Posted by: notsofancynancy | August 2, 2014

World War II, chapter 10, California

World War II

Chapter 10

California

California Beach at Ventura

Dad has been in the Army a year and three months and he has been stationed with the same men up until now. On 1 March 1942 my father is pretty upset as he writes,

I guess at midnight there ceases to be a 110th regiment. We are getting smashed. Anyway that is the way I put it. Some of us here and some of us there and who knows where the rest goes. I guess I stay with the same outfit. Only it will be called something else. I am not sure just what that will be. They gave us drivers test and a lot of the men couldn’t pass it so they go to a different place. Some say it will be the Camp Army and others say the service troops and others say in a QM someplace.

Original 1945 Roster Courtesy of the Cain Family Page 1

I know that my father is facing a big change. When I was working with a Victory in Europe Day roster, I found that 80 per cent of the revised 35 Quartermaster Battalion was from small towns all over Nebraska. All being from the same state made the men feel a bond. The other soldiers were from other states and now I understand how they got there. It had to do with this reorganization of the 110 Quartermaster Regiment which became the 35th Quartermaster Battalion 1 March 1942.

Up until now I have been confused with the Army’s “numbers.” My father’s discharge papers have him with the 448th Anti Aircraft Artillery Weapons Battalion and he never mentioned this battalion. I asked my siblings, who do remember more of Dad’s stories and they had never heard of it. We knew he was very proud to be known as 110th Quartermasters. Now the men are all mixed up and they will get a new name. It seems as though the Army continues to keep the soldiers guessing about what was going to happen next. And as I sit here in 2012 I have just confused myself more.

Next he writes,

Now maybe I can continue writing. Had to go get ready to go to a parade or something. I guess we are going to parade for the general. Or maybe he is going to tell us goodbye and how good or bad we are doing. Anyway I have been figuring all day how to get out of it and as yet haven’t done it. We lost probably the best officer in the Regt. Last week. He was transferred to S.F. (San Francisco) Boy we sure liked him. He was a Major before he left. He came over to say goodbye. By the looks of it he hated to leave as much as we hated to see him go. Anyway he said he would see us over there. We have to fall in 5 minutes so I better quit for now. Maybe I can tell you what the general says.

Dad writes again later that night,

The general didn’t have much to say about the same thing they have been since we started. That we are the best regt. In the U.S. Army, and that he hated to lose any of us. I’ll bet you hate to see your dad go. I believe I would too. He will only be about 200 miles from here if he go [Sic] to L.A.

Where is Pop going? Is he coming back? Is he going to Los Angeles?

7 March 1942 postmarked from Pasadena California

Well this letter is not what I expected. I am holding in my hand, with tears streaming down my cheek, a letter that my grandfather wrote in 1942. I cannot believe it but it is true. There are others, I see six in total. My grandfather passed away in 1972. He was sick for a long time so I do not remember much about him. To us kids he was affectionately known as “Pop”.  A family story passed down was that Pop lost his farm in Kansas when he could not raise wheat because of his severe allergy to it, but how did he get to be in Pasadena, California?

Pop in his cornfield, Kansas

Dear Sonny Boy:-
Well here it is I just got back from town. We walk down almost every afternoon. I live just fourteen blocks from down town Pasadena just a nice walk have not used the truck since I drove in last Mon. I go down to the welding school around 10:30 at nite [Sic] and get back around 3:00 in the morning sleep till about 8:00 get my own breakfast and dinner most of the time. Sure is a nice climate just cool enough to want a coat in the morning and evening and nice and warm during the day. There are mountains all around this town you can see snow and the Mt. Wilson observatory from the house here most of the time.

My grandparents only had one child and it was a girl. With all the nicknames in Grandma’s family it is only natural for them to call Mom by a nickname, was this it? My sister told me that just after mom was born Grandpa said something to the affect of “well that foolishness is over and we won’t have to do it again.” I guess he did not want more kids, or was it just he did not want Grandma to go through that pain?

