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Sept. 2, 1917
Sept. 8, 1917
Sept. 14, 1917
Sept .16, 1917
Sept. 21, 1917
Sept. 23, 1917
To-day I have been off on a wild goose chase, and accomplished nothing. We were allowed 24 hours leave anytime between Saturday night and Monday morning, so I decided this morning to run down home. My boxes had arrived from Pleasantville since I left for here, and I thought I'd get down and get things sorted out and put away in order, so that the folks won't have any trouble with them or get them all mixed up should they move, as they seem likely to do before I get back to civilian life. Then, too, things seemed to be pretty uncertain here; the officers in a single regiment here instead of being from the same training company at Plattsburg, as we expected, have been split up considerably; those who were going to be with the 304th permanently had been announced and I with at least half the second lieutenants were not among them, some of the rest of these were being assigned to all kinds of places, some even to National Guard regiments going to France at once. So naturally I didn't know what might be in store for me at any time, and thought I'd better get that personal business down home out of the way at once. But I got stuck in Worcester; the train from Ayer was very late and I missed connections so that I didn't try to go home. Instead I took a trolley out to my cousins, the Coes, where I stayed Tuesday night, but they had gone and the house was locked; I sat on the steps for about an hour and read my paper, but they didn't come so I went back to Worcester, got dinner, then took a trolley back toward Ayer, almost a three hour ride. I expected a nice cool comfortable restful ride even though I'm not partial to trolleys, but the fates were unkind and filled the car to double capacity, and made me hang onto a strap for an hour and a half, in the vicinity of several sons and daughters of sunny Italy tinctured with a delicate fragrance of garlic. So my Sunday has rather gone to waste.
As soon as I got back here I found my permanent assignment on the bulletin board at the barracks we have been staying in temporarily. Five other 2nd lieutenants and myself from the 4th company have been assigned to the divisional supply train - divisional supply officers I suppose would be the name of our job. One Major, one 1st lieutenant, and six 2nd lieutenants, as I understand it, are in charge of the divisional supply train - that is, the supply train for a division (a division comprises 19,000 men; it = 3 brigades; a brigade = 2 regiments; a regiment = 15 companies of 250 men each). We are, then, the supply officers for a division, and in action, we will be in charge of getting supplies from the headquarters of our division up to the firing line. That's as near as I can explain my "job" at present. I think it will be interesting; I was disappointed at not being assigned to one of the regular companies of the 304th regiment, but it's the next best thing, I'm sure. How many men we'll have under us I don't know; I presume that we'll not have any drilling to do. This military game is surely full of uncertainties; four hours ago I hadn't the slightest idea that this would be the kind of job that would [be] assigned to me. I think my 3 years' business experience will be of considerable value to me in this work. For the present just address me Camp Devens, Ayer, Mass., leaving off the 304th Regiment. A little later I can probably give you a little more complete address, but the above I am sure will get me. These different assignments weren't made on the basis of our previous record or special qualifications; the captains and 1st lieutenants and about 25 of the 2nd lieutenants were kept with the regiment, the remaining officers for the regiment being taken from other companies (that is, other Plattsburg training companies); the next half dozen 2nd lieuts. were made the divisional supply offocers; the next five were sent to Toronto to the Royal Flying School; the next two to a National Guard division for immediate service abroad; and the rest were assigned to what used to be known as the depot brigade, a kind of reserve organization to fill up others when losses have occurred in battle. I was 30th on the list of 2nd lieuts. in our company at Plattsburg, which brought me into the group assigned to the divisional supply train. If you're as tired reading these technical details as I am writing them, you must be pretty weary.
The first two days, Wednesday and Thursday, we had nothing to do, except to fill out pay vouchers (these are virtually bills you make out to the gov't for your services) for the period from Aug.15 to Aug.31. Think of all the arduous work I did for the government during that period - riding roller coasters and gondolas and such like. Friday and Saturday we went out for map sketching work, all of us who were in the 4th Co. up at Plattsburg, and until today were in the 304th regiment here. It was largely for the purpose of getting acquainted with the land the gov't has leased around here, something over 60 square miles. Friday we walked fully 12 miles at this work, and Saturday 20; to-morrow I rather expect we'll have to tear off another 15 or so.
It's getting so well along in the evening, I'll have to wait until a later letter to tell you more what the camp is like. Lights may go out in half an hour and I haven't written Mother yet. I don't know whether you're still at Cape May or not, but I am sending this to you there. I got your nice second letter safely last evening.
Good-night. Ever your friend. Sylvester.
