Posted by: notsofancynancy | November 5, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 12, Training Year Three

The Suitcase

Training Year Three

Chapter 12

1942 was a big year for my family and with both Mom and Dad ending up on the California coast at the same time; it has to be far more than a coincidence. Hum, Divinely orchestrated, I would say. So far in their relationship it seems like Dad is doing all the chasing. I sure wish that I had Mom’s letters. To me it sure seems like she is leading him on but I would be speculating. Thank goodness my brain decided to forget what I had been told growing up because as with you, this is all new to me. And at the same time I am thankful I am writing it down now so I don’t forget it again.

Left-All of the letters Right With 1937-1942 missing = how many I have left

This is where it is going to get hard in putting this story into words.  There are 132 letters in 1943, So Dad starts writing a lot. There are sixteen total in January, February, and March. My Dad is stationed in San Luis Obispo, 200 miles from where my Mom is living in Pasadena. He had told Mom that he was going to come down over New Years Eve but he did not get off until 8:00pm.  He would have had to find a way to get there, and by the time he did it would have been time for him to start back to the base. He wishes her a happy birthday which is on the 11th and in 1943 she turned 20. Is that not old for back in those days?

Dad begins to speak about a fellow soldier by the name of Robert “Bob” Winter quite a bit at this time. I am not sure if he has just gotten there or if he has been with the unit all along. I don’t remember my father speaking to me about him but Bob’s name comes up quite a bit in these three months and from now on in my dad’s letters. I get the feeling that Bob has met my mom somehow as dad is acting like they have met. Interesting enough Bob is from the same small town my father’s family was, Cozad, Nebraska. It makes me wonder if they might have known each other before the war. It is very possible.

Robert “Bob” Winter’s note written on Dad’s letter 20 March 1942

January on the coast of California can be pretty wet and 1943 was no different. My father complains he threw a towel over his shoulder and went to the wash room which was only 40 steps about from him and the towel was soaked with rain.  When he tried to dry off after the shower he was still wet.

In his letter dated 25 January 1943 he writes,

Know I wasn’t the one who got mad. Not Mad “Vi” just a feeling as usual of playing second fiddle. Only this time it won’t work. Friends yes, but nothing more. You see if things had turned out right Sat. nite [sic] it might have been different but why should I carry on with the feeling that someone else has you and I haven’t even a smell. I thought the world of you until Sat. nite [Sic] but somehow it has changed now. Everyone was in the story but me. I was miles away. So again have lost. But me I can take it I guess. Have lived all my life that way and so why change now. Anyway as in three faces before I held my end up and will continue to do so. Remember we are still friends.

I guess he told her or she told him? I am really not sure. In this letter Dad includes a cartoon and a newspaper clipping. The clipping is a poem titled “We got the Basin Blues” Written by Private Eddie Cherokose, Fort Mc Arthur

A sleepy Latrine,

A pastoral scene, with two at a basin,

The Job isn’t fun,

The mirror is one you can’t see your face in.

The lighting is bad,

It’s driving you mad. That’s half of it brother,

The farther you go,

The first thing you know, you’re Shaving each other.

A sleepy latrine,

Where soldiers convene, with Natural intentions,

And then hang around,

And finally should like seven Conventions.

One fellow “heard this,”

And another “heard that,” and that’s

How they start,

For rumor careens,

In sleepy latrines,


Dad notes in the top right had corner that you can sing it to a song that was popular in the 40’s called “In the Sleepy Lagoon” by Eddie Cherkose.  Fun Fact, Mr. Cherkose would go on to write several songs for Roy Rogers.

“How can I get rid of pests?”

Oh dear, Now that I am looking at this cartoon could it be that my father felt like the wolf in the cartoon,  and felt like Mom thought of him as a pest? Or is that just the way he was feeling?

He complains how hard it is to keep his truck clean and has washed it three times in the last week. Then someone else drove it and got it dirty again and is frustrated he has no time to wash it again.

It seems Dad has gotten both a card and a letter from Mom in the same day and he is once again inspired to keep writing back. He goes on to write,

Bob and I had quite a time tonight. Our stove wouldn’t work right so we slipped over to some vacant tents and got one. The darn thing hadn’t been shut off and when we lit it it [Sic] blew up and we spilt oil all over the floor. So we took it back and changed it for another. While coming back a guard stoped {Sic} us and did we have a time explaining. We got the stove and it works so everyone is happy. Had to mop the whole floor though. Took about a half a can of bleach. More fun. Anyway we are set here in peace now.

Ok how many times it he going to try to light things on fire?  (Click here to read about it) First he tries to catch his truck on fire and now his barrack! Oh dear!

On 30 January he writes,

“Vi” in your letter you mentioned something about the time I came down. You remember that so maybe you remember me asking if I was butting in on someone else. In case I am wrong and didn’t ask you that stops me. If I remember right you said no. In fact you didn’t even mention your going with Dale the whole time I was there. So whose fault was it if someone was being let down. On the other hand several times you asked me to come down-UH FORGET IT.

Wow Dad!  He does add a postscript, “Tell everyone hello from Bob also.” First he is mad and then he ends like nothing is wrong.

Oh gosh, in the next letter he goes on,

Thanks Vi, Now that the whole damn is settled lets forget it. From now on It can’t make much difference anyway. Possible I won’t get down by the time the duration is over you’ll have someone else on your string and then I’ll have to start over again-anyway. But one never knows does one.

