26 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 26 March 1943

Letter Date – 25 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

Hw is my wife and little girl today? I hope you are getting along fine. I’m feeling very good, but the sunburn got a little the best of  my nose. It looks like a ripe tomato and boy is it ever sore. The way the weather has been down here lately it is no wonder that I have not got my face burned more than it is. Today it was way up to 96. I didn’t get a letter from you today, but I got my present from Sookie. She sent me down a real nice box of candy and she also slipped in a dollar bill along with a nice card. She wrote me a real nice letter. She said that she sent a present to you. I want you to tell me what she sent you. She said she thought maybe Alvin was a daddy already and that she was coming home the same time as he was. That was the last of this month. Today was our last day in our own squadron. All that are left of us now are in a squadron call X. This is just a place where all men go after their basic training is over and they are not shipped out. I will still get my mail though, addressed to 400S. I lost two of my pals from Waushara County tonight. They were shipped out to school about seven tonight. The guys were Bill Pick and the kid I got my picture took with. Say, by the way, did you ever get those pictures I sent to you? You never said anything about them so I don’t know if you got them or not? Let me know if you did or not. Nobody knows where those guys are going that went out tonight, but they were ordered to put on their winter uniform and carry their overcoats, so they will be shipped somewhere up north. When you find out where Pick is let me know so I can write to him. You can find out from Barney and Thelma where he is. I only hope when they send me out they will tell me that I’m going up near you someplace. Then I could come home and see what our little Bonny girl looks like. There I go again, wishing for the impossible again. But it won’t hurt to wish a little bit, I guess. Say, honey, there’s something I want you to do after I get shipped. When I get to where I’m going to stay awhile I want you to send down my underwear. I mean a couple pairs of shirts and shorts. They issued us three pairs but I seem to get them so doggone dirty so quick. I will let you know when to send them to me. I suppose by now it is starting to get a little bit warmer up there. For your and the baby’s sake I hope it gets warmed up real quick this year, and when I come home on my furlough I want to see you and the baby out on the front lawn. When I get there she had better be able to smile at her Daddy or else he is going to be awfully mad. I think I am pretty good at making them smile at me. Maybe it is because I am funny looking, or something like that. I can’t think of much else to write now as there is nothing to write about. When I get a letter from you I will have more to write about. I guess I will have to close now, as I have to write Alvin and Sookie yet tonight. That is, if I have time, and I think I will. This is all for now, honey. Love and kisses to my sweetest wife and baby from your soldier husband Ralph

PS – Send me some pictures of you. I miss you so doggone much that I like to see your face once in awhile. Night, now. RP

Notes: My cousin Sharon, daughter of Mom’s sister Marian, confirmed that “Sookie” was Mom’s sister Virginia. She was also in the military during the war, though I don’t know the details. Brother Alvin was indeed a dad by the time this letter was written, with the birth of his oldest child Alan Gene Grant on 20 March 1943. The “kid I got my picture took with” was Johnny Premo.

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25 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 25 March 1943

Letter Date – 24 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and Bonny girl,

Here I am back at my desk writing to you again. It is kind of late as I am writing you. Right now it is a quarter to ten. I just came in about a half an hour ago. I took some laundry out to get washed and got a haircut at the same time. I started to do my own wash but it got piled way up on me. When I got my haircut another kid went along with me. We both were going to get our hair all chopped off, but when I seen him I backed out and only got mine clipped. I am glad I did because this other guy looks kind of funny. Another bunch of our squadron was shipped out today, but there is still a lot of them here. Out of 200 there still is 150. None of the guys from Waushara County have gone yet, but I lost one hell of a good friend from Michigan. He was quite a bit older than I was. That he was one guy I really liked. When I didn’t feel so good or else was blue, I could sit down and talk to him and feel better. That’s the hell of it here. You meet somebody you like and by the time you get to know them… The way Bill Pick’s letters sound that he gets from home is that Thelma is mad at him. She must like him because when he wrote and told her that he was getting letters from a girl, she wrote back and said she suppose that he loved this other girl more than she did him. It don’t make a bit of difference to me, but you should see Bill’s face when he gets these letters. The way she writes him a person would think she was married to Bill instead of Barney. I guess that is enough of this kind of stuff, so I will try to write about something else. I didn’t get any letter from you today honey but I am hoping for one tomorrow. I suppose by this time you are back home with our little Bonny. Every time you write I want you to tell me everything she does. I hope you have everything you need at home. How does your Dad and Mom like the baby? Have you heard from Marian yet? I would like to get their address so I could write to them. This is all for now as it is just about eleven, so will close with loads of love to my dearest wife and Bonny baby from Ralph.

