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SBButler Letters, December 1917
The Morning After Thanksgiving
I went to the basketball game last night between Pleasantville Regulars and Millville. We beat. It was some game. I don't believe I ever saw a game quite so rough. Two Millville fellows were knocked out, one of them having something like a fit.
After my house cleaning campaign yesterday I am quite bruised up. I made a cake and as we can buy only lump sugar down here, I had to put some sugar in a bag and pound it up, incidently I pounded all my thumbs also. I can not say whether this made the cake a pound cake or not, but could not get Frank up this morning.
I don't think I told you that neither Edgar Baker nor Harris were accepted. They weren't but I don't know why.
Miss Tolbert told me to tell you the next time I wrote, that Mr. Lake was not responsible for your things not arriving as she didn't get the last of them down to him until the 26th of November but she says, she thinks, he sent them off that night.
Tuesday night [Dec.4, 1917]
I really have been working so hard for the past two or three days that I scarcely have had time to breathe. I got your Sunday letter this morning [note - this letter seems to be missing] and, I am ashamed to say, haven't sent mine yet.
I am glad you had a lovely Thanksgiving at home with your family.
If your brother does as you think he will, I wish him happiness and the girl, too. I like her from her pictures that you have showed me. I don't usually like light haired people but she doesn't look "lac-a-daisy-call" (spelled wrong) she looks so sunny and happy, as I suppose she is, and therefore her hair just seemed to suit her. One time when I went to a party at Miss Ryon's, Helen Collins, a blond, played the piano; she fell asleep at least sixteen times in the process. That just about finished me with blonds so I evaporated before I would spoil it all by helping her out with a snore.
Please! Please! Please!
Don't spend too much time skating. Not that I'll feel jealous because I'm not but it wouldn't do to neglect your work "donshew know", you might get court martialed or hung or shot at sunrise or something and that would be terrible. Think of the Headlines, "Young Officer goes on a Skate! Gets Court Martialed," or "Promising Lieutenant dies from a Skate." That would never do. The boys of Pleasantville High School might only read the head lines and misinterpret the word skate and think because you did skate they might also. You know several of them have enlisted, or tried too and then if Mildred Burns would see it, it would kill her completely. She called me aside yesterday and asked me if you were in France yet. I said I don't know. Wasn't I terrible but you said that if a week went by without me hearing from you you might be on the move somewhere, the week was up today, so I really didn't know, did I? She annoys me anyway.
We never get out any more. It seems to take up all our time to cook and clean up and maybe read and study a little. I miss the long walks and the good out-door times we had together. Each Sunday we declare that we positively will go out the following Sunday and next Sunday we're stuck in again. I am so anxious to go out and get my partridge berries. I believe, it is almost time for holly to be red now, too. Didn't you say that you had no holly up North? I call it up North but Mr. Hammell - he comes from Maine, calls it down East. Now why in the world is it down East. It should be up East it seems to me as it is down South. Mr. Long, our Secretary, was "down East" last week and he told us about the rain-snow I mentioned in my other letter. We are having much nicer weather now - I mean warmer weather.
Have you learned all the parts of the engines yet? Their names & functions and how many? Are your supply trucks anything like the machine gun truck I saw up in Cousin John's camp?
I have a half minute to finish and I can't think of a thing to say.
Still rushed to death so please excuse blots.
We have had a regular blizzard all day. You know our house is down near the bay and we can see the boats, quite large ones at that, being tossed up all over the meadows.
The meadow grass is quite high now and it is prancing and tossing its self and looks like a gigantic herd of buffalos rushing across some prairie.
It certainly is an awful storm.
It is lovely and clear today and you never would think there had been a storm such as we had yesterday. It must be awful for people who are not warmly housed and those people up in Halifax.
We had a boat go down of Atlantic City yesterday with all on board and there are several others missing. I guess lots of damage was done to the fishing boats around in this section.
We had a snow storm over night and, think of it, I never discovered it the first time I got up not even until I had breakfast cooked and went out for milk.