In this statement I get the feeling that Dad thinks he may be going home soon or at least hoping he will. I believe he may mean for the duration of his time in the Army or the duration of this training he is doing I am not sure.

6 February 1943 he writes that he got a magazine and card my mom sent. He does not seem so mad at her. He goes on to tell he is the Cpl of the guard that night. He goes on,

I am going to have to get up every two hours to relieve the guard. So you know how much sleep I am going to get. On Saturday and Sunday too. The whole deal came when a guard was caught asleep last night. Up until then we had a deal they could relieve themselves and the Cpl could sleep straight through. New we can’t and we even have a prisoner to guard. He goes to the stockade tomorrow though. Ain’t [Sic] it awful.

On the 13th Dad has been down to Pasadena to visit mom and had a heck of a time getting back to camp. It took all night and morning to get the 200 miles back to base.  He does not explain why though except he went to find his cousin and went to the wrong address. Then when they got back to camp they had a two hour drill followed by a two mile hike. He was beat when the day was done. He does not say more of what happened with Mom. But on the 16th he is back to calling her “Darling.” And is back to signing “with love.”

It seems that at this time my father is spending most of his time being a soldier with a routine of driving people and things up and down the coast, inspections, guard duty, hiking, and drills. Then when they are not working taking care of the truck Bob and him are going to dances, the USO, and to see movies. The two have also finagled it so that they can both go on furlough together. But he warns Mom to not hold her breath because they Army can change their mind at a moment’s notice.

Mrs. Ann Howard, Bob Winter, and Mom-Courtesy of the Winter Family

Mrs. Ann Howard, Bob Winter, and Mom-Courtesy of the Winter Family

Then on 10 March he writes,

A rumor is out that Bob leaves tomorrow. Hope not. I have been trying to get to go and he hasn’t and he might get to and I won’t for sure.

At this time he is still unsure whether he will get his furlough on the 20th. He goes on to tell that they are having a machine gun problem. He does not go into detail but it has happened two nights in a row and they are working on it for that night’s exercise where Dad will take on the gunner role. He goes on to finish by saying “everyone is all hyped up about this machine gun. I guess it is some stuff.” In the next letter he is still talking about the machine gun. Dad will get to fire it the next day. Given 98 rounds he is excited to get his chance, “rain or shine,” He boasts. Then he writes

I sure hated to leave on Sun. Boy you don’t know what went on in my mind. I guess all good things come to an end. I beat Bob in Sun. He didn’t get here until after 7 Mon. Good thing they didn’t check up on him. Everyone is happy now though.


"Obstacle Course, Camp San Luis Obispo Riley-Sellers, Ladder " Erceil Sellers Collection

“Obstacle Course, Camp San Luis Obispo Riley-Sellers, Ladder ” Erceil Sellers Collection

He then goes on to write a list of all the ways he is planning on getting back to see her which included a lie about an emergency to get him off base. Then this,

I am getting use to leaving also. But every time that same empty feeling and all is there. Maybe I shouldn’t be such a sissy. But I do love you. Wish this war was over so we could carry on as planned. Probably then we wouldn’t get along.  That is about the way things work. You wanted to know what went on in my mind. I wanted to go back to you and never leave. It took a lot of will power not to too. I sure wish we could be married and stay together always. But it is not in the card just yet.  So will have to make the best until later. Maybe then we will make up our minds. Lots of water will pass under the bridge. Please write soon.

Ok that touched my heart. She must be encouraging him in some way for him to feel this way about her. 19 March 1943 Dad writes while he is on guard.

Here goes nothing. I could have started on my pass tonight only I was on guard. So now I have to start tomorrow nite[Sic] You will know this before you get his letter so why should I write it.

Oh my goodness! He goes on to tell a dirty joke. Since I hope my Grand kids will read this someday I will refrain from sharing that with you.


Bob’s girl name is Madeline. Funny I graduated with her. She was the most bashful girl in the class and I the most bashful guy. Therefore we did not get along. Bob might get married if he gets home this time. He probably won’t though. Sounds like the Army is agreeing with Dale. Like it is with lots more. Wish I could same the same for myself. It is making a damn sissy of me. I am sure not a in a writing mood. Waite[Sic] until next tour and see then.

Wait is this the same Dale that Dad thought was spending time with Mom when he is not with her? I don’t get it! But here is the good/bad part; this is last letter Dad wrote on the California Coast. He is on the move again.

Copyright notsofancynancy 2012 ©


  1. I love this one so much! He makes your mom sound kind of awful, but maybe he was over sensitive. You know what they say, there are three sides to every story. His, hers and the truth. LOL. I always enjoy talking to moms UCLA friends, they knew her when she met dad and fell in love and got married all within one year. They were together for 60 years until her death in 2011. A great love story, but not perfect by any means. Keep on writing its good stuff.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. It has been an amazing journey through that suitcase. A love story in the making. I did not come around till 15 years after the war and by then they did not like each other much. It was really nice to see this side of their story and to find out how she really got him through the war. It is 1942 in the story and they will not marry until 1944. Still quite a story to be told.

  2. What a lovely suitcase and contents and story!

    • I know, right? lol I never expected the story that came out of that unassuming suitcase. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found the treasure it held. A love story…..Thank you

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