Baby Telegraph

And here’s the telegraph Dad refers to in the prior letter.

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18 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 18 March 1943

Letter Date – 17 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

By the time you get this I supposed the baby will be quite old already, but the older she gets the more I’ll bet you will like her. I cannot get used to calling the baby a girl. I was all set to call it a boy, that I will still make a mistake and call her a he, but as long as we have got our baby I am willing to do anything for it. If there is anything you want me to do for her or you just let me know. Another thing, I will let you know when I want you to send her birth certificate down. Then your allotment will be raised up $12, and I think you can use that all right. If you need anything – by that I mean money – I will send some of mine up to you and when I have a chance to look around I will try and get something nice for her. I haven’t much of a chance to get out except on Sunday, and then all the stores are closed, but I will go AWOL if I really want to get something for our baby. So I guess I will go AWOL. I just came back from sending a telegraph to you and there isn’t much to write about. Also, the lights are going out pretty soon. I will tell you what I did today before I close. This morning they took us out in the country quite a ways. It was just like a desert. Just dry, hot sand and a palm tree here and there. We had to form in squads of twelve men and practice attacking the enemy. We had to run and drop down in this hot sand and crawl forward on our bellies. Then the Sarge would yell out “gas” and we would have to put on our masks and start crawling ahead again. Just to make it good and interesting this whole testing ground was full of sandburs. After you hit the ground and came up again your stomach would be just full of sandburs. We, or I mean our whole squadron, had to stand retreat again. It was a good thing because we won the army [?] banner for the whole next week. That’s all for now, sweetheart, so will close with love and kisses to my dearest wife and baby. Ralph

PS – Be sure to tell me all about the baby – the color of hair and the eyes. RP

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17 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 17 March 1943

Letter Date – 16 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife and now mother of our baby,

I was so glad to hear that at last it happened and now I am the proud Papa, and I really mean proud and happy. I am the happiest man in Florida, or I should say the whole world. The way I got it was when I was waiting for dinner the Sarge called out my name, and when I seen it was a telegram I got sort of worried, but when I opened it I let out one hell of a yell, right when I was in ranks. The Sarge came back and started to give me the devil. He asked me what was wrong with me. When I showed him what I had got he congratulated me. When the rest of the squadron heard about they gave out three cheers for me. And all tonight they have been calling me Papa. They have also been razzing me about sitting around in a daze. I guess I must have read that telegram about twenty times now. You be careful honey and take care of yourself. If you don’t I will come up there and give you the devil. Talking about coming up there, it is possible that I can get an emergency furlough when I get through with my basic training. I mean after I get shipped to my school. If it is possible there is no doubt that I will be home as quick as I can. If I can I will be there in about two weeks. Don’t get your hopes too high because it is just a small chance, but I’m going to work on that chance. When you get this letter you just get down and write and tell me all about our little baby girl. Tell me what kind of hair and eyes it has. I hope it looks just like you, but I would kind of like it to have blue eyes like mine. Outside of that I hope she is the perfect picture of you. When I seen that it only weighed 6 lbs it sounded awfully small. Maybe that is all they do weigh when they are born. By the way, what are you going to name it? You pick out any name you want and like and it will be alright with me. Don’t send down and asked me what I like because I ain’t very good at deciding something like that. Be sure you let me know what you name it. I was going to send a telegram tonight but the whole squadron has got to stay in. We can’t get our passes for two days, but I will send one tomorrow morning right after chow. How long will you be in the hospital? I would like to know, as I won’t know where to send my letter. I will keep on sending to the hospital until you let me know different. Is your mother staying  down there with you, or are you alone? I hope you have a lot of visitors while you are there. I will get something for her one of the first nights I can get out. I might find something for her that you haven’t already got. I will tell you a little about the day I put in. It sure was hot down here today. On the drill field and the obstacle course there were three guys that passed out. They would be standing up and all of a sudden they would just keel over. Then the meat wagon would come out and pick them up. After all, it was over 100 in the sun. Why doesn’t Avis write to me? I have been waiting for one for a long time. Her, Virginia, and your Dad are the only ones I haven’t heard from yet. You get your Dad by the hair and make him write. I don’t care if it is only two lines. I think I will have to close as it is getting late. I will write more tomorrow when I have more time. Until tomorrow, lots of love and kisses to my wife and our baby. Night, sweetheart. Ralph

PS – Be sure to tell me all about our baby.