[Here is another from Gram with the first page missing and not even an envelope, but it seems to fit in about this time frame. she seems to be talking about the little girl, Jean, at the beginning]
.......... She either called me E-d or Peanut. When I asked her why she called me that she said she liked Peanuts. She did wish I was her child she said 'cause then she could make me mind. Her mother and brother were down for a few days but they went home the day before us so she was quite alone but I left her the cutouts (paper dolls) altho' I didn't leave Maria Ann Susan Jane the doll cousin Harvey bestowed upon me.
I had another friend there Marie Cole a girl about my own age. Paul Emmert that is Jean's brother took some pictures of Marie and I in bathing and when I get them if they are good I will send you one. Paul was the funniest fellow. He was six foot one, walked with a lovely shoulder swing, played golf, boasted, and was not quite fourteen years old. It was funny he and a man who was staying at the hotel took the nurse and another woman out one evening. they [met?] some "chickens" and wanted to shake their companions. The nurse took Paul by the ear - all this was in front of the dance pavilion - and said he had come out with her and also he was going in with her. Paul said he was going where Mr. Weinert went. She said Mr.Weinert wasn't fourteen which disgraced Paul quite. Paul said he'd go home before he'd spend a quarter to take her to the dance and home they came. Gallent escorts.
Miss Tolbert had a friend down there Ethel Blattner who had a car, an Overland and she took us for wonderful rides. We went to all the sea shore resorts and at Wildwood I was almost allowed to go on the roller coaster. I got lots of Cape May diamonds along the beach. They are beautiful and transparent when they have been wet but if out of the water several days they grow opaque.
We took lovely walks and Miss Blattner took some pictures of us as lizards on limbs. She is going to send us some so if they are good I suppose I will let you see them. In my excitement today I forgot to put Ayer, Mass. on your letter so I don't suppose you will get it it wasn't interesting anyway as I was, rather stupid.
My aunt has lots of snap dragons and other beautiful flowers, including scarlet sage in the center of the lawn.
Did I tell you about Harold and his Freckle cure? At first I tho't that clipping was a joke on the Maginnisses.
Here's a new kind of ink for an ending, [lighter ink] Eva
I wish I might give you an adequate idea of the immensity of this camp, or cantonment, as the proper designation of it goes. I am sending you a postcard picture I found of one of the barracks buildings under construction; that gives something to start on to tell you what it's like. The majority of the buildings for housing the men who are to train here will be or rather are (for they are partially complete) of this character. They are somewhat larger than our barracks at Plattsburg; they have two stories, are much wider and better ventilated, and each has its own mess-room and kitchen. One of these buildings will accommodate a company of men, which in most cases numbers 250, under the new organization which is just now being put into operation. The men will probably all have cots and not the wooden bunks we had at Plattsburg. So much for a single building - 15 of these buildings are in a group, fairly close together, to accommodate all the companies of a single regiment. Then right by each of these groups of buildings there are the officers' shacks and the headquarters building for each regiment . There are 4 officers' shacks to each regiment; these are small one story buildings, covered with tar paper on the outside, they have about 15 rooms each, also a little mess hall and kitchen. Some of the officers will have rooms to themselves, but there aren't enough but what some will have to double up two in a room - even that, however, is the rankest luxury when compared with the close quarters at Plattsburg. Included in each regimental section of buildings there is also a dispensary building, with an operating room, some private rooms, and a ward. There is also to be a general hospital building for the whole cantonment; I suppose that will take the more serious cases of illness, and the regimental dispensaries the lighter cases. A sample rough diagram of the arrangement of such a regimental group of buildings as I have described would be about like this:
[_____] [_____] [_____] Men's Barracks [_____] [_____] [_____] One per Company [_____] [_____] [_____] [_____] [_____] [_____] [_____] [_____] [_____] Dispensary \--[_____] [___] -----------Headquarters [___] [___] [___] [___] ---Officers' Shacks __________________
In some cases there is just one group of these buildings off pretty much by itself, in others there are a couple of groups quite close together, and a somewhat larger space before you get to another group or groups - that's largely I think to prevent the spread of fire. I couldn't tell you just how many of these groups there are, but I know there are four active regiments of infantry, and two regiments of infantry in the depot brigade, three regiments of field artillery, one regiment of engineers, some cavalrymen, men attached to the quartermaster corps, ammunition trains, & supply trains, and a few others. That makes pretty nearly 15 groups of these buildings, and therefore over 200 of the large men's barracks alone, with a proportionate number of officers' shacks, headquarters buildings, &c. They cover a huge area, and it takes an everlastingly long time to walk around from place to place - I live, for instance, a half mile from the camp post office, a half mile in another direction from the Quartermaster store houses, and a mile in still another direction from Division Headquarters (that's the headquarters of the whole camp). But the buildings occupy by no means the whole of the land leased by the government around here - the land it has been leased is about eleven miles long, and varies from 5 to 6 miles in width, which makes it something over 60 square miles in area. The rest of the land will be used for manoevres, for target ranges, &c., I presume. All this camp has been built since the latter part of May - a wonderful piece of work. Some Springfield concern got the contract to do all the construction work, and they have had over 10,000 men at it thru the summer. This was all woodsy, brushy country before, and the place must be much like the hasty cities that grew up around the gold & silver mines in the West, when some of the great ore discoveries were made. They haven't had time yet to macadamize the roads, so that they are very dusty, and when it rains they are a perfect sea of mud, - and we had rain a good deal of the time the first four days we were here,
Since I started this letter Monday evening, I have moved into our permanent quarters, and tonight, if you please, I am writing you on my table in my private room, No fooling!
