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May 11, 1917
May 13, 1917, Eva
May 13, 1917
May 15, 1917, Eva
May 18, 1917
May 22, 1917
May 25, 1917, Eva
May 27, 1917, Eva
May 30, 1917
SBButler Letters, May 1917
Between the fact that this is being written on the train, and that I find the tip of my fountain pen broken off, I'm afraid that this will look decidedly scrawly. I am on almost the last lap of my way home, there being only two more short changes, and I am glad to have this much of the journey done, for it has been lonely and tedious. I slept most of the way from Atlantic City to New York, by fits, as sleep in a sitting posture must be. I was delayed in New York and had to stay over a train to make a fruitless search for a uniform; I stopped off for another hour in New Haven, and was successful in getting the necessary material there, also took the opportunity of walking thru old familiar scenes on the University campus. Naturally this extra time I had to spend will cut short my stay home, about two hours; I expected to be home shortly after 3 o'clock and as it is now, I shant be there until half past five. The last mail goes out of Cromwell at five- thirty, and I had counted on plenty of time to write you at least a little letter, which would have to get in that mail to reach you by Saturday night, when perhaps you just maybe might look for a letter. (You see, there is no limit to my conceit). So now I'm trying to get a letter written, between jerks, in the train, that, if my trolly gets to Cromwell on time, I can put on that train.
I've thought about you all day, and oh! how I shall miss seeing you! But wherever I am, and wherever you are, a realization of your friendship can't help but always be an endless source of pleasure. I've been thinking as I've traveled along what fun it would be to show you so many new scenes, some of Connecticut's old stone fences, my University grounds, and lots of different things; you would find many more, I believe, than I would think to show you.
I'm fast getting to the end of my journey, so can't write anything more to you. If you write real soon, if you want to do so before you have my Plattsburg address, I think that a letter to Cromwell would get forwarded to me right away, because, as it is nearer, the folks at home can know it sooner.
Very sincerely your friend
Sylvester B. Butler
I have just come back from Hemlock Manor so I tho't it was the best time to write.
Yesterday I went to Hammonton. It certainly is a beautiful place. There are such lovely looking lawns and houses and trees.
Pleasantville lost the singing contest but the High School girls and boys, and the Grammar School both won in athletics. Pat Garton was the hero of the hour.
Mr. Davis was there but Northfield didn't win anything.
Norman Reed was there and he came up and congratulated Jennie. So of course we invited him to a shower we told him we were going to give Jennie the following Wednesday. It was all a joke but he tho't we were serious and he came to me when I was alone and asked me what he should bring. I immediately told him a table cloth and a dozen napkins. He said "Gee that's fine if I can bring that I ain't gonta be nothin' out a pocket as I know where my mother keeps hers."
I went back and told the rest so we are going to have a shower Wednesday. Next Monday Gladys is going to give a party and the following Saturday George, Jennie's to be, is going to take the whole class auto-ing to Mays Landing. A lovely round of fun but I would like to add one more to the list, if you are willing. Would you mind if I took the girls on a picnic up to Hemlock Manor? I know they would love it?
I came home on the 5:30 train with Jennie. Most all the rest staid until 8:30 but I really was hoping to get what I did, so please don't say anything more about conceit.
I went over to Atlantic City last night to get the goods for my class day dress. I got red china silk for the skirt and white for the waist and black velvet for the jacket. Now I am going to ask another favor. I am going to have the edge of my jacket decorated with pennies real, gypsy style and I am going to ask some of my friends for one. I am going to put their initials on them and put a hole in them and string them along the edge. Will you give me one? Don't you think that a nice remembrance to have of my friends? I wasn't going to get such an expensive dress but I want to save it so you could see it later as you wont be here for Class Day, and my aunt is going to buy my graduation dress.
Babie's father and mother had a quarrel the other day, he was jealous of her, I don't know whether rightfully or not, but they are trying to get a divorce. You just ought to see the children especially Edward poor little kid he's only five but he seems to understand he looks heartbroken. He came up to me Friday and put his arms around me and cried and cried but he wouldn't tell me what was the matter, he seemed to know he shouldn't, he didn't know I knew and understood. I took him down Pleasantville to the candy store and tried to make him forget. It wasn't much of a success. I don't know what to do. I haven't seen Mrs.Goehler so I don't know the cause of the trouble but oh the children!
But now, isn't that a nice cheerful letter.
Today I called up Miss Tolbert and asked her if I couldn't take Frank with me up to Hemlock Manor and she said "Yes, but let's go right away." When I went home Katie wanted to go to so I tho't I was selfish and told her she could come, because in the meantime Frank had vanished not believing we would go until afternoon. We started and were almost there when we turned and saw Frank. He had been playing golf and had seen us go by. He had taken his wheel home and had been chasing us ever since.
[Note - Frank and Katie
are Eva's brother and sister.]
When we got there we discovered that some one had taken our hammock, table-cloth, all are lettuce, and the beautiful(?) blue bird rug I had started. Don't you think that was mean, especially the lettuce? I am enclosing the first of our harvest a wonderful, beautiful radish and you must eat all of it yourself and not give a bit away.
We walked out that road on which the spring was and we came to a lovely old bridge and we still kept on and at last we came to Doughty Station. We took the other road back, this was the road that branched off from the spring road. There was a bridge on this too and we saw the most Maypinks and tea berries. I am sending you one of each.
Frank caught a trout. So we had a lovely dinner, soda biscuits, half- smokes, fudge, soda biscuits, frankfurters, fudge, trout without salt and some more sodas.
I saw my first gold-finch in that tree by the Spring Bridge where you were going to climb up and look in a bird's nest to see if it was this years. (Don't say I know nothing about complex sentences.) There was a robin on the nest today. I hoed our garden and planted all the rest of the seeds. I dug up a hill of limas which Miss Tolbert and I had planted a week or so before and they had started to sprout.
I got some of those golden clubs but I have renamed them. I called them flaming candles because the yellow above the white does make them look like the candle and the whole lake looks like an immense birthday cake, all iced.