He goes on to explain that there are a couple of German brothers living where he is and asks what Mom has been doing. Then,

Please write and tell me all the news and your troubles. I haven’t heard from Susie (Grandma’s nickname) guess maybe I have not had time but it sure seems like a long time. Well it smells like something is cooking so maybe we better go down and see. With love, Pop

So it is 7 March 1942 and my grandfather is in California going to welding school. My sister also told me that after losing the farm he saw an advertisement in the newspaper offering free government training in California to get his license to be a welder. So Grandpop takes advantage of this and drives his truck from Brookville, Kansas to Pasadena, California and gets settled in a rooming house. Coincidentally, my father is just up the shore a mere 200 miles away.

Pop and his truck in Pasadena, 1942

14 March 1942 there is another letter from Grandpa; He calls Mom Sonny Boy twice in this letter. Mom has been sick and he is worried about her. He actually is sick himself but he is doing a lot better now that he is in California with its warm weather. I wonder if this is part of the reason he came to California. Since I am not sure I have to let it go. He is surprised that his landlady is so trusting letting him use her brand new Chevrolet to drive to get groceries. What I found interesting is he is afraid of the roads here. I guess Pasadena was busy back then because he talks of the two and three lane highways, but everyone drives in the middle of the road. Some things never change only I am sure there are bigger highways and a whole lot more people now days. I think he scared himself as he never teaches Grandma Susie to drive. She did not learn until he passed away.

He goes on to say,

I am going down to the California shipyards with Bill tomorrow. He is going to take his test. He has been going to the school for seven weeks. Says he is going to marry me thinks I am a better cook that the landlady. Seen former President H. Hoovers house yesterday. It sure looks like a big house it is out on the side of the mountain north east of Pasadena.

It is good to see this side of my Grandpa. I don’t remember his personality because he was sick for so long, but, I can see he had a sense of humor. He would have had to have been humorous because Grandma was such a joker.

I cannot find any mention of Herbert Hoover living in Pasadena but I do find evidence that his son, Herbert Hoover Jr. lived in Pasadena, so maybe that is whose house he saw.

Mom does not get another letter from my dad until he writes on the 17th. Boy he sure is in a sour mood.

I am glad you said we are good friends. You know it could have been a lot worse. I kind of figured I was getting away a head of myself. But I wanted to be sure. One reason I have no intentions on coming back. Why should I. I am worth more dead than alive. Besides the chances are only about 25 to 1. Anyway in a short time we will be over there and then things will be different. The sooner the better for me. At least I will get out of the Army even if it is in a box.

This is killing me. Why don’t they just figure things out. It seems like Mom might not be ready to settle down yet. I feel bad for Dad but I know how this story ends. He goes on to confirm that he is only 190 miles from her Dad.

Viola’s Play 1942, Viola standing far left

31 March Grandpa writes a letter to her once again.

How is my little family? What has become of my dog? I sure am glad your play was a success and wished I could have been there to see it I haven’t been to a show or anything since I came here. One of the boys that stays here big Bill has gone to work at the shipyard it is quite a drive 40 miles from here and there is so much traffic it takes 2 hours. Our land lady is trying to rent a house in Long Beach which is 30 miles closer to the shipyard if she finds one we are all going to move down there. There doesn’t seem to be many places for rent down there. I went and looked at a trailer yesterday didn’t like it there a lot of people live in those here. There sure are a lot of soldiers around here. They have camps every place where they is any defense industry. I got to see the search lights chasing a plane around the other nite [Sic] he was awful high but they sure held the beams right on him didn’t look any bigger than a fly. I quit working the hours were so long it interfered with my welding to much only got to sleep four or five hours after a few days it wasn’t enough. It is five thirty and somebody had Fibber MaGee [Sic] on the radio.

I wonder how many people saw that same plane and thought it was the enemy coming to bomb them. How many of them did that plane scare? I know I would have been scared.

