November 15, 1942
Dear Aunty Clara:
It is 6:45 and I am writing this by the light from in front of the barracks across the street. It comes in thru the window and as long as I prop my books against an upright portion of the bed I can see what I am writing. Since it is Sunday, we are not called at 5:45 but at 7:00 or 7:30.
I must tell you about this 1st nights sleep. I have already told you that they are double bunks we have. Well, after undressing down to my underwear I climbed in the way Chester Hansen from RH&R says real soldiers did; that is, I did not remove the tucking but crawled right down underneath the covers. Feet first. The blankets were warm, the mattress about like the cot in the dining room (only this was wider) and the pillow was like those hard ones I used to have in my room when I
AHA I JUST TURNED ON THE LIGHTS AS WE RECEIVED THOSE ORDERS OVER THE LOUD SPEAKING SYSTEM. A voice blurts out "O.K. 125 - 125 Turn on your lights, Turn on your lights"
first took over from Uncle Jack. Anyhow the barracks were nice and warm at first. Then the bright chaps in the outfit decided that we should have fresh air. As a result I would wake up intermittently with my arms (sleeveless) outside the covers and a cold breeze blowing down on me. But maybe that's healthy. I mean conducive to bad health. If I die from pneumonia, you know the reason why. It seemed that I woke up every hour on the hour all night long and I couldn't understand it until along about 3 o'clock I noticed that the fellow in the upper bunk would turn around and it would shake the lower bunk just the way you sometimes shook the bed at home and by instinct I would arouse myself.
Another thing that made me sleep lightly is that you only have 3 or 5 minutes to get dressed in the morning and I wanted about 15. The only way you can get the extra time is by beating the call.
While I was writing the first part of this second page, we were called to breakfast. Today we went to a mess hall about 2 or 3 blocks away instead of only a block. We had (1) corn flakes (individual boxes) (2) grape fruit (½) (3) 2 pancakes with syrup (4) 2 pork chops and (5) milk (for cereal or drink) or coffee. I saw these bottles of milk turned upside down so I grabbed one right off and opening it up poured it into my coffee cup which seems to hold more than a pint. I later had two refills. I also ate 1 pork sausage, the corn flakes, the grapefruit and a portion of the pancakes (I never could eat much of them anyway without filling up in a hurry). I am glad I learned how to get along without sugar at home because I certainly will never take any of it here. They use their own spoons!
There are two more little things I noticed. First, they have cockroaches in the bathroom. Second, the boardwalks are not very well matched and there are empty spaces between the boards. If I hadn't got my brown shoes scuffed up before I came here, they would have gotten that way because just about every 5 steps the corner of the shoe is stuck in the opening between boards.
A person feels out of place in civilian clothes when everyone else is in uniform. So I am anxious to get outfitted. I also hope that barber cuts my hair off within an inch or so of my head because as Señor Gonzalez says those extra minutes are needed.
I am now going to describe how the general layout of the camp looks in letters to other people; so you can read about it from the carbon copies, O.K.? Isn't it funny how easy these pages keep flowing from underneath my pencil? Maybe that's because I write as if I were talking and I know that you won't pay too much attention to the mistakes I make.
We just had to make beds --- but mine was made (and, of course, not by me) Maybe I should have remade the thing anyway so I will know how to do it when I have to. I watched the other fellows do it.
2:00 P.M. Sunday 11-15-42
Dear Aunty Clara:
We were all becoming impatient for lunch today and finally ate at 12:30. They ran out of knives & spoons when we came into the mess hall so we had to get along with our forks. I wanted some soup but had nothing to eat it with. I did have (1) cold slaw (2) carrots (3) mashed potatoes (really mushy nice) & gravy (4) leg of chicken & what white meat hung on to it (I only ate the bits of white meat) (5) two cookies with chocolate chips in them (6) Sealtest ice cream and (7) coffee (I drank it but I don't know why --- just to have something to drink I guess). I had to get into the Army before I could sit down and find time to write letters ---that's pretty good n'est-ce pas, mademoiselle? I doubt if I'll bother going to the shows --- they have Abbot & Costello in "Who Done It" at one show, Pat O'Brien in "The Navy Comes Through" at another & Vic Mature in "Seven Days Leave" at a third. It's all free. I suppose it is (was when you get this letter) a nice day in Cicero like it is out here. Its warm enough for golf.
