| Home | Search | SBButler Letters |

Letters between Sylvester and Eva, January 1918


Jan. 1, 1918, Eva
Jan. 1, 1918
Jan. 3, 1918
Jan. 5, 1918, Eva
Jan. 6, 1918
Jan. 6, 1918, Eva
Jan. 7, 1918
Jan. 9, 1918, Eva
Jan. 10, 1918
Jan. 12, 1918, Eva
Jan. 11, 1918
Jan. 13, 1918
Jan. 14, 1918, Eva
Jan. 14, 1918
Jan. 16, 1918, Eva
Jan. 20, 1918
Jan. 22, 1918, Eva
Jan. 24, 1918, Eva
Jan. 25, 1918, Eva
Jan. 27, 1918, Eva
Jan. 28, 1918

SBButler Letters, January 1918


[Written Jan. 1, 1918, postmarked Jan. 3, 1918]

Dear Sylvester,

Do you know I sent you a letter today and forgot to wish you a happy New Year? I'm sorry but this is the starting of a New Years letter but goodness knows when it will end. I run on, I fear, some what after the fashion of the famous brook.

A New Year wouldn't be complete without its resolutions, would it? I think I'll make a dozen or so because I might as well go about it right and a lot of things being broken always makes so much more noise than a few and of course I intend to break them - which is strictly according to etiquette or at least seems to be.

I wonder what I shall do tomorrow, or rather today?

I went ice skating down at Bargaintown and the ice was fine. We had a sunset too and the evening star and all together an enjoyable time.

The ice was crowded yesterday but we went late and avoided the rush.

There was a fire down there too, but no cocoa.

Dad was to get out of the hospital yesterday but I haven't heard yet whether he did or not.

Has your brother been definitely assigned to any company yet?

The weather has been about 8 [degrees] below zero for four days down here and now it has started to snow. A good beginning.

With many wishes for a Happy New Year.

I am

Your friend,

Eva.

P.S. The pictures just arrived and they are dandy.

Eva.


Camp Devens
Jan. 1, 1918

Dear Eva,

A happy 1918 and the best of luck! Did you stay up to see it in? I was on the road "somewhere in Massachusetts" in the faithful Ford, pretty nearly freezing to death. Five of us went up to Lowell again last night in the Supply Train flivver for a farewell party to 1917; nothing but the usual Keith's theater party. We did plan to have a little dinner after the theater, but all that was open was an ordinary lunch room. So after a wild time over some pie, shredded wheat, or coffee, according to taste, we started back. It took us two hours to get back, for we didn't dare to go fast on account of one of our chains losing a couple of cross pieces & becoming decidedly loose. Then at the narrowest place in the road we had to stop and wait a few ages for a truck stuck ahead of us.

New Years is another holiday, and 15% of the men are allowed away from the end of drill yesterday to the reveille to-morrow. About half the officers of the Train are gone for the day. I am going to try and write several letters to celebrate the day; among them acknowledgments of Christmas gifts; and here I'm up against it, for I've put them all away and am not sure who sent me what? So it looks as though I must compose some ambiguosities. Also it seems as though I had acknowledged one from one of my aunts, but I can't be sure whether I have or not. A fine careful military man, I am, what?

Father has just sent me one of his business calendars, with the reproduction of a painting on it which I think you would like. An old homestead, with handsome holly hocks up against it, & with fence, garden, & orchard replete with fresh spring color. Perhaps calendars are taboo in your household, but I am going to see if he hasn't got another one to mail.

Lieut. Moody is playing a concert for me as I write. We have rented a victrola with a good selection of records for a short time. We keep it out in the dining room, and so when I heard it start this morning I had to bring my things out here. I do miss the piano, since being in the service. The men over in each company in the train have a piano, but we haven't room or time for one in the Officers' Quarters. I do sort of itch to get after the one I have over in my company, but of course it wouldn't do for the lieutenant to display his imperfections in such gratuitous manner, to his command.

I wonder, do you have a holiday to-day, too? I don't seem to remember whether New Years' Day is observed in New Jersey or not. Last New Years' Day I was on my way there after my Christmas vacation. And how much has happened since then!

Lieut. Moody has just played McDowell's To A Wild Rose on the victrola. It's a beautiful thing, one of my favorites. I didn't even know we had it until now. He has just followed it with Thome's Simple Aven (Simple Confession in English) another favorite. I have probably played it for you.

The crew is beginning to come in for dinner, so I'll have to clear out (excellent English, eh wot?) for the present.

As always,

Sylvester.


Camp Devens
Jan. 3, 1918, Thursday evening

Dear Eva,

I had it on my mental schedule to get going on a letter to you somewhat earlier than this hour this evening - eleven-thirty. But my colleague, Lt. Spaulding, has just left from a prolonged visit with me in my room; he's got a big scheme up his sleeve that he wants to have a chance to lay before the powers that be, for a system thruout the country of training men at their homes a certain number of hours each day, so as to be ready to report at the army cantonments, whenever they are called, already well trained, & thereby in a condition where they can be gotten ready much sooner than if the cantonment has to start with them from the beginning.

Yesterday morning I started to attend, as representative of the Supply Train, a series of lectures, really a school, on the Coordination of the Functions of all Arms of the Service. They are just an hour a day, from ten to eleven o'clock in the morning, and are given by a Captain Amand, of the French Army. So you can imagine they are quite interesting. The title of the course is quite formidable, isn't it - reminds me of the highest ranking course in mathematics in the college catalogue, of my time, at least, "Theory of the Functions of a Complex Variable". How I did marvel at anybody who had the courage to go on to those heights in Mathematics when I was having a terrible time with Analytical Geometry Freshman year.