As yet our lilies of the valley are all right but some vandal has been at the bed and destroyed some and taken away some of the stones. I don't know whether to dig up ours and bring them home or leave them their and take a chance on their coming out alright. What would you do? We just picked oceans and oceans of violets Miss Tolbert is going to send some to her mother and I gave some to mine. I don't see why carnations were chosen for mothers, white violets or lilies are so much more beautiful, fragrant, and pure. Much more suggestive of a real, true mother, than a stiff old carnation. Don't you think so?
We planted just lots of beans, because you know you said you were going to reform [symbol for] therefore you must have started in by eating baked beans so by next summer you will be quite educated to them and if you come to see us you won't mind eating nothing but beans.
Mildred cried all day Friday and she wouldn't go in your room because you were not there. [family note - Mildred Burns was a classmate of Eva's who had a large crush on Sylvester, and it was his classroom that she wouldn't enter. Her name comes up several times in their correspondence]
It is getting late and I really must finish my essay tonight so I must stop. You really didn't expect me to write thirty pages did you? I am afraid if I did they would be very uninteresting, but I do wish to say I would have loved to explore New Haven with you. Best of luck.
P.S. I have just heard, today, that the person who gets the long end of the wishbone must wait the longer to get his wish gratified so you won after all.
Did you ever see anyone write their letters with their desk on top of their chair, and at the same time sit on the chair? Then when lights went out, put their desk (which also acts as a dresser) under said chair and then sleep on the chair? If you haven't you should see me now, manipulating my suitcase and my bunk in the above capacities.
I was home from five-thirty to quarter of eight Friday, then rode up to Hartford with Mother and Father, Ralph (brother) and his lady, and they saw me off on the train at quarter after nine. Their taking me up to Hartford gave me more time than I had hoped for to see Mother and Father, but of course at best, it was pretty short. One other fellow came up from Cromwell, a man by the name of Beers. Binks, of whom I have spoken to you, applied too late to get in. We got into a sleeper at Springfield, Mass.(about an hour's ride above Hartford), and I didn't lose much time in getting into my berth, where I slept quite well, so that there is little to say about my journey up, which, I am told, is very pretty in the daytime. There were a great many trains unloading, so that we had to wait quite a while before getting out after arrival. When we did disembark (if you can do this off a train as well as a ship), we were directed immediately to our barracks, where we registered and got out bunks. I stood in line about three hours to get the remaining & some extra pieces for my uniform, and finding out in general where things were. In the evening I took a short walk with two college classmates who are in my company, Ralph Gabriel and Philip Buzzell; by a rather strange coincidence we are the three out of a group of eight of us at college who, over four years ago, finished a 25 mile walk out of New Haven, which I think I told you about once. No doubt we'll have some opportunity to improve our record. Today I have had a comparatively easy time, and probably shall tomorrow, too, but Tuesday begins real work. Early this afternoon I took a walk to the town with Ralph Gabriel; it is a place of about ten thousand people, built largely on high ground to the north of the camps; quite an old town, I should imagine, from the style of many of the houses, particularly the old stone & brick ones. I wrote Mother a letter later in the afternoon. In between times all during the day I have met and talked with a number of old friends who are up here - college classmates on men I knew in classes above or below me at college. As only half the men were ordered to report yesterday & the other half will come tomorrow, there will probably be many more of my friends here than I have yet seen. It will make the adaption to this rather distasteful and unpleasant military training, considerably more tolerable than it would be if I were alone among strangers.
This place is located on the western shore of Lake Champlain, just above a bay where Captain McDonough bagged the British fleet in the War of 1812; the mess buildings (eating quarters, as I suppose you know) being located almost within a stone's throw of the water. Across the lake, way over to the east and southeast we can see the snow capped ridges of the Green Mountains in Vermont, and to the west of us are the Adirondacks of Northern New York state, and it's undeniably pretty country, but the opportunity of enjoying it from and aesthetic point of view will perhaps be rather scant. There will be about five thousand men in training here, half from New York, half from New England, divided up into companies of a hundred and fifty, each of which has separate barracks. The barracks is a long building with bunks, one after the other, along each side; the bunks are of collapsible framework, across which (the long way) is stretched stout canvas; then we have a mattress and a pillow and two blankets, which with all available overcoats & so on manage to keep us decently warm, for it is pretty cold up here yet. You can imagine what a lot of these barracks buildings there must be; the first five New England companies, in which mine, Co.4, is of course located, are the furthest back from the lake.
Our daily schedule has been posted and, by the looks, there will be enough to do. Rise (reveille,- excuse me) 5:30; roll call, 5:45; morning mess (bears a very close resemblance to a breakfast) 6:00; morning instruction, 7:00-12:00 (drill, etc. under the company officers) ; noon mess, 12:10; afternoon instruction, 1:20-4:30; retreat, 5:40; evening mess, 6:00; evening school (lectures & study on military tactics), 7:00-9:00; lights out, 9:45. In the short between times, we are subject to call for any special duties, and will probably have to use that time partly for keeping shoes & uniform in neat condition. The most hopeful time for personal use seems to be between 4:30 and 5: 40, and 9:00 to 9:45, and Sundays. This will at least give me time, I guess, to write letters.
How we shall be organized for drill and instruction I don't know much in detail, but shall probably learn before the week is out. I have already begun to learn the chief thing I must learn outside military duties - to eat everything that comes & think it's good, because naturally there are no substitutes for individual dislikes, as at Mrs. Winch's. Did you ever hear of the bean I once ate? Well, I have eaten my second, even my thirty-second.
I don't know whether I've ever explained much in detail what this camp I'm in is for, although I know I did in a general way. This and the other fourteen or fifteen camps starting at the same time in different places about the country are government training camps for would-be members of the Officers' Reserve Corps; there are about thirty thousand men under training in all the camps together and about two-fifths of these men will receive commissions as 2nd Lieutenants in the Officers' Reserve Corps at the end of the training period (three months - until Aug.15th) and will be used at once in the training & officering the new armies which the government is going to raise under the selective draft bill. The rest will some of them, a very few, I suppose, be dropped as not adapted to the work; some will perhaps be ordered to take further training; and some will be released and receive commissions as more officers are needed. What my status at the end of the period will be, therefore, remains to be seen; at present, I believe there are few men more densely ignorant of things military than I am. Enough of this for now, or you'll not read any more, I fear; but I thought you'd like to know just about how I was situated and surrounded, and what I was at.