The “Fibber McGee and Molly” radio show was on the air and popular beginning in 1935. According to Wikipedia.org (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibber_McGee_and_Molly), a husband and wife vaudevillian team, Jim and Marion Jordan, were listening to a radio show in Chicago with his brother in 1925. They said they could do a better job than the person on the radio and Jim’s brother bet them $10 they could not. They all went to the radio station and announced the bet. The station manager let them audition which resulted in Jim and Marion going on-the-air immediately at a beginning rate of $10 per week. After several years on various local and regional programs, “Fibber McGee and Molly” became a national radio show in 1935.

He ends the letter with “Whatever became of Lefty?”

So it is interesting to see that Pop was wondering if my dad was still in California.

9 April 1942 Grandpa writes again,

I went down to the welding school last nite [sic] at 8:00 o’clock and around nine there was a black out. I was busy welding when all at once my arc disappeared and there I was in the dark I stumbled around and found my way out on the street and the only light in sight was a neon sign a couple blocks down the street and it only lasted about a minute. We sit around about an hour and a half and then started to walk home it is sixteen or seventeen blocks about every other block there is a air rade [sic] warden every other one wanted to argue seems you are not supposed to go anywhere in the dark. When we were three blocks home we were told a plane was the cause of it and you couldn’t even hear a plane here so never even got a thrill.

What would that have been like? Living through the mandatory blackouts? Being afraid every plane that flew overhead might bomb you. In the aftermath of 9/11 I felt that fear. We have a heck of a lot more planes than they had back in 1942. On the evening of 12 September I sat outside and it was eerie not having a plane flying overhead. I guess now I do understand how helpless Dad, Grandpa, or anyone in the United States felt in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the United States. Wow! Breakthrough! It has only taken me ten chapters to come to the conclusion that the attack on Pearl Harbor WAS a terrorist attack!

I find another letter from Pop dated 27 May 1942. He talks of looking for family living in the vicinity of where he is staying. Is he planning to move the family to California? He asks about my dad and says the two brothers who live in the rooming house with him have family in San Luis Obispo and they want him to go along with them up the coast to visit them. He is going to try to find Dad when he is there. Grandpa is starting a government welding school that day and continuing the one he is taking at night. He figures he will be learning twice as fast and be twice as good by continuing both classes. Pop is wondering how Mom is doing in school and is wondering when the graduation exercises will be. He really wants to come home to attend them if he does not get work by then. So he is actually looking for work? Will he go to work in the shipyards? How weird is it that my Pop is in California at the same time my father is here? Wow! This is starting to sound like it would make a good book!

Viola’s Graduating Class

15 May 1942 letter starts by congratulating mom for getting her diploma and he wants to hear all about the fun time she is having as a senior in high school. He goes on about visiting a friend of his and he is living in a tent a half a mile from Warner Brothers Studios. He uses candles for light and has a portable radio and “the cutest little wood stove you have ever seen.” How was your play? He wonders. He has talked with someone from home who went to see it and truly enjoyed the production.

15 May Dad writes “I heard you are going to get married, is that true?” Wait! When did that happen? Oh dear me! That is hard for me to read. That must be why she has not written him. It seems as though Mom’s Uncle George, the one who introduced Mom and Dad is now in the Marines and is stationed not far from Dad. My father does not go into much detail other than George is expected to pass through where Dad is stationed.

George Vance

In the same envelope he writes to Grandma,

I am sure I would have enjoyed the play. I always did like them. I sure have enjoyed the last nine days though. I have been in Washington so that adds two more states to my list. I sure fell in love with Oregon. Boy there is so much more there for one to see. I guess California has a lot of things but to me they stink. You see I don’t like Calif. or what they stand for. As soon as we got in Oregon we started enjoying ourselves and did all the time we were there. I cannot say that about this place. Really Mom I am not too low you see I really meant what I said. And I wasn’t in a bad mood either. I have a lot to live for but what is the use. When I get out of here I am going to have to go to work and I am afraid I won’t like that. And I have $10,000 worth of insurance that would really be used in a good way back home. I am serious. I am quite sure I am going to be in Calf. When you get out I am just not sure where. I can’t get off to see Pop. They have taken all the passes away from single men. And here I was going to a dance tonight.

