DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 18, Sgt. Stripes, Farm Sales, Bang Boards

October 8, 1944

I didn’t get a letter from you this week, but I’ll try to write anyway.  I just finished cleaning up from a day of KP.  This being Sunday and being on KP will mean a week two weeks long.  It doesn’t make much difference anyway though as one day is like the other, except we usually get a day off on Sunday.

I’ve been unusually busy here of late and will probably so for some time.

I suppose you noticed that there have been a couple of changes in my address.  I finally stepped up a grade higher after I had given up hopes.  It was quite a surprise to me.  The change in APO doesn’t mean anything except that you’ll have to address my letters different.

Here it is fall again.  The time seems to go by pretty fast.  I’ll soon be away from the states two years.  Sooner, yet, it’ll be two years since I was home.  It’ll soon be Dorothy’s and my wedding anniversary which is on November 14th.  I’m sending a money order along this time, and I wish you would do me a favor by ordering some flowers for me  to have delivered to Dorothy on that date.  I believe roses would be as good as anything for an occasion like that.  You don’t have to make a special trip to Carlinville to order them, but you leave the order sometime when you are going.

Mom & car during warMom visiting Grandpa & Grandma during WWII

We had fried chicken for supper last night and it sure was good.  It was the first we had in quite a while.  We all chipped in five rupees apiece to get them as they didn’t come in the rations.  We also had ice cream for dessert.  For the majority of the time we eat pretty good considering the conditions.  Potatoes are a problem over here as they usually so small that it takes forever to peel enough for a mess.  Over here we eat what we would call culls back home and throw away.

I suppose you are progressing with your fall work and preparing for winter.  I wish I were there to experience such goings again.

Well, I’ll close for this time and hope to hear from you soon.

Sgt. stripes

Sgt. Clyde F. Adam
115th Ord (MM) Co.
APO 218, c/o Postmaster
New York, N.Y.


As I haven’t received any mail for quite some time, I’ll write a V-mail tonight.  There isn’t too much to write about so this space will hold about all I have to say.

The nights are getting noticeably cooler now.  I’ve been using a blanket the last few nights.  It makes it much more comfortable to not sweat through a person’s clothes all the time.  A person has to be covered in the evening because of the mosquitoes.

We’re pretty busy now.  It makes time pass much faster.  The evenings are the worst to pass and they are getting longer now.  We have movies three times a week.  A person can read to pass the time although I get tired of that at times.

It won’t be too much longer before we’ll be eligible for rotation, Although I don’t put too much stock in it.  I hope to hear from you soon.

October 19, 1944

I received two letters from you today after over two weeks, so it looks like our mail is sort of messed up.  I’ve written to you every week and if you don’t eventually receive all of the letters you’ll know that they’ve been lost.

Editor’s note:  Receiving mail was the only connection to home life.  There was no internet or instant communication.

I wonder how a fresh peach would taste?  We get quite a few canned ones.  The last week or two we’ve had fresh grapefruit a few mornings for breakfast.  They must be a native variety as they are full of seeds and are hard to get the juice out of.  The juice is good though.  Last night for supper we had a banana pudding that was sure good.

Wish we had some of those fresh eggs over here.  They sure would taste good.  All we get are dehydrated and they don’t taste like much.  Last year we had fresh eggs occasionally.  If you buy them in the bazaar, they ask about four rupees for them which is the equivalent to dollar and a quarter.  You can see that these Indians are getting rich off the Americans.  I don’t buy anymore than I have to because of that.  After the war is over and prices go down to what they normally were over here, they can live the rest of their lives in luxury on what they made off the GI’s.

cows & calvesCows and calves

I wish I could see your calves.  I’ll bet they are really cute little rascals.  I’m hoping that I do get to eat some of the beef that you put in the locker this fall.  I don’t know though.  I don’t think I’ll get home before March or April, if then.  Of course I’m hoping for the best.

I didn’t even know that Myrtle Rigsbey was sick.