Have you been up to the Manor, to-day, I wonder? And if you were, did you find any ripe muskmelons, or dahlias in bloom? Eva-friend, I'm afraid there will be no place here to keep the honey-suckle you promised me, and so I want to ask you, when it blooms, to send a little sprig in a letter, so that I can keep it in a book I have at the bottom of my suitcase, a book which already keeps a certain treasured apple- blossom, and which I also hope will contain your lily-of-the-valley. I hope your first letter is on the way, and hope you got mine, brief as it was, Saturday.
I must begin making up my bed for the night, as its after nine o'clock. Isn't this shockingly early?
Your friend always
Sylvester B. Butler
Co.4, New England Division
Officers' Training Camps
Your book came tonight and oh I am so pleased. I have just finished reading it thru again. I went down to the post office tonight and got it. I was going to see a girl friend of mine who eloped last summer and who has the sweetest, newest, reddest, baldest baby I ever saw and the nurse let me hold it and give it some cat-nip tea and it never cried at all, that is much. I took some cat-nip tea too as I felt rather cattish because Miss or rather Mrs. Pearl just lay there with superior air and kept saying don't rock it you'll spoil it, or don't hold it too straight its so young yet, and I bet she don't know yet any more about babies than I do, but she was so confident, so proud, but you ought to have seen her husband, because its a boy and named after him. I just had to laugh at him I couldn't help it, he was almost afraid to touch it as if he feared it would all break to pieces, and just because the baby stopped crying when he came in the room he said, "See it knows already to mind its father," but it wasn't that, I had rocked it to sleep.
I read Pearl some of my poems, I mean L.B.H. Book of poems [note - there is an arrow from the B over the H, which may mean that it is supposed to be L.H.B.- perhaps standing for Lutz Hemlock Butler?], and she liked them. She loves the out of doors too. I wanted to read the book and I wanted to hold the baby so I compromised and read aloud some of the poems while I was there and then I came home and read the rest.
Our new teacher arrived today and about the first thing that she did was to tell us that she believed no girl yet had ever mastered civics, some hopes for our class.
She's awfully fond of using "awfully" and "don't che know."
We got our commencement tickets today and I am going to send you one so that you can be present by proxy or mental telepathy or some way.
Hannah Rainer took the whole Junior Class up to Hemlock Manor today. They all hooked school. Dr. Whitney was away but he heard about it and I am told they all are to get court marshalled tomorrow. I was mad, (angry) when I heard they went up there. You might think the place belonged to me if you had seen me but I didn't let on.
Our class is crazy to go up there for a good time. I told them a teeny bit about it.
ten minutes of 12, May 16, 1917
This is the second installment. I have just come back from Jennie's shower and I certainly have had a lovely time altho I didn't want to go. She got some nice presents, napkins, spoons, and dishes.
The class was there; that is all but Lewis and Fred, Margaret & Mable. Norman Reed was there too. He thinking Lewis would be there and he wanted to tell Lewis it was time for him to return his girl.
He sang, Katie Wynia sang and Sarah Bowen executed a solo. He had three more verses to the cat song. I recited a wonderful poem about love and before I was half thru they were ready to eat. Then we went autoing.
I love my new song, by the way it has no name, won't you name it? I have played it over (played at it) lots of times.
I got a letter from Mr. Matlack today and in it was a certificate saying I had performed satisfactorily thirty experiments, under his supervision.
There is a bunch of lilacs in front of me and right now I am gong to pick off all the five leaf ones I can find, for they mean good luck and send them to you. There was only one on the whole bunch.
I thot maybe I would get a letter tonight but I didn't I guess you would have gotten my other letter sooner if I had waited for your address and not sent it to Cromwell.
I know a joke about your last letter but as it's on me I don't think I'll tell it.
I am certainly glad a lot of your friends are with you.
It certainly seems strange to see a new teacher in your room. She really knows very little about Civics I believe but is very entertaining she is so different from ordinary sane people. I certainly am getting critical it seems to me. I'm just getting tired I guess.
Frank proposed a "bully plan," as he called it, to me today. He said, "Lets, as soon as school is over, put on old clothes, take my two tent blankets and my tent and beat it for the West."
[ Note: This is the end of a page and no page to follow. Either Eva didn't sign the letter or there is a page missing. Actually in reading these letters, there quite often seems to be pages, or whole letters, missing ]
Your letter of Sunday arrived Wednesday night and you can't know how welcome it was. I tried my level best to get a chance to write you yesterday, but one thing after another prevented me, so I have taken a few moments on this end of the day to send you at least a wee message and my portion of the copper embroidery for your jacket. I am sure that is quite an idea for your costume. I didn't know whether they were meant to be new or not, rather supposed not, and hope the enclosed portion of my fortune will meet the requirements necessary.
It's a shame that all those things were taken from the Manor; I wonder who does it, and what for? I wish I knew more about growing lilies of the valley, so as to advise intelligently what to do. We certainly don't want to lose them. If you did dig them up & take them home I should be sure to keep the dirt around them (that is already around them where they are) for at least 5 inches on each side and be sure & dig deeply; and do it just before you leave for home, plant right after you get home; I'd take a basket to put them in to carry them home. Here is what I would do first, Eva: do you know any of those florists in Pleasantville? One of them might tell you whether lilies of the valley might be transplanted safely at this time of year or not. If he says no, of course there is nothing to do but take a chance on their staying there, as you say, and hope.
If there are such impolite uninvited guests from time to time at our Manor, I don't believe there's a good reason why guests who won't take away the furnishings and the garden shouldn't be invited. So you have my assent to having your little party of the class girls up there, and I hope they and you will have a lovely time.
This isn't a very intelligent letter, I fear, as men are talking all around me, and I have been interrupted once for reveille (morning roll call) and expect the breakfast call any second. (Just came - will finish right after breakfast). We are working on our regular schedule now and it certainly keeps one going. I'll tell you all about it in a letter Sunday which I hope will be of decent length and not have to be written in spasms of six or seven minutes here and there as this one has been.
Your letter was as enjoyable as it was welcome. Thank you ever so much for the May Pink and tea-berry. The radish was eaten as per directions.