I gave the company a lecture this evening on First Aid Measures - among them measures to be taken to prevent loss of blood from a wound. I casually mentioned how any of us were likely to meet with such an accident, from splinters of some passing shell, & thereby how essential it was for them to be familiar with the facts I was giving them. To show you what a forceful lecture I delivered one of the men of the company turned white as a sheet at the end of that part of my discourse, and had to leave - he told the sergeant who followed him out to see what was the matter that it was too much for him. The first time I've ever had that effect on a grown man; though I believe I have done it to poor defenseless people like Addie Havens - over algebra, which is however quite bloodless.

I'll send you Saturday another of the photograph group of myself and myself and myself.

I must stay up no longer.

As ever

Sylvester.


[postmarked Saturday, Jan. 5 1918]

Dear Sylvester,

Your pictures arrived at Four yesterday; your Sunday letter at seven and your New Years letter this morning so I got lots of mail all at once.

Your pictures certainly are good and they arrived in good condition in spite of their long delay in coming.

Last night Miss Tolbert and I went around to Dr. Harley's to see Miss Quimby. Did you ever meet Miss Quimby? She was my German teacher. I like her very much, except in German and when she is playing on the opposite side from me in athletics. She is so dark haired and fair rosy skin and she's so much alive she sure is pretty. We all sat around the fire place and talked and recalled old times. We are all going skating tonight and unless we fall thru or something else dreadful happens you will hear about it.

You say you would like to see the poetess (?) at her work. Do you like to see people tear out their hair and bewail the fact that the god of inspiration has deserted them?

...

We didn't go skating. Miss Quimby came up and we just talked some more.

We have the nicest little white pigeon up here. He comes and sits on my window sill all the time. He is here now. I think he was let loose at one of the funerals.

School down here is postponed indefinitely until we get lots of coal or warmer weather.

Dr. Whitney sure is (glorified) this year. He invented socialized recitations so he says but I am positive my teacher up at Penn this summer called it Dr. Murrey's. Washington, D.C. had adopted his methods, Orange, N.J. and just at present all the great educators in the country have their eyes on our school. I even think President Wilson has congratulated him for his success. He certainly has brought South Jersey out of its darkness and put it on the map.

Is the new Major as terrible as feared?

Nearly all the water mains in the town are frozen and the other night, Dr. Pellet of the drug store put a pan of ashes on his back porch. The porch caught on fire and was just discovered in time because if it had gotten any headway at all there would have been nothing to check it.

Eva


Camp Devens
Jan. 6, 1918, Sunday evening

Dear Eva,

Midnight - a fine propitious time to begin a letter. I have stayed right close to quarters all thru the week-end but seem to have had to keep busy most of the time, straightening accounts up, paying bills, sending bills, making plans for the week, instructing new sergeants, and what-not.

An officers' training school, just the same as I went thru at Plattsburg, started yesterday within this cantonment. Some men were selected from every organization in camp to attend, upon recommendation of their company commanders. 9 were admitted from the Supply Train, 2 of those being from my company. It took away my 1st sergeant, Tolsom, and a duty sergeant, Younglove, both of whom are very good men, and on whom I depended a great deal. I was sorry to lose them, but of course I am glad to have them succeed in receiving admission to the training school; and it was I, of course, as their company commander, who recommended them.

Ralph finally had to submit a request for transfer thru military channels all the way to Washington. He did this about a month ago, and at last it has come back with the indorsement of the War Dept, and he is to be permanently in the National Army & in the 301st Supply Train. He is still in quarantine up in the Depot Brigade, but when that is lifted Wednesday, he will come down here immediately and thus our long wait will be over.

I got your other letter in time so that I didn't send an extra picture group. I can't imagine what could have taken so long. And I wonder if the package was in pretty bad shape.

I suppose by now you've broken all those good resolutions which you promised to. But who picks up the pieces? The family carpet sweeper? Resolutions, it pleases me to disdain, but what's the use now, they're made for us in the army, the standard ones anyway - such as the water-wagon one.

You see how perfectly foolish I've become at this hour of the night so I'll not say another word. Amen.

As ever

Sylvester


Pleasantville, N.J.
January 6, 1918

Dear Sylvester,

The calendar arrived last night. It is just such a home as you would imagine the original of "Home Sweet Home" to be. Such a darling old house with its quaint old fashioned gardens. I can almost smell those roses and see the hollyhocks raise their heads prouder than ever as I look at them. Thank you for it.

Now, wouldn't you like me to tell you a nice lovely story in return? Just a nice little story about one wonder day. I think I heard you say, "yes," so I will tell it but of course if you didn't you needn't read the story.

About five o'clock this morning I woke up and had been dreaming about something oh! so fragrant but I don't know what. I discovered it was warmer so immediately I had to make Daido aware of the fact. We planned to go skating. I suggested Hemlock Manor. We packed a lunch and hiding our skates from Mrs. Tolbert away we ran. It was like Spring outside and the air was just as fragrant as could be. I guess we arrived up there about eleven o'clock. Hemlock Manor is all down but two lone chimneys. We went down to the back and were so hungry we started in on our lunch immediately. We made a full force attack and the enemy, consisting of sandwiches, oranges & candy, surrendered at once. Then we read a tiny bit from "Wind and Weather" and being rested from our long walk, what do you suppose we did? We put on our skates and explored Hemlock Lake from one end to the other. Oh it was beautiful. The ice was so smooth and so many cedars stood like sentinels out against the sky which was of the purest blue. There was not a cloud anywhere. We explored all the banks and some of the little streams that were frozen, then we started back. We saw some boys at the other end of the pond sledding. They were only little fellows and seemed to be consumed with terror that we would go too near the dam for they called to us frequently to be careful. After a while we went over to where they were and commenced to talk with them. They were the most pitiable little boys. They actually wore rags from head to foot and they had one skate on which they took turns skating. Bobby Eccles was with them tho and they had a chance once in a while to try his sled. We had a little candy left and treated them. They were even more polite than Bobby, who has all the comforts he can wish.