Notes: The whole, “I’ll shave my head if you shave your head” story made me laugh. When I was in high school thirty years later several of my friends and I did the same thing, and I did the same thing as Dad, chickening out at the last second and just getting a buzz cut. I guess the whole acorn and oak thing. Billy Pick, who Dad has mentioned frequently in these letters, was probably the brother of Bernard (Barney) Pick, husband of my Mom’s first cousin Thelma Schruck. 

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25 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 25 March 1943

Letter Date – 24 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest Phyllis and Bonny girl,

Now that I have two girls to write two instead of one I suppose you will expect longer letters. This one might not be very long, as there isn’t much to talk about so early in the morning. Right now it is just ten to six. I wasn’t hungry this morning and I wanted to write to my sweet little girls so I didn’t go down and eat. They don’t have a heck of a lot in the morning anyway. This morning I woke up and my neck was all red with blood. I had a pimple there and I must have picked it in my sleep. Right after I got that stopped I blew my nose a little too hard and that started bleeding. It wasn’t very bad though. Gee whiz honey, I don’t know what to write about this morning, but I will try and tell you something new. Today will be my last day of basic training, so if I don’t get shipped right away I will tell you what will happen. I will be moved to another hotel, be put in a different squadron until I get pushed out. This other squadron is named Squadron X. That don’t sound so good, but you just send the mail the same as always and I will  keep on getting it. You can even send more if you want to. If there is one thing in the world that I won’t holler at you for, that thing will be sending letters to me. Maybe I haven’t told you all I know about Florida and this town. There is supposed to be near or over one million soldiers down here. I mean in the whole state. Every hotel in this town has been taken over by the government and ours is one of the smallest ones. Even so, it holds 500 men. Another thing, it is turned cold down here. The last few days the temperature has dropped way down to 36 above. It is still windy, though. I suppose seeing that spring has started it is nice and warm up there. I can’t think of anything else to write about, honey, so I guess I will have to close. This looks awful short but it will be a longer one tonight. Until then, lots of love to the sweetest wife and baby a guy could ever ask for. Bye now, Phyllis and Bonny, from your Daddy. I love you.

PS – Be awful good to yourself and our little baby girl. God bless you and goodbye for now. Ralph

Notes: Dad had a lot of bloody noses when he was a kid, but usually from playground fights. Many years later, when we were visiting Wisconsin we drove by his old school. As we did, he mused, “I left a lot of blood in that grass.”

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24 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 24 March 1943

Letter Date – 23 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

Today was a real happy day for me as I got the letters you sent me right after our baby was born. When I got those two today I was so damn tickled that I just about hollered out. After I opened them up and found out all about our baby, I am telling you sweetheart I almost went crazy with happiness. You may be mad at me at the way I acted in those other letters but please forgive me, as I really was worried about you. Now that I have heard from you I won’t ever write to you like that again, but today, which was Tuesday, is exactly one week since I got your telegram, so I had some reason to be worried. Everything is all right now, isn’t it, sweetheart? I don’t know. You may not get some letters for a while as this will be the first one I am going to send to Spring Lake. Maybe they will forward them to you from the hospital. You should have about six or seven there for you. If you can, see if they will send them up to you. So our baby has brown hair, has she? Now I thought I was a better man than that. But you said she had blue eyes. There is one thing she takes after that I have got. I only hope she is the perfect picture of you, because I want our baby to be nice looking, and she wouldn’t be if she took after me. I saw that little hair lock before I opened up your letter and I knew right away what it was. I have got it in my billfold in the safest place I could find. I’m going to keep that on me as long as I am away from you and our little Bonny baby. That and your picture will be my most prized possessions. I know you think a lot of my picture. So you still got the idea that I don’t like Alvin. Well you are wrong there, as I think Alvin is one of the nicest guys I know. I haven’t known him very long, but what I have seen of him and what I know of him I really think he is tops, and that’s coming straight from the shoulder and it is all the truth. Talking about Alvin, I owe him a letter and I think I better send one right away. I got a letter from Avis today along with yours. That little snip. She really cheered me up. She said that you wasn’t very lonesome. Just a little bit. Just wait until I write her my answer. Boy will I razz her. This is about all I can think of right now, and besides, it is getting late and I am tired. Lots of love to my dearest wife and our little sweet Bonny girl from your soldier daddy Ralph.