In my letter Sunday I told you about the outfit to which I had been assigned - the division supply train, the name for the organization which sees to the transportation of supplies from division headquarters, back of the lines, up to the firing line. The organization is made up of six companies, - truck companies they are called, for motor trucks are the chief means of transportation used - each of these companies has 76 men in it, and each of us six 2nd lieutenants is in command of one company. Each company will have 31 motor trucks; the chauffeur of each truck will have the grade of corporal, and the privates in the company are assistant chauffeurs. These six companies go, then, to make up the supply train; over us, in charge of the whole train is a major, and there is a 1st lieutenant in the outfit, who I think will be a sort of adjutant to the major. The 1st lieutenant is in charge at present, and the major won't be here for some time. This 1st lieut. is a man by the name of June, who has been in the army a great number of years, and who therefore knows the game pretty well. He is one of the pleasantest men I ever knew; we are all quite taken with him, and I think shall enjoy working with him.
The drafted men started arriving at camp today; only 5% will come this week, and they won't all be here until the first of the month. Thirty men in our outfit will be here this week, but for the present they are going to be housed with the ammunition train men; when about 100 have come, we'll move them over to their regular barracks. The reason for not doing so at once is the saving in cooks that can be made by bunching them. How soon we shall get them at some regular work I don't know, nor what we are going to start them out with. I don't imagine the trucks will be here for a month or so. Lieut.June told me the colonel in charge of the ammunition & supply trains said they were to have some military drill first, but he seemed to think the colonel was off; I rather hope we are to give them some.
I forgot about telling you, in the proper place, about how our outfit was located. We are somewhat off from everybody else, quite out in the country; there are two of those large barracks such as are shown on the postcard picture, for our six companies of men - three large rooms in each, one room per company, I take it; then we have a little headquarters office building, and then our own quarters. The arrangement is about like this
[_______] Men's Barracks [_______] [___] Hdqtrs. office [_____] Officers' Quarters Our "Little Grey Home in the West".
In our quarters we each have a separate room with iron spring cot, table and chair. The one thing we lack at present is heat; it is very chilly here nights even now, and what will it be in December? I presume of course that all the buildings will be heated, and I certainly hope it won't be long before they get it done.
The last couple of days we have been getting settled in our new quarters, and getting what supplies we could for ourselves and our outfit. This getting supplies, that is bedding, kitchen & dining room utensils, cots, tables, chairs, etc., is somewhat more of a job than it sounds - for it means in the big rush of things now & the shortage of trucks long waits down at the storehouses before your turn for a truck comes, and lots of chasing and red tape; and I expect that we'll have our hands full with a good deal of this until the first of the month - for there'll be clothing to get for the men, at least after each is measured, until the last have arrived.
They don't turn lights out in our quarters here. I suppose we are expected to know enough to keep regular hours, regular good hours perhaps I should say. Ten fifteen isn't very bad, but I think I had better call it quits for now. Judging from the enclosed set of drawings from some Boston paper, not everyone shares your taste for freckles in the masculine chee-ild. Please address all mail to me from now on in this way:
Lieut. S.B. Butler
Division Supply Train
The said Lt.Butler presents you his compliments and bids you
Please excuse the variety in paper. [note - two different sizes of paper in this letter]
[Note - It is very mysterious to me. Here is another of Gram's letters with a page, or pages, missing. This time it's the end. It's hard for me to imagine Gramp, the careful saver, having lost these pages to so many of Gram's letters. I really wonder what happened to them. - Susan Czaja, granddaughter]
Haven't you noticed how proper and inky my letters are lately?