We left them after awhile in charge of our cocoa which we were trying to turn into ice cream. We went over to the frog pond and explored that. It was wonderful to find out all about those places we knew so much, yet so little about. The pond was a great deal smaller than we had suspected from previous explorations. I wish you could have seen it - the ice and the fawn grass all covered with catkins and bordered by those cedars.

Then we went over by the dam. I can't describe it. It was a miniature Niagara. The ice had frozen over it in magnificent fluted cascades. It had broken thru here and there and the spray had splashed thru and made a million rainbow icicles. It certainly takes nature to make you realize how really small you are.

We came home via Absecon and over the canal route then out California Avenue. And right at the end of the water works road - just where you saw the cardinal last Spring, what do you suppose we saw? We saw four of them. All at once, too. Now wasn't that a lovely surprise?

We brought home some shiney black elderberries with us and a few tea berries & some partridge berry leaves so we got quite a harvest even if it was in the heart of a very severe winter.

If your mother is fond of yellow I know she would have liked to have seen what we saw yesterday. We came thru an elderberry patch that had been partially burned and the bushes were the most wonderful yellows and burnt orange I ever saw. Daido gathered quite a lot to bring home with her.

Miss Quimby has gone home. She is going to France soon. She expected to go the first of January but was disappointed.

Yesterday was so warm and last night we had a thunder shower and this morning everything is so slippery you can hardly walk. If only the sun would come out now. Were you here last year when everything appeared to be covered with diamonds?

I want to get this in the noon mail so am finishing it - with gloves on.

Eva.


Camp Devens
January 7, 1918, Monday evening

Dear Eva,

Pardon me another anniversary. Sunset Trail this time. A year to-day. Nature at the close of day to-day with its aspect a year ago today couldn't present a greater contrast. A rainy, icy day from start to finish and the sky refused to celebrate. But a million leaden day-ends couldn't obliterate the glory of that sunset, could it? Do you know the Chopin Nocturne which I immediately wedded to that sunset after we returned, with Miss Tolbert's approval? Another old favorite of mine, but from then on it has meant nothing but the end of the Sunset Trail. It's all in the music; next time I play it to you, see if the whole spread of glory and setting isn't there. Didn't I prove that same day my superiority in rapid pedestrianism? But then I think you never allowed my claim, any more than at hockey.

A pitched battle has just taken place in this ordinarily quiet sector of the American front. Weapons - fire extinguishers; bullets, liquid water. Result: a half-hours arguement, still under way, as to who started it. Some of Uncle Sam's officers are up to more practical jokes than Hans & Fritz in the comics.

I feel tonight about ready for a rest; haven't taken any since a week before Christmas, & think this week-end I'll have to get some kind of a change and rest from Saturday noon to Sunday night. My state of mind is at present that it can't be too soon.

We all like the Major first rate. He is very pleasant and he is exceedingly capable. He has done a great deal to improve the Train already.

I must say good-night.

Your friend

Sylvester


Pleasantville, N.J.
January 9, 1918

Dear Sylvester,

Do you know I'm just "plump and plain" mad. I thought I was going to get the "anniversary" jump on you this time as I discovered in one of my books some lines dedicated to "Sunset Trail" and dated 1/11/17. That must have been the date I wrote them as I see by the calendar that the 7th was Sunday so I lost out. Our last Sunday's party then was almost a - I know it wasn't a silver or a golden anniversary but whether it really was a wooden or glass - or I have it, it was an ice one (anniversary). I just bet tho I have one soon that you haven't. You wait and see.

I've started in to keep a diary and, tho I 'spose most of the dates will be filled in about once a month, so far I have stuck to it. Eight days now! I put down in it all the important things that happen - such as "we had oatmeal for breakfast this morning", "Got up at 5:30", "Rode to work" - "Ice cream for dessert!!!" - the last named going in in Red ink - "walked to work", "Had cream of wheat this morning", "Got up at 5:59" --- "Interesting?" - "Very."

I started to keep a cash book too but I find it is utterly impossible. I never could make figures balance, not even if I added a dollar to the credit side for good measure. Something always happened and besides I have to spend most of my evening in puzzeling out our housekeeping accounts. We just do manage to keep them straight.

You have heard of Weymouth, that sleepy little town of yesterday near here, haven't you. It is supposed to be full of old mills and farms and historic facts. I think Miss Tolbert and I will go and explore it Sunday. Mrs. Fish told me too that it was the inspiration for Henry Van Dykes, "The Lupin" so I am and always have been quite anxious to see it. Wouldn't you like to spend your Sunday vacation in such a place? I know a lot of history about it and if we go I'll know some actual experiences so I'll write you about it and you can have a camouflage vacation there.

I'm so glad your brother is with you at last.

Did you know that Mr. Cruise was finally operated on for appendicitis?

I can't close with Mr. Cruise so I must think of something pleasant to end with.

We had a sun rise and a moon set at the same time this morning. That's pleasant, isn't it?

Your friend

Eva


[This letter was written on printed Stationary that reads at the top and on the envelope:]

Truck Co. 3

301st Supply Train

-------------------------------------------------

[postmarked Jan. 10, 1918]

 

Dear Eva,

What do you think of Co.3's new stationary? I just bought 2000 sheets & 1000 envelopes out of the Company Fund. And stole a couple of sheets to show you what we had. But what do you suppose happened just as soon as I got the paper? The company's designation was changed to Co.C, but I guess the paper won't be used to kindle fires with yet.

