeVere Brown, Winfield, Kans., Sunday, April 11, 1943.  Stanley was their younger brother.

Apr 8, 2013

Thu, Apr 8, 1943: poisoning the minds

"'America First' was the story of a typical, mid-western family who finds themselves involved in the activities of an espionage ring.  Lee Holmes, frustrated seventeen-year old, becomes a trusted member of an underground youth movement promising a race-free, unprejudiced postwar world.  Encouraged by his fast friend, Jim Banks, he is fascinated by the smooth promises of infatuous Ola Kring and her suave brother Franz.
"Lee's frustration soon turns to panic, as the story unfolds, when his uncle, Frank Griffith, a Federal man, arrives unexpectedly, telling them of his assignment to help track down a group of foreign agents who are poisoning the minds of young people against democracy, free speech, and all that America stands for."
-- El Dorado High School yearbook description of the junior play, presented Thursday, April 8, 1943.
My mother, Ruth Murray, appeared in the play as “Ann Holmes, Lee’s Mother.”  Ultimately, the play description notes, “Lee redeems himself...and sends Ola and Franz to the punishment they deserve.”   The play was written before the Pearl Harbor and its title suggests that it was a propaganda piece associated with the America First Committee, formed in September 1940 to oppose U.S. entry into World War II. 
I have not been able to find the text of the play or even who wrote it.  The summary reveals the racism (and suspicion of anti-racism) that was one element pushing America Firsters to oppose entering World War II.  Charles Lindbergh, the most prominent America Firster, wrote in 1939, "We can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood, only so long as we guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races."  It seems curious that such a play was still being performed in the midst of the war.

 (Sources: The El Doradoan [El Dorado, Kans., High School yearbook], 1943;  Thornton Fractional North High School, Chronoscope Yearbook [Calumet City, IL, Class of 1941], via e-yearbooks.com; Pinckney Dispatch, April 16, 1941 and April 23, 1941, available at http://pinckneylocalhistory.org/)

El Dorado High School, 1943

My mother (at far right), age 16, in rehearsal for the school play, "America First," at El Dorado High School, in early 1943.  

Apr 1, 2013

Thu, Apr 1, 1943: a buck private

“...How goes college life.  As for me, I am a buck private, Phil, the 2 Thornes, Worth & I are in the same barracks.  I am expecting to be shipped out of here to-night.  Maybe St. Petersburg Florida--that would be hard to take wouldn't it.
"The army is O.K.  I have to get up 4:45 in the morning & it's killing me off.  The food is pretty good...."
--Letter from Everett “Sammy” Samuelson, Fort Leavenworth, Kans., to my father, Winfield, Kans., Thursday, April 1, 1943.  Sammy was a college classmate of my father, who had joined (or been drafted) into the military.