I just remembered I was in Oregon when I was 22, the same age my father is in this letter. I stayed about a year and a half. I remember how it looked to someone who was just passing through when I visited the first time. Not that my dad would have had time to stop and visit. He told of driving and sleeping 24 hours a day to get to the assigned location so sightseeing had to have been done from the windshield of the truck.

I remember Mom and Dad driving to Oregon in their camper when I lived there. They camped with my daughter on the Rogue River. I will always remember Dad had her fishing when I got there after work. She was about five years old and sat with her Grandpa holding her pole. Dad got up to get a beer and Tania was standing with the pole when she hooked one! That child threw her pole in the river, ran into the camper slamming the door before anyone could react! I will always remember how tickled he was to tell that story again and again throughout the rest of his life. It will always be a happy memory.

Well this is quite a shock there are no letters for the next two months. With so many letters left how can that be? In looking at how many letters I have read, and how many are left I cannot see him skipping a couple of days. These letters are very odd to me because Dad was always a quiet person. He never talked to me about his time in the service so I am totally surprised to find that all these letters exist.

Maybe that is why he was always so quiet, because he was writing a “book” while he trained in and then attended this war.

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Responses

  1. You are in a very unique experience to “visit” with your father as a young man! It must be equally unnerving at times, though, to have something irregular revealed and you can’t ask any clarifying questions! Fascinating!

    • I could not have said it better. It was great getting to know my dad as a young soldier but I have so many questions! Thanks for reading!

  2. Hi Nancy! I saw the post where you gave me thanks for my service. It was an honor and the least I could do for the opportunity of being able to live in this great country of ours.
    I saw the picture you posted of your mom in the play. I would recognize her anywhere. She looks the same in that picture as I always remember her. It sort of sounds like your parents and grand parents were not overly thrilled about being in California. However, it may just have been a sign of the difficulties they underwent from day to day in trying to make ends meet. It seems that they were apart from each other quite a bit too.

    Rudy

    • Hi Duty, I think the reason’s they all came to Cali was the reason they were not so thrilled. Grandpop loosing the farm and Dad with the war and all. It was all a twist of fate that brought them here. I am not sure that if Pearl Harbor would not have been bombed and dad sent to guard the coast they would have married. Up until that time they were only pen pals, although I think dad loved her all the way back when he met her in 1937. Then in 42 when dad was stationed on the coast they had time to hook up. lol They did not get engaged until 43 then married two months before he shipped out for France. I think that it was all Divinely orchestrated, if you know what I mean. btw in the two months they were married before he shipped out she got pregnant. Thanks for the comment it is great to talk to someone who knew them. Take care and once again thanks for your service! (I don’t think it can ever be said enough!)

  3. Hi, Nancy. Yes, aliens abducted me and just dumped me back off on earth… :-). I’m real behind once again.

    Question from this old man… When you write Pop, are you referring to Lefty or your grandpa? I got a bit corn-fused (in honor of his cornfield picture).

    Long Beach is where I live now. Indeed, it was a naval town and a long way from Pasadena…even today with the same traffic. It must have taken a number of gallons to commute. Gas was becoming short in supply if not already rationed. The homes in my area were built by the hundreds starting around 1949. The homes and lots are small but was perfect for vets or serving Navy/Marines.

    • Thanks Mustang Koji! I went back to where I first mentioned him and tried to make it clearer. I found it interesting when Pop, my grandfather talked about how the area looked then. Camps sprung up around military instillations according to him. I bet the whole area was crawling with servicemen. Well in fact I am sure it was.I just obtained a couple of pictures of the Army camp somewhere in Van Nuys. I will have to take a look at them again. It seems they put up camp in a vacant lot of something. The more I learn the more I learn. lol

      • BTW, I’m (trying) to read “The Patton Papers”. He was in charge of the training area in the desert. He wrote about went he did to select that region. Interesting stuff.

  4. I did a 4×4 trip one time and visited quite of few of those sites. Not much left there now but if you look you can find signs of camps, rock alignments and such. Very quiet now.


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