Ralph got out of quarantine from his company up in the Depot Brigade this afternoon and reported to the Supply Train to-night. So he is finally here, & here to stay, no doubt. He is going to be in the Headquarters Co. of the Supply Train, a small company of eight; his duties will be in the office of our headquarters, which is in this building. That company lives in the barracks of Co. 1, right across the road from our officers' barracks. You don't know how good it seems to me that he has finally gotten down here.

I am glad you got the calendar and liked it.

Well, Eva, you did have a fine Hemlock Manor party, and of course I read your whole story. You are getting out more now, aren't you, and it must seem more like old times. I remember we have spoken so often of the possibilities of Doughty's Pond as a skating pond, and even spoke of future trials of it as such. How I wish I could have been along and explored with you! You'll take me with you some day?

The trees here are all covered with ice too from the frozen rain of two days ago, and are all nice and sparkly, especially just at sunrise in the morning. Eva, I never heard of anyone writing a poem or piece of music to an icicle - wouldn't that be a good subject for your poem?

My head is starting to nod decidedly. I don't seem to have accomplished much this week; got loaded up so a few late hours have been necessary, but it's only a half hour after Taps now & I ought to get a good rest to-night.

I hope you find lots more opportunities for exploring expeditions this winter, and tell me all about them.

Ever your friend

Sylvester.


[postmarked Jan. 12, 1918]

Dear Sylvester,

Having mended us all up Mrs. Tolbert left yesterday to do the same for her small nephew. She received a rather inperative letter from him early in the week and felt it was her duty to go.

We certainly did have some storm last night and the bay has gone all the way to Main Street in some places. The ice melted and the wind was so high it swept everything before it.

This morning there was the prettiest sunrise I ever saw. Before the sun itself came up the sky was the most wonderful red. You have seen it haven't you when everything seems to radiate a warm red gold. The whole world was like that except the northwest which was filled with wonderful purple mountains just tipped with that wonder burnished copper. I know you would have loved it.

Mr. & Mrs. Hendricks were up last night.

We tho't some of going skating this afternoon but the ice has all melted, I'm afraid.

The mud is way thick, too, so I don't know whether we will get to go on our trip tomorrow. We have hopes tho.

Isn't your company getting extravagant - Its own stationary and all.

I wish you had been along last Sunday, too, because, when you were with me it was the first time I had really explored the place.

I have discovered that our elder berries weren't elder berries at all and I ate some!

We are going to have some time this afternoon. We have a lot of new receipts and bushels of sewing to do. So we are going to take a great fling. It is so nice out tho, I'm not quite sure we'll be able to stick to duty.

Will write more late - also the Icicle poem if it doesn't 'vaporate.

Eva.


Camp Devens
Jan. 11, 1918.

Dear Eva,

Next week I must turn over a New Leaf, because since New Years I have been retrograding in the matter of staying up late o'nights. Twelve thirty registereth Hon. wrist-watch at present. To-night I got interested in arranging the organization of my company permanently for field work, and kept at it as far as I could go. The company when it is complete has one 1st Class Sergeant, 32 Corporals, 12 First Class Privates, and 23 Privates, also 2 cooks, and of course its Lieutenant. The 32 corporals are all the regular drivers for the trucks & the privates & some of the 1st class privates are the assistant drivers; 3 of the sergeants are known as assistant truck masters, each having charge of a section of 9 trucks; 1 is mess sergeant, one is chief mechanic, & one is company clerk. The 1st class sergeant is the Truck master. During the fall it hasn't been necessary to make final decisions as to who should be what in our companies, but now we've had a chance to learn to know all our men, & thereby to know to whom the sergeancies should be given, whom we should recommend for corporals. Both the chauffeurs & assistant chauffeurs have to know how to run their truck, & most all our men are experienced chauffeurs, but as one man on each truck is a corporal, that's the regular driver, & the other a private, that's the assistant, a solution has to be made. Of course various considerations enter into my decisions in this regard - intelligence, soldierly appearance, alertness, energy, exhibited capacity for work, faithfulness to duty, & so on. So that's what I've been doing to-night, getting them lined up as far as I can, on paper. Some appointments have already been made, one batch in October & one in December, but there are more to be made than are made. I have also been arranging them in sections. The company has 32 trucks; 27 of them, ordinary cargo trucks, are divided into 3 sections of nine each, the others are kitchen, tank & repair trucks & operate separately. And so far as I can go I have divided the men into these sections & have assigned each one to a particular truck in his section. Of course it will be subject to change, but it's gradually getting down to a permanent basis. I am about 15 men short of full strength, but hope to have them by early next week.

I will indeed, like to hear about your trip to Weymouth. I'm going into Boston over Sunday. Expect to do quite a little shopping Saturday afternoon, & spend the evening & night with a Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Blackman, Blackman being an old friend of mine, a lawyer for the New York, New Haven, & Hartford Railroad. He graduated from Yale about 8 years before I did, and I first knew him when he worked for my father a couple of summers between his college years, and he was of a great deal of service to me when I first went away to college. I was a little creature then. But, to-day, my chin's gone up a full inch, for a gentleman down in Ayer, whom I had to see on business this morning, on learning I was a Yale man, asked me what I did there. Said he thought I must have been quite a foot ball man, because I was such a husky brute, and then I had a chin that looked like it.

Sunday morning

I am going to West Somerville, another Boston suburb, to see Mrs. Heath, who taught me elementary Greek when I was in High School. I haven't seen her since she left the High School in about 1907, but have corresponded with her off and on ever since. Her husband is a Methodist minister, so I don't know just where I am going to fit.

The Christmas tree still hangs. Don't you wish you could see it the way it is?

In the words of Tennyson, my friend, The day may come & night may go But I seem to go on forever.

I hope you have a delightful trip Sunday. Good-night.

Sylvester.

