28 Feb 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 28 Feb 1943

Letter Date – 27 Feb 1943

Text:

My dearest wife,

Yah! Yah! It’s me again and I just bet you aren’t glad to hear from me. Don’t you ever say that you aren’t glad to hear from that little blonde Dane.  Well, I am going to try and write you every day and I want you to do the same. It sure is going to help me a lot to hear from you. You can write two a day if you want to. That will be okay. Oh yes, if the baby wants to write you can let him write, too. Maybe he is a bit too young to write yet. I think I will be home in time to make him smile the first time. That’s all I would ever ask for – just to see you holding our baby. That will be the happiest moment of my life, and boy I hope it happens soon. I got my second shot today and is my arm ever sore. I can hardly raise it up. I have one hell of a time saluting these officers around here with that sore arm. We also got our first exercises today. They were only about three hours long. I took it alright, but a few of the guys were almost ready to drop. Yesterday I took a radio code test. If I make out alright on that one I will start school in about three weeks from now. I will find out about that tomorrow. I just got back from a show on airplanes. It sort of makes you familiar with all kinds of them. I guess I can sign up for an Air Cadet, but if you want me to I will stay on the ground in the Signal Corps. That’s probably the safest place anyway, if I have a chance. I wish you would tell me what to do. I feel so damn lost without you around. Well tomorrow is Sunday and I don’t know what we are going to do, but we can’t get a pass to go uptown to buy anything so I guess I will sleep, but I will write to you anyway. That’s all for now so will close with lots of love honey, from Ralph.

PS – I am going to write to your father, too.

Notes: This letter makes it a bit more clear that the baby had not yet born, because Dad is imagining a baby boy. The reality was my sister Bonny.

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27 Feb 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 27 Feb 1943

Letter Date – 26 Feb 1943

Text:

My dearest wife,

I have nothing to do right now and I wanted to write to you so here goes. I just had a little bad luck down here. I went to bed the other night and I put my wallet in my money belt. When I woke up in the morning it was gone. I reported it to the 1st Sergeant and he made a search of the room but he could not find it. He made one hell of a stink about it. He said there wasn’t nothing he could do about it except to wait and see if it turned up, but I had most of my money so I am just about flat broke. I will have to ask you to send down about ten bucks if you can. I wish you would do it right away as I could use it now. You better send it in a postal money order. I have not heard from you yet but I get lonesome down here without you. I tell you honey it’s hell here without you and I won’t get a furlough until about six months from now. Of course there is a chance I will be sent to Chanute Field in Illinois. That will be a lot closer but that’s only a slim chance. I have a new address here now. I have moved to a different hotel here. It is the Serena Hotel. Don’t put the hotel on the address. The address will be on the back of my letter. Maybe I had better write it here, too. It’s just about the same. This is it

Flight 400S

604 Tech Sch. Sqdn. (SP)

AAFTT@

St. Petersburg Florida

I am writing this right between drills so I will have to close now. Kiss the baby for me and take good care of yourself. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Say hello to Mom and Dad and tell them I will write them later. Let me know if you got that first letter. I’ll have to close now with loads of love from your husband Ralph.

PS – Remember that money.

Notes: There is one very curious detail in this letter. In the postscript Dad asks Mom to “kiss the baby for me.” But my sister Bonny would not be born until 14 March 1943, a bit over two weeks after Dad wrote this letter. I assume he was speaking figuratively but it still seems just slightly odd.

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25 Feb 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida

Postmark Date – 25 Feb 1943

Letter Date – 24 Feb 1943

Text:

