Don't write to me at the return address because I will not be here when it comes. You know that already.
November 14, 1942
Dear Aunty Clara:
Things have a way of working out the way we want them to, especially when a person doesn't care whether they do or not.
At 7:45 I was two blocks away from the Board Office so I took it easy. Just as I came up to the place, I saw our soldier boys marching off to the "L". I nonchalantly inquired one of the tear-stained bystanders if they were the 8:00 bunch. "Yes", he tells me. So I strode boldly forward towards the 50th Ave. "L" making [it] just as the last stragglers were entering the ticket office.
There, to my utter chagrin, I discovered that they were going to Ft. Sheridan. I walk back to the draft board office, dejectedly (who wouldn't be dejected after wasting all that precious energy walking an extra ½ block).
Nevertheless, 15 minutes later our "contingent" was off --- consisting of me and another fellow. We rode down to Union Depot incognito; that is, with the Saturday workers. Can you imagine that, no crowds, no special car, and no seat!
Incidentally, as I write this at the station, I find that I am in error as to the location of Camp Grant. I mistook it for Rock Island on the Mississippi; whereas it is in the middle of the state and not even as far north as Waukegan. It is about 30 or so miles below Beloit, Wisconsin.
I suspect that you may save these little notes which I send home from time to time so I see no reason to make a carbon copy --- which I won't.
10:00 A.M. After waiting for a full hour they finally called Cicero Board #2 --- LAST! It seems that we are the last in everything. There is a trainload of fellows and we are in the last car. We weren't abroad the train more than two minutes when we pulled out. We are riding on what is called "the Milwaukee Road". Red plush seats. I haven't got a seat by the window --- but that's alright --- maybe the other fellow wants to enjoy the scenery too. As for me, I have my War & Peace to read.
Approx 6:00 P.M. --- We have had two meals, 3 tests, various instructions on insurance etc, received our towel (no wonder we take one from home), and our bunk assignment. I am lucky again, having received a lower bunk.
First I want to tell you about the intelligence test which I (for the first time in my life) messed up. You see, they spread out the vocabulary over 10 different pages, with only 5 or so words on each page. Well (dunce that I am) I didn't first skip around and work all of them but I plod thru all the harder stuff which consumes more time and in the end adds only one point anyway. I remained mortified but 5 minutes after the test; then my new philosophy of living came to my aid. I said were I to die at this instant the test would fall into the unimportance to which it belongs. I have no regrets because I no longer have such high aspirations. To be in love with this life is futile so I relegate the test and everything to its proper low place in order of importance.
By the way, have you noticed that I can be as windy in a letter as I can be in talking.
Nevertheless, to start at the beginning. We got off the train right here in camp and who should I see lining us up but Milton Tlapa (he lives on 23rd Pl. & 57th) an old M.J.C. classmate. He gave me his barracks number and told me to come over and see him. I haven't had the time to as yet.
We marched from the train into an assembly hall where we were told that they have Catholic & Protestant services here on Sunday. --- I see no reason for beginning attendance at this stage of my life.
Then we marched off to our barracks, washed our hands, and went to eat. And boy o boy, Aunty Clara, if all the camps serve as good food as Camp Grant, I will have a picnic. We had (1) peas & carrots, (2) veal steak, (3) salad (with carrots in them), (4) jello (with raisins in it) and whipped cream, (5) huge half potatoes (evidently baked), (6) stuffed olives (you only eat these if you are the first to open the jar, as I was, and have been the only person to put their fork into the olives), (7) coffee (if you wanted it) & (8) all the sugar you wanted (also, if you wanted it).
After dinner we all marched back to the barracks where we decided to rest our weary bones a few minutes. --- Alas and alack such was not to be our fate for in comes a soldier and says, "Off the beds you guys, once you're up you stay up. And don't sit or put anything on the beds during the daytime".
Then the tests started. The first one was a mechanical aptitude test which I was not very apt at. Second was the radio telephony test which consisted of listening to a group of dots and dashes over a phonograph with a repetition of the same sound or a different one a few seconds later. The object was to find out if we could detect a change or recognize it as a repetition. As you well know my auditory senses are both aesthetically and materially damaged and I doubt if I got 15 out of 80 right. It is unimportant; however, since the test is only to secure men for the Signal Corps.
When the tests were done, we ate once more. And believe me, the meal was swell again [I just told a soldier here the meals were good and he said they were the worst ones in a week. He added that they really have some super-dupers here]. Anyhow, for supper we had
(1) cold slaw (with cucumbers in it)
(2) some more carrots & peas
(3) a banana slice
(4) a bowl of meat soup with those round crackers in it
(5) BEANS (but they were alright since they came from Lima)
(6) Frankfurt's (I tasted one and it was good --- it doesn't have any skin)
We washed our hands for lunch but not for supper. However, the food is served in trays with partitions. As we pass each cook, they sling something on each section of the tray. You don't have to touch the food with your hands at all unless you eat bread.
We just had a slight interruption a few moments back. We received our "dog tags" (the little metal plates with our serial number, name & address of person to be informed in case of an emergency which is you.
ROMAN F. KLICK
5646 W 22ND PL
We have 2 of them.
That is all up to this moment 7:15. I guess I will take a walk to see if I can find Tlapa.
P.S. If I order the gov't to deduct twice $6.70 from my first pay, the policy becomes effective immediately
Author's annotation July 2004: This is the first letter home mailed from Camp Grant, Illinois at the end of the first day of active duty.