 

This letter not reread. Please pardon errors and incongruities.

S%%%%%


Camp Devens
Sun. eve. Jan. 13, 1918.

Dear Eva,

Your last letter made good time, for I see it was only postmarked Saturday noon, and I found it waiting for me when I returned to-night. That must have been a tremendous storm you had. And that sunrise must have been delightful.

I hope you were able to take your trip this afternoon, but I should imagine that with the storm it would be rather bad traveling under foot. Perhaps you went "weather or no."

I've had a pleasant and restful week-end. I went into Boston late yesterday morning, but the trains go so slow now I was at least an hour late getting in. Lieut. Spaulding and I went in together, got a light lunch, and then reveled in a haircut and shampoo at the Hotel Thorndyke. After that I left him and did numberless errands for myself and my company, and got well muddied up tramping around. Towards supper time I went to Brookline and spent the night with the Blackmans, whom I spoke to you of in Fridays letter. This morning I left them, went back into Boston again and out to West Somerville to a Mrs. Heath's. She was a Miss Richardson, who taught me Elementary Greek when I was at High School, and with whom I have corresponded off and on ever since she left the school. She is married to a Methodist minister and has three children. Mr. Blackman has two children, also, and both sets of kiddies have been all over my uniform to find out what everything is for, and little Evelyn Heath (3 years old, & talks about when she was a little girl) ventured to pull my mustache and inquire why. She is a lively little girl, and does her best to imitate her big brother Gordon, who is almost six - so when he would call me Lieutenant Butler, the little girl would try her best to follow, but it came out something like Bluetent Butter. Gordon used to take pride in introducing her by her full name Evelyn Louise Heath, so she'd try to do the same when anyone asked her her name. The nearest she could get was something like Eb-luise-heas all run in together, but she stopped when her brother & daddy started to call her Evelyn Blouise in imitation, because she was wise enough to see they were making fun of her, and now she just calls herself "Big-girl." Gordon has high ambitions in life, for he allows he wants to be either a fireman or a clown in the circus, but he says he doesn't want to be a soldier.

This is one Sunday I've been away and haven't heard a bit of music. Not even my own; I add that for I was dying to have someone ask me to play their piano, so that I could get my hands on one again. This is a little conceit I've never confessed to before, but I have many a time sat in a room with people and just wished somebody would ask me to. Isn't that terrible?

It's been getting bitter cold again all day today, and I suppose about tomorrow morning at 7:30 the men of my company will be tickled to pieces to see me come over to start the morning drill. It gets pretty cold around the finger edges after you've carried the rifle around a while in this kind of weather.

One thing I'm going to do tomorrow and that is to set all the men of the company at work darning their socks. At Saturday inspection yesterday the men had to lay their spare socks out on the bunks and the Major raised particular cain in every company because practically every pair had big holes in the heels. So yesterday afternoon I bought 25 cards of darning wool at Jordan-Marsh's in Boston, and a set of darning needles, and tomorrow night I propose to set the men to work. I haven't the slightest idea how to do it, so I'll be a fine one to show them how, won't I? It appears to me rather simpler than knitting, anyway.

Speaking of knitting, I passed an automobile waiting by a street curb in Boston yesterday, with a little girl, about 4 years old, I should say, in the front seat, knitting away as unconcerned as you please. A most grown up little lady she appeared to be.

I am sending you an excellent correspondence course on military training, a booklet subtitled "How To Be a Soldier", which I hope you will find enlightening. In it you will see the secret of my success.

I think we must have been skating today a year ago for I find an entry "carfare Bargaintown" in my account for Jan.13. I don't remember the exact details, but think there was a large crowd there of us, Miss Davis, Miss Hodgson, and Carey, besides you and Miss Tolbert. Wait till I come to the Saturday Miss Davis & Miss Valentine and I made the famous 13 mile march, whose length you chose to question. Also I have another count against you for that day, for the evening before we had skated also & in debating whether we should do the same the next day, I expressed doubts as to my ability to get my work done and come; You then allowed I would be expelled from the society of Vagabondia if I didn't come; and being duly penitent I repaired to Bargaintown in the early afternoon, whither you and Miss Tolbert had already gone in the morning, only to find you both had flown toward English Creek. I only forgave you on Miss Tolbert's making a chance remark afterward that you had found a purple drinking glass there, and you said that Mr. Butler should be along. And Mr. Butler henceforth comforted himself that the implied appointment had been forgotten & not willfully disregarded.

Jim Greene has been in here for three-quarters of an hour, just now, and a fine time of night it is for passing the time o'day. And I've got to write to Mother yet to-night. So must say good-night to the Eva-lady.

Your friend

Sylvester.


[postmarked Jan.14, 1918]

Dear Sylvester,

We didn't go to Weymouth yesterday for a very good reason.

We went over to Atlantic Saturday and spent ourselves broke and as the car-fare to Mays Landing is 45 [cents] we decided to stay home.

We went up to the library and got a lot of nice new books a good many of them on the war because of that debate which is to come off in the near future. We also diverged from home cooking, of course not because we thot we could get anything better but we wanted to stay over.

Miss Valentine & Miss Davis were up last night and we treated them to some home made cinnamon buns. They thot if I could make them fast enough we could easily win the war.

I got a letter from Captain Chester this morning. He certainly is failing and has been ever since Mrs. Chester died. His writing is hardly ligible any more. He says tho that he is anxious for spring to come so he could go fishing. Every year he plans to go and gets paraphernalia all together but that is all the farther he ever gets. I have another old friend who served under Dewey too and I did want Captain Chester to meet him. I suppose I have told you about Captain O'Neal of Bargaintown, that scientist bird and flower lover so impractical with such an exceeding matter of fact wife who never sympathizes with him in the three utterly useless, to her, ponds which he has built and keeps fish & flowers about. I think Captain Chester would get along famous with him but I never seem to have time to go see either let alone bring them together.

