Posted by: notsofancynancy | October 24, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 11, The Big Move

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The Suitcase

Chapter 11

The Big Move

Up until now my father has been writing to my mother in Brookville, Kansas. He has been stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo located 200 miles up the coast from Los Angeles. But it seems a big change has happened for my mother and her family.

2 July 1942 I find my Dad’s letter postmarked from Ventura, California which is 60 miles north of Los Angeles.

Mr. Sellers wrote: "I'm setting slightly back of Sgt. Charlie Hancock (Mess Sgt) on a rock on top of Cero-Renaldo Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif, Jan. 29, 1942. Out tents are in the right hand corner of the picture. X is our tent. This is the Mt. I spoke of climbing a while back. Erceil, The buildings in the background are farm buildings and then the hill on back of them." Erceil Sellers Collection

Erceil Sellers Collection. Mr. Sellers wrote: “I’m setting slightly back of Sgt. Charlie Hancock (Mess Sgt) on a rock on top of Cero-Renaldo Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif, Jan. 29, 1942. Out tents are in the right hand corner of the picture. X is our tent. This is the Mt. I spoke of climbing a while back. Erceil, The buildings in the background are farm buildings and then the hill on back of them.”

Guess what address is used for his next letter to Mom. I find it very humorous but yet interesting, yep my mom’s family is now in Pasadena, California. Pasadena is located only about ten miles from Los Angeles and only 55 miles from Ventura which is where my father seems to be driving between. Their fate has been sealed. What are the chances for this kind of coincidence? Who knew that when these two who first met at a barn dance in small town in Nebraska would lead to having both of my parents living in Southern California in 1942 at the same time and due the war. My grandfather is welding in the shipyards and Dad is driving up the coast with the Army. I know that it is just a coincidence but it just seems divinely orchestrated. What are the odds? I just had another light bulb moment. My grandfather is complaining about driving in California and my dad is a truck driver becoming experienced in driving all over California. I grew up here in Southern California. Pop never drove anywhere when my Dad was around, Dad always drove. Now, I am laughing again. It just seems I have written a whole paragraph of what could be interpreted as “signs” from above. But sadly we have another year to get through before my parents finally tie the knot.

That first letter in July shows that Dad has been to Pasadena on a 24 hour pass to visit Mom and her family, so he has somehow found out that they have moved. I have to assume they have a phone in big town Pasadena. I am not sure at this point how he found out she is there. That first letter there is written explaining that he has a date and has been dating other girls. It makes me wonder if he actually is dating or if he is just making up a good story to make her think he has been. He says that he wanted to come over but thought she would be “busy.” He then goes on to explain that he has been “Red Lined” by the Army. That means he has not been paid yet. I am sure he is broke as he is still sending part of his pay home to his Dad.

The next letter is not written until 13 July 1942.

Glad Pop is working and Likes It. I am doing OK up here but I think someone else is taking my place. But who am I to argue. I have no strings tied and besides that I have no proof of it. In case there is he hasn’t anymore[sic] time than I have. I have been here ever other day. And it has been one grand time after another. Believe me going to her place is like going home. I can have as much fun. You know I am getting as well acquainted here in Ventura as at home. Everybody knows Lefty. Or at least about everyone.

Those sound like fighting words. This whole time I have been looking from my father’s point of view. I would imagine that my mother was having a good time with all the service men around. Between my Grandma Susie inviting soldiers over and now Grandpop working in the shipyards they had to have invited quite a few soldiers over. It was the way they were, always supporting our troops.

Dad goes on to explain that he heard through the grapevine that his sister has had a baby girl. He has not heard from anyone at home but has run into someone who knew. It sure does not seem like he is getting any mail from home, or at least any that he mentions.

He writes again on the 20th stating that he has quit writing to everyone but Mom and Madelyn (whoever that is) and he has not really been anywhere. He talks again about how there are lots of girls around that like him so for her not to worry about him. Then he asks,

Why didn’t you drop on up when you were in Oxnard? That is only nine miles from here and I was home all day on Sunday. Could be maybe I’ll be down sometime this week. Who knows?