My Sweetheart,

Well here I am an awful long way from home. It is about 1200 miles from Chicago. That is too far away from you. We left Fort Sheridan at eleven on Monday night and got here at three on Wednesday afternoon. We come through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and then into Florida. It was a real nice trip with a lot of scenery, mostly Negroes. They would dance for us if we threw them money and then they would fight for it. The biggest Negro town we came through was Birmingham, Alabama, and that was all Negroes. We are now in Florida at the airbase that I wanted to get into. I am in the Signal Corps of the Army Air Corps. I don’t know how I got here but here I am. I am staying in the Beverly Hills Hotel right downtown. This is pretty swell now but I guess we move out to a tent city in about ten days. There is seven of us from Waushara County down here together so I can’t get too lonesome for guys, but it’s you I am lonesome for. The guys with me are Marvin Roeske, Rex Carey, Bill Pick, and four others from Plainfield and Hancock. The rest of the guys are somewhere in Georgia and Louisiana – that is all except Gilbert Rohde. He was still in Fort Sheridan when we left Monday. There was about four hundred of us that left Sheridan for Florida. That is quite a bunch. We might be radio men on airplanes. If I go to school, pass the tests, of which there are about 50, I can get a 2nd Lieutenant Commission. I think I am too dumb to do it but I sure am going to try awful hard just for you and our baby. Well that is about all about me for now. Now, let’s ask something about you. How are you getting along and how is your folks – or I should say my folks. I can’t quite get used to it. I hope Dad, got his teeth out and is feeling better. Does the radio work better after Cal fixed it? I hope it plays a lot better and louder. I wish you would send the Argus down here as I would like to hear the news from home. The lights will be out in five minutes so I will have to close with all my love to my dearest beloved wife from your husband Ralph. I love you a lot and miss you more each day. I will write you more later. Please send the Argus.

Notes: This was 1943 America. Up to this point Dad had lived a very insulated life in rural Wisconsin and had certainly not come into contact with many Black Americans. I have his father’s letters home from World War I, which contain a very similar reaction to seeing Black Americans for the first time. The Argus was the local paper.

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22 Feb 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Fort Sheridan, Illinois

Postmark Date – 22 Feb 1943

Letter Date – 19/20 Feb 1943

Text:

My dearest wife,

Well here I am at last.  That is I got in here about half past five Thursday night.  But we have been pretty doggone busy all the time so I have not had time to write until now.  It is just after chow and there isn’t much to do until about seven o’clock. Then we have to get some more of these examinations.  Boy and is there plenty of them.  I have got all my clothes and all together they weigh about 100 lbs.  Some load to carry, eh?  They all fit swell and they are worth about 100 bucks, and if we lose it we pay for it.  The last thing we did today was to take a test to see where we were best fitted.  We won’t find out until tomorrow and if they need us we will probably be shipped out either Saturday night or Sunday night. By the time you get this I will be on my way to only God knows where but we automatically get a furlough about six months from now or maybe even less.  I hope it is about two days from now.  I sure am getting lonesome for you but there isn’t much I can do about it I guess.  I can hope though.  By the way, I suppose my clothes will be home about as quick as this letter.  There are about 3000 men here right now. They are coming in and going out at about 1800 a day.  Say, don’t write to me while I am here as I might be gone.  I will let you know when I get where I am.  The lights are going out in about five minutes so I will have to close with all my love to the sweetest and dearest wife in the world. I miss you like the devil.  Say hello to Pa and Ma for me.

Lots of love, Ralph

PS you will get 50 bucks a month starting last Thursday.  R. P.

February 20, 1943

Yes it’s me again.  I didn’t have time to mail this letter yesterday so I thought I would add a little bit on.  We just got done with our first drill and boy am I tired.  We had a hell of a tough Corporal drilling us and he was tough.  Another reason I am writing this is I have a paper to send home so you can get your money.  All you have to do is send a copy of our marriage certificate to the address on the top of the paper.  I will put a circle around it.  You will get $28 from the government and $22 from my check.  That leaves my check about 28 bucks.  Then they take four bucks for bonds and $7 for insurance.  But if it would help you I would just assume give it all to you.  A bunch of boys are just being shipped out.  A bunch from Wautoma are going.  Be sure to send that paper right away.

Loads of love, Ralph

Notes: When he says to say hello to Pa and Ma my Dad is referring to my Mom’s parents. By this time both of Dad’s parents had passed, his Mom in 1930 at age 30, when Dad was just six, and his Dad in early 1942 at age 48 from a tooth infection.