PS – More tomorrow, and take good of yourself and our little baby. That’s all for now my dearest wife. RP

Notes: Alvin Grant was Mom’s older brother, Avis Grant her younger sister. 

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23 March – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 23 March 1943

Letter Date – 22 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

I’m going to start this letter now but will be only able to write very little. I will finish it up tonight. You see, in a little while we are going out to the gas and rifle range. I just started it and I have to quit already as I have to go. I will tell you all about it when I get back. Now I have time to finish this letter to you. I didn’t get one from you, yet. What the devil is wrong with you? If you were mad at me I wish you would say what for. I keep on writing to you once and sometimes twice a day. When I don’t get one from you I can’t go away every time and say the mail was all mixed up. There must be something else that isn’t quite right. If there is I wish you would tell me. If I don’t get a letter by Wednesday or Thursday I’m going to call up, even if it takes all the morning I have got, and find out what really ain’t quite right. I thought maybe the baby would bring us closer together but it seems that it is breaking us apart. Gee, honey, I don’t mean a damn word I said, but not getting a letter for so long has got me so worried that I am really sick. I don’t know whether I should telegram, telephone, where to write, or a damn thing. I just seem so lost without you around. You used to help when I was worried or didn’t feel good. Write me a nice letter with a lot of sympathy in it. I may be in the Army but I am still that same little guy that I was when I left you. I needed a lot of sympathy then. You know that, don’t you. And you know how much a guy gets in the Army. I only wish I could be with you now and always. Gosh, honey, I miss you more each day. All I have got is your picture. I think that’s the only thing that keeps me from going AWOL. I suppose you have heard enough of this sob story of my worries. I will try to tell you what we did today. We had dinner about ten then went out to the gas and rifle range. The first thing they did was to take about 25 of us out to a little shack and they made us put on our gas masks and go inside. We didn’t know what was going to happen in there, when all of a sudden the guy told us to take our masks off. Just as we did they let loose a bunch of tear gas among us and we had to run through it without our masks. Everybody was crying like babies when they came out. It burned and smarted for a half an hour. After that they took us over to the machine guns and we all shot them. That was a lot of fun. Then we had twenty shots with the rifle at a target 200 yards away. I hit the bulls eye only five times but still got a score of 75 out of a possible 100. After that we came back and had chow, and here I am telling you all about it. I can’t think of nothing else now, Honey. I will write more tomorrow. Until then, loads of love and kisses to my dearest, sweetest wife and our little baby from Ralph.

PS – Write me a nice long letter soon, won’t you my darling?

Notes: Holy crap. This sounds downright manic, from the depths of despair and anger, back up to “I don’t mean a damn word I said,” to a casual plea for sympathy, and finally to a mundane “so here’s what we did today.” It’s almost impossible to contemplate my Dad being this way, and yet here is the proof on paper. The gassing story was one of the few war stories my Dad freely related and was one all of us kids knew by heart. Coincidentally, in our house when I grew up was what I believe to be an Army Air Corps bomber crew oxygen mask, such as the one pictured here (not my Dad). Whether it was my Dad’s actual oxygen mask, and I believe it was, or one picked up after the war from an army surplus store, I don’t know. I always erroneously conflated that rubber mask with my Dad’s gassing story. 

Maybe someone can tell me how decent his shooting really was.

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22 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 22 March 1943

Letter Date – 21 March 1943

 

Text:

My sweetest wife and baby,

Well here is number two for today and if I get a letter from you after mail call tonight I will write you another one. When I don’t get one from you I just sit and worry what’s wrong. While I am worrying I pick up a pencil and start writing to you. Maybe you don’t like me to write you all my troubles, but I have to tell someone and I don’t think you mind, do you? If you have any worries, I mean besides me, just sit down and write me about them. And also every time you write tell me all about our baby. I mean how fast it is growing and all that. Yes, I even want to know how many times you have to change her in a day. That may sound funny to you but I miss you like the very devil, and not getting a letter from you so long has really got me down. After every letter I feel a hell of a lot better, so when you start writing again just write two or three a day to make up for the time that I have missed getting them from you. Don’t get mad at me for writing like this but I am kind of worried, and not getting one from you as long. This afternoon I took it real easy. I went to sleep at one and didn’t wake up until four. Then it was raining like the devil so I’m going to finish this and go to bed early tonight. Oh, I did do some work about an hour ago. I washed out some clothes of mine that were kind of dirty. I wrote a letter to Harold Button this forenoon, so that’s another load off my mind. Tomorrow is my last day of basic training. That will be one big day for me because we have a rifle range test and our gas mask drill. After that I will be put on the alert as they call it down here. It is just a period of three to eight days that I will be waiting to get shipped out to school. This is all I can think of to write now as there isn’t much to talk about. The kid from Wild Rose just came in and is reading the Argus. The guys from Waushara County sure get a kick out of that paper. Tell your Ma to keep sending it. I will have to close now with love and kisses to the dearest wife in the world, from your soldier Ralph.