I wonder what it would be like to cut corn again.  I’ll bet it wouldn’t last long now until I get hardened in to hard work again.  I figure that it’ll take me six months to get toughened up again like I was before I came in to the army.

I’ll bet Mrs. Viola Nixon is relieved to know that her boy is back in the States.  I know that she did a lot of worrying about him from what she said when I was home last.  He’s been through a lot and deserves a good rest in the States.

I wish I knew Gene Parker’s address.  I would sure like to write to him.  Maybe you can get it and send it to me.

Well, I’ll close for this time, hoping you are all well.  I’m pretty busy, but healthy.

October 24, 1944

It hasn’t been quite a week since I wrote to you last, but since I got two letters from you last time and I only answered one, I’ll answer your letter of Sept. 24th now.  I have to answer them one at a time because I can’t always get one and then I don’t have any to answer.  It’s almost impossible for me anymore to write any kind of letter without one to answer.

Here it is getting along towards the latter part of October and by the time you get this, it’ll be the first part of November and the snow starts flying in that month.  My memory of snow flying is a pleasant one as it has been so long since I’ve experienced such, If I had to actually go through that, it probably wouldn’t seem quite so nice.  Although I think my first year back at home will ba pleasant one as it’ll be so much different from what I’ve been used to for the last three years and over.

I sure hope that I can eat some of the stuff that you’ve put in the locker this year, but it’s more probable that I’ll be eating some of next year’s crop at home.  I’d like to see home anytime now but then again, it I thought I had more chance of staying home, I would be willing to spend six months to another year over here.  Anyway, I’ll be eligible for rotation anytime after the first of next year.

Editor’s note:  Many people had refrigerators, but few had deep freezers.  I remember the locker plant and people renting locker space–just like rented mailboxes at the post office.

I suppose I’ll get my box around Christmas.  It doesn’t seem like it has been anytime at all since last Christmas.  Of course it hasn’t been, but ten months.  Even that they have passed rather quickly, seems like time does seem to pass more quickly when a person is busy.  The older a person gets the more he finds to occupy his mind and he doesn’t notice the passage of time.  When I was a kid, a year seemed like a long time.

I guess Aunt Minnie wants to stay on the old place as long as possible.  How long have they lived there?  I’ll bet it is sort of tough to move off a place like that after having lived on it for so long and there are lots of memories attached to it, too.  Even yet, I dream of the place at Getz’s.  I don’t believe I’ve dreamed yet of the place at home.

Well, I suppose you folks are very nearly finished with your busiest work.  You probably still have corn to shuck down at the other place.  After you are finished with that place, I hope you both go easier and take more time to enjoy yourselves.  You are getting up in years you know, and you might as well enjoy the rest of them to the fullest.  You should be pretty straightened out financially now.  As for me, I should have enough laid aside to get a pretty good start.

I don’t think I’ll go in for anything heavy after I get out of here.  I think I’ll sort of take things as they come and make a comfortable living and enjoy life as I go.  The main thing si to keep a person’s head above water, because I don’t think anybody is going to get rich after this.  I’ll close for now, hoping to hear from you now.

Oct. 30, 1944

Tonight is regular show night, but I think I’ll stay home and write some letters.  I went to the show last night and saw “Life Boat.”  It was taken in a life boat when a cargo ship was sunk by German U-boats.  It was a pretty good show.lifeboat“Lifeboat” movie poster 1944

I have two letters from you to answer tonight (Oct. 2 & 7th).  I sort of got caught up on my mail now.  There for a while I just wasn’t getting any.

According to the clippings you sent me, John Pitman is going to retire from farming.  Is he as old as that?

I guess it begins to look like beginning of winter back there by now.  Two years ago, I was home by this time (by the time you get this).  I wonder how much longer it’ll be before I get there again?

Do you still have the separator [cream separator] and still use it?  When you are rid of the calves, you should get quite a bit of milk.  I sure would like to be situated where I could milk cows again.  I’d a lot rather do that than what I’m doing.  I think I’ll have several cows when I get back to farming again, if there’s any money in it.  I don’t want too many, but four or five wouldn’t be so bad.  I don’t know yet, though, just what I’ll do.