Well, I'll close - mail.

Eva.


Camp Devens
Jan. 14, 1918, Monday eve.

Dear Eva,

How would it do if I wrote you this evening before I settle down to a night's work, instead of at the end of it? I think I must have talked so much about its being the nether side of midnight recently that it's become tiresome.

It seems as though you'd just gotten all you could swing on your hands, and gotten it going fairly smoothly, when something else pops up to cog the wheels & make added drains on your time & energy. Now it's test: the Colonel just sent a memorandum to the commanders of companies in the Supply Train, Ammunition Train, & Military Police, tonight, saying that we had until Feb. 14th to get ready for a test of their companies in a couple of dozen different things, some of them have things we haven't touched yet. But an added promise that the first 3 companies out of all these outfits who announced they were ready & proved it would be mentioned in General Orders, of course will make everyone break their necks to beat the other fellow in getting his company ready. I am tentatively setting next Tuesday or Wednesday for myself but it will mean a lot of intensive effort for the next week or so, and I have felt that I was running about up to capacity now. But I will be satisfied with nothing less than the top rung, despite the fact that the companies in the outfits we are competing with are all commanded by captains.

Getting perfect drill these days isn't the easiest thing in the world, everything is so slippery. On the drill field I used all fall you could skate without any difficulty. Spaulding has got some cleats for his company which prevent the men slipping - "never-slips" I call them, just to show anyone I used to know something about horses. Spaulding has dubbed his company accordingly, "Spaulding's Skidless Wonders." I have ordered some non-skids also and am hoping "Butler's Bumpless Wonders" will soon be able to compete with them.

I got a huge box of candy from an uncle & aunt in New York last week & have suddenly become unduly popular. 6 great big cakes of sweet chocolate, a box of shelled assorted nuts, 4 boxes of dates & 2 boxes of figs. I divided up with Ralph but even then half of my half share is still left, & it has been liberally patronized.

I must try yo do a little work but I don't believe it will be much.

Your friend

Sylvester.


January 16, 1918

Dear Sylvester,

You letter and valuable military misinformation arrived last night. The book was great. Did the men get it up themselves? It certainly is full of laughs.

I'm so glad you had a nice week end. You should have introduced yourself to the piano when you came in or have said, "A piano! Great Scott! I haven't seen one for years! - or at least since I played Chopin's Nocturne." That surely would have brought an invitation.

Wonder why all little kiddies want to be policemen or clowns? I suppose its the love of being in the foreground. I always wanted to be Joan of Arc and never would allow myself to be afraid of anything but I'm afraid if I don't watch out I'm going to develop into a terrible coward. Frank was sharpening his skates and when he finished he tried them and cut a big, long gash in his hand. I fixed it. The next day he took the bandage off and started to fool with it and I actually got so nervous I had to leave the room, as he wouldn't stop. Now, wasn't that silly?

Don't you ever ask me to write a poem on an icicle! It's impossible - for me. I've seen icicles, talked icicles, eaten icicles and last night I dreamed I was one and was 'most melted before I woke up. Now I say to you, "Compose the music and words for an icicle sonata."

Daido was skating the other day without me (but she was going to take me that night) however she was tired so we decided we would go the next night but it rained oh so hard and all the ice is spoiled, I think, so I'm just provoked.

You're awful terrible. I was going to remind you of that three (3) (III) mile walk you took home from Bargaintown a year ago next friday and you had to go and beat me too it. I am sure I don't know how to punish you unless I reduce the distance to two miles. Come to think of it, I believe it is only two miles anyway. We haven't been to English Creek this year.

School starts tomorrow. A Pleasant surprise is it not?

Speaking of knitting don't ever mention it to me again. I started a scarf. To date I have had it most finished twice and am just about ready to take it out again. I made two sweaters and yet am stumped by plain straight knitting. I believe I've forgotten how for I can't seem to do it right. I have no time for study or anything but knit rip - knit rip. The first scarf was some twenty inches wide and the second some five while this is about twelve and steadily gaining until it is about forty now in the middle.

You shouldn't keep such awful hours really you shouldn't. You should inform that Greene man your calling hours are in the "awfternoon."

Nuff

Eva.


Camp Devens
Jan. 20, 1918, Sunday eve.

Dear Eva,

I've lost the swamped cards somewhere, & that's why you haven't heard from me since Monday. This test business has kept me extremely preoccupied. But Eva, I feel as though I had kind of babied over it, saying so much to you about my hard work, that you were moved to say you felt sorry I worked so hard. Hard work doesn't hurt me, and I haven't meant to speak of it in a complaining manner.

I have stayed in camp over Sunday and busied myself all the while. I have made plans today for a little trip my company is to take tomorrow. One of the things to be taken up in the test is Individual Cooking, and so tomorrow the men are going to have some practical experience at it; they will start out at 11 a.m. with full packs & rations for one meal, and are going out to Harvard, Mass. a walk of 2 or 3 miles to Lieut. Greene's farm where they will make fires & cook their dinner. Incidentally they might eat it & woe be to the man I catch carrying anything else. Of course I'll have to forget that on that long hike from Plattsburg last summer I surreptitiously sneaked two big cakes of Baker's chocolate into my pack.

If you ever see a long lanky awkward, cross-eyed Eastern New York farmer with a stride about 2 yards long wandering around, telegraph me at once. Such a person deserted my command 2 weeks & 2 days ago, and efforts to find him are up to the present unsuccessful. I think the fellow's only about half "there", but he seems clever enough to keep himself out of sight.