Dad is not signing his letters with love at this time. This one he signs, “So long worthless, Lefty. “

Marvin Cain wrote "Main Gate at Camp Luis Obispo" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain wrote “Main Gate at Camp Luis Obispo” Courtesy of the Cain Family

He does not write again until 4 August,

I was coming up there but decided not to. I was in L.A. Sat. nite [sic] and Sunday. Sure had a grand time. Went to the Palladium Sat. nite [sic]and danced to Woody Herman. Boy was he good. He sang one song named “Fan it Baby Fan it.” I really liked it. We really have been driving lately. Since I saw you. I have driven 700 miles. And 300 of that has been blackout. We bent up one truck and trailer. Boy what luck. Not much damage was done. Bob (Robert Winter) is back with us again I guess he and I are going to a show tonight. We were going last night then they decided they needed some trucks. See we being the only one here had to drive and I had to break a date with Dorothy (now who is Dorothy?) That was bad. It was the first day she had off in 2 weeks. And it may be that long again. I hope not though. They tell me I am to be make a Cpl. Don’t count on it though cause I hope not. And there is no order on it yet. That was the word of some of the men back at the company. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Love Lefty!

Robert Winter was from the same small town my father’s family was from, Cozad, Nebraska. I am not sure if they knew each other before he enlisted or not. But there are many references to “Bob” throughout my father’s pictures and letters.

According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woody_Herman) Woody Herman was an influential Jazz musician who was popular in the mid thirties. He got his first professional gig when he was 15 years old. His first record was recorded in 1936 and the group was known as “The band that plays the blues.” He was also known as a bandleader, saxophonist, clarinetist, and singer. He continued to perform well into 1980 when he passed the torch to the leader of his reed section, Frank Tiberi who continues to make the same type of jazz music as he had. Woody Herman passed away in 1987 and was buried in Hollywood, California.

Oh my goodness! The next letter is not from my dad! It is from someone I never heard of. Is this why Mom was so distant from Dad at this time? I am almost afraid to open it. Who is this? How did she meet him? Why has she kept this letter? What does this mean? Is this the guy she was engaged to?

Pvt. R.L. Metzger
Victorville, Calif.

I was pleased to read your letter in the Echo this issue and as I never think of the few weeks I spent in Brookville without thinking about you. I just couldn’t keep from saying “Hello” and welcome to California.” I hope you like it and I know you will soon have lots of friends out here. But let’s always remember those swell ones in the friendly little village. It is ever this—we lose friends, gain new ones, only to lose them again, to make new ones, for in cycles are we whirled, [sic] but fond memories we can always keep. I find good old Lynn on every page of the Echo, then I think of the few people who took an interest in my work bad as it was, and there I have a picture of Vi sitting on the extra box watching a bum drawing a bum reproduction. Brookville and area is now undergoing a great change due to the war. I suppose all this is vital in our war effort, I am rather glad that I’m not there to witness the peaceful country side change into a huge war machine. How is Rose and Vance? Tell them hello for me. Hope this finds you well and happy. I remain
Your friend,
Leroy Metz

Well it was not what I expected. It is a really nice letter. He knows my Grandpop and Grandma by their first names so I am left once again with more questions than answers. What is the Echo, who was this Leroy, and will I find more letters from other people maybe other men hidden among these letters? I searched for a magazine or newspaper that in 1942 was call Echo with no luck I then searched for the man’s actual name in case he was someone famous and again no luck. I guess that is one question that will never be answered. Interesting that he knows my mom’s family and Brookville, Kansas.

Dad on his 23rd birthday 1942, Bob Winter on the right

The 13 August 1942 letter finds him back in Van Nuys.

They are running me to death or if it isn’t them it is me. I have been made a Cpl. As much as I hated it. It isn’t so bad though. At least not yet. I have only been here a few days. Had to go on guard to catch up on some sleep. Am coming over as soon as I can get there. Boy they sure got me the other morning. Lt. Smith called on me to give mass commands for the exercises and I didn’t know a darn thing about them. I guess I did OK for the first time. But my knees were sure shaking. That was the second day I had been with the company. And things sure have changed.

There are three other letters in August. Dad was just trying to make small talk in all of them. He is driving all over Southern California with little rest. It seems if he isn’t on guard duty or sleeping he is driving.