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18 Nov 1942 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Grant

Postmark Place – Green Bay, Wisconsin

Postmark Date – 18 Nov 1942

Letter Date – 17 Nov 1942

Text:

Dearest Sweetheart,

I got your letter and was I ever glad to get it.  I was getting so damn lonesome for you that I didn’t know what I would do with myself.  I was lonesome for you before I got to Redgranite,  and that means only one thing,  that I cannot live without you any longer and it will be just four more days before I see you and can bring you back with me for good.  And that is forever.  Isn’t it? [?] I could write about ten pages on how much I love you,  but I suppose I will have to tell you some of the things you want to know.  I found your mother’s purse the minute I got in Green Bay.  I didn’t know what to do with it but I was going to send the whole thing back.  So I will send the money back now and will bring the rest along Saturday night.  I got in town at 11:30 Sunday night so I had some sleep, about six or seven hours, and that’s enough for me as long as I could be with you a little while longer honey. I would have liked to take you along back with me but that will come next weekend.  That will be the happiest weekend in my life.  I hope it will be yours, too. About that suit.  If Avis takes it down to the cleaners I could pick it up Saturday night.  You better stay and tell them that I will be down there about 8:30 or 9:00.  I will have my check then and that will be about 25 or 30 dollars so you don’t have to worry about the money part of it. By the way, Marvin cannot make it down here on Sunday so I guess you will have to get Cal, if he wants to.  You said he would so I guess it will be alright.  Marvin has to work Saturday night and that is the reason he couldn’t make it.  About this last week, I know what I am going to do about it and it is what I am doing now.  I come home from work, I wash up, eat supper, and then take care of kids and also think a lot of you. Mostly about you I guess. I hope you are doing the same.  I know you are.  By the way,  Marian missed the clock the other morning and had breakfast made and my lunch put up before she looked at the clock.  It was half past one.  That’s the second time she has done that.  Well sweetheart, that’s all I can think of now,  so will have to close with loads of love to the sweetest and swellest girl in the world from her soon-to-be husband.

Love and kisses, Ralph

PS – If you can’t read this save it until I come down and I will explain it to you

I love you

I love you

I love you

I miss you

I miss you

I love you

I love you

Night sweetheart,  Ralph

Notes: Avis is my Mom’s younger sister, Avis Grant. Cal is Avis’ future husband Cal Woodward. Avis and Cal were, respectively, maiden of honor and best man for my folks. Marvin is my Dad’s younger brother Marvin Peterson. Marian is my Mom’s older sister. It is my understanding that prior to the time my folks got married my Dad was living with my Mom’s family. Among other things, I think my Dad used to drive my Mom’s Mom to the big city (Oshkosh?) for medical treatments. This may explain why her purse ended up in my Dad’s car. Or he was a purse snatcher. Regardless, this doesn’t seem to have been a big deal. It is interesting to note that my Dad was living with his future sister-in-law Marian in Green Bay, most likely because of the new job he mentions in the postcard from a few days earlier. By this time Marian was married to Donald Leigh and they had three kids already [Sharon, Donna, and Wayne]. These would be the kids my Dad mentions taking care of.

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18 Feb 1943 – Postcard from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Postcard

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Postmark Date – 18 Feb 1943

Text:

? Sweetheart,

Well I had a little time off in Milwaukee so I [?] I had better write to you.  We got here about half past one.  Nothing much doing only I am getting lonesome as hell already for you.  We will get in Sheridan about five or so.  I will write you a letter there.

Love, Ralph

Notes: He is in the Army and headed off to war. They have been married roughly three months, and Mom is eight months pregnant with their eldest child, my sister Bonny. This is a simple postcard with no image.

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11 Nov 1942 – Postcard from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Postcard

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Grant

Postmark Place – Green Bay, Wisconsin

Postmark Date – 11 Nov 1942

Text:

Dear Phyllis,

Well I got back here all right at a quarter to eleven. It took me two hours and a half. It rained all the way to Kaukauna so it was not nice driving.  I started my job Tuesday morning and I am getting along good.  I start at seven in the morning,  have a half hour for noon,  and get done at five. This is about all the room I have so will have to close. You write me a nice long letter right away honey.

Love, Ralph

I miss you a lot.

See you Saturday night 9:30.

Notes: They were just 11 days away from being married. Not sure what this job was. This is a simple postcard with no image.