I have thought some of going down home this next week-end; don't know however when the time comes whether I'll be able to go down at that time. An only son of a Cromwell family died of pneumonia down in Texas in an Aviation Training Camp this past week, & the whole community has been greatly saddened.

I hope to hear news, and good news, of your father soon.

I must say good-night and I hope to be more faithful this week.

As ever

Sylvester.


Jan. 22, 1918

Dear Sylvester,

We have now about four or five inches of snow and it is still snowing hard.

Dad was down over Sunday. He doesn't look nearly as bad as I thot he would but he is awful lame and still uses crutches.

Misses McClellan, Bryant, Fleisher, Johnson, Cramer - a new teacher at #1, and Meehan - domestic science teacher, have rented Shinep's house on the Boulevard and are living in state - having a maid and all the other necessaries.

It was beautiful coming up the track this morning. Everything was so white and flat except the cedars and the tiny brown seed pods which raised their heads and wig-wagged assistance to the hungry birds and the birds sure were hungry. Their muffled little chirps could be heard from under the heaps of broken twigs and branches where they had gone to seek shelter from the storm. Now and then one, bolder or hungrier than the rest, would brave the wind and snow and attempt to reach the tempting weeds.

The cemetery was so ghostly, too, there was no color anywhere and the top of the tall shaft monuments could not be seen thru the snow and they looked as high as Washington monument.

Snow is now over six inches deep they say. Mr. Hammell just came in. That is a wonder as he sure is afraid of the rain and snow usually. The whole place around here is shut down and the office is only allowed to stay open because of its connection with the cemetery.

Our superintendent up at the Camden plant has left for a position with a salary twice as much as he was getting and our Secretary and Treasurer is going to go to Camden three days a week to look after the work. After much serious discussion and tiresome debating as to whether or not a girl would be capable of doing some of the extra work they have come to the conclusion that it MIGHT be possible and I am to get a try out as the goat. When next you hear of me I might be president or something as the Secretary & Treas. Started in here as Bookkeeper as did also the ex superintendent of the Camden plant.

I didn't think I'd like to get into business once but I do. That is to a certain extent for I really am afraid of responsibility as I am so careless.

I have to look after the buying of all the stationary so I have arranged a list and I make everyone who uses stationary, which by the way includes everything in the printed line in the whole office, 140 things all told, right down on that list just how much they take and this way I can tell when my stock is getting low.

Will write more later.

Eva


[postmarked Jan.24, 1918]

Dear Sylvester

I've been awful lazy about writing letters this week. I guess it is because I know no news and really had nothing to say.

Mrs. MacDougal and Ruth were up last evening and brought their knitting. I like Ruth but, I suppose it's silly, but I always feel as if Edith just tries to see if she can't say things to hurt me.

Ruth told us that Miss Taylor had a beau ! She went to the movies and all over with him.

We have had a foot of snow down here and I suppose that means two feet for you.

School actually did start yesterday altho there is no city water and a well had to be driven to feed the engine. I saw the Honorable W.W.W. shoveling off the High School side walk yesterday; He almost did one-half as much as Mr. Lake was doing.

I've been working hard this day all day thru and now it is about three and I have chucked work to the four winds and am stealing time to write. My work is getting to be much harder now. I used to have practically nothing strenuous to do and after two or three days at a time I have nothing at all to do.

My hands certainly are soiled now and the paper shows it as it was warm in here and I opened the door to the ware-room and bushels of dust has been coming in and settling on everything. I have a boy come in, in the morning and dust - not that I object to dusting, oh no ! but if I dust my hands get too dirty to write letters as there is no water here except way out at the pump and sometimes there is no one around to go get it and I'm afraid I am getting Marion's habit. I used to want to do everything for my self but now I find it so much easier to call some one to do it, especially if it means going out in the cold and our little apprentice boy is so obliging and he says he likes to come into the office and get warm.

I wish you could see my little white dove. I have quite won him away from Mr. Long and Mr. Yard. He never goes upstairs to their window any more but stays down with me. He let me touch him just a bit today and is getting to be tame again.

About a dozen of the pupils has left school - E. Mitchell, E. Harris, P. Brown, C. Cassiday. Mar. Collins, Mar. Lawrence, and several others.

I must get back and hunt up overhead expense.

Mr. Hammell is endeavoring to remove in one afternoon things from his desk, it must have taken him three years at least to collect. He looks just like a woman cleaning house - things scattered everywhere and he has used up a two week supply of towels and all his handkerchiefs in dusting. He just dumped out about fifty medals he got when he was President of the N.R.M.D.A. of A. which means National Retail Monument Dealers Association of America. Some are real pretty and real gold and silver but no use except to take up room.

Mr. Wilson and Marion have been laughing at him and he is wise. Thank heavens I've been busy with this letter. He caught me the other day. I told you that I was "Custodian of designs" didn't I? Well the other day he asked who was Custodian of the tools and I giggled before I ducked. He's so fond of that word I can't hear it anymore without laughing.

I hope half of your men didn't die of indigestion from their culinary fling.

Whistle ! go home.

Eva.


Pleasantville, N.J.
January 25, 1917 [it's really 1918]

Dear Sylvester,

What do you think of a person who dares to pick up a pen to write when he has not a single thing to say? Isn't that worse than speaking without thinking?

From the size of my writing it seems to me you would think I had bushels to say and was trying to conserve paper but it really isn't so.

I just was out and bought some walnut cake to keep me company. Frank is away and Daido is tired. We (editorially) made some Devil Cake last Sunday but I am afraid it disgraced its name but as we are Hooverizing we had to suffer thru it but "thank heavens" the last piece has gone and I had a good excuse to get some real cake.

Again I am on a strike. People have been being buried up at our cemetery at the rate of about twenty a day and nearly all are dying of pneumonia. I got tired of writing it so I'm letting records rest and recommending they place the bodies in the receiving vaults. My strike came at an opportune time as the snow is so deep they can hardly find the lots in the lawn section and it takes two men three days with picks and fire to make a grave so they have had to use the vaults.

