5 December 1942
Camp White, Oregon
Dear Aunty Clara:
Today was "Build up Roman's Morale Day". Why? Well, simply because I received (1) a letter from my own Aunty Clara (incidentally, thanks for the invisible collar holder-downer), (2) a letter from my own Aunty Florence (incidentally when Aunty Florence reads this, this is a thanks for the other invisible collar holder-downer), (3) a letter from Ulysses Reder (which will be sent to you to file when I answer it), (4) a letter from Aunt-Aunt (and not an answer to mine judging from the context), (5) a letter from Anita (you will eventually see these letters for yourselves) AND (6) (AHEM!) a letter from Mr. Drews of Rathborne, Hair & Ridgway Company. Yessiree, there is nothing which makes a fellow feel better than to get letters and six a day for everyday would suit me fine. Now before I continue with my epistle I want to thank both you and Aunty Florence once again for those holders. I inserted one underneath the collar tips immediately after I found it in the envelope. You can be sure it adds to a fellows appearance. You know, these shirts have been worn for quite a long stretch and are not in the best of condition. At least the collars have a trim look now.
By not having time within the last few days to say anything much about what I have been doing, I will have to take up the subjects as they pop into my mind. There has been too much happening to put it all down in chronological order.
First --- So you are having below zero weather back home, eh? Heh, heh, heh, I laugh. You poor people freezing in the great Middle West while here I am basking in the Agate Desert. The Agate Desert where it seldom goes below freezing, practically never snows, and where a sub-zero temperature is virtually unknown. Heh, heh --- you people might as well enjoy the last laugh. As you know, we had freezing temperatures earlier this week but you don't know that we had snow today --- a rare day in the Agate Desert --- snow that covered the ground when we awoke for Reveille and continued falling until noon. We were foot deep in the stuff. But here is where a bright note shows itself, the snow did not stay. By evening it was impossible to tell that we had had such a snowfall. It had all disappeared. So much for the weather.
Now about the air-raid alarm. It was merely an alert and was held at 10:45 during the daytime today. The first I heard about it was when I was walking from Headquarters with Cpl. Censky at noon. He gave me no other idea of what it was to consist of besides a general alarm. At 12:40 I peacefully and amiably walked out of the mess hall towards the dayroom. At that moment a Pvt. 1st Class cautioned me to have my gasmask handy. I double-timed it back to the barracks where the fellows were putting on their gasmasks and cartridge belts. Then, just as I adjusted my equipment, the alarm sounded and out of the barracks we went. In less time than it takes to tell about it we fell in ranks, were called to attention, and ordered to march into the fields. I still did not understand what was to happen. I still did not realize that I was not "on the ball". I was strictly "off the beam". Every last person was in fatigues and leggings or O.D.s and leggings. Every last person but yours truly. He was dressed just as he came from the office in his Sunday best. You know how I always dressed up in my best clothes to get the oil or coal well this case was slightly similar. We marched, ran and waded thru the fields for approximately a mile. Then we dispersed thru the underbrush squatting underneath the snow covered bushes with no man nearer to another by more than five yards. After a 15 minute squat, we reformed ranks and marched back to the barracks "at ease". This narration has only given you a brief outline of what actually took place. I will now go into detail. The snow was still on the ground but the temperature had climbed into the 50's. We had gloves on, field jackets buttoned at the collar, and the masks and belts tacked on. At first we
Continued 10:00 A.M. Sunday
walked over comparatively hard ground, then thru deep wet snow, then thru ground which sank beneath us as we stepped upon it, then thru water, over ten foot rivers, then thru muck and mud and gush into which we readily sank ankle deep. All this with yours truly dressed for a Sunday walk. I would have enjoyed it if I had been dressed for it. I know I enjoyed that business when I was a kidlet and could soon learn to enjoy it once again. However, as it turned out, I am having my pants dry cleaned for 50¢.
By the way, while mentioning prices I would like to mention a few discrepancies. All candy bars, cigarettes, toilet articles, and such are cheap but paper, articles of clothes, services (pressing), luxury articles, and ice cream delicacies are sky high. I can not see why they give a break to the soldiers in one thing and "ream" them on another. At Camp Grant all articles were extremely below civilian prices while here some things are as high or higher.
Incidentally, films are practically non-existent as a purchasable commodity in this neck of the woods while in Camp Grant they were 23¢ a roll. I think I ought to write to Milton Tlapa at Camp Grant and have him buy some film, bring them to you, and you can send them to me as I need them. I also hear that in a short time they will no longer sell film anywhere so it might be a good idea to buy up about 6 rolls of 620 Verichrome film at Vintera's and hold them until I need them.
In answer to your letter of Wednesday --- Now you have had two answers as to how I got my office job. I am afraid we are going to run into quite a bit of that anticipation of questions and answers and will have to take all of it into account. Your letters (airmail) take 2 days to reach me. Your Wed. letter was dated Thurs. and I rec'd it Sat. Ulysses 3¢ mail took from Nov 30 to Dec. 5. How is delivery from West to East? Does my mail take a little longer?
It snowed and turned to sleet again during the night but now it is all gone once more and it is not cold.
Yes, that is too many two bitses for a little picture. I will soon be sending you some good pictures you can have enlarged and which Aunty Florence can study for symptoms of "mild atrophy of the left side of my face". I hope to be able to take some snaps this afternoon.
Did I mention a clothes brush in one of my letters as a possible Xmas present?