Ever your friend
Sylvester B. B.
N.B.Note sheet 3 - I started on wrong page & have numbered
to indicate the proper sequence. S.
Somewhere in America there is a letter for you which I wrote last Sunday. What can have happened to it I don't know. There is a special post office on the grounds just established when the camp started, and in the confusion and rush of starting perhaps it was last. Isn't it provoking? When I got your second letter this morning and realized this, it just seemed like the last straw on a week which has been tedious to the last degree for body and mind. Fortunately, for the present & in theory at least, we have Saturday afternoons and Sundays off, and I have come out here to the shore of Lake Champlain at a rather secluded place, a short distance south of the camps, to acquire peace and serenity once more where I can hear nothing but the waves swishing the stony shore of the lake, and see nothing but the woods in the back of me, a small wooded island in the lake almost across from me, and a larger island to the south; the opposite shore, about a mile away, I should think, and the Green Mountains (with snow on top) way off in the distance to the east. Except for my military clothes, I could well imagine I was writing you from a summer pleasure trip, with such a setting. My chair is a fair sized boulder, three feet from the water's edge, and my desk my writing paper box, with my knees for support.
Perhaps before you get this letter, my other will have appeared on the scene (there are two others, by the way, one which I wrote you early yesterday morning), but I'll go ahead without regard to it, at the risk of your reading some of the same thing twice. Will you let me know if you ever do get the other one, that is, last Sunday's?
My two stops on the way home last Friday of course shortened my stay there. I arrived at half past five and had to leave shortly before eight o'clock to get a 9:15 train out of Hartford. Ralph (my brother) drove me up to Hartford, and Father and Mother and Ralph's lady came along to see me off, so I had a little longer visit than I had hoped for with the folks. Another man, a chap by the name of Beers, came up from Cromwell at the same time, so that I had company all the way; however, most of the way (from Springfield on) was by sleeper, and I turned in pretty early; I had an upper berth right across from his lower. Binks, of whom I've spoken so much to you, did not get his application in on time. (A huge white gull just passed over the lake. I wish you could have seen it).
Officers were at the trains Saturday morning to direct us to our proper quarters, where we presented the instruction cards which had been sent us, and got a temporary bunk, and settled ourselves. There were some other articles of clothing, chiefly an overcoat, which I had to get from the Quartermaster's department, to complete my military outfit, and it was necessary to stand in line for a matter of hours to get these. We were asked on a circular issued by the gov't which I saw when I was in New York, to furnish our own uniforms as far as practicable, with a hint that we would be reimbursed for them, but I don't believe the hint will materialize; and some of the things I got myself weren't correct, so that I had to get new ones - leggins and blouse. If I had only known just what was what, I shouldn't have bought but very little, and I'd have been somewhat less out of pocket.
Saturday evening and Sunday, and even Monday there was not very much which I had to do, as the actual time of training was not meant to begin until Tuesday morning. I took a few walks into town and in other directions, but stayed pretty near the barracks most of the time, writing letters which never got to their destinations, and so on. I took just one comprehensive walk thru the town - early Sunday afternoon, with Ralrh Gabriel, a college classmate and very good friend, who is in my company. (Buzzell, another classmate, is also in the company). The town is built on high ground, to the north of the camps, along the lake, and is apparently quite old, from the style of architecture of many of the homes, particularly its old brick and stone houses. The country about is quite scenic, and on both east and west we have snow-capped mountains for background - the Green Mountains (Vermont) on the east across the lake, and the Adirondacks (northern New York state) on the west. But the opportunities of appreciating the natural beauties of the locality have decided limitations; to say the least, being bound under strict military regulations adds no sauce to them; but this afternoon, I am really taking some enjoyment out of them, because for the nonce, I am free in them.
Before I tell you about the rest of the week, perhaps it would be better to describe the training camp as well as I can. I'm not sure that I've ever told you all the details of what their purpose is. There were fifteen or sixteen of these camps started at various military posts Tuesday all over the country, with about 30,000 men in all, to train men for the Officers' Reserve Corps, (separate from the officers of the regular standing army & the state militias) which will furnish the officers necessary to train & command the new armies which will be raised by this selective draft scheme. About 30 percent (Ibelieve I said 2/5, before, but we were told 30% officially, the other night) of these 30,000 will receive commissions at the end of the training period (Aug.15) and be put into actual service immediately; a great many others, most of the rest, I suppose, at any rate all who get thru the work satisfactorily, will receive their commissions (as lieutenants) and be called on for actual service as they become needed. A few, perhaps more than a few, will be dropped, and probably by the end of the first month, as not showing ability for an army officer's duties. In this camp there are five thousand men in training, half from New England and half from New York state. The men are divided up into companies of something over a hundred and fifty each, and each company is housed in separate barracks - long wooden buildings, with double- decker wooden bunks down each side of the building (we at first had just cot bunks but the wooden ones were put in this week.) This is a permanent army post, and the government's grounds are quite extensive, and there are of course a large number of permanent buildings here - long brick buildings as barracks for the various companies of the regular army usually stationed here, officers' homes, supply buildings, and so on. In the southeast corner of the grounds are one roofed but open sided mess barracks. This, by the way, is in the dustiest part of the dusty grounds, and great clouds of dust raised by the tramp of thousands of feet to meals, adds sauce to our luxurious repasts.
Tuesday was an organization day - all the men, by the way, were here by Monday noon, half ordered here Saturday, and half Monday, as I believe I told you. Each company has a commanding officer from the regular army, assisted in control and instruction of the company by captains and lieutenants (8 or 9) who already have commissions in the Officers' Reserve Corps; many of these are young men just graduating from college, who have had military instruction there. On Tuesday the company was divided up into four platoons, according to height, and they were further subdivided into squads of eight men each, one of the eight men in each squad being designated as corporal, some one who had had some military training; the corporal of my squad has seen service in the Philippines, he having been a volunteer in the Spanish-American War. We also received our rifles on Tuesday, and some of the rest of our equipment; the rifles being thoroughly soaked in some kind of oil before packing, we had to clean them up with gasoline, and this was a long and tedious job (position?), particularly for me, who never owned a rifle, or never knew much of anything about one; and that rifle will be the bane of my existence more than anything else, because it has to be kept so scrupulously clean in every little nook & corner; it will be inspected every so often, and any little spot of rust or oil or dirt in any part of its intricate mechanism will be a black mark on one's record . And so many other things must be just so, bed made just so, shoes kept polished (only to get dusty the next minute), and any number of little details to fill up all one's spare time, which is short enough at best. Of course that's the way military life must be ordered, but some of the little details seem so needless and annoying.