A lot depends on how much longer I stay in the army on what I do when I get out.  Sometimes I think that it might be just as well to get a job at something or other for a while and then farm the home place when you folks get too old to take care of it.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to have to start out farming too big.  I wish we had about another forty acres on the home place with another house and then Dorothy and I could settle down right there.  Maybe I’ll feel different though, when the time comes and I get back there.  I know one thing for sure, I don’t want to have to invest too much capital right off in stock and machinery, which a person would have to do on a large farm.

I wish that we could fix up the home place such as tiling it, fencing it in all around the farm and putting up say one large barn instead of two small ones.  It would be better to have one with cribs more convenient.  I suppose a person can tell more what can be done after the war is over.  Oh yes, something else that could be added, and that is a good *machine shed large enough to hold all the implements instead of leaving them out in the weather.  That’s something that pays for itself in no time.

Editor’s note:  The previous paragraph alluded to tiling–that would have been for drainage.  The southeast corner of Grandpa’s land drained slowly after heavy rains.  *A machine shed was constructed circa 1956.

I suppose I’ll have to study up a bit on farming before I take hold of it again.  I’ll have to be more or less my own boss next time.  After being in the army so long I’ll be more or less a stranger to the farm.

I’ll bet Kallals are having a tough time of it as there is so much to do around there and now they have no man.  I’m afraid that Ed will really have to buckle down to hard work this time.  He can afford to do just that since he’s been lucky enough to stay out of the service.  It would be much better if the old folks move off, I’m sure.

Do you mean the roses on the trellis on the porch are the ones that are blooming?

I’m sure glad to hear that you got your wheat sowed.  It didn’t take long to get it done this time, did it?

I’ll bet it looks rather bare in the yard without the mulberry tree.  Things will sure look a lot different around there probably when I get home.

Are you going to haul our half of the corn from the other place up home and feed it out, then, or sell it with Uncle George’s half?  You’ll probably keep it, is my guess as corn is probably scarce and you usually have to buy some.

I’ll close for this time.  Hope you are all OK.

Nov. 11, 1944

Here it is Armistice Day for the third time in this war, but it doesn’t mean much now.  By this time next year, I hope it does, though.

The nights are sure cool now, but the days are warm.  A person can sleep good if he’s got a couple of blankets over him.  Otherwise, it gets rather uncomfortable along towards morning.  This time of the year over here reminds me of the season of the year in southern California.  The temperature doesn’t get so low, but the dampness makes it feel so chilly.

I’ll bet the corn sure breaks out nice, now that the frost has nipped it good.  I sure wish I could shuck some.  I used to sort of like to shuck corn.  Maybe I’ll get a chance next year.

Yes, I remember the trip we took to Uncle Carl’s and Aunt Bertha’s one Sunday.  That was a pretty good trip for one day.  Three hundred miles is quite a way to go to spend the day.  A trip like that now by automobile would be an impossibility and I suppose it will be for quite some time.  Those were the good old days.  I look for times like that to be a long way off as I suspect that rationing will continue for a while even after the war is over.  The US will play sucker and try to supply the world.  You may get the impression that I’m not in favor of this lend-lease.  Well, I’m not, since I’ve seen what goes on in the world.

Dorothy told me about the boys coming home on furlough.  Nixon is rather unfortunate to have malaria as bad as that.  I’ve seen similar cases though, in this outfit.  They keep having to go back to the hospital.

I have hopes now of getting to come back to the States during the first half of next year.  I’ll have my time in by then.  As for having to come back overseas, some of them have to.  I have hopes of getting to stay in the States.  I’m going to try to I have several reasons.  I sure would like to run across Gene Parker.  I haven’t the slightest idea where he is as I don’t know what kind of outfit he is in or his APO.  Why don’t you get it and send it to me.  Who knows, he might be close to me.

