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
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.