Wednesday our actual military instruction and drill began. Our day is mapped out as follows: Rise 5:30 (I usually get up a little earlier): Reveille 5:40 (morning roll call). Call to mess (breakfast, of course), 5:55 Morning instruction 7:00-12:00; Noon mess, 12:10. Afternoon instruction, 1:20 to 4:30. Retreat (evening roll call) 5:40. Supper 5: 55. Evening instruction 7:00 - 9:00. Lights out, 9:45. And in between times, keep gun cleaned, shoes polished, study what can't be done in regular periods, be subject to call for special duties; so much to do that you don't know where to start - and every little while I find out some new thing to be done in that little time. But Saturday afternoon and Sundays will apparently be comparatively free. The afternoon is getting well on, and as I hope to get this in the evening mail, so that you will receive it Monday, I'll have to wait and tell you how the instruction is carried on in another letter. Suffice it for now to say that everything is carried on in very military fashion, forming in line to march to meals & to all drill & instruction, saluting of officers, and all details of military regulations. It is all hard to become adapted to but of course necessary and to be expected. (I guess my writing is pretty poor; my cramped position and rather chilly hands make it slow to write & cramped-looked penmanship) [note - to me it looks no more cramped than usual]
Things in Nature are of course not out as far here as I left them in New Jersey; lilacs only just beginning to bud, for instance. I found a few flowers on the way to this spot this afternoon, which I am sending you, - and which I wish you could see as they grow - two kinds of Trillium (I think that's what they are), the painted and the deep red, and a little yellow bell shaped flower we call harebell (or is it hairbell); are you familiar with any of these? I also send two little white violets, which of course you know, as I remember you're finding one once when with me and I have in mind also your sentiments (in your first letter) about white violets and lilies being the right kind of mother-flower. You asked if I agreed with you, and indeed I do. I wonder if you left out the five leaved good-luck lilac you said you were sending me: I couldn't find it, and the commencement ticket, too. How am I going to mental telepath to your graduation without it? I wouldn't want to send any portion of my spirit self on such a journey if it weren't going to be admitted. Excuse me, friend - thank you for thinking of me; you mentioned it in the early part of your letter, and it is not strange that it should have been omitted two days later, when you mailed it. (I'm beginning to shiver, the wind is blowing hard, and I'll have to finish this back at quarters; it will get out of here tomorrow anyway and ought to reach you by Monday night)
Instead of writing at headquarters, I've come over to the Y.M.C.A. building, where there are long benches we can write at; seems quite civilized. Then there is a piano, too; and even though little but popular music is being played, I can forgive anything , it seems so good to hear the tones of the piano once more. I am glad you like my second efforts at musical composition, and wish I could hear you play it. Hitherto I have referred to it as The Stranger's Catechism - but that's hardly poetic or musical, is it? "The Door to Out-of-Doors"? Would that express it? I'll think some more if it doesn't.
Pleasantville did more than I had hoped for in the meet and I was naturally glad to hear it. It's too bad your little friends are so unfortunate as to have their parents separate; that's where the pain always hits the hardest. I wonder how long standing the parents' quarrel has been; perhaps they will think better before matters get too far; but those things are more easily started than ended, and the situation leaves lots of probabilities for repeated quarrels, the constant example of which is no better than actual separation. I'll be interested to hear more about it.
Flaming candles is just the name for the erstwhile golden clubs; a most happy thought - from one who is full of them. I wrote you Friday morning about your taking the girls out to the manor, also sent you the penny for your graduation dress, on which I shall be proud to be represented. Did you get the letter? I presume if it didn't share the fate of the other you got it about tonight. Lest you didn't, I said, go ahead and have your party, and have a fine time, for surely they are more welcome than the uninvited guests who carry away the furniture and garden - and, since the news of your second letter, - certainly as welcome as the uninvited guests of the Junior class. Your telling me they had been out there reminded me that I had never seen those pictures our friend Miss Rainear said she took, so as to know whether they were right at the house; I am afraid so, now. I also wrote you about transplanting the lilies-of-the-valley; think it would be wise to ask a florist if it could be done with safety, and if it could, take them home , being sure you would take plenty of their dirt with them; I hope with all my heart we'll not lose them.
Now what did you tell me you knew a little humor connected with my first letter for, and then keep it to yourself? Perhaps I once told you I never asked a question if I thought I wouldn't be answered, so I refuse to be bullied into asking you what it is - on principle. An admission of curiosity can never be made either - on principle. (Back at quarters, 8:00) Now - having satisfied principle - wouldn't you really like to tell me? (This paragraph looks frightfully stern on reading it over; a rather poor attempt on my part to be jocular).
It's a relief to know his nibs Matlack has finally answered your and my letters, and had he no apologies to offer for his delay?
Talking about excuses, what have you to say for yourself for the hours advertised on your letter, or rather, its installments; once you could tell me, or thought you could tell me, despite my advanced! years, that I had no right to say anything. But now, what can you say, when I keep 9 :45 retiring hours, regularly? I'll anticipate your answer - I wouldn't if I didn't have to, very true.