I’ve been getting lots of mail the last week.  I makes up for the weeks that I’ve gone without.  I sure hope that you are getting my letter OK, now.  I received your letter of Oct. 22nd today.  I’m glad you got the money order OK as I’m not sending any greetings this year other than letter and Dorothy would sure be disappointed if she didn’t get something.  Ten dollars isn’t so much to make someone happy that deserves it when millions are being spent for destruction.  Thanks a lot for taking care of it for me.  I appreciate it and I’m sure that Dorothy will be tickled to get them.  How’s my bank account coming?  I should have around 500 dollars in there by now, shouldn’t I?  I’ll be able to send some more before too long.

The way I feel about getting a better rating, is that I’ve earned it and might as well have it as the next fellow.  My responsibilities have certainly increased the last few weeks, which was due to circumstances other than my rating as I still have the same job plus other work.

I would sure like to attend the sale [at Uncle George’s farm] for sentimental reasons.  Now’s a good time to sell, I guess, as things bring a good price.  I hope things go down a little before I have to start buying.

Yes, maybe it is just as well that Dorothy and I didn’t start out on that place.  It was a good place to farm, but I guess every good thing has its seamy side.  I always knew that Aunt Minnie demanded a lot of attention and was awfully cranky.  She had better be careful, as she’s liable to live a long time yet, and I don’t think Uncle George can go the gait much longer.

I’m glad that you have cut down your farming now, as you don’t have to work so hard.  When I get back on the job again, maybe we can [have] things fixed up satisfactorily for us both.

It seems like all the young around home are getting their families started.  I guess I’ll have to see what I can do on my next furlough.  Ha!

We had coffee and doughnuts for refreshment about 30 minutes ago.  It helps out on such a cool night like this.  My main trouble over here is not having enough appetite to eat enough to give the energy I should have.  I’m doing better now, since cooler weather, though.

I’ve sort of over stepped my usual self tonight in writing.  I guess I was just unusually full of gossip.

Nov 18, 1944

I received your letter a couple of days ago.  I’m glad to hear that the things sold good at the sale.  now is a good time for a sale, I guess as prices are high.  From the figures that you gave me in your letter, I figured that you must have cleared about 1500 dollars.  That should come in handy.  I know that if I tried to set up in farming now, it’s sure to cost a pretty penny.

I figured that you would keep your part of the corn from down there to feed out your cattle.  you usually have to buy corn anyway.  I sure wish I was there to help shuck some corn.  I’d like to feel the old ears and hear them hit the old *bang board again.  I believe I could still shuck 80 bushels a day easy enough.  It’d probably take me quite a while to get toughened up though.  Right now, I believe I’d poop out pretty easy.  It’ll probably take 6 months for me to get this Asiatic lethargy out of my blood.

picking corn

*Hand shucking midwestern corn using wagon with “bang board.”

Editor’s note:  Bang boards were high side boards on the back side to deflect thrown ears of corn into the wagon.  Thrown ears hit the boards with a solid “bang.”  They also used a shucking peg–a device strapped around the hand with a flat metal blade.  In the first part of the process, the corn ear was cut from the stalk.  Then the husks [shucks] were twisted off, leaving only the ear of golden corn.

You won’t have more than forty acres left to put in corn and beans next summer, will you?  That’ll be enough to keep you busy next summer along with your other work.

My days are longer now and the nights are shorter, even though the daylight days are shorter.  The hours of work are longer now.

I like this part of the country [Burma] better here, I believe.  There isn’t quite so much jungle right around here as I’ve been used to.  The days are rather warm and the nights rather cool.  a person can sleep under a sheet and two blankets and be comfortable.  I sure hope that I can get out of this country before another hot season.  that is what gets a person down.  According to rumors floating around, some of the men are supposed back on rotation around March. Of course a person can’t put too much stock in that.  That probably won’t include all the older men, but I might be one of the lucky ones.  That’ll make me 2 years in this theater and that is certainly long enough in this climate.

It looks like I have a day of KP ahead of me tomorrow, as I see my name is on the duty roster.  It seems like I just can’t get away from it.  Maybe I’ll get away from it when I get out of the army, and then, Dorothy will have me washing dishes.  Ha!  So long for this time.