Notes: So Dad finally gets the news that he’s a Papa. A supremely undemonstrative guy, it’s hard to imagine him shouting out in a crowded chow hall. It’s kind of interesting to see him referring to the baby as “it.” Don’t know what the language custom was back then. I do know he was seriously expecting a boy. Turns out she did have blue eyes, just like Dad, and looked far more like him than she did Mom.

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16 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 16 March 1943

Letter Date – 15 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife,

Well today I got two letters from you. I sure was glad to get them. I guess one of them was held over from Sunday, but I don’t care when I get them as long as I get one or two a day. I can’t figure out why you missed one day without getting a letter from me. I have been writing one and sometimes two or three a day, but maybe the mail got screwed up some way. Today was a awful hot day. I guess it was about 100 degrees in the sun. We had some more drills with the guns and then to top off all of that I had to be one of the riflemen to stand retreat tonight. There is about 100 men with rifles and about 200 without. We had to march around the parade grounds in front of a couple of colonels and about 300 civilians on the side. You see, every weekend they judge who is the best squadron on the field. Whoever wins they give them award and they hold this for a week. Then next week we have another award and again the best squadron wins it. Today we were judged to be the best on the field so we are on the way to the prize. I forgot to tell you how hot it was on the parade ground. This field is about twenty acres big and is all covered with tar. When the sun beats down on this it reflects back the heat something awful. When we was saluting the flag two guys just up and keeled over. The meat wagon came after them, or I should say ambulance. Then yesterday one of our guys went swimming in the Gulf all afternoon. He got up this morning, went to the toilet about six, and we found him there at seven. He was out colder than a light. When we peeled his shirt off his back it was one mass of blisters, all broken open. He was in such great pain that he couldn’t move without yelling. Of course the Sarge give us a lecture about getting sunburned. Talking about sergeants, I got a letter from one today – or I should say I got one from Alvin. It was about six pages. He is out on maneuvers with the infantry. He said that they ate out of their mess kits, shave in cold water, and sleep on the ground. He also said that there were a lot of wood ticks that kind of bothered him a little bit, but he got used to picking them out. Boy was I glad to get one from him. He said he got a nice letter from you and he was going home on a furlough the last of this month. I wish I could get home the same time as he did. So you are getting a bed ready for our baby. I wish I was there to help you. We could have a lot of fun fixing it up together. But I will be with you anyway, if not in person it will be in imagination. I also imagine you are beside me every night when I go to bed. That helps me go to sleep. I’m going to send some papers home along home with this letter. I will send them in separate letters as there is a lot of them. They are just some papers that I want you to save. They are my insurance, war bond, and allotment papers. Then you can see what I am paying out in this Army. You know I forgot when your birthday was so I put down October on it. I knew it was that or April but I forgot which one. Let me know which one it is. I think now it is April because I bought you that watch near that time. It don’t make no difference on the papers but I would like to know for sure. When our baby is born and you get the birth certificate you send that to me when I let you know. You will get $12 extra a month for our own little babe. It will all help out, so when I let you know you can send it to me. The reason this letter is so damn scribbly is that the lights are out and I am writing by the light of a candle. It’s kind of hard to do and I am getting sort of tired, so I will have to close and go to bed. Lots of love to the sweetest wife in the world from your soldier Ralph.

PS – Where did you pick up that Ralphie stuff? I like it though. RP

Notes: Of course this letter explains the documents I posted previously, along with the mistake Dad made with Mom’s birthday. Of course he couldn’t hide the mistake, but Dad was completely guileless anyway. I don’t think he could have lied if he wanted to. Still, a risky thing to say “I forgot your birthday.” I had to laugh at the juxtaposition of Dad writing that Alvin said, “there were a lot of wood ticks that kind of bothered him a little bit, but he got used to picking them out. Boy was I glad to get one from him.” I know what he meant, but I couldn’t help but think of Uncle Alvin mailing Dad a wood tick. As for calling Dad Ralphie, that never took hold. Most of my life Mom called him “Peter.” Less frequently she called him, “you shitheels,” or some variation thereof.