Miss Tolbert's mother is coming down to spend Christmas with us so it seems I am to have a real Christmas with a family and all. We are going to have a tree. Our excuse, of course, is Frank. We don't know whether we'll have old Santa or not but we want to have one good jolly Christmas. Maybe our little "Freckled Faced Boy" (Harold) will be down, too, and I just love crowds of happy people around Christmas and children are always happy when they get hosts of good things.
It's lots of fun trimming a tree, too, but I suppose you know that.
Frank has been out hunting holly for us already so I believe we will be quite much decorated.
Remember the holly and bittersweet we found when Elva Block took us down that meadow road. That was after the day we had first gone skating (was it not?) and our lovely cut glass cup was so hopelessly smashed.
That seems long over a year ago doesn't it?
I hope you have a dandy Christmas, too. Do they still have a tree for you? I suppose you'll be home for Christmas.
Is your brother finally settled with you?
It certainly was too bad that Mr. Winch died so suddenly wasn't it? He is to be buried this afternoon. I believe it must have been quite a shock to Mrs. Winch because it certainly was unexpected. It certainly is an awful day for a funeral as the wind is blowing the snow all over.
I am going to get my Saturday, Sunday, Monday letter off early this week to make up for last week's delay.
I am free for the morning, practically, as I believe Mr. Hammill has been snowed in. He just called up to find out if there was any important business and three times during the conversation he wanted to know if it were cold out. He also talked to Mr. Long and Mr. Long said he had asked him twice if it were cold. So I don't believe he will dare come out until afternoon as he knows we nearly froze walking up the railroad. It's a good thing he feels the cold so easily as that makes him keep the fire boy on the jump.
Have to stop
Mr Winch died this morning trying to
drag a boy upstairs to Dr. North
Father and Mother paid me a surprise visit this week. Ralph's furlough was up Friday night and they brought him up here Friday in the machine. They took supper with me and staid thru the early evening; then we took Ralph to his barracks, and I got a place down in Ayer for Father and Mother to stay. They went into Boston and down to Wellesley in the early morning yesterday, and after some effort found Lucinthia and drove back with her in the afternoon. We drove around and all over the cantonment while it was still daylight - I suppose everything looks alike to the visitor, and he doesn't remember much of the details you tell him in your capacity of guide, such as, "This is the Base Hospital," "This is the section of buildings occupied by the 302nd Field Artillery Regiment," "This is the Camp Bakery" etc. etc., but just go away with the impression that it's a tremendous big place with an awful lot of buildings. The whole Butler family sat down together at one table here last night, and Cook certainly spread himself to give us the best supper ever - lamb chops, French frieds, apple pie, & other good things. By the time we had finished supper, it had begun to snow real hard and we started out for an adventurous drive to Worcester, where my cousins, the Coes, live. We made it without incident, but I surely did enjoy it and the warm healthy glow that I felt all the rest of the evening after we got to our destination. What would you do if you had a whole family pounce down on you of a sudden on a snowey night? They took care of us all-right, however. I started away again in the middle of the morning to get back here and am spending the afternoon in somewhat solitary fashion. I have been writing the New York times to-day to see if I can get a few back numbers to complete my set of Sunday picture supplements I have been saving since the European war began in 1914; I am short 3 copies in 1914, none at all in 1915, 1 in 1916, quite q number in 1917 for this year I haven't been able to get hold of it so readily. But now I am going to subscribe to it by mail, so as not to have any more breaks. I recently got information that my collection is very valuable, especially those numbers way back, so some fine day when I haven't anything else to do, I shall try to do a little digging and see if I really have a gold mine.
Will you please tell Miss Tolbert that the package came to me safely and that I thank her and Mr. Lake very much for taking care of it.
Ralph came back here still single, so I wasn't as shrewd as I thought I was.
I am very pleased to know that MacDougall was elected to fill Mr.Maltby's place, and I don't believe there is any question of his being able to fill it well. I heard from him early in the summer while I was at Plattsburg, but never since then. I haven't heard a word from Davis either; I don't understand why he never wrote me more, for we saw so much of each other last year, but I guess he's not of the corresponding kind.