Senator Richards was in again today about that mausoleum. I do wish he'd get it or something. He's so funny, if you see him you are almost always sure to see his mother, maid, and secretary along with him - I often wonder if they all go to Congress with him - but I suppose he has to be properly chaperoned, he's quite elligible don't you know --- young, money, and position.

I'm awful talking "shop" am I not, it seems to be all I do is discuss monuments and mausoleums, backwards, forward, inside out, and every other way.

Next day

It was snowing again this morning but has stopped now so I guess I won't have my three feet of snow.

It is almost time for me to go home now so I'll stop.

Eva.


"Bricktop". Pleasantville, N.J.
January 27, 1918

Dear Sylvester,

Last night Miss Tolbert and I went over to Atlantic City to hear an Oxford professor lecture. I certainly did enjoy it. His subject was "The Reconstructive Citizen after the War" altho he told us until he had picked up the Atlantic City paper at dinner that evening he had tho't his topic was "Art in the Reconstruction," so he had to hastily reconstruct a lecture (I can't imagine why but whenever I try to write reconstruct I write reconsturct and have to change it - please excuse the aside).

He was a thoro scholar and so fond of Greek and the beauties of the Greek civilization I know you would have liked him very much so I will attempt to give you a little of it if I can.

He started off by likening this war to the great war for Athens. How the Athenians fought for civilization even as we. To them civilization ment wisdom and beauty - a civilization to fight and die for. Is a victory worth the struggle if in gaining it we lose the very thing we are fighting for? Should we give all for a civilization that ends in money, moving pictures and ragtime? What is the real civilization? It is not the striving for the lower baser things in life but for the higher. But what are the higher things of life? Some say happiness. Is then the greatest man the happiest man? A kitten is happy when it can eat and sleep comfortably but who would be a kitten? A child is happy with a toy or rattle, you love it so but would you wish it to stay so all its life? The greatest happiness always comes when one has lived and often with the greatest sorrow. Some say "The greatest happiness is to the greatest number." Many people go to movies, if you follow the crowd it is usually to some place of amusement. Is dress, is ragtime worth while, is it immortal? Are we to follow the crowd to the fun of today, irresponsible and leaving no impression on the sand? There was a Homer, a Shakespeare and a Lincoln ; might there not be a you? We are all as stones from a quarry. Rheims was of quarried stone, many a mile stone came from that quarry. Rheims was and is immortal. It was art - the soul expression of a man - a man with the vision. There are two kinds of men - the practical man or the doer and the theoretical man or the man with the vision. A practical man may build a city. What is a city? "A city is a place where men live a common life for a great end." There are many kinds of cities. The man with the vision may build a Venice or an Athens - a city which Pericles said in his funeral oration of those who had fought so long and so unsuccessfully for all beauty and the wisdom which it represented, "They have met a noble end they fought for the higher the best." The practical man may build his city, skyscrapers, factories efficiency - a Manchester or a Pittsburgh - an awful place to live - he builds a railroad that he might live in the country. He spends an hour in the morning hanging to a strap in an evil smelling car and then again another hour in the evening. Two good hours taken from his workday. He builds something he doesn't want and then something he wants less, to avoid it. He has not the vision. Has he made an imprint? "If a man does not use his talents even that which he seemeth to have shall be taken away." 6-6=0. "Even the gods themselves can not make 6-6=5. If his six are taken away then is he immortal? What's left? Are we as a nation striving for a noble end?" Let us as a nation be a noble scheme of individuals interesting in ourselves but striving for the great end. "Noblesse oblige." Is that why we fight? Let us in the reconstruction make something worth dying for, in the immortal words of Sappho - "There they stand, the gods of wisdom, art and music - all that make civilization."

He certainly was inspiring. He made me want to do so much. Everyday I realize more and more how inefficient, how ignorant, how really small I am.

We had a nice day today. Miss Davis came up at the end of my lecture(?) writing.

It was snowing when we came home from the lecture last night and I guess it snowed nearly all night.

I know you scorn salads as something dreadful but, I believe, even you would have enjoyed the salad we had today.

Receipe
Place two lettice leaves on a plate.
Peal an apple and place some slices on the leaves.
Take two white grapes, cut in half, seed, and place on the apple.
Take five raisins and spread over the mixture.
Crack two English walnuts and crown.
Make an uncooked icing (or beat the white of an egg and sugar together but not until it gets stiff)
Pour on the salad.
Eat.
Ask for more.

We weren't satisfied with that but we made snow ice cream with cream, snow, and all the ingredients above named except the lettice and it was positively delicious. (That admits no exceptions) Weren't we extravagant?

I'm sorry on the back of trying to tell you about a real soulful lecture I should follow up by "eats" but I really couldn't resist telling you about that salad and I am so fond of it I am very much afraid if you ever come down this way I might (illustrate - crossed out) (demonstrate - crossed out) I mean give you some.

Your friend,

Eva


[postmarked Jan.28, 1918]

Dear Eva,

A busy young bee am I. I have been working all the week-end but haven't begun to get done what I wanted to. At any rate I was able to report my company ready for that test last Tuesday but the board hasn't yet called it, which means continued time to attempt to perfect it. Saturday all the cos in the Supply Train had a test in the matters which are to be covered by the crucial test and Co.C, that's my company won out, by two points over Co.E, Achorn's company. Now I'm trying to keep my company from getting swell-headed & falling down in the crucial test thru over confidence. I have told them much more about their faults than their good points as demonstrated Saturday.

Must say good-night.

Sylvester.


Back to Top | Home | Search | SBButler Letters |