I suppose this is a result of my Jean lecture course.
Did I tell you about the time we were in my room dramatising nursery rhymes and there was a strand of hair kept getting in my eyes and I said , "I wish to goodness it was cut off," and Jean held it up and said I snipped it? When I asked her why she said, "you said you wanted it." So it was my fault. It was funny tho but I didn't dare let her see me laugh. [note - this is just as written, so don't ask me to explain what she is talking about. I'm not sure if this was play acting or if Jean really did snip it.]
This morning Miss Tolbert and I walked down to the meadows. There were lots of beautiful new flowers there now, one of them is the "Iron weed" a real royal purple. That is the one shade and the black eyed Susan's gold is the other. They just cover the meadows altho' there are hundreds of other flowers, the names of many of which I am ignorant. I'd love to know the names of all the birds and flowers.
I'm so glad you like your new camp and have such comfortable quarters.
It looked somewhat like rain so we didn't get to go up to the Manor today. I guess I won't get a chance to go up before next Sunday and maybe not then.
I feel awful scary about going to work tomorrow - I spell so lovely.
I have a plan. Please make a list of all my misspelled words and return them to me and I will learn them. Some scheme. Is it not?
My aunt has some company, a Mr. and Mrs. Hess from Reading Pa. He is an imported German and she came from England and each look and act their part. The women just now are discussing the relative merits of men and women much to the discomforture of the men. They are especially usless as social climbers. Mr. Hess goes out to dine is too bashful to eat comes home and forces his wife to cook a full course meal. Once too at a particularily "swell" affair while Mrs. Hess was looking at the garden He asked his hostess to direct him to a public telephone. He was mysteriously absent from the dinner which had been given in his honor. Mrs.Horton swapped with a fine reception she attended. Mr. Horton sat like a mummy, according to her, for at least two hours. Mrs. Horton was enjoying herself as it neared going home time she looked for Uncle Charlie. He had been home a couple of hours. So she has never taken him out since nor gone out without him they have had to sit the evenings out until they get tired of looking at each other and then they go to bed to get up in the morning to work again. "Why be afraid to die, can't be any worse than this, I'd be willin' 'sept for Line's cookin'," Uncle Charlie said. She swallowed the bait and the conversation has switched.
I am having a grand time now studying Chubbs "How to Teach English." You are keeping me from studying it. It seems awful funny not to be going to school. I feel awful queer but I suppose I'll get over it when I get working. It makes me feel grown up, in spite of the fact that I often said I never would, when I think that I am finished with school and must look out for my own future. You can't imagine how different you feel. I didn't realize or feel so much so until now that school has started and I see the others going.
I met Miss Hodgson's sister Ruth the other day. I like her. Miss Hodgson is ill with indigestion.
Alas for my good resolutions - here comes the pencil.
I visited an old friend of yours the other day. He looks well, especially as he is pleasantly situated. He slipped and hurt himself a bit Saturday but he was .................
[That's it- rest not here. I keep hoping to find extra pages tucked into other letters, but there also seems to be whole letters missing, like when Eva must have told Sylvester that she even had a job, and what it was and how she got it. I am also not sure of this Aunt and Uncle (Charlie and Line Horton) as they don't show up in my genealogy program. I don't know what Line is short for (Pauline?, Adeline?) -Sue Czaja, granddaughter]
This will be a hasty midday letter, to-day, and Saturday or Sunday I'll write much more completely. I got both your last Saturday's letters earlier this week after a nine day wait since the last one; and was feeling disappointed because you sid you would be sure and write me oftener this fall than before; but this morning got a pleasant surprise in another letter from you. Keep it up, won't you, friend? You know that I'll do my part.
My days have this week settled somewhat into routine, getting the mess organized for our outfit - which means breaking a mess sergeant into his duties, getting cooks started in to learn their business, watching things closely to see that everything is being done as it ought to, being as tactful as possible in getting an obstreperous old English cook to toe the mark, not use twice as much stuff as he ought to, and incidentally learn a lot myself. A lot of the detail work I do now I won't have to continue at after everything is started; in fact everything will be turned over to the mess sergeant and all I will do is go around & look wise once or twice a day, checkup the mess sergeant's accounts, and so on. For of course my main work will be in charge of the truck company which I'll have when all the men and the trucks are here. But while we're getting started, we each of us have to take a hand & get some one thing going - my job is to get the mess going, another man sees to getting all the supplies, clothing, &c. we need for our organization; still another is doing all the drilling of the men for the present; and so it goes.