Would you care to hear anything this week about our instruction work, now that I have some more time than I intended to take? Since you have no chance to defend yourself, I am giving it to you. You remember that, back a way, I gave you our daily schedule, and this included 7:00 to 12: 00, 1:20 to 4:30 & 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. for instruction & drill, that is, the actual training we are getting. How would you like to go to school all that time? We have a monthly printed schedule showing what is to be done each day, and the above hours are divided up into various kinds of work - drill in marching formation, physical drill, marching, signal work, musketry training, study of textbooks, conferences in which remarks are made by & questions asked of the instructors (that is, the officers in charge of the company). For instance, yesterday - from 7:00 to 8:00 we had drill in marching formation; the whole company formed outside the barracks, marched to the parade grounds (a large open space) , where all the various companies are assembled at the same time. We gather in a semi-circle about the commanding officer, & he or other instructors explain and illustrate various marching formations, using one squad for the purpose, - just what the commands to start & to halt are and how the particular formations should be done. Then the squads split up and practice, a different man from the squad taking charge each day, so as to have practice in giving commands; the various reserve officers in charge of the company go around from squad to squad & supervise & criticize the way things are done. From 8:00 to 8:30 we had various physical exercises - calisthenics, I believe they are called in school. Then a little rest from 8:30 to 8:45. From 8:45 to 9:45 we had what is called a practice march - just an hour's hike, the whole company marching in formation, but not in step (rout-step, it's called). Another recess from 9:45 to 10:00. From 10:00 to 11:00 we had practice in semaphore signal work - these wig-wag signals with flags, did you ever see them done? They don't seem hard to learn - in fact they are the most interesting thing I've seen about the work. We marched out into a thin pine grove just south of the camp and split up into squads; for awhile one of the squad called for the making of certain letters in the code, then we split into twos and signalled to each other, and then we got together again and one of the squad signalled single letters, & then words to see which could read them fastest. Of course the work to be done in this, as in every line, will be more and more complicated as the weeks go on. From 11:00 to 12:00 was a combination of study & conference period on the organization of a regiment [each regiment has 1 Colonel, 1 Lieutenant-Colonel, 3 Majors, 15 Captains, 16 1st Lieutenants, 15 2nd Lieutenants - 1 machine gun co., 1 supply co., 1 headquarters co., and 12 infantry cos. --- & all this kind of thing; interesting memory work, which I know you would enjoy. Then the organization of the subdivisions - and some of the men are trying to keep in their heads how many cooks there are in each different company and whether the mess sergeant in the supply company is mounted, and such fine details! That can't be necessary, just a useless burden on the mind, and I'm trying to pick out the important things, which I know is the thing wanted] From 1:20 to 2:30 there was musketry training , involving for yesterday afternoon, practice in sighting with the rifle . From 2:30 to 4:30 there was a study hour & then a conference hour on the Manual of Interior Guard Duty, with some more study on it from 7:00 to 8:00; and then the last hour of the evening was spent in study on the Infantry Drill Regulations, another textbook we have - all of them a lot of dry detail from which it's hard to pick the essential points. Well, this is me day's work - things are changed around from day to day, and some new things will be added from time to time. And there are so many little things to attend to in the between-time hours, as I guess I said before.
I'm going to ask you to do this in the matter of letter writing: let me write Saturdays or Sundays, when as far ahead as I can see, I can always be sure of having time, and you write me in the middle of the week - anyway - so that I can have your letter to answer - all extras thankfully received (Excuse me, I haven't any right to expect extras, but I just mean that, as you must know, I am only too glad to hear from you anytime - I didn't want to bar out more than the one).
Here it is 9:30, so I'll have to see you in the morning, if I don't want to go to bed in the dark. Morning. I'm afraid there'll be no way to keep flowers here at the barracks, and it probably would be wiser for me not to try it. So, when the honeysuckles come out, will you send me just a little sprig in a letter? I brought along in the bottom of my suitcase a book with your apple- blossom in it, so you see I have a place to put the honeysuckle sprig; and it of course now houses also the May-pink and the tea-berry. I wonder if you would like to send a bunch of honeysuckle to my mother (Mrs.George S. Butler) when they come out; they are one of her favorite flowers, and yellow is her favorite color - I know she would enjoy them not only for that reason but because I have told her so much about our Manor, and the friends with whom I have shared its joys.
I was interested in your account of Mrs.Benton and you depict her just as I expected she would be. Don't let the work go in it, will you, because even though I think the 90 mark I told you of will go in as final, I wouldn't want you to endanger it, should your class work count for these last two weeks. I know the feeling of disinclination to do anything, and can appreciate how you feel, but try to overcome it as much as you can. The hardest thing to do is to start at things, I always found, and once forcing oneself to the start, and getting applied to whatever the task, it isn't as hard to continue. ("Very well, grand- dad", I hear you say.) Don't you find the Civics in itself fairly interesting? - to come back to that subject - . It covers things all prospective citizens should know about the government - and young ladies as well as young men may now regard themselves as prospective citizens & voters.
I wonder if you will ever get to the end of this letter. I hope it won't share the fate of the other one, anyway; and the same thing is hardly likely to happen twice, though a package which was sent me by an aunt the day I left has never arrived. Today I think I'll try to learn all I can about my gun and its parts, so as to be able to go thru musketry training more intelligently this week; and then of course my letter to Mother - from time immemorial I've always written her Sundays. It will be a relief to hear from you and know you have finally gotten some of my letters.
Ever your friend,
Sylvester B. Butler
Study has ended for the evening and I have a half hour to myself; so may I say "how-do-you-do" to you? Without waiting for your letter, despite the fact that children (and soldiers) shouldn't speak unless spoken to, should be seen and not heard? I can't be seen, so refuse to be cheated out of both.
This has been the first real rainy day we have had, and has also been very chilly. My hands got so numb at drill this morning it took an hour or more to thaw them out; we carry our rifles in drill now, so keeping my hand on that helped in the process. It seems rather good not to have the dust for awhile, particularly with our meals; but even on dry days that is being gradually avoided as there is a boardwalk being constructed around the mess-shacks, taking away from us the opportunity of kicking large clouds of palatable grit on food & utensils before eating; with this, the new shower-bath building, comforters (formerly used overcoats for bed-quilts), and an increasing food supply, I fear we shall become quite too civilized and softened; I was even afraid they might take us in out of the rain to-day, but the fear didn't materialize
Speaking of being civilized, the progress of the Plattsburgh recruit isn't altogether in that direction. His table manners visibly retrogress with every meal; we get more and more like children at candy (that hardly describes it) - but, led by the most unscrupulous, for self -defense we have to look out for No.1 and his wants without regard to whether neighbor has anything to eat or not; fill up dishes with everything in sight, dessert and all, the minute you sit at the table or expect to go without. Just to see how it sounds I venture an "Excuse me for reaching" once in a while; but this is only the beginning. I think I shall have to buy a book of table etiquette before expecting admission to civilized households again. Would you believe that we had ice cream for Sunday noon dessert? I don't know how it happened. So much of it, too, that I engineered three helpings, and not a few, five or six. A number of men, who lived near, went out of town Sunday, which accounted for it in part, I suppose.