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War Documents

Here are some of the documents Dad signed when he first reported to Fort Sheridan in Illinois. The first two appear to be the application to send part of his pay to Mom. First rule of newlywed soldier – thou shalt not get thy wife’s birthday wrong. Mom’s was April 30, 1925, not October, as the form indicates. The third document is an insurance policy for $10,000, while the last document is an application for a $25 War Bond.

 

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15 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 15 March 1943

Letter Date – 14 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife,

Here is your little blonde boy sitting down and writing to you again. The time I am writing this is about 2:30 Sunday afternoon. There is nothing to do today so I am sleeping and taking it easy. I am sorry. I guess I told you a lie when I was not doing something. This forenoon I played ball with some of our squadron. Then about eleven Johnny Premo from Coloma and I went down to get our pictures taken. You might get them before you get this letter. They aren’t so hot of me, but then I ain’t so good to look at anyway. But they will give you some idea of what I look like now. I guess there isn’t much difference, is there? The thing wrong with these pictures is that the sun is too bright and I am scowling. These pictures were taken on a pier right out in the Gulf of Mexico. Of course the boat and the jeep are only made of cardboard, but they look real, don’t they? I guess I am the only thing that don’t look real on them. Say, I wonder what’s wrong with Alvin. I wrote to him about two weeks ago but I haven’t no answer yet. Maybe he forgot all about me. God, I hope he didn’t, as I think he is one hell of a nice guy. You had better tell him when you write to him to write to me. I’m only a buck private yet, but I hope to get a few kind words from the old Sarge. This is going to be the shortest letter I ever wrote to you as there isn’t much to write about. By the way, I had a big meal today – chicken and gravy and all the trimmings. This is all for now, so will close with all my love and kisses to the sweetest wife in the world. Ralph

PS – Be sure to tell me when our little baby is born. Send a telegram, won’t you, honey? RP

Note: Little did Dad know that he became a father that day [14 March 1943] when my oldest sister Bonny was born. He was 19 and my Mom was 17. He addressed this letter to Mom on Rural Route 1, Neshkoro, Wisconsin, but someone has scratched that out and written in “Hospital” and “Berlin.” Although short, this is also one of the most informative letters so far. I have two of the photographs Dad refers to. I now know they were taken the day my sister was born, and I now know the guy with Dad is his wartime friend Johnny Premo of Coloma, Wisconsin.

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14 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 14 March 1943

Letter Date – 13 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife,

I just got done writing you one letter today and I’m going to write you another right now. I haven’t much to tell you but I will try to write something I haven’t wrote before. This kid from Coloma and I just got back from downtown. We had to get some hangers for clothes and I also have got another present lined up for you. I haven’t bought it yet but I’m going downtown tomorrow and get it. I ain’t going to tell you what it is as I want to surprise you, see? I wish you was down here with me, honey. I get so damn lonesome for you. Every night without you I can’t seem to get to sleep. I sit up and just think about you until I do finally drop off, and it’s the truth that I dream about you every night. I just found out that Tampa is right across the bay from here. That is where Clarence was when he was down here. He told me in the letter he sent me that he used to come over here sometimes. When I was downtown tonight I tried to buy a camera for a guy, but I couldn’t even buy a film, let alone a camera. Everyone is gone camera crazy down here. I would ask you to send some film down here but I think I can get it from a guy I know, so don’t bother with sending them down. I don’t think I will be here for much more than eleven more days and I’m getting shipped out to school, so after the last of next week don’t send any packages to me. I might get it but it would take a long time, but keep on sending the letters, as they can forward them easier than they can packages. Remember that – keep on with the letters but don’t send no packages. I will send you a telegraph if I have time before I am shipped. We just had a little interruption. I am writing out in the lobby with a bunch of other guys when a second Louie walks in. I was the first guy to see him and I jumps up and hollers “attention” so loud that he almost fell over. He came up to me and said that I had a hell of a good voice and if I kept it up I would make a damn good soldier. Boy did my chest stick out after that. Now I have to sew a couple of buttons on tomorrow. And right back of him was our Sarge with a grin from ear to ear. These guys down here holler a lot about the food but I am putting on weight to beat hell. When I was weighed at Sheridan I weighed 141 lbs. Now I weigh 152 lbs. A couple more months and I should hit around 170. Your little boy is growing up. Well it’s about eleven and I am getting tired so I will close with all my love on the next page. From your soldier boy to the sweetest, dearest wife in the world. Night, now. I will love you always ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto

PS – Those marks are easier than writing the words. Love, RP

PPS – More tomorrow.