I expect my people here one of these fine days as they are going to bring my sister up to college, when it starts, and will pay me a visit on the way.
I am surely sorry you didn't have better news as to your work in the fall, but I was very doubtful if you could do anything with Mr.Cressman, you waited so long before applying to him. Naturally I hope that while you are at your present work you will find it and the people working with the firm pleasant - very pleasant.
Please be sure and address all my letters exactly right, because in such a large place it's easy for them to go astray. Even the 2nd letter you sent last Saturday wasn't right and it was delayed in getting to me accordingly; and the 1st one with only half an address was of course even later in finding me. I must get at work now; if you have asked me anything that I haven't answered in this letter, it's because I won't have time to look them up now. Sunday's will be a real answer letter.
With my best as ever Sylvester.
[This was an enclosure with the letter]
The spelling class will come to order - here goes:
1. A good one for a starter discomfiture not discomforture (there's no comfort in it)
2."Particularly" does not need an extra eye (Oh!) between r & l
3. The word "swell" is not in Butler's dictionary. Nor "chickens." Eva Lutz!
4. "Studying" has a "y" whether on the 4th or the 2nd line of a paragraph. No variation allowed. [note- I went back to look at her last letter when I saw this one and sure enough she had spelled the first "studying" as "studing". Apparently I corrected her mistake in the letter I sent out.]
5. "choak" probably is a mild form of "choke." At any rate the latter is the real thing. [note - must have been in the missing part]
6. Try gallant for gallent [note - also must have been in the missing part]
All I can find aside from these flagrant, terrible, unpardonable errors is an innocent s instead of z in dramatizing; and an effected voice instead of an affected one.
What shall I do first? Guess the riddle, or list the misspelled words? As for the riddle, I think Joe Davis must have been fixing up the desk for Miss Tolbert; but as for picking your letters to pieces, don't you think that would be rather brutish on my part? I tell you what I'll do - pick them out until you spell one of them wrong again and then go on strike.
I recall the iron-weed of Pleasantville's meadows very well. The first Sunday I was there last fall I remember going down and finding them and a number of other flowers I had never seen before. I have seen scarcely any autumn flowers around here; this land the cantonment is on was all unpopulated country a few months ago, country not at all unlike our South Jersey woods, but with rather higher hills, I expect, if measured by the yardstick; but I suppose it's been tramped over so much this summer that nothing has had much chance to grow; I have noticed, however , quite a variety of birds - for instance, a nice fat brown thrasher this morning. And my window faces the sunset.
What do you suppose I've gone and done? Didn't I say - I think I did - to you less than a month ago that I would never keep a diary? Well, week before last three of us were talking together, and Spaulding was telling about a record he was keeping - he didn't like to call it a diary but rather a series of daily impressions & observations & events to be recorded while the war lasts, as a matter of great interest to him in after years, at least to his people if he didn't come thru. Achorn got enthusiastic about the idea right away, and before the evening was over I decided to do the same thing. Achorn & I went down town the same evening and bought the books for the purpose; I wrote it up from the day I arrived here, and hope it will be a fairly interesting record. I think Achorn wishes he'd never started his, as he's been cursing it out on several occasions.
I like the group of officers I'm with first rate; we're not alone in our shack anymore, as five or six miscellaneous officers have been sent down here to be housed but we of the Supply Train still have each our individual rooms by ourselves - the others are crowded in to the three rooms left over, and perhaps may not be here permanently. None of our Supply Train group ever knew each other very well at Plattsburg, although all except 1st Lieut.June were in the same company, but I think we hitch together unusually well. Lieut.June is at present in charge, but there is a major who belongs to us who is coming some time. Lieut. june is a man who has had almost 20 years' experience in the army, and is a very pleasant man to work with; we wish they'd make him Major and have him permanently in charge. The 2nd Lieutenants in the Train are Wade, Moody, Butler, Greene, Achorn, and Spaulding; we each have command of one of the six truck companies in the Train when all the men are here and everything gets going. Wade is the humorist of the crowd; he is going to be transferred, however, tomorrow, at his own request, to the machine gun co. in the 304th regiment, and some one from that co. is coming down here; I am certainly sorry to see him leave our outfit. Moody is the oldest man among us, about thirty years; he comes from Hartford, right near my home, and has a big insurance business there; he gets on my nerves a little, in fact, quite a little, for he talks a great many more times than he ever says anything, and strikes me as being very superficial; too much insurance selling must have permanently oiled his tongue to work without needing any impetus from the brain centres above; but he's a pleasant chap, and I haven't any