December 27, 1942
Camp White, Oregon
Dear Aunty Clara:
I guess I have been rather sparse in my letter writing during the last few days, haven't I? Well after that terrific amount of letter writing I did on Christmas Day I didn't have much time left and yesterday I spent the entire day in Medford.
Christmas Day, Saturday and today were all Sundays and we woke up at 0800 each day. Lights stayed on in the barracks to at least 2300 every night so far and I guess they will stay on late tonight also.
Our Christmas Day breakfast didn't amount to much but the dinner was something else again. I sent you a menu which you probably received in yesterday's mail. We had everything. In fact there was so much that I didn't eat but what I liked. I noted the items I had on the card so I will not repeat them now. I did have three pieces of pumpkin pie and so much ice cream that I almost had to stop eating it before I reached the last spoonful. We were all given a pack of cigarettes (which I gave away) and there was a bowl on each table just full of loose cigarettes (which I grabbed myself a handful of and later distributed to my smoking friends). We also were allowed to leave our plates and utensils on the table unlike ordinary days when we must carry them and dump them off at the kitchen.
Christmas morning I went to the Infirmary to see about my knee but I received no satisfaction. The doctors were not in and I was told to return Saturday morning for an X-Ray. They also enlivened me with stories of other young men who had pulled ligaments in their knees and had misplaced small knee bones during the past few months. They all had their respective knees operated on for the cure. I didn't report back Saturday because I went to town right after breakfast. I walked all day yesterday and for half of the day my knee was irking me but by nightfall I seemed to have walked it well. It had hurt me the entire night before but last night after all that walking I didn't feel any pain. Perhaps that was just the kind of exercise it needed. The troublesome spot has also seemed to shift itself from within the knee to the outer part of the knee. It is a queer case, is it not?
Then, to continue my Christmas Day narrative, I spent the entire afternoon and a good portion of the evening writing letters. I missed my evening meal. They served it at 1630 and I arrived at 1700. Later on that evening I took a walk with Blumenfeld over to the "shack", a little commercial restaurant in the camp, and had a milk shake (two of them) and doughnuts (three of them) for my supper.
When we returned to the barracks, there were at least thirty fellows all crowded around my bed. They had assembled there by chance to hold a little Christmas Revival of old time songs. Three of them had harmonicas and one had a guitar. After listening to them a while I went back to type some letters.
Christmas Day itself was warm and sunshiny. Almost every camera in camp was working that day. Blumenfeld had a roll of film which fit my camera so we took pictures of him and one of me. I didn't get your letter saying you finally got hold of some film until the afternoon after I had been out taking the pictures. Had I known that we now had a supply on hand, I would have used the ideal conditions to take the last eight I have with me. Since Christmas Day it has done nothing else but rain. I would like to take a picture of the scenery around here even though I know that scenic pictures never turn out the way you imagine they will. I also would like to take a picture of me in my cartridge belt, gas mask, pack (with things dangling) and another with my khaki outfit. We now wear our khaki shirt to town instead of our wool shirts. They look spiffy. I am wearing it now on Sunday and I think I will wear it during off duty hours from now on. That way I will save my wool shirts for work only.
Yesterday, which was Saturday, I asked for my pass to town at 0835 and was on my way at 0900. Just as I was leaving, a few of the privates came in and said to me that the Corporals were looking for me because I was supposed to be restricted that day and not allowed in town. Well, you can bet your last penny that I didn't wait to find out if the horrible rumor was true. I immediately walked out of the barracks and boarded the bus at the nearest bus stop. The same rumor followed me into town where I met other soldiers from Company A who expressed surprise at my presence in town. However, by noon the situation had cleared up --- happily. It seems that Corporals Taylor and Landdeck were still on the hunt for missing Private Klick when 1st Sergeant Driscoll said Klick can have a pass any time he wants one and is not to be restricted. The boys now think I have a drag or something with the 1st Sergeant.
Here is what I did in town yesterday. I went to the USO and had one of the girls there sew on an SOS insignia on my overcoat. Pretty smart, eh? I don't like sewing anyway and probably she did. The only trouble is she sewed it on the wrong way with the point of the star facing downward. But who cares. It is on now.