If you tell M.Burns that I'm in France, then wait a couple of weeks, you perhaps can then make her believe I've met a tragic end, and won't be bothered with any more questions.
Have I learned all the parts of an engine yet? When I do, you'll find celluloid men walking in flames unscathed, or nickels rolling up-hill. Machinery is the most incomprehensible thing in the world to me, except some of those idiots who are still going around and asking "what are we fighting for?" Of course, as I've said before, most all the men in my organization have been auto-drivers in civilian life; that's why they were assigned to us. I selected two or three of the best, most expert men in the company to act as sort of instructors for the rest in the conferences we have every afternoon, and for an hour every evening. We have a couple of old motors to work on, and the men I put in charge take up different parts each day, discussing their functions, how they perform it, how they can be repaired when you have trouble with them, and so on. They get up good arguments, sometimes, which I am glad to see, and the men are pretty responsive about telling experiences they have had in getting out of certain engine troubles and into them, too, I might say. Incidentally, I attend all the conferences, and of course absorb as much as I can. And naturally I don't let on how much of a maze it all looks to me at times. I feel that I have a pretty good running company. The men are a good lot, and I think for the most part they are working with me, and want, with me, to have it the best outfit in the Supply Train.
All the officers of the Train are feeling glum this week over the fact that we are to lose Lieut. June on the 15th; our Major is going to show up for the first time on that date, and Lieut. June is then going to take up some new duties. We supposed & it was contemplated at first that when the Major came he would be his adjutant, but that has been changed, and Lieut. Moody is going to be the adjutant, permanently; he has been acting adjutant all fall while Lieut. June has been acting commanding officer in the absence of the Major. Furthermore Moody is going to be made a 1st lieutenant, and we are none of us pleased for he is universally disliked among us. He was the one who told that asinine peanut story at Plattsburg. We know that Major Schoonmaker doesn't want to come with us, because his interest is in straight infantry work, and we wish they would make Lieut. June a Major and the permanent commanding officer of the Train, but I'm afraid it won't be done. Our happy home is about to disintegrate, in part, at least. Moody reminds me in some ways of Cruse, though he doesn't have some of the latter's bad habits. His pet boast is that he's never had a smoke or a drink, which only shows him to be a little different variety of an ass. They are both consummate hoaxes. It seems as though everywhere I go there has to be one such person to take some of the joy out of life. As a matter of fact, I get along with Moody fairly well; I do most of my exploding behind his back.
I have just finished taking a half hour off for supper, and your latest letter arrived in the meantime. Mr. Winch surely went all of a sudden and I am mighty sorry to hear it. I'll never forget hearing him as he went thru his spasms last fall.
I heartily sympathize with you on your dislike for book-keeping. Who ever could like it must be a very dull and unimaginative sort of person.
The Ordnance Corps is very similar to the Quartermaster Corps in its functions. In brief, it has oversight of the procuring and dispersing of all kinds of property coming under the head of Ordnance, which includes principally munitions and ammunition. Such articles as clothing, construction equipment & food come under the head of Quartermaster property and are procured by the Quartermaster department.
Friday last it became as long since I last said good-bye to you, as it was from the time I left you before going to Plattsburg until I saw you in Philadelphia. I wish I might be paying you a visit in your home to-night. You surely have been very nice to me in writing me so often this fall, and I appreciate it very much. I am going to ask you to change my address to read
301st Supply Train instead of Division Supply Train; if it is so addressed a letter will be forwarded more surely to its correct destination if it came here after we had left.
What are you going to do Christmas? Stay in Pleasantville alone? I think probably I shall be able to get down home, but can't be sure. One fifth of us will have to stay, so the question resolves itself into whether it will fall my lot to be one of the unlucky fifth or not.
This will be a fine place to drill around to-morrow morning, with all the snow on the ground. I guess the first thing I'll have to do will be to make a snow shovel brigade out of my company.