Envelope

On 29 August he writes that he will be getting a 15 day furlough in the next couple of months. It seems as though he goes back and forth from Van Nuys, California, then the rest of the time the postmarks are from Ventura. He must have gotten the furlough as there are no letters from 29th August though 7 October He also writes that he had a good time at Mom’s house so he must have been by there for a visit.

Furlough pass 20 October 1942, Dad’s birthday was on the 22nd

Furlough Pass for 20 October 1942

There are three letters in November, quickly written and not having much news.

6 December 1942 he writes that he has not written because there is nothing going on. Then he goes on,

Verlin [sp?] went to Van Nuys and came back with heaps of it (news.) First, sometime next week I am to be transferred back to L.A. somewhere about it anyway. I am going to like that though. I probably won’t be in Van Nuys long. But waite [sic] I haven’t told you the best news yet. Under the new set up I wasn’t assigned a squad and that means only one thing. Maybe in Jan. Around the 10th Wont that be a good birthday present getting rid of me. Nothing is definite yet but someone has to go and I sure hope it is me. As I told you I was about first on the list for Cadney. Maybe I’ll have a tale to tell the Grand Kids after all. I hope. Well if you don’t write soon maybe the next time you hear from me I’ll be in Africa. I hope.

Christmas card 1942

Africa? When does Africa get into the equation? According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_African_Campaign) The North African Campaign, lasted from 1940-1943. My husband just told me that was where Patton and his German counterpart, Edward Rommel did battle. Gosh I must have missed that day in school. I really did not remember. Why does Dad want to go there?

Dad's Best Buddy, Bob Winter

Dad’s Best Buddy, Bob Winter

The last letter that was written in 1942 was from Ventura. Dad is talking about how fast the year has gone. He is also complaining that the weather here in California is what he believes is unseasonably warm. He goes on,

Bob (Robert Winter) and I went to a USO party last nite. [sic] We hit several places first and was in a good mood when we got there. But that soon wore off and the party was dead. Pardon the delay had to go to a show. The last one before he leaves. I guess there isn’t much more to talk about anyway so I had better go to bed. I am sitting here in my underwear anyway. Love Lefty.

And that letter ends the year 1942. My parents have been writing to each other for five years now. It does not seem like Dad has gotten anywhere with Mom. We started the year off feeling like they were in love and Dad was going to spend the rest of his life with Mom but it does not seem she has the same feelings as he does. Also he mentions that he is estranged from his family. I know that his father was neither healthy nor well-educated and it was probably hard for him to read or for him to write a letter to Dad. He does not talk about getting any mail from anyone else. It seems like this was a lonely time for him.

Copyright 2012 notsofancynancy ©

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Responses

  1. I HAVE REALLY ENJOYED YOUR ARTICLE ON YOUR FAMILY & WWII. MY DAD NEVER GOT DRAFTED BECAUSE HE WORKED FOR A LARGE OIL COMPANY AND HIS BOSS SOME HOW KEPT HIM FROM GOING TO WAR. MY DAD WAS KILLED IN A ACCIDENT IN 1948 SO I NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO ASK HIM ANY QUESTIONS. MY MOTHER PASSED AWAY WHEN I WAS 25 WHILE WE WAS LIVING IN VENTURA, CA SO NEVER HAD OR THOUGHT OF TAKING THE TIME TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SMITH FAMILY AFTER SHE REMARRIED. SHE WAS NOT IN GOOD HEALTH FROM A YOUNG CHILD AND AT TIMES HAD TO STAY HOME FROM SCHOOL TO TAKE CARE OF HER AND NEVER WANTED TO UPSET HER. SHE ALWAYS SAID THAT DAD WAS KILLED BY HIS BROTHER AND I KNOW SHE NEVER GOT ANY SETTLEMENT MONEY FROM HIS BUSINESS OR HIS FAMILY INHERTANCE. I AM IN PROCESS OF STARTING THE STORY ON MY PARENTS LIFE STORY AS I KNOW IT FROM MOM AND INFO FROM MY STEPDADS SISTER WHO WAS SO CLOSE TO MOM. THANKS FOR SHARING. JUDY

    • I am intrigued by your story and I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for sharing your memories.


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