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New Project

I am starting a new project, or new in the sense that I actually started work on it. When my Mom passed away in May 1997 I became custodian of the letters she and my Dad exchanged during World War II. Many years ago I made a half-hearted attempt to create audiotaped transcriptions of the letters, but that came to nothing. I am starting again because the technology found in Google Docs allows me to read the letters aloud and have the contents go straight into a document. I will place the full text of the document here in The Althing blog, adding links and comments as appropriate and sharing to a Facebook timeline…either my own or I will create a new page.

This letters contain everything from the mundane to the slightly racy. Remember that they were written by two Wisconsin teenagers in the middle of a war, and cut them a little slack.

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Facebook Redux and More PHP

A lot has happened since we last spoke. I was all gung-ho over using Facebook to try and build traffic to www.the-althing.com, but then I hit something of a brick wall. Actually a huge brick wall. My plan was to follow pages on Facebook as my page. As interesting postings from those pages would show up in my feed I would share them on my page. I thought it was a win-win solution. I would get content and the pages I was following would get traffic. Even FB would win with increased ad revenues. But of course FB’s revenue model doesn’t work quite that way. I noticed that I was only seeing postings from a small percentage of the pages I was following on my feed, and it was postings from the same pages. Turns out FB limits how many pages you will see postings from, presumably unless you pay them. I then searched the web high and low for any solution that would workaround those limits. Unfortunately no such workaround exists…except the one I came up with, which relies on simple brute force. In short, I created an Excel spreadsheet, went to each of the pages I was follow (over 200 at present), and copied the URL into the spreadsheet. At that point it becomes a simple matter of going to each URL one at a time on a regular basis, searching for postings of interest to share to my Facebook page for The-Althing. Not the best solution, but one that will work until something better comes along (or the money grubbing Facebook lightens up a bit). In doing all this, I discovered that the links to almost all my t-shirts and other products at Zazzle were broken. They had restructured their link format, so I had to go in and edit almost every link, but that is all back up and running now.

On another front, there have been a variety of changes and updates to the thang. A lot of content was added in various areas, and PHP was more fully utilized in getting that content online for you to see. I went to larger images for the stuff I’m selling through Amazon. I wrote a small script to randomize the content on the front page and other pages, so you don’t see the same old thing every time. I also cleaned up the script the loads the information for the various shops and restaurants, so it automatically eliminates lines that were left when a particular field was empty…say a shop didn’t have a phone number or a website.

Next up will be a rethinking of how I present books and music on the site. I will be going to a dedicated page for each author or musician, along with some biographical information. This will also allow me to integrate links to audiobooks and links to purchase individual songs, something I’ve wanted to add for some time. To accomplish at least some of that I may sell through iTunes rather than Amazon, as it looks like the former has a much better looking interface.

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A Facebook Weekend

Some time back I had established a page for the-althing.com on Facebook. I routed these blog postings to that feed, and I systematically went through all of the places featured on the thang, checked if they had a FB page, and then liked or followed them. Imagine my dismay when the only postings that showed up on the feed were the blog postings I put there myself. I confess I was looking for a lazy way to build traffic for the site and I was disappointed that was not it.

Which brings us to this weekend. Like most things associated with this site (and with my life) I am self-taught and I learn a lot through trial and error methodology. I’m not too big into buying how-to books or soliciting advice. I had previously experimented with trying to share posts from other sites onto the althing.com feed but they ended up on my regular FB feed, where they do me no good. However, I realized that when you click “share” one of the options that drops down is “share to a page you manage.” Voila! This weekend I really dug in, hit the feeds of the folks I featured on the thang, and started sharing them to my the-althing.com feed on Facebook. This also gave me an ideal time to start to build the calendar of events back up. I had started with a free calendar from Keep and Share, which worked fairly decently. But awhile back I noticed the link was broken, and when I checked I learned they no longer offered the free calendar. At the time I started the calendar it was a close pick between K&S and Google, so I went back and checked Google calendar and found it was easier to work than K&S and I went to that. The only problem was I never got time to populate it with events, so it sat empty for a few months. As I pored through FB entries this weekend it was a perfect opportunity to start to build the calendar.

The bottom line is that this weekend was very productive. There were a few changes to the actual page, consisting of the calendar and an edit for a NYC shop that went out of business. But I really started to build traffic through FB, and hopefully that project will continue this week and next weekend.

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