PS – Let me know when you go back to your folks’ place. RP

Notes: Note sure how much Dad thought Bonny would have grown in a week.

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22 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 22 March 1943

Letter Date – 21 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

Here it is Sunday forenoon and we have had one mail call but I didn’t get none from you. We have another one this afternoon and I hope I get one from you then. It gets kind of lonesome when I don’t get some word from you and now it is more so, as I don’t know or haven’t heard nothing about the baby. All the guys in the room got one or two this morning so it sort of leaves me out. And yes, I did get the Waushara Argus from your Mother and a card from the allotment. All they wanted was to tell me that the payments would start from the first of March, so you will get your first one in April. That will come just about the right time, won’t it? I know doggone well you will need that much, as I guess it takes quite a bit to raise a baby. Today will be a quiet day for me. I feel a lot better today, but I have a lot of work to do. I got to wash out some clothes, take a shower, and shine them [shoes?]. I will lay down and read that old Waushara Argus. I also have to write letters to Alvin and Harold Button. By that time it will bedtime, and you know how I can sleep. You should know because you was always teasing me about getting tired when I was only half done. I still don’t know what you meant by that. Or do I? Maybe if I could see the baby I would start to remember. Now there might be a chance that I will be able to see you and the baby real soon. I am pretty sure that I am getting shipped out this coming week. If so, when I get to my school I can ask for a furlough. The Sarge here said he thought I could get it, as it was important enough. Now don’t raise your hopes too high, as I am not sure whether I can get it or not. If I could get home the same time as Alvin did, that would be all right, wouldn’t it? Say, what the devil has happened to Don and Marian? Haven’t they wrote you yet? They aren’t mad at me for something, are they? A guy just came with a camera he borrowed from somebody, so I’m going to try to get a film and take some of myself. I also want to take one of the hotel I am staying in. I can’t think of much else right now, but will write you some more this afternoon. Maybe I will get a letter from you then. That’s all for now, sweetheart. Just got back from mail call and no letter from you. This guy from Coloma got five today. This is all for now, so will close with loads of love and kisses to the sweetest wife in the world, from Ralph.

Notes: Well, well, the first letter with sexual innuendo in it. Yahoo. Don’t really want to know what Ralph got half done, but there you go. Of course Alvin (Grant) was Mom’s brother and Don and Marian (Leigh) were Mom’s sister and brother-in-law, while Harold Button was Dad’s former brother in law. Harold had married Dad’s sister Merna, who died as a result of childbirth in 1940 when she was just 19.

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21 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 21 March 1943

Letter Date – 20 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

Here it is Saturday night and I am starting to write you again. I haven’t got a letter from you since I got that telegram. What’s the matter? Have you forgotten me? Now see here, you can love that baby of ours a lot but save some for me, will you? I would feel kind of lost if you give all that attention to our baby and none to me. Maybe I have a letter from you in the mail list, but the damn Corporal went to sleep and we can’t wake him up to hand it out. If you have sent me one forget all that I said at the top of this page. You may be wondering what these grease marks are on this paper. Well you see, I was on KP today and when I left the mess hall tonight I just took along about a dozen donuts. They must have been sort of greasy to make these marks. After today I sure feel tired, and I also don’t feel so well. This cold I have has settled in my throat and it sure hurts when I cough. That’s enough moaning about me. I ain’t really so sick when you come right down to it. This is going to be an awful short letter as the lights will be going out in fifteen minutes. I just have time to ask you how you are. Take care of yourself and please, if you haven’t already, write to me as quick as you can. I am getting worried about you. If there is something wrong let me know right away I will write you a long, long letter tomorrow when it is daylight. That’s all for now, honey, so will close with lots of love to my wife and baby, from Ralph.