6:45 Sunday evening 11-15-42
Dear Aunty Clara:
The fellows who came in Thursday began leaving yesterday and most of the rest are leaving tomorrow. The way the announcement is made is by posting a notice on the barracks bulletin board. The terse note says the following men are leaving for Camp "A" or Camp "B" at such and such a time and that mess for these men will be one hour before train time. What I am driving at is this. If I have an advance notice of a full day, I may be able to write or call you on the telephone to that effect. Now, the chances are slim but there is the possibility that the train may be routed through Chicago. Of course, I don't know what station either. Now here is my plan if you care to throw away an evening or an afternoon of your time. After I inform you of the time my train leaves Camp Grant, hie yourself downtown so that one hour and a half after I leave Grant you are someplace downtown. However, downtown is rather large even if it is small; so you must locate yourself at a telephone which will be undisturbed for sometime (perhaps the Spanish Club or some little used public phone) and inform Aunty Florence or Uncle Joe or Mrs. Reed of the number. Then 1st if I do come thru Chicago and 2nd if I can get off the train to a telephone I will call home (if I get no answer, I will call the Reed's) and find out the telephone number of the spot you are waiting at. Since you will be close by, I will tell you where to come and then you come (just like that --- any soldier tells you to do something --- you do it). It is up to you whether you want to do it. If you decide against it now and I call up from Camp Grant saying I am leaving, you can tell me so then. If, however, I write and you don't care to chance it, don't. If the 1 chance out of a 1,000 or more turns out, I can still call you up on the phone from downtown and talk for some time. Remember the imposition is all on you. I am imposing on you because you will be the one who will feel the disappointment of waiting at a telephone for hours and then finally going home without having received a call anyway. Then again we must not overlook the possibility that even though you may come downtown and I also come in, I may not be able to contact your temporary phone number and by so doing spoil everything by not even being able to talk over the phone. Use your judgement and then decide upon what you think is best. Remember too, that I desire other people's happiness above my own and by knowing you have followed such action as will make you most satisfied, I will be contented.
I failed to tell you, I think, that at our noon meal today we had musical accompaniment (and I am not being funny). There were about six musicians, clarinetists, violinists, cellist and a pianist. Their opening number was one of my favorites "Tea for Two" and as I was going out they struck another favorite theme "Italian Street Song".
This reporting of my daily menu has not ceased to be entertaining to me and I hope it does not bore you. I can't get over it. They fix all the best dishes and just like you make them. For instance, this evening we had peas and shrimps, cold slaw with cucumbers, potato salad, wieners (frankfurters), red grapes in bunches, another slice of Sealtest ice cream, and this time I only took a half cup of coffee. Have you noticed that I never mentioned bread to you? Well, first I didn't notice where it was and then when I found it a few meals later, I decided against it.
I haven't had the good fortune to talk to Milton Tlapa yet in a free moment, although I have seen him 4 times. Once when I went to his barracks I ran into a fellow named John Stabrawa who used to work on the printing press at RH&R. He was a good friend of the Suchoskis and I got a little small talk about Ray, Eddie & Chester.
There is another fellow at camp who I remember faintly but can't place him. To make matters worse he called me by my first name.
There is one more fellow I saw about a ¼ block off and I am not so sure I really knew him. I thought he was Henry Victor Voight from my first history class with Dunn at the YMCA.
The fellow in the bunk above me is Greek and 42 years old. I asked him if he knew Mashos or Ager but he didn't. He doesn't know how to write so I filled out his questionnaire for him. And my goodness, he lives in Elmwood Park and works as the billiard man in the bowling alleys on Grand & Neva Aves. That is the place George and I went bowling. He probably rented the table to us also. Small world, isn't it? His name is Nick Paulos and has followed billiards as a profession. He has played with Hoppe, Denton, Thurnblad, Cochran and all the rest of the billiard champs.
I bought 20 postcards this afternoon and sent one to almost everyone on my address list. When I get finished with this letter, I intend to write letters to Gonzalez, Virginia and Aunty Lillie. If I finish them, you will know by finding carbon copies of the same.
I am writing this in T-129, the recreation barracks. They have a radio here and have it on WMAQ straight thru --- Benny and One Man's Family --- but you can['t] hear them for all the noise. That is something you can keep me posted on --- what is happening to "One Man's Family".
They have a Post Exchange on the grounds where they sell everything including V620 film for 23¢. I paid 32¢. I was advised to get a haircut at the P.E. rather than get it trimmed by the company barber. The commercial barber here only charges 35¢. All the prices are extremely low. And the juke box is FREE, all you do is simply press down on the lever or key of the song you wish played.
I don't know how busy I will be tomorrow, Monday, and when I will have the next opportunity to write so au revoir until then.