The camp is full of measles and one of the companies of the Supply Train is under quarantine. I hope it doesn't spread to Co.3. No one can go into the quarantined barracks except officers & doctors for they're not allowed to catch the measles. I've had them anyway.
I ran across a little poem to-day I rather liked for its expression of its subject, even though it is all tragedy: let me give it to you.
To know what Youth is, and to feel its power
To know what Love is in its sweetest hour;
To hear the night wind sighing
Full of whispers,
Full of tears;
To know that you must live on
Thru all the waiting years
Outside the Gate.
To feel the white morn slipping
Forever from your grasp;
To see the daylight fading into night -
You hoped would pass!
Ah! the Promised Land is fading,
And I face the long, long wait;
The Awakening Morn will find me
Outside the Gate.
Now I wish I had a nice one full of optimism to balance this. Perhaps I might write one of your own sunniest out for you. I don't believe I have a reputation as a pessimist, anyway; I should hate to have one, for an open pessimist is surely a disagreeable person. Perhaps I am always looking for the unattainable and that makes me an inward pessimist. But it leaves me free to enjoy what is beautiful, and what man can't stain, and for that I'm thankful. I speak abstractly and more or less meaninglessly, I imagine. In short, my longer acquaintance with human nature doesn't increase my faith in it. But why should I bother you with this?
I must say good-night, for I have a lot of work to do.
Your friend as always
Your letter received and it was the first long one in a long while.
I'm so glad you had such a happy weekend and that the Cook did his best. Our cook, meanin'me, worked hard Sunday too. She turned out a delicious rice pudding but also she had her first attempt at pumpkin pie making and tho she strove her hardest they turned out typical "Newlyweds". First Frank nearly died with laughter and then with indigestion so I fear if I am not careful I will be a murderess yet.
Could it have been the apple pie that was the cause of the ending to your letter? Why should you lose faith in human nature. You shouldn't you know. It's awful when you do. Once I had no faith in anyone or anything and oh! I was so unhappy. Many times I wanted to die and many times I would have if it had not been that I was afraid. Not afraid to die but afraid I wouldn't and would live on worse than dead. You who have had a mother to love you and a happy home shouldn't lose faith for they are all. You'll always know she cares if no one else does. Once I thot there was no truth in the world and I had no faith in anyone. I don't know why I changed but I do remember hearing, "If we knew all we'd forgive all." It's good philosophy, I think, and I'm trying to apply it.
Please why did you send me such a sad sad poem. It's a pretty poem but I don't like it. I bet a woman wrote it because a man would have climed over the gate or looked to see if it were unlocked. If she weren't large enough to reach the latch she should have waited and someday some one else might have come and let her in. Or perhaps if she had called, the owner might have let her in. She shouldn't have dispaired she should have hoped in spite of everything. It's usually light here at 6:30 here but it was dark until eight this morning. Now have I sufficiently criticised your poem.
We are having snow, snow, snow all the time down here. I like it but I suppose I shouldn't as it's very inconvenient to many people.
I'm glad you and your boys get along so well. I hope your division will be the best in the service and it certainly ought to be if you work with them as you did at school.
I think it will be so mean if they keep you away over Christmas. You have never been away from home over Christmas, have you? This is going to be our first Christmas and of course a brand new Christmas must get a fitting reception so we rather expect to have a nice one.
I'm tired of writing checks, as I've been doing considerable of the evening, so I think I shall write you. Isn't that a compliment?
This has been a sort of housecleaning week. The half of Co.1 which has been in the barracks with my men has moved out, since it finally was able to get its own barracks, and now I can use the room they vacated for a recreation room. I have had the pool table set up there today, which has been waiting for this for two months. My piano will go in to-morrow, and all our magazines & books be arranged on the tables, and everything be made as nice & homelike for the men as possible. A less pleasant form of housecleaning has been cleaning out my mess sergeant. He had been taking some stores from the company mess and selling or taking them home, and the kitchen was not running right at all; so he was relieved of his duties yesterday, after an investigation which lasted an afternoon and a morning, and I got him transferred to another organization.