Then we found out (we refers to my Jewish companion) that the USO had opened a new and larger place further down Main Street. On the way there my friend stopped in at Bell Studios to have a copy of his mug made for his wife and mother. Then we continued on to the USO. It is a nifty place. They have five ping-pong tables, over a dozen writing tables, free popcorn, free coffee and biscuits, a Christmas tree, chess and checker sets all over the place, easy chairs, a radio-victrola with all the latest songs (including "Pfft right un der fuhreurs face"). They had loads and loads of writing paper, postcards and envelopes. They had magazines, newspapers, etc. They have a piano, washroom, telephones, a restaurant (which is not open) and a weighing scale. This scale is the first one I believed since it is the kind they have in butcher shops and a person adjusts it until the bar balances evenly. I weighed (with my summer underwear, my G. I. shoes, my wool O. D. pants, my summer khaki shirt, my tie, my blouse and my summer stockings AND with all the junk in my pockets) exactly 151 pounds. Taking off my blouse, I stepped on the scale again to find that I now weighed 148. Without the shoes, pants, etc I imagine that I weigh around 142 to 145 which does not represent such a tremendous increase. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, didn't I weigh (for a day) 149 in my pajamas last March? The other scales around town all inflate your weight by about 5 pounds.
Last Saturday when I was in town I found a nifty little ice cream parlor and sandwich shop (Prices's Sandwich Bar on Central and Main) so I ate there both in the afternoon and in the evening. In the afternoon I had a Strawberry Sundae and a waffle. In the evening I ordered an Egg Chocolate Malted Milk, a waffle and doughnuts. Those waffles were alright otherwise I wouldn't have gone back again in the evening for more.
In the afternoon we walked over to the Ice Rink on Twelfth and Grape. We met the fellow who sleeps next to me, Tony Piplak, who was a skating champ in the Tribune meets. I thought I would try it but decided against it when I saw that there weren't amateurs on the floor and it was cold inside.
From there we went back to the USO where I played three games of chess and through over confidence I lost the third game. I also met my match in ping-pong and lost 5 consecutive games. Then, at precisely 1730 we began making recordings. The record is now in the mail and you will receive it in a day or so. The title of the first one (The Front Side) is "Tea for Two" or "All's Well That Ends Well" while the reverse side is entitled, "Shutterbug" or "Two is Company and Three a Crowd" (I'm not sure about the wording of that second title). For further details on those quaint titles and for an explanation of them please hear your local phonograph. CAUTION: The records are made of celluloid discs and do not last for more than ten playings. I played them twice already. Remember they are not much good after eight playings.
From there I took my friend Rube (Short for Reuben) to the Arcade. He is not a George Prokopec so I didn't spend quite so much as I would have had George been with me. I did, however, invest the considerable sum of $1.00 in various machines. On one "Hit the Jap" electric eye rifle, I hit 14 Japs in 20 shots. I felt pretty good. But then whaddya know but an infantry man steps up and after missing the first one, he proceeds to hit the following nineteen. Reuben got one in fourteen tries and gave me the last six which I hit. There is a nifty hockey game for 2¢ and I know George and I could have been at that all evening but after waiting for me for almost a half hour, Blumenfeld finally demanded that we go home. So at 8:30 we finally started off for camp thus ending one of the most wasteful and idle days I have spent since coming into the army. Just the same I have a lot of fun visiting Medford.
Und now comes today!!
Today I received 8 pieces of mail and one package. Two of the pieces of mail had extra letters in them thus making a total of 11 items. The reason for such an influx was that I was not at mail call yesterday being in town and came back to the office to find two letters that just came in and which I should be getting tomorrow. The letters were the ones you wrote on the 20th, 24th and 23rd (the one enclosed with Aunty Florence's, the one with the pictures and the one about the Christmas card) the one Aunty Florence sent on the 23rd, a letter enclosed in Ray Bernetts card, and cards from Gonzalez, Michalaks, Joe Vitek, Dolores, Fialas and a box of candy from Fialas and $1 bills in Vitek's card and Auntie Lillie's card.