They heat with coal furnaces and a hot air system in the barracks but our barracks seems to have been abandoned because in the mornings when we awake, we can still see our breath vaporize in the air. The fellows still have coughs and colds but I seem to be pulling out of mine. The cough is gone and all that is left is a lot of plugged up nose which I make a good meal of since I haven't any clean handkerchiefs.
Incidentally, your method of numbering pages is a good one. 2 sheets are marked up to 4. You should have been born Jewish. Speaking of Jewish people, Reuben B. Blumenfeld of 16th & Ridgway Aves. is becoming a constant companion of mine. He is a lawyer and a typist, 30 years old, married, about my build, sleeps in the center aisle cot at my head, and like me works in Headquarters. He is a college graduate, of course, and quite nervy. He is continually criticizing the method by which things are done. So far I have not yet heard him resign himself once to anything about him, he always has a kick.
I have sent my hat and grip home. They are coming C.O.D. I paid 50¢ to a fellow for a suitcase which he didn't know whether to send home or not. In it I put the garrison hat and stuffed as much paper as I could all around it. The suitcase is locked and I am enclosing the key with which you can open it with. No, I don't think I would want any malted milk. I wouldn't make any for myself, that's a cinch.
Continued 4:00 P.M. Sunday
But then again, if you want to, you can send some malted milk or malted milk candies and I can eat them from time to time.
During the 1st break in this letter I ate and took pictures and got two more letters. One letter was from you and the other one was from Mrs. Boyer. If I don't get busy, this mail is going to flood me.
About those pictures. I am going to send them tomorrow with the tube of toothpaste. I am sending it first class because they may stop it otherwise and besides those little bags with the tags don't seem to hold the sticky paper very well. I took 2 rolls. Here is what I took them of:
Now to answer your letter of Thursday. Again I have already answered the situation about the cap in a previous paragraph.
Yes, I guess I have gotten into the right peg in the army for me as This Week put it. Cpl. Censky leaves for Milwaukee on furlough December 21. On that date I am to be made Company Clerk. I also typed up the list of men to attend their special jobs this week. Roman Klick typed Roman Klick under Clerk. Our schedule for this week includes 2 solid days at the office without any drilling. I also, conveniently, have disregarded several periods of afternoon drill. This makes it very soft for me in one way but very tough for me in another. I will get out of the greatest part of the training but by so doing I will not be in the physical condition nor the prepared condition to meet an actual combat. Of course, I am not going to go around saying I am not receiving enough basic training. If my luck continues as it has, I'll get by no matter what I do or where I go. Knock. Knock.
When you mention the "other Milwaukee pictures", do you mean the ones I never saw?
You can say to: Jerry, the milkman, Mrs. Vintera, Mr. Pisa, Mrs. Kotek, etc., (or almost anyone that you think I should remember to say hello to) "Hello". This will make it so that my hello will cover almost anyone. It is a blanket hello. That includes the people at Ackermans too and the nurse etc. It would be next to impossible to make a complete list.
Well, if George Pisa is gone, that leaves only George Nemec and Junior Barta left in the whole neighborhood.
You can tell almost anyone you want to about the office job now. I am pretty sure it is here to stay.
My eyes were worse when I worked in the planning office; so I guess I'll get by now. Company A's corner is right next to a window and the lights are on all day.
Those people downstairs must be batty. First they rent the place without knowing what it looks like and then they start interior decorating on their own.
And what do you mean "nothing much has been doing around this town"? Anything that happens such as what you and Aunty Florence talk about, what happened at the stores, what everyone and anyone is saying, what's in the Cicero Life etc., is something and interesting.
We worked Friday night getting the barracks, footlockers, clothes and everything in order for inspection Saturday morning. I am never with the Company during inspection so I just hear about it later on. There was never a word about examining our footlockers and not one person was "gigged" (given extra duty for some minor defect in his bed or belongings). Since I heard that, I have not bothered to keep one item in place in my locker. Right now it looks something on the order of Cpl. Censky's locker which hasn't been checked since he came here.
We were also given a test on our general orders by Sgt. Wagaman (the mean guy who really isn't so mean if he knows you're on the ball). I got the thing okay since it was merely memorization.
At the office I have been (1) typing up letters, (2) learning how to fill out various forms such as change of records, applications for furloughs, (3) typing up class A passes for everyone of the 187 men in the Company (this means that within a week or two we will be free to leave Camp when not on duty).
The latest rumor is that the 353rd Rgt. will move by the middle of January to either Louisiana, Boston or Michigan. Louisiana or Michigan would be alright. It most probably will be Louisiana if true.
An unfortunate bulletin just came thru yesterday concerning a new AR (Army Regulation) which pertains to candidates for Officers Training School. No man under 35 yrs. of age will be accepted for OCS (Officers Candidate School) in the fields of Administration, Finance or Quartermaster. That means if I get a chance for OCS, I think I should refuse because I will be signing myself up for combat duty. What do you think, should that possibility occur? I may transfer to another Rgt. and a combat one without wanting it either. That is how the fellows who were here before us came here. They are called the "cadre" and are picked from a regt. before it is shipped and they are the nucleus of a new regt.
The little fellow, Maurice Heller, just cracked a joke. He said this isn't an Engineer outfit, it is a Labor Battalion. And last night a fellow named Weiss asked what was larger, a camp or a fort, and I said, "Well, it all depends on the size".
I was in the library today. They have very few books but what they do have are good. Many of the books are the same as I have. That shows that they are good.
I am gwine to eat supper now and after that will answer my other letters so goo bye Aunty Clara -------
P.S. What I forgot in this letter I will remember tomorrow.