Four of the officers of the Supply Train will have to be here Christmas. We'll probably draw lots to see who has his luck with him. With only 6 out of 10 going I don't feel very certain about spending Xmas at home. It surely looks as though you were going to have a fine Christmas.
I have been unable to get Ralph's case determined yet, and he is not yet transferred to us. I can't even get them to transfer him temporarily to us until it is determined just what they want to do with him. It's all very exasperating, more than I can tell.
Yes, Monday is the anniversary of our first skating day. I'm afraid I haven't any very suitable means with which to celebrate it. I might put a stealthy bit of bitter-sweet, saved from the party you sent me, into my pocket to carry thru the day, "seeing as" army men can't wear button-hole bouquets.
........... girl who always belonged to that church and thus they knew Jennie - etc. and thru them heard of Miss Tolbert. He is from Philadelphia and was going to college but cut so much he was flunked out. He is passionately fond of the violin and played some wonderful pieces for us last night. Had he graduated from college his father was to have sent him to Germany to study music but he, like many other young people, did not realize the value of education and let his opportunity slip from him and now is trying to make up for what he has lost.
They have a home with most everything in it that one could wish for. The living room is quite long with a lovely untanned leather brown color rug on the floor. A wonderful place at one end and it has the comfiest chairs - all mahogany about it. The windows are all rather high all white and cretonne curtained. At the foot of the open stair case stands the piano and his wife plays that while he plays the violin. He has at least a million books it seems to me. On each side of the fireplace there is a built in book case and all the walls of his den are covered with books. He doesn't work but he spends three hours daily on music and lots of time in study. He is quite a philanthropist. I like to talk to him and his wife they are so interesting. She has the most wonderful hair it is all Titian [med-dark red] when the sun strikes it and I like that.
We didn't get home until twelve last night and, I declare, I have done everything backward. I put sugar on my toast and Miss Tolbert made me drink coffee to straighten me out and she just saved me from putting salt in that. I didn't get up until 25 minutes before time to be at work so I made her get up and help with breakfast. I had to take the car from Pleasantville Station up at the cemetery - a one minute ride and a ten minute walk. The car has saved my life twice now as it gets me there exactly on time.
It is most mailtime
P.S. I spose your horrid old Major is arriving about now.
The family think they are safe from my Sunday attack as we are out of flour. I am fooling them tho as I have just ordered a bag.
I've been off again this week-end on a little trip, and on my return found your nice interesting letter. I'm sure your Friday evening group must be a pleasant one. A home such as the one you told me about naturally appeals to you.
I have promised some people in Arlington, near Boston, to go in and visit, for a long time, and I finally paid the visit to-day. They are a Mr. & Mrs. Rosie, old friends of the family. Mrs. Rosie formerly lived in Cromwell, right next to our old home. She has two boys, 15 and 13, whom I remember when they were little bits of tots. Rather of a strange thing - just a couple of days ago, the oldest boy had developed some pictures from some of his uncle's old photographic plates, which were taken in Cromwell some eleven or twelve years ago; and two or three of which I had graced. You wouldn't know me, I don't believe. These people have a pleasant home in a newly built up part of Arlington, overlooking a fine playground and skating pond. There were a great many folks skating there to-day. I am wondering if you haven't been skating this afternoon. Up here they tell me we are having below zero weather, but it doesn't feel that cold at all.
Major Schoonmakar arrived Saturday morning, and was here for about an hour and a half, then went away over Sunday. I'll have to be careful where I leave your letter adjectiving him as "horrid old"; in the first place, on general principles; in the second place, because he can't be over 35 and he seems very pleasant. I suppose that after to-morrow Lieut. June will be no longer with us, and we feel pretty glum about that. We all sort of suspect our peanut-man Moody of intriguing in the matter, for he is going to get a 1st lieutenancy out of the shake-up.
