Dear Aunty Clara:
One thing I wish I would learn how to do and that is to talk less and do more. My years of experience in talking with Clarence Boyer and George Prokopec (not to mention the 'short' talks we had in our spare moments) have not stood me in good steed but rather in bad steed. Why? Because I can talk to anybody who cares to talk to me and I can keep it up as long as they can. It eats away my time like nobody's business. Last night I went home early so that I could take a shower before everyone was asleep. I went downstairs all prepared to take one when I began to pass a few words with a fellow. It turned out to be quite some discussion and before I knew it, over an hour had passed. It was then too late for the shower and too late to get in a good night's sleep. Tonight I swore that I would not let conversations break up my evening which I had intended to vote entirely to writing letters. First I met Censky. I talked to him quite some time out in the street then he follows me into the office where we gabbed for an additional period. After he left I found that I needed to return to the barracks for some lead. Did I merely go to the barracks, get the lead and return? No. I did not do that. I met Blumenfeld and talked to him. Then some fellows were discussing, of all things, the game of golf. Well, you can just imagine me passing up something like that especially when they are discussing Chicago golf courses. From there I was challenged to a game of ping-pong and since this fellow (Mersing) sleeps next to me and I had beaten him last time I had to play him at least one game. From there I came back to the office and I run into the new fellow from Ft. Belvoir. We got to talking and I could see my evening slowly frittering away. That was when I drew the line and abruptly announced that I was going to type a letter.
Aunty Clara, the weather and the scenery around this place have been unusual plus of late. For instance, we had that heavy snow which is very exceptional and then we had that cold snap which is yet more unusual and tonight we had wind. And I mean wind. I'll bet any money that the wind we had today would even be considered strong back home in the Windy City. Can you imagine that, the three elements which I absolutely detest suddenly pop up out of nowhere. Fortunately, as I write this letter, the sky has become clear, the wind has stopped, the snow is entirely gone and the ground is once more absorbing the water.
And about the scenery. I have yet to get over the rather queer sensation it produces in me to look to the North and see mountains, to the South --- mountains, to the East and to the West --- mountains. And yet we are in a perfectly flat plain. It sure must have snowed up there in those hills because almost everyone of them has its sides filled here and there with snow patches. Incidentally, today we saw another rather strange thing. I saw it and called the fellows out of the barracks to look at it. Remember when I told you the moon was so bright the other night? This evening's moon rivaled that one and this one was much nearer the horizon. Just above the mountains to the East was a long low string of clouds which deflected the light of the moon in back of the hills. This lit up the entire range and its outline was visible from camp. Weird? I'll say it was. It was as if there was a huge light on the other side of them or a bonfire larger than any ever known before.
I have been typing up discharge papers for a man who is 38 years and 10 months old. He lives in Berwyn on Lombard Avenue and 19th. You can well imagine how I envy that fellow. Just think of that, I am typing up the papers and preparing the records to send a fellow back to within 6 blocks of our house! Maybe someday I will be typing up mine when we get the orders for demobilization of the 353rd Engineers at the end of the war. And that one fellow's isn't going to be all either. In a few days another fellow who lives on Harvey Avenue and 24th is going to be discharged because he is also overage. When we discharged several of the limited service men and sent them back home to the hill country of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia it wasn't so bad; but this is awful sending a guy back to the home town.
We are having trouble with that mailman. We fellows have to work quite long and we think we ought to have a little extra service of two mail deliveries a day or at least get our mail when we work at night. He comes down in the evenings and stays here quite a while yet if we ask him for the mail he gets peeved about it. Just a little while ago I told him that perhaps tomorrow I won't be able to come down to the office at all and the day after that and the day after that day so I would like to know if he received any letters for me in the evening mail. Can you imagine he got huffier than anything. Nothing like doing a fellow a good turn, eh? I admit that during the daytime it would be terrible if he had to just pass out mail like that continually but at night when we are here alone I think it is a different story.
We go on the rifle range tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. We must fire from a prone, kneeling, sitting and standing position. Twice we will fire for practice and then once for record. Personally, I don't care what kind of score I get. All I know that the system employed during firing on the range is going to consume those three days for me completely. If you do not hear from me during that period, do not worry too much about it because that will be the reason why. In fact the program of the day for the entire regiment has been moved up because of it. We will get up at 0530, eat at 0615 and start off for the range at 0700. We will eat in the field from our mess gear and return home in the evening. This will go on for the three days. We had thought it might be feasible for me to ride down in a truck, fire, and then come back to work but it seems that the entire company must fire from one position first and then fire in the next position and so on until the company has fired in all four positions. With over a hundred men this takes all day.