I hope by this time Uncle Sam has let some of my letters thru, not for the subject matter contained therein quite as much but because you must have thought me a strange sort of person all last week, and if you got this Sunday's letter, you'll know that the non-appearance of a letter the previous week wasn't my fault. And Eva, about that arrangement I spoke of Sunday - a week is a long long time to wait between your letters. Will you write me at the end of the week, too, even if my mid- week letters are only little short ones like this, which I can write in a little snatched time? I'm sure I can find time every week to do this at least beside a week-end letter. You'll do it, won't you?
Only four minutes are left before lights go out. Good-night.
Ever your friend
Sylvester B. Butler
Your letter was my second surprise of today. I got also a graduation present which as yet can only be see from the outside.
I just got your letter this noon and am now in study hall, because as I suppose you don't know it as yet but Mr.Cruse and Mr.Carey figuratively got kicked out today so we have no science classes.
We haven't had lessons in the morning for all this week, (the senior girls) but have been allowed to go home and work on our Class Day dresses. Did I or did I not send you those tickets? I can't remember whether I put them in your this week letter or not and I can't tell from those I have left as I only gave away a few but let mother have the rest to give to her friends. I have one for each night left if I didn't send them, however, I think your spirit can come in without a ticket.
Last night we practiced for class day and it certainly looks as if it will be great and good -- for nothing. They are going to have a band of lovely gypsy glee club singers up on the stage also. The dresses and the scenery will be pretty but that will be all that is. They wouldn't let us hear one another's parts. I am dying to hear Gladys' as I heard they are going to put a great one over on me.
Babe's mother has gone away and is working in Fits' Store in Philadelphia. She has left the children with that horrid old aunt of hers. I just wish I was big enough to take care of them. I saw Edward and tiny Babe this morning out walking with some little girl and he told me Babe was sick, so I guess I'll go up and see her after school. He asked me if I had seen his mama. They won't speak to the father as the day before the mother went away he came in with a revolver and said he was going to shoot her.
There goes the bell. I am interrupted by the school bell and you by the breakfast bell.
Gladys is going to give her party tonight. I don't know whether or not I shall go.
I have gotten quite a fortune already for my gypsy dress. That seems to me a good way to get rich quick. Margaret Price gave me hers in Chemistry class the other day so of course Mr.Cruse inquired about it and then gave me one, as soon as he turned his back I dropt it in Nitric Acid and it melted. I only wanted them from my friends. I was in Miss Tolbert's room last night after she had gone and he came in to bid me good-bye he said. He asked how you were and how you liked it at Plattsburgh. I said alright I suppose. Then he said, "Well you know Butler's a mighty fine man (so you must be if he says so) even if I know for a fact that he don't think I am." I said, "How could you expect him to think you were"' and he left without saying good-bye.
Miss Tolbert told me to tell you, the next time I wrote, that the letters were O.K. so I am telling you.
Am I not ingenious. This note paper is a sheet of Typewriting paper folded in half, Well I guess I better stop as you only wanted a short letter.
P.S. I think we are going up to Hemlock Manor Sunday. Eva
[Note - Gram is not very particular in using [and usage of]
I really can't remember
Today Miss Tolbert and I went up to Hemlock Manor. It is more beautiful than ever now as everything is so green. Out in the hot-bed garden purple flags are flying. Stars of Bethlehem are shining everywhere. The snow balls are out the lilacs and the bridal wreath so you can imagine what a crazy rampage I went on. When we were coming home, just before we got to the bridge in the middle of the road home - I mean to my house - a thunder storm broke, this was about 7:30 P.M. and we were drenched. We stopped in the Farmington School well-house for a few minutes and I discovered about 1/2 of 1/4 of a candle in my pocket and after trying at least twenty matches found one that was dry. We lit the candle and composed a joint poem to the rain. A very flattering one believe me. Please excuse the slang it just seemed to fit. It seemed as if it never was going to stop raining so just as our candle almost burned out we left.
The thunder and lightening was wonderful. Miss Tolbert left me at Woodland Ave. and I had the rest of the time to enjoy it. You would never have needed a lantern the streaks were so frequent and bright. You know the electric light almost in front of our house, well just as I was about ten feet away from it the lightening struck it. They felt the shock in the house but I didn't don't you think that strange. Once before I was walking along the street to a Sunday School picnic with two other ladies one on each side of me, the lightening struck a pole and either shocked them or scared them unconcious and never bothered me.
My next to last visit to Hemlock Manor, we expect to go up one day more this week.
P.S. It was a good thing the lightening went the other way as the senior class has almost vanished as it is.
Well, thank goodness Class Day is over. I usually get a letter from you in the last mail on Monday's but I didn't tonight. I can use that as an excuse for leaving out the part of my poem about the wind, but I have a better excuse. Tonight after school the minister came up to see why I didn't come to church. I told him my answer was in my Class Day poem, so naturally I was so interested in the church part of the program and watching the effect on him, I changed over from the lesson of the stars to night without remembering that such a thing as wind existed. However, no one knew it except Miss Tolbert and I. I'm tired so I guess I better go and rest for tomorrow. The whole thing, except mine, was a success. (Modesty made me except myself otherwise I wouldn't have done it.) The camp was splendid. Naturally I was predicted to be come a poet, in the history I was falsely spoken of as a generous, good-humored girl, also ambitious. I was given a cake of ice in the gifts as skating had proven so enjoyable to me this winter. Incidently, it was also to be used to control (cool) my temper. It was suggested by out mutual friend B.M.Cruse. I was to keep it forever and ever to remember my pleasant skating days, it melted but I have pleasanter mementos, Good Night.