This week we've been prevented from doing much by the considerable depth of snow. I did have my company spend a whole day clearing off a drill field, but before I got a chance to use it another tremendous storm came up Thursday night.
Co.3, 301st Supply Train, 2nd Lieut.S.B.Butler, Commanding, will give a dance at Intercolonial Hall, Roxbury (part of Boston), Friday evening, Dec.21st, to raise money for their company fund. I've had a committee of 3 men down in Boston working it up, getting tickets printed, getting ads for the program, and getting the program printed, and making all arrangements, off and on the last two weeks. They have sold $500 worth of ads for the program, which is mighty good, especially as Boston is about bled dry for that sort of thing, and for Halifax relief, and so on.
I'm afraid I'll have to stop. I ought to write a dozen letters to-night, but that's no sign I'm going to write more than a couple. I don't write any more to amount to anything.
There was skating here Saturday night and Sunday and we never went. Our first skating party was, as you said, a year ago today and I think we might go tonight. Frank went yesterday and he says it is great.
It has been awful cold down here we couldn't even keep the house warm. We are having snow all the time, too. I suppose you are having too much of it for your pleasure and satisfaction.
I wonder why they don't settle your brother's case. There is always so much red tape connected with such things you never seem to be able to get anything done.
There has been an effort made at the High S. to get it entered in the interscholastic debate at Rutgers by sending C.Penhollow, Mr. Keutcher and Mr.Waldron to New Brunswick as delegates. A man was here from the college to see Miss Tolbert and it was thru their influence that this happened. There was a debate on "Freedom of the Press in Wartime." Miss Tolbert's side was against it. Mr.Waldron's for it. Miss Tolbert's side Mr.Keutcher (a freshie) and Mr.Burrell won against the other Virginia Anderson - who broke down completely and I've forgotten the other just this minute.
Did I tell you in my other letter that Mama had fallen and broken her arm at the shoulder? Just as if it isn't bad enough for Dad to be sick himself.
I broke my pen holder and the pen I'm using is not two inches long - not saying my writing would be better with a longer one.
It seems to me there is some coal gas in this room as I'm getting an awful headache. This old fire up here runs spasmodically and sometimes it certainly does send out lots of gas.
I saw Dr.Harley this noon and he had gone up to see Dad and says he is getting better. Dad tho't he would at least be out by Christmas but Dr.Harley doesn't think he will be.
I certainly have had indigestion lately and it doesn't appear to get any better so I'm going down to the doctor's tonight. My missels have fallen on myself instead of the others. I have been to the doctor's and he says cutting teeth has upset my nervous system but seeing as they are wisdom teeth I ought to be wise enough not to get indigestion.
I have been working quite hard lately making Christmas presents but as yet I haven't finished and I am only making a few.
I think Frank is going after our tree tonight, unless it rains for a change which it appears to want to do at present.
The manor is entirely down, I've been told, so we can't have any more fire-place parties there, altho I believe the chimneys were left standing but I suppose that last storm we had has blown them down now. All the outbuildings are down, too.
Do you know yet whether or not you will be home for Christmas?
Miss Tolbert gets a long Christmas - until the Monday after New Year's. That's to save coal.
I have no more news.
I have just had to write Mother that I won't be home Christmas. I expect it will be a bit lonesome around, despite all the people, and I'll be glad when the holidays are over with, for my part. The War Department has ruled that only 5% of the men can go on Christmas leaves, and while a fair percentage of the officers can go, I'm not even trying to, for with the men of my company, all except four, here under compulsion, I would hardly feel right in going away. I have got to bestin my wits to keep them entertained, and keep their minds off where they wish they were. And to do this for 70 men, I feel is somewhat of a task. This 5% ruling is going to apply to all holidays and weekends in the future, so the men aren't going to get home very often. It makes it especially hard to have them so near & yet so far from home, as you might say.
I suppose Ralph is likely to get stuck up here. too. I wish he might get down home. But even more, I wish something would move to get him over with us, but that business seems to be dished for the time being.
I'm getting so sleepy I don't know what I'm talking about. You'll hear more from me soon.