Uncle Joe had written to me that he was going to Capt Brouk's funeral and I asked him if he had meant that young fellow, Bob Brouk. I really didn't think it was him but in your letter with the clipping about the accident in which he met his death I knew it was him. Isn't that terrible. First of all he was married a month. And the fellow goes through all that actual combat as a 'Flying Tiger' and then comes home to be killed. We once more run into that irony of thankfulness in that his mother can be thankful her son died in this country where she knows where his body is. Mrs. Boyer has that same "comfort". What is the matter with me? Am I going to live forever and just watch all the people I know and live with die around me one by one? In Ray's letter he mentioned that he tried to write and that his letter (mailed while I was at Camp Grant) finally came back stamped "No Record". He then enclosed the letter with his Christmas card note. If you recall, that is identically what I did in Clarence's case. A week after Clarence received those letters from me, he was dead. Cheerful, aren't I? But seriously, Aunty Clara, if I do die, do not cry for me or the fact that I am dead. Remember always that the dead are happy that they are dead and wish that the living would not continue to make themselves unhappy by thinking of those gone on. If you do cry, it will be only for yourself and, remembering that, I believe it will help you to feel better; because a person can always stop self pity. Personally, I have changed to a considerable extent within the last month and a half and would like to live through this war and come home once more to do the things and see the people I used to. All those things seem so close now that I cannot picture myself separated from them by such a vast distance. To me. all this seems so temporary and that within a short time life will once more resume its normal course and I will be back with you once more. BUT (and this is important) even though I feel that way, I am prepared to die at any moment and it is only while living that a person loves life. The instant death is at hand a moment of resignation comes and all of life is surrendered without a struggle and that deep, quiet, peaceful and everlasting sleep of death is welcomed.
I suppose you want the colored picture back but you didn't say. I will hold it until you so inform me.
I hope Schubert got to talk to Aunt-Aunt and that she in turn could tell you all about him etc. I have had the job of sending all his mail to his home in Tigertown up to Wednesday and now it is accumulating in a drawer. He even has a package here that every guy wants to open up but he gave instructions not to open any packages unless they are a crate of oranges or apples.
I talked to Wagaman about his being a fellow named Warima that is the closest I could match that name in this outfit. He does know some girls in Chicago but doesn't know if his sister does. He is from New York.
Although it is difficult to know for certain, I doubt whether our outfit will go across this early. Since we have so much heavy equipment and still lack much training, there are not many places they safely send us to. The latest rumor says we are going to Iowa. That still leaves 43 states unaccounted for. I don't think I would enjoy Iowa even if it is close to home. You can keep that below zero weather. I don't want it.
I have stopped going to sleep with the watch on my wrist. That may have had something to do with its stopping. I am not sure but I am testing to find out if it is. So far it hasn't stopped in the last twenty-four hours which is a record.
How did you enjoy Christmas? What did you folks do? What did you talk about? I am asking these questions now but the answers are most probably already on the way.
What do you mean by saying that you "got gypped out of three pictures"? Do you mean that they only gave you one instead of two prints of them? I will let you know how many to have printed of the other fellows when I show them in the barracks. I will want some prints made to send my admirers and here are the ones I want made and the quantity of each: (December Fool I wasted 10 minutes trying to decide and can't to it) I will tell you tomorrow about the whole shooting matches.
It is good to hear that it has finally gotten warmer back home. Do you know that just knowing how cold it was in Cicero brought back the memories of how it feels to be cold? And how it feels to wake up in an unheated bedroom etc etc etc and all that goes with the cold weather?
I'm glad you like the card even if it had alterations on it.
You know, I hope Mrs. Reed does have the patience with me even with telling her to wait for an answer. I have been letting the letters from my best friends and the like wait for answers because I know I can get away with a little more from them than from another person who I do not know so well and who would not understand the delay.
It is now precisely 1536 and I will make another attempt to answer my backlog of mail which has again mounted to a total of fifteen.
I am actually surprised at my energy in even attempting to answer them. You know me --- when there is too much to do, just forget the whole business. Well I don't seem to be doing that in this case. Even like answering Marie's letter which I received on December 9th and first found time to answer on the 25th of December.
Another thing I have noticed and you have probably noticed to a much greater degree is that because of the haste in which I write these letters, the frequency of mistakes, misspellings, grammatical errors and so forth has risen quite high. It almost makes me sick to think of the lousy letters I have been turning out. It makes me laugh when I used to say that I would have so much time on my hands in the army. Ha Ha Ha (To be laughed slowly, loudly and sarcastically)
I also have to learn every knot in the book, all the insignia, all the colors, etc by this evening too. If I get three letters written tonight I will be hitting a high average. Then watch five come in tomorrow.