The pencil that Dad and Rose gave me before I left was very handy and all that and I made good use of it; but just before typing this letter, I jammed the lead in the thing and it is now useless. Please be advised and in your next package enclose an eversharp. It may either be another kind like that one or one of those I have in my desk.
Incidentally, I may not need those Engineer lapel buttons although I can't say for sure. That does not mean you shouldn't still try to get them though. Maybe when I get back from the wars, I will wear it on parade or something. Anyhow they are good souvenirs to have around.
Oho, there is that little matter of shaving which has again raised its ugly little head. During the clothing and equipment check, Lt. Hanton came across a little item called a shaving set. I had to say that I did not receive one from the government. He glanced at me sharply, asked if I had one and then told me to use it. He also asked when I shaved last and I had to give him the unsatisfactory answer that I did not remember when I had last shaved. This morning I gave my face a lick and a promise by shaving off the sideburns and a little fuzz on my chin. Hanton came up during the day and asked me if I did shave. "Yes, sir", was my prompt and immediate reply. Says he, "You missed a lot of places". Says I, "But I shaved, sir". Says he, "You look worse this way than if you shaved your whole face. You do that from now on". So what, maybe I will and maybe I won't. Maybe I WILL.
I got my field jacket back from the cleaners today and they did a good job on it. The old dirt mark which I gave it back at Camp Grant when I fell down is now erased. By the way, those stripes which I had sewn on in town and which are a goldfish color and not the official G.I. certainly have been attracting attention. It seems that they all think they are the berries and I now am beginning to like them.
We are going to turn our blouses into the supply room in a few days. That is too bad because I spent good money getting those stripes sewed on them and it is for sure that I will not hand in the blouse without first removing the stripes. And the star. We are going to get three more pair of summer suits although we haven't worn them yet except for the khaki shirts.
P.S. Answers to questions in your letters. (By the way, I received Aunty Florence's letter today.)
Yes, we have pudding twice a week. It is usually butterscotch pudding or chocolate pudding. The stuff is rather lumpy but we get used to that sort of thing. As I have said before, along the line of sweets our mess hall is the tops. We do have tomato juice once in a blue moon and when they run out of coffee we have lemonade. The lemonade they have been making lately is not the variety which they serve the Marines but is really strong stuff and the do not spare the lemons or use the same ones twice. We have had cocoa for the last two days at supper and it tasted better than usual.
Here is the dope on the bicycle situation: I took a message over to one of the companies three blocks away. I didn't have to but I offered to go on the condition that I could ride the bike. The bikes are swell although the seats are rather low. I was clipping along no handed and standing up. But you know me, I raced along and when I got back I was out of breath and sweating.
Have you had any after effects from the fall? Let's hope not.
PERSONAL TO AUNTY CLARA **** FINANCIAL
Dear A. C.
I received some income tax forms today and here is the dope. I think it is best that once again for us to file that simplified form which the government introduced last year. It enables the person to take his gross income and find the tax he must pay by running his finger down a column until he reaches that amount which corresponds to his income.
I will have to know these things before we can definitely decide upon the course which we will follow. How much was Aunty Florence's total earned income as reported to her by the G. A. Ackermann Printing Co. and how much was my total earned income as I had figured in the book. On my income, I will want to know these figures. How much was the last amount I put down in my little book? That is exclusive of my five dollar bonus and my one hundred and sixteen dollar bonus. I do not know yet if RH&R will add those amounts onto my income. I will get a report from Frank Drews to verify my figures.
I will then have to add on the $28.33 and the $50 which I earned in the army during the last 6 weeks of the year. Soldiers get an extra deduction of $250 if they are single and $300 if they are married or the head of a family. From the looks of things it may be a tie between the amount Aunty Florence and I will have to pay. However, we shall see what we shall see. We will of course attempt to pay the least that we can under the law. The government expects that and even tells you to use the method which is best for you. As a soldier I have the privilege of holding up payment on my tax until after the war but I do not think I will take advantage of that privilege unless it is to our best interests to do so.
I guess that is all the financial business on the pan right now. I hope the Class E allotment comes through as quickly as the Class F did. The Class E is more important as far as we are concerned because it is all from my pay. It would be a good idea if you kept a little book with the receipt of the checks and the bonds as they come in. The bonds and the checks should start coming in beginning with the January Payroll. When the bonds come in it would be a good idea to note what the effective date is. You see, the effective date decides when the interest starts and also controls the date which completes the ten years. That is why it is better to buy one bond entirely so that your money can commence bearing interest immediately.
So long again,