I just got your Sunday letter last night. I heard the New York trains were snow-bound so I suppose that accounts for it.
I suppose by the time you get this you will have danced, "downsed" if you please, the whole night thru or at least into the "wee small hours of the morning." That's the proper country-town newspaper way of saying it is it not?
Frank went to English Creek in Babe's father's machine today and got us a dandy tree so at least we have the tree, if nothing to put on it. He also got us a little holly. We want to go and get some holly either tomorrow or Saturday.
Do you have your Christmas at home or don't you know yet?
Now, how do you know I wouldn't recognize you in a picture of a dozen years ago! I can almost see myself in the first picture I ever had taken and that was taken many more than a dozen years ago so it 'pears to me that this is proof conclusive that I would recognize a picture only a dozen years old and especially if I had an idea before starting.
Katie & Frank and I are all going to pack mother's & dad's box together as this way we can make it much nicer, so I suppose I really should be working on their presents but I am stealing a few moments.
I was looking thru my things the other day and I found my yellow lady slipper so naturally I looked up its pedigree or family tree or family plant or what shall I say. I also read your letter about it over again. Then I started in to read some others and got an awful "call down" for sitting up so late and as it is fast approaching the same time as yester eve I fear I must stop.
Best wishes for the holiday.
Please let me know whether you are going to be home Christmas or not.
Christmas time and again the whole world feels glad even if only for a few moments.
When I was small I was always sighing for Christmas to come every week. Not because, I am afraid, I was filled with the true Christmas spirit but my delight, I dare say, was mostly with old Santa or rather what he brought. Never could we wait until proper rising time on Christmas morning. Whenever we awoke we were allowed to go down stairs. Once, I remember waking about five minutes after I went to sleep and almost lost my Christmas for my pains. Aunt Katie and Melie always sent us a hamper full of things when we were small and such a time as we had over them. And greater was the time if each article were not tagged so that one could tell perfectly for whom it was meant
We always wrote letters to Santa and begged Dad to have our chimney cleaned out for Santa doesn't like to come down a chimney that is dirty because he gets his nice new coat all black and sooty. Are you sure you have written to Santa and have had your chimney cleaned out? Needful precautions, indeed, are these.
I like Christmas time for its jolly crowds and brightness, and holly and cedar, and its surprises, too. I just love surprises, I mean I like them very much.
There is a Christmas spirit and it makes you feel the truth of that old saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." I don't know why. Perhaps you feel it's just a time when every one should be happy and you just jump in and "do your bit" to help make them so.
Christmas makes me feel insignificant. It makes me want to do so much. Some "Goodfellow" takes care of some ragged little urchin on Christmas Day. He shows him a royal good time perhaps and there is no doubt that the little fellow's heart is gladdened and he sure is happy for that one day but what about the other three hundred and sixty-five? Can one good day make up for all the others?
I don't know whether you are going to be home for Christmas or not. You didn't write and tell me. Your Christmas box is supposed to be a camp Christmas box. Unless you have written a nice long letter to St. Nicholas and swept your chimney perfectly clean, I am not sure that he will want me to let you have it at all. Of course, as far as I am concerned I want you to have it but I really hate to hurt the dear soul's feelings. So, of course if you haven't made these preparations you better do so at once.
How can you ever Mother seventy children? You'll have to be seventy Santas at least.
You're so unself to stay I just hope you have a wonder Christmas. I'm sending you just a teeny weeny bit of Christmas and I hope will enjoy it properly, that is trim it properly and not put the largest things at the top - making it look top heavy. And you mustn't eat all the "trimmies" t'once and make yourself sick and I'm afraid some of them are dyed with poisonous dye so please be careful and maybe you better not eat them at all. The candles are some that remained from my birthday cake and I thot perhaps you would like to have them to light your Christmas tree and do be careful and not set anything on fire! Does that sound sufficiently worried?
I am glad you're not going home. Isn't that awful? But I wouldn't have dared to send you such an awful frivolous box if you had been. Aren't I awful?