Please excuse me for not sending this letter before but I tho't you would like to hear about Commencement before I wrote. It's over. It being Commencement. This afternoon I couldn't say my essay thru without making a million mistakes but I got up there tonight and sailed thru it without having to tack or call for a life preserver. Jennie Bowen did and wasn't I mean I was almost glad as she had made me miserable for the whole class day by saying every once in so often, "Don't you know your essay yet? I have known mine for three weeks at least and never make a mistake." I wrote my class day poem last April, and look what happened to it. Miss Tolbert said she couldn't understand how I did it. But Tuesday morning I got your acceptance so of course I was talking to a red and black necktie that had done service before.
I had a lovely time. I got bushels of flowers - two gigantic bunches of peonies, red - a beautiful bunch of carnations, a bunch of azelia, and best of all two bunches of lilies-of-the-valley, and a bunch of snap dragons and easter lilies.
Mr.Davis met me out side in the hall congratulated me and asked me to ask you to write to him. He said just to address it to him at Mayslanding.
My graduation was much better than I tho't it would be. I didn't know I was going to get a graduation dress until Saturday, So from the time I finished my algebra test yesterday until quarter of seven tonight I have been working on that.
I never walk in my sleep but I do believe that now I am writing in it.
These are just a few details of what has happened since Tuesday. I spent Memorial day with Miss Tolbert, also the night also yesterday and will also night. Can you get that straightened out? We expect to go away tomorrow as you probably know from the short note I sent you.
You wanted to know how Mr.Cruse and Mr.Carey happened to leave, by request. The night after they got paid they went over to Atlantic, spent all they owned and consequently couldn't find the sidewalk in Pleasantville. Mr.Carey said he doesn't blame Dr.Whitney - says Dr.W. has treated him square. Mr.C.& C. came to school the other day and Dr.W . almost had a fight with Mr.Cruse. It seems as if they were fired without the Board of Education knowing it.
I guess this will be all this time.
SBB to EL, May 30, 1917
--May 30, 1917(cont.)--
It got so hot staying in the barracks that I have come outdoors again to write. This time I'm in an acre grove of tall straight pines, not very far away from camp and the main street that runs by it. I wonder what you are doing today and how it seems not to be in school. Perhaps you are preparing to start for the city, and perhaps you changed your mind and have started your cross-continent tenting party with your brother. Did you ever hear of Edward Payson Weston, the 70 year old walker, who about 5 years ago crossed the continent coming eastward in 90 walking days? He never walked Sundays. So bear that in mind if you want to be a successful hiker; that's why I never walk Sundays, unless I walk in the road or out of it.
We had a driving rainy day yesterday and they kept us in most of the day, studying and attending one conference. The last hour and a half of the day we took a practice march in the rain, getting our feet gloriously wet, so mush so that my shoes aren't dried out yet. We are protected, or out clothes are protected by what is known as a poncho or slicker, a rubber cape, which I won't attempt to describe, as I haven't successfully gotten anywhere near all the buttons and ropes adjusted properly yet. But wet feet as the only result of a rainy day is much less than I expected; I have supposed that we would be brought out to drill and do everything on rainy days just as on sunshiny, and have wet suits and muddy rifles, so as to get used to that sort of thing. We don't study in the barracks evenings anymore, but over in the gymnasium where long benches have been put in, & chairs, to accommodate a dozen companies; we march to study and it seems like forming in line as in grammar school. The old song "School Days" has become very popular for that particular time of day; not a very good marching tune, but appropriate. The huge gymnasium is a pandemonium of song and clattering of chairs until all are in, and then as an officer gets up into the rostrum and signals for study period to begin, everything becomes quiet in an instant, except for incessant coughing, for most everyone here has a cold. I had one the first week but it has practically disappeared.
That perfume incident was very amusing. I'd thank you for telling me, only you dared to call me curious, and thus tear down one of the pillars of my house of principle. I heard in that letter from Carey that Mildred Burns has formed quite an attachment for Edgar Baker, Carey alleging that he had put Baker up to telling her some josh about liking her if nobody else did; which banter met with instant response from Mildred, and a heralding all over town by said lady of the glad news of Edgar's devotion. I suppose that since I ran away that Thursday afternoon, I have no right to complain of such evidence of short-lived grief. Did I ever tell you she got me on the phone that next morning, just before I left? I told her that I left just a general good-bye with Dr.Whitney, and slunk away, as good-byes were rather depressing, don't cher know, Mildred. Was Carey exaggerating about the Baker incident, or did she talk about Edgar, so that it was quite a joke around? Carey always had an innate fondness for such pranks.
We had a chicken dinner today, as great a surprise as the ice cream was the first Sunday we had it. I don't suppose it's likely to happen again , unless on Forth of July, and at breakfasts, when, as some allege, they get an occasional one in what purports to be a hard-boiled egg.
The other day when I was out with the company on a march I saw a new scheme in flower beds, which might interest you, on several different lawns. Perhaps you have seen such an arrangement but I never did - a furnace boiler with a large rectangle cut out of it, filled with dirt, and set on stakes (I saw another on the way home, & it rested on pipes stuck in the ground), close to the ground. Really quite artistic, if you don't think about its being a furnace boiler.
The trees have leaved out very rapidly the last ten days, and everything is very green and lovely. I think things are out here about as much now, as they were in Pleasantville when I left, but still, the lilacs, for instance, are only just small buds yet. Did you get another look at the birds nest in the apple tree near our second garden Sunday? I used to love to watch birds' eggs where I found them until they were hatched, and then watch the little birds grow, from the time they looked like little hunks of gingerbread dough until they finally flew away.
I didn't finish up the letter this afternoon, as I thought I would be likely to find a letter from you in the evening mail, but it didn't appear. To make up for our good dinner, the supper was very poor tonight, bum frankfurters and bum potato pseudo-salad, and so out of spite, I went out and got some delicious strawberry short-cake, three doughnuts, and a bowl of cornflakes with the most wonderful cream I've had in ages, for dessert. There are oceans of little places springing up near the camp which sell pies, ice-cream, nabiscoes & all kinds of cookies, and the sort of thing I had tonight; and they are making money hand over fist, if size of patronage is any standard. But I mustn't make it too much of a habit, or I'll not be able to eat regular mess contentedly after a while, and all reform that was to be made in my dietary reform which began as auspiciously, will go for naught.
I must finish a letter which I started to Mother this afternoon, before I turn in for the night. Good-night.
Ever your friend,
Sylvester B. Butler.
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