Notes: Kind of funny that he didn’t know Tampa was across the bay until he had been there some time. Dad was about 5’9″ and never weighed more than about 170 his whole life.

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14 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 14 March 1943

Letter Date – 13 March 1943

 

Text:

To my dearest wife,

Well, here it is Saturday afternoon and I have a half a day off. I have it off but nobody can leave the hotel until five tonight. The mail was just handed out and I was glad to hear from you. It will give me something to do this afternoon. After I write this I will get into a game of cards. Besides reading that’s about all there is to do. Boy it sure is a nice day down here. The sun is shining is nice and bright and there is also a nice cool breeze blowing off the Gulf. I’ll bet this kind of talking don’t make you feel so good, seeing you are up where it’s cold, but I thought I would tell you anyway. Today was the first day we could wear our summer issue uniform. You most likely have seen it already. It is sort of a silky suntan. Boy, they sure look and feel nice. Right after chow we had to stand personal inspection. Our squadron was said to be the best in the post. In this inspection we have to stand at attention while the officer walks down the front and the back of us. He looks at each one of us and if there is something wrong with us he will soon let us know. I guess I was all right, as he didn’t say nothing to me. When we got back to our hotel the Sarge said we were pretty damn good. Say, while I’m talking about sergeants let me tell you a little about ours. He is a little short southern guy, about five foot and a half and maybe about 140 lbs, but he is one hell of a nice guy. Sort of tough at times, but then I guess they all are. Now I can see what Alvin and Clarence are doing in the army. You asked me if they have a USO down here. Well they have, but they won’t do me no good as you know how I like to dance. I guess they have a lot of  servicemen’s centers around here, but I am not going out and I don’t want to do so without you along. If I did I would not think I would be treating you fair. At least that’s what I think, so I’m not going out. Maybe just to a show or for a walk around town. I can’t think of a thing more to write to you now but I might add a little more in a letter tonight. This is your husband signing off with loads of love and kisses to the sweetest wife in the world. Ralph

PS – I forgot to tell you I’m going to church tomorrow. More love and kisses. RP

Notes: Of course Alvin was Mom’s brother and Clarence was Dad’s brother. Both were older and already in the Army. I never saw my Dad dance, ergo the crack about “you know how I like to dance.” Not sure if he mentions it in one of these letters, but one of the “shows” he saw in St. Petersburg (or possibly later in Tampa) was Sally Rand, the famous “fan dancer.”

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13 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 13 March 1943

Letter Date – 12 March 1943

 

Text:

My dear sweet wife,

Well honey, another night and another letter from you for me to answer. That is the way I like to get them. One a day does a lot to help drive the feeling of lonesomeness away. Just keep it up and I will be satisfied. I just got this letter about five minutes ago and I am going to answer it right away. I should answer another one, too. I got it from Marvin the same time as I got yours, but I don’t believe I will have time tonight as I’m going to hit the hay early tonight. We didn’t do much today except to drill and learn some more about handling and shooting the rifles. After the Sarge got done showing how to shoot them he asked me if I could shoot a gun and if I ever did it before. When I said I had he asked me how I shot it. I told him, “Hell, all I did was when I seen something to shoot at all I did was just pull up the gun and blast Away.” He laughed at that and said that he would teach me another way to shoot, but this way would be the Army way. He also said to me if I had used a gun before that I wouldn’t have much trouble with them, so I guess I will get along alright with them. Bill Pick just brought me in a couple of tangerines and are they ever good. I just wish you could taste them tangerines down here. I’m going to find out how much they cost, and if I can mail some up there. I know how you like them. They taste a lot better down here. About every family has one of those trees in their yard. They also have oranges and grapefruit trees. After this war is over I am going to bring you and the baby down here and just have one nice long vacation. I would also like to bring your folks down here, too. This is really a nice place down here. We have palm trees all around here. A big one is right in front of our hotel. Today was the first payday for me in the army. All I got was ten bucks, but I had to go through a lot of stuff to get it. I had to salute the captain and give him my first name, middle initial, and the last four numbers of my serial number. When Bill come up for his he got scared and near forgot his name. I sure had the horse laugh on him. What the hell is wrong with Marian, seeing that she don’t write to you. If I had their address I would drop them a line, but if she don’t want to write to me it don’t make any difference. I also haven’t got a letter from Alvin yet, but he most likely is pretty busy so I will wait for one. I got the Argus today along with your letter, but where is the hometown news? I would like to see what is going on in Spring Lake. Tell your Mom she had better have some in there the next time. I signed up for the baseball team today, and I guess we will start playing quite soon. That is going to be my only pastime. That is the one sport that I really enjoy. I am glad the doctor said you was alright in every way. That will be a great help when the little guy comes. Just keep on staying that way and you will be alright. I will have to close as it’s getting late. This is all from your husband. Love, kisses, and hugs to my dearest wife from her little boy Ralph.