idea of any friction ever arising. Peanut Jim Moody we call him sometimes - you told me a peanut story about yourself & the little girl who dubbed you with the same romantic nickname, so I'll tell you how Jim got his. One day up at Plattsburg we were having a conference out back of the barracks, and had been talking about getting men's confidence; so Moody got up and said that a genuine test for telling whether men had real confidence in you or not was to say to them, "I have something in my pocket which I have never seen, which you have never seen, which no one has ever seen. Do you believe it?, said mysterious article to be a peanut - inside its shell. Nobody could quite see why he should say anything quite so ridiculous - for he was really in earnest, and he surely got his share of kidding after that, being greeted with frequent questions such as "What have you got in your pocket, Jim?", "Have you seen the peanut yet, Jim?", and so on. We remind him of it once in a while even now, and I guess he doesn't like it very much. Now for the other men - Butler we'd better pass over, as he doesn't feel equal to an autobiography this afternoon. Greene is a lawyer, a good solid sort of chap; but he hates army life in all its aspects. Achorn had his commission before the Plattsburg course began, so that he was an officer & instructor there; he always seemed kind of sour and offish but I've quite changed my opinion of him since we have been together here; he is a chap a little younger than I, very sensible, very pleasing in personality, and altogether likable, I think. Spaulding I like exceedingly well too; he is very polished in manners, and very interesting; a man whom I enjoy talking to, or rather listening to, for he talks fluently & interestingly and is full of rich & fresh ideas - possibly it's the way he puts them, however, which attracts me the most.
The drafted men, just 34 thus far, who have been assigned to the Supply Train are a fine spirited, willing lot of men; it has been a mighty pleasant surprise to find them so universally that way, and if the rest who are coming measure up to them, we ought to have a pretty fine outfit . I took two of the men downtown with me the other day to carry up a big bunch of bananas I had bought for the mess; the bananas were much heavier than I thought, so I begged a ride up from some officer I found downtown, but he couldn't take me quite all the way; and in carrying it the balance of the distance to the quarters we passed a bunch of Italians whom one of the men had been bossing earlier in the summer. The Italians gave their old boss the laugh to see him at his perhaps rather menial task.
Perhaps you might be interested to see the pictures I am enclosing - they were taken the Sunday before I saw you, while I was at my home. The group of five (picture No.1) is my immediate family: reading from left to right, my father, my brother Ralph, my sister Lucinthia, myself, and my mother. The group of nine (picture No.2) contains my aunts and uncles with whom we live and my brother's lady: reading from left to right, top row, my Uncle Will, my mother, my Aunt Sarah, my Uncle George , and my Aunt Lucy; bottom row, left to right, my brother, his girl, my sister & probably you know the other one. The other two pictures probably don't need much discussion: the bad light and the blur in the one where we're facing the camera make me look like Gen.Pershing (I don't mind throwing bouquets at myself, do I?) Do as you please about returning No.1, (that's the group of five, my own family) as I have another print of it; please return the others sometime when you think of it - no hurry. I thought you might like to keep that one of my family. I had Father get an extra one printed for me.
When you go up to Hemlock Manor are you going to pack up a crate of cantaloupes and send me for my mess? - my perfectly good mess; flyless and palatable to the highest degree, which my fellow lieutenants dare to disparage with the ancient army chestnut "This sure is a mess, Butsie."
Your friend as always Sylvester.
[From the content of this letter, there are definitely letters of Eva's missing. Also Sylvester typed this letter and made a few typing errors, that is, hit wrong and extra keys, etc., that I have left as is. He corrected some of them but those in this letter are his and not my typing errors. Also his margins are crooked and he didn't double space. ]
[note- no date and can't read the postmark
except for Sept and 1917, but from content it seems to have been
started on Sept 17th and finished up on the 19th]
We have had a gorgeous sunset this evening, and I have been watching it from my back door. There is still the faintest dull red lingering glow. It started out with a gorgeous red pervading the whole sky, making a sympathetic reflective glitter even over to the eastern horizon. I have been watching it as it settled down, and trying to pick out images from the cloud forms, and been thinking of another sunset back awhile - not the end of the Sunset Trail this time, but the one you and I watched on the homeward way from our first trip to Hemlock Manor - Doughty's Mill then. I wonder if you remember it; that wonderful radiant red, and then , as the sky darkened, the big sword-fish? Was it in that same dusk that the big hand stretched up from the horizon? I couldn't find a sword-fish tonight, nor a hand. But I saw a perfect enlargement of our wish-bone, which you wore and I wore; and being a prophet and soothsayer , though not a seventh son of a seventh son, I have made bold to call it a good omen. - Complete night now; so good-night.