Notes: Hard to ignore the whiney tone of this letter and others like it, and equally hard to reconcile it with the epic stoicism of the man I knew many years later. I was working with my Dad one day on the roof when he knocked the tip of his finger off with a misplaced hammer blow. He barely grunted. Another time, I was working with him in the kitchen on a dishwasher when a drill bit broke as he bore down on it and the jagged reminder still in the drill went through his hand. Again, he barely reacted, and both times he was back at work in the bakery the next morning, working around the injury. He never complained about being sick. He basically never complained at all. Perhaps he’s making an attempt at humour here, but you can see a vision of future Ralph when he says, “I ain’t really so sick when you come down to it.”

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20 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 20 March 1943

Letter Date – 19 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

Here it is night again and as yet no mail from you, so I thought I would write and find out what was wrong. I suppose you aren’t able to write yet. Also, I might have got one in  today’s mail as it hasn’t been passed out yet. I am hoping and praying that there is one there for me. I’m going to keep writing to Berlin until you tell me different. Another thing, I might get shipped any day now. A bunch of guys are going the coming Monday. I think there is about 50 going but I won’t be one of them. I might go any day next week, though. If I do and I have time I will send you a telegram. That is, if I have time. They don’t give you much more than a half-hour to get your clothes and get to hell out of here, but I will try and let you know if I possibly can. Well how are you and the baby getting along? I hope you are well and the baby is growing like a weed. She isn’t still all red yet, is she? I mean, don’t they change color pretty soon? I seen one once and he was all red and puckered up. Is our baby like that? Maybe she will outgrow that. Did all your clothes come in handy? I hope you have enough. I feel kind of rotten today. I have a cold and one hell of a sore throat, and then today we were out in the hot sun putting up pup tents. We also had to carry a full pack all this forenoon. The thermometer was exactly 93 today. With a full pack I sure had plenty to sweat about. All my clothes were wringing wet. Tomorrow is another bad day for the whole squadron of 400, as the whole bunch is on KP for one day. It will be our last KP job while we are down here. I can’t think of much to write now and we are going to have mail call in five minutes so if I get one I will write some more. Just got back from mail call and no letter from you, but I got one from Clarence. He is coming home for a ten day furlough. I wish I was in his shoes. That’s about all for now, as I have to get up at three tomorrow morning. Night dearest babies, from Ralph

PS – Write real quick.

 

Notes: Got to remember that this is a very unsophisticated 19 year old guy. Possibly the baby he saw once was his younger brother Scott. Clarence was his oldest brother, who was stationed elsewhere in the Army.

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19 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 19 March 1943

Letter Date – 18 March 1943

 

Text:

My sweetest wife and baby,

Here is that proud Daddy writing again. I didn’t get a letter from you today, but I am hoping for one tomorrow. Maybe you aren’t well enough to write yet, but when you are please keep up the good writing you have been doing before. Now you have something to write about. I won’t know what to say about her until you tell me all about her. I’m going to keep on asking you this question in my letters, as you might forget to tell me all about her. I didn’t know whether I should keep on writing to the hospital but I will until you tell me different. How long will you be in the hospital? It won’t be much longer than ten or twelve days, will it? Let me know how it was to have the baby. I would have liked to been there to be right along with you when the baby was born. Let me know all the facts, as I would like to know. You see, you was the one to have all the pain while I was way down here and didn’t know nothing about it. Say by the way, how did you get down to the hospital? Did somebody take you down there? Today was one hell of a hot day but we didn’t do much. All we did was exercise a little this morning and this afternoon we saw movies all the time. Tomorrow is the day we are going to get the devil drilled out of us. We have to carry a full pack all day and I think we will stay out all night. Of course this will be about ten miles from town and we walk all the way. I don’t feel so good tonight, as I have one hell of a cold, but I got some Vicks now and I think I have it pretty well stopped. This is all for today, so will close with love and kisses to you my dearest wife and our little baby girl, from Ralph.

PS – Take care of yourself and God bless you and the baby. Night, honey. RP.

Notes: Vicks VapoRub, the wonder drug that cures just about anything. Mom would have totally related. As kids having a cold meant going to bed with a half pound of Vicks slathered on your chest. If your cold was bad enough, it meant a eating a spoon full of Vicks. That whole “not for internal use” is strictly advisory. Contrast the notion that a woman could spend ten to twelve days in the hospital for childbirth with how things are today.

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