PS – Keep up the writing.

Notes: Some elements of a young redneck with an 8th grade education coming through here, and kind of a spoiled one at that. Dad loved baseball and was very good at it. A natural athlete, he might have done something with his ability with the right opportunity.

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12 March 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 12 March 1943

Letter Date – 11 March 1943

 

Text:

My dearest wife,

Received your letter today and was really glad to get it. Keep on writing letters like that and it will suit me just right. I got it this noon and as yet the night mail hasn’t been delivered yet. I hope there is a letter there for me, too. Well, honey, it was another hot day today down here – about 80 degrees above, but at night it drops down to about 45 or 50. Then it feels really cold. This morning when we got up and had our chow we were marched up to the quartermaster and each one of us was issued a rifle. Then started one hell of a long day of drilling with them heavy things. These guns are 1917 models from the last war and they weigh 9 lbs and 9 oz. After drilling all day with these guns it is quite a relief to get home and sit down. These guns are only temporary. After I get stationed I will be issued my own rifle. This will be one of the newest guns that are made today. I think they will be a Garand, but you most likely don’t know what I’m talking about, but I will tell you anyway. I haven’t shot one of these yet but I will get my chance next week, I think. Well today is four weeks since I was sworn in at Milwaukee. It seems like a year already. I guess about two more weeks of my basic training and I will be shipped out to school. I am still praying that I will get sent back to good old Wisconsin and you. If I get up there I could get a weekend pass and come home to see you real often, but I don’t suppose my luck will ever be that good. It would be my luck to be sent clean out to California, but you pray for it and so will I, and we will see if our prayers are answered. I hope somebody hears them. Say, you better tell your Dad to write to me and also your Ma. Your Dad promised me he would write, but you tell him I haven’t seen one from him yet. I don’t care if it is just a card if he will write to me. Also, at this time I haven’t got a letter from your Mom or Avis, or nobody else besides you. You asked me what I do in my spare time, so I will tell you. I start Monday morning and do the same thing through to Saturday. I get up at five every morning, drill all the day, am done at five with that. Then after I get cleaned up and have chow it is seven. Then I write a letter to you and go to bed. On Sunday I get up at six, stand reveille, come back in and go to bed again until about ten. I get up and eat dinner, have a couple of games of cards, and go to sleep until supper, and then eat supper and come back and read and write until nine. Then I go to bed and I still can sleep. You know, I haven’t ever been down to see the Gulf yet. The reason I want the camera is that I want to take a picture of the hotel I am staying in and also some of myself, if you want them. I think you do, don’t you? Well the mail isn’t going to be passed out tonight so I guess I will close for now. Night, sweetheart. Ralph

PS – I love you more each day. Keep up the swell writing, sweetheart. RP

PPS – My nickname all over the squadron is whitey. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Take care of yourself.

Notes: Easy to believe the other guys calling Dad “Whitey,” though that nickname never stuck. At that age he had almost platinum hair, pale blue eyes, and I suspect coming from Wisconsin in the middle of winter not much of a tan.

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