I have been busily engaged for the last hour making myself a shelf, and all the sawing that I have done must have cramped my hand; at least I don't seem to be able to write decently. Carpentering is about as much my line as crocheting or knitting, but the shelf seems to have been able to hold what I've put on it thus far.
We don't have our happy home quite so much to ourselves now, as somebody seems to have learned how much breathing space we had and sent all the possible extras down to take it up. But thus far we've been able to keep them crowded in the extra rooms & keep our own to ourselves . Our new neighbors are quite a mixture, two veterinary doctors, one dentist, one surgeon, and two quartermasters.
You ought to see what sweet chocolate fiends we are. In the army that seems to be the favorite candy, and it would be interesting to know how many million cakes have been consumed by "uniforms" this year. At Plattsburg I had hardly but to step out the back door & get it, so I'd just get one cake at a time when I wanted it, and that would insure my not eating too much. But here we have to go down-town to get it, so we get a boxful at a time, which means a tendency to nibble at it all the time, but for 24 hours I have succeeded in keeping myself down to half a cake immediately after each meal & none in between - these nice luscious big cakes of Baker's. It's strange, but every place I go I seem to have a different candy habit; when I was in New Britain, it was these licorice tablets; in Pleasantville, it was mints with a sprinkling of Hub wafers and lime drops for Sunday afternoons; and now it's sweet chocolate. Perhaps lolly-pops will be next in order.
This little town of Ayer is pretty much lost with all the soldiers that have suddenly been dropped on it. It's only half as large as Pleasantville in population, so you can imagine what a change we make in it. It seems as though its stores must be making money hand over fist, for of course they are simply crowded every night. The town itself is not ver attractive looking, what I have seen of it. The camp is about a mile out of town, that is, the entrance to the camp.
The other day there was a harmless little man strolled over into the Supply Train section and began drawing pictures. He made a sketch of Lieut.June & Lieut.Achorn, and a number of the men in the outfit, and then happened to stroll in the dining room where I was having a conference. I tried to jolly him out of doing anything so rash as to attempt to portray my humble physiognomy, told him he'd better strike for a colonel or some really important man, quoted the old adage about fools' names & fools' faces, but all to no avail. So the enclosed clipping, ridiculous clipping, let me say, from the Boston Traveler of Sept.14, is the result. Just to let you have an insight into my real nature, I'll tell you that I ordered three extra copies of that evening's newspaper after it came out, and now am sending you one, to show you how famous I am, - or foolish, which? Anyway, we've had a lot of fun over them here. June or Achorn don't look anything like their sketches, and the prizefighter profile labelled J.B.Butler can hardly be called an exact reproduction of the real thing. Please don't think I was so idiotic as to pose for the little artist; I merely told him to go ahead while I continued what I was doing, if it gave him any pleasure. [note - this newspaper pictorial is in Sylvester's AEF scrapbook.]
I expect to go down home Sunday, or rather Saturday afternoon, and come back Sunday evening. It doesn't seem possible, but i've been almost a month here. All the other Supply Train officers except Lieut. June and myself have hired a car and gone up to Lowell to a show to- night, as things are very quiet this evening. We surely have beautiful sunsets here; tonight there were many delicate tints, particularly pink. It is fast getting time to record the day's thrillers & then retire. Didn't Hamlet say "To die To sleep; perchance to dream?" Whether he did or not, anybody could say that, but not everyone would dream of having a colonel come to take breakfast, of seeing the mess sergeant put bread pudding on the table to top off an already big one, so that you worried your head off because the colonel would think you a fool mess officer for letting such a thing happen. About then I woke up.
Your friend as always
Tbere seem to be always plenty of available excuses for writing with pencil: not that you need any, for its the letters I read, and not the material they are written with, but your lateset is certainly an ingenious one. But what I Started to say was that I am at a loss to find a real legitimate excuse for penning you these few lines on the typewriter; for my fountain pen is still going and I still have ink left beside in spot s on the floor; also, as it needs only half an eye to see , I am no expert on this infernal machine. However, the story is just this: I started to write the Bay State Fish Co. of Boston and after I had the place and the date written I discovered that, I didn't know their address, so you are getting the letter instead, except that I can hardly write you to send a man around to quote me prices on haddock and other inexpensive aqueous animals. This all must sound very flattering, but please let me say in self-defense that I was going to write you anyway tonight; and then too I hope you will be appreciably honored to be addressed on the 76th Division's Supply Train's official typewriter. It hasn't had a very long training but still it is a very well behaved thing, and it's an Underwood, "the kind you will eventually buy" according to its advertisements-- you probably have seen the big elephantine sized model at the entrance to the Heinz pier on the Boardwalk. There can be no question about its being good if for no other reason that it is made in Hartford, Conn. Speaking of Connecticut, though, the newly arrived troops , or rather recruits from there have a bad name in camp for I am told that some hundreds came intoxicated and three were so crazy that last night they had to be manacled; and they had all sorts of fights among themselves on the way up, so were a decidedly sorry looking crew when they arrived.-------I am beginning to think that this kind of writing makes one rather light- headed. I wonder how all the intruders found their way to Hemlock Manor. We certainly should have put some No Trespassing Signs around it last spring. Your success with the bean cropshould I'm sure entitle you to a Distinguished Service Medal from the Agricultural Army. I am surely sorry that you can't go up there with any assurance of having it to yourselves. You have me stuck on that little puzzle of yours--the gentleman whose name begins with D. and who proved himself very useful, along with some brass fixings. As you happened to mention that you hadn't seen Davis, I see that I've got to guess again. I must be stupid, but I'm going to give up. Does the answer appear in the next issue? Davis told me when he saw me in Pleasantville that he expected to run for assemblyman. Eva, I am awfully sorry that you have such long hours, and that you are beginning to feel tired already/ Perhaps its only just getting used to the new work that has made you feel so; I surely hope so. Of course this is an old story I am going to tell you, --don't rob your sleeping hours. I hope, too, with you that the change your father is going to make won't mean that you'll have to leave your aunt's. We have been having a couple of rainy days and the roads about the camp are again perfect swimming pools of mud. Last night and this morning we had a very thick fog, which seems to be quite characteristic of this locality; I had to go down town and got hold of a jitney not far from our barracks to take medown; well this jitney got lost in the fog and wandered all the camp before th e driver found his way out, and the bouncing around I got was a-plenty, for the roads are nothing but a series of bumpsand the wet weather makes them only worse; one bump we went over sent me flying up so that my head hit the top a beautiful crack. When we got down town, however, the driver proved himself to be the eighth wonder of the world by refusing to take any fare, saying that I'd had enough jounced out of me. Most of these jitney drivers try to take half your month's salary for a two-block ride. I guess a good many people think they are going to reap a fortune off the soldiers who are here, for I have heard of one small unfurnished house that was offered for rent at a thousand dollars a month. That seems too ridiculous to be mentioned, but at least that's the story going the rounds. I think I'll have to say good-night , and add my customary, though needless injunction: Be a good girl.
Your friend as always,
I have just gotten back from a visit to Cromwell; I have travelled since six o'clock and it is now nearly one. I am nearly frozen to death , and am therefore devoutly appreciative of a nice coal fire which I have found burning in the kitchen range, and which I am now hugging about as close to without getting burned as possible. I left here right after dinner yesterday noon, and arrived home about supper-time; might also say that the supper which followed was a forcible reminder that there could be better eating than at Lieut. Butler's mess - but then such things as green corn and peaches can't be afforded here yet. I spent most all this morning living in the past, I might say; for I went thru all my maze of papers, notes, clippings, mementoes, letters, etc., and packed them away with my books and other belongings, after looking them over & sorting them out in a little better order than they had been. My brother is still at his camp, although they have been expecting to be moved out before this; as luck would have it again, he had to-day off and has been up home, so that we've had an unexpected chance to see each other again. He has been giving me first lessons in running the car this afternoon. We all drove over to Meriden in the late afternoon, where I took the train up and Ralph the train down. It's been a long journey and I'm glad it's over with; I could only go as far as Worcester by train and the rest of the way I have to come by trolley this time of night. I met another officer from Hartford on the train who got off at Worcester and took the trolley ride too, so that I had some company. There was a frowsy, slightly discordant Italian band on the trolley who entertained us with choice selections; our chief fear was that they would play the Star Spangled Banner, which some were continually suggesting; however, we decided we wouldn't get up and salute, despite Army Regulations, considering all the circumstances in the case. One of the band had some kind of a horn, which he rather liked to blow, and after one particularly loud blast which evidently made a woman in front think it was being blown in her ear on purpose, a gentle, feminine voice warbled "If you blow that horn in my ear & get fresh again I'll smash your face in."
I'm not entirely thawed out yet, but I must get going to bed for the scant four hours that are left before reveille. I got some sleep on the train which will make up for part of it. I don't believe this is a very interesting letter, but I'll have to plead the late hour, following a trip which, though naturally pleasant, has made me a bit weary.
Good-night Your friend as always
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