This will have to close now as I have kept it out too long.
Merry Christmas again to you and all your men.
If your tree is dead you must go and get another.
I suppose by now you have gotten that horrible substitute for a Christmas Tree.
Last night Daido and I gathered bittersweet by moonlight down at the place where we went together December 17, 1916. We also got some nice bayberry leaves down there. So pretty and green and fragrant. Our star, mine and Daido's, certainly was true blue last night. You know our star don't you?
* * * * * * X *
It is this star in the constellation "Orion" and it is a wonderful blue, especially when we feel all good spirited.
We have been working hard all day getting ready for Christmas and it's some job.
I haven't opened any of my packages yet am I not a wonderful stoic or abstainer or something?
Don't you think it was a good proper idea to inflict all those historic men on a history teacher, and especially one who has deserted his calling? It will remind him of the days when he asked, "Why didn't Columbus discover America in 1776 when the Americans discovered themselves" or "Why was Abe Lincoln so tall?"
My letter that was meant for a Christmas letter was not a nice one at all because I had to write it at the last minute as Daido hadn't been well all day. I also had to send boxes to Dad & mama. Mama's arm isn't really broken only badly sprained.
Dad won't even get out of the hospital for Christmas let alone down to Pleasantville.
Miss Tolbert's mother arrived to-day to spend the holidays and her Auntcousie - a combination of Aunt & Cousin - is coming down in a few days to spend her vacation. I have been off since Saturday and Daido has until the Monday after New Years.
Miss Hodgson is now Mrs. MacDougal. I suppose you have heard it tho before this.
Mr. Davis has enlisted in the Merchant Marine, Marion told me. She knows him quite well.
They took up a collection at school and the teachers gave Mr. Lake two and a half and the scholars also. That was fine, I think. It shows they know how to appreciate a good janitor when they get one.
I thot I'd just write you a tiny Christmas Eve note before I really got into the tree trimming business
Your letter of Thursday just reached me, so I think mails must be running very slowly, as you say. I'm sorry not to have a Christmas message to send you which will reach you on time. I sent off a package addressed to you early this morning which may also need apologies as to its lateness in arrival. I could only get them Saturday, which explains its lateness, but I'm afraid there will be no way to excuse the apparent implication it carries of over fondness for myself, in expecting anyone to give me so much shelf or wall or even box room. The idea of it is, however, at the left, to show me all dressed up (and looking for someplace to go, by the picture); the one at the right represents me in my working clothes, so to speak - the service uniform worn habitually while on duty here; and the middle is of course just a plain ordinary photograph.
I am spending the holiday right here, as I wrote you. Only 15% of the men were allowed to leave the cantonment, which meant only ten men out of my company. They are most of them taking the disappointment at not being home like good soldiers, and I hope to have tomorrow a real pleasant day for them. I got some Woolworth decorations in Fitchburg Saturday afternoon, and a number of the men have been out in the woods this morning getting hemlock boughs; and this afternoon have been decorating the mess hall. To-night I am going to try to plan out a schedule for Xmas afternoon after dinner for the men. Isn't it too bad I haven't got my old Trained Quartet, Reed, Adams, & the rest?
About five of us are going to sit down to a seventeen pound
Turk tomorrow noon. Lieut. Greene will be here with his wife,
and I think the Major will be back, also one or two other lieutenants.
Greene & Fox have been here all along, and Lieut. June most
of the time. I am acting commander of the Supply Train &
anybody who wants a pass to go down town has to come and see
me to have it signed, and report to me when he comes back. That
has been a howling nuisance. When I leave the army, I think I'll
change my name! I've had to sign it so much since I've been in
it. I've got a stamp that I can use for some purposes. I'll have
to show it to you. You see, signing your name in the army isn't
as simple as in civilian life. To what the stamp has usually
must be added: "Comdg,Truck Co.3, 310st Supply Train."
[Stamped signature] Sylvester B. Butler
2nd Lieut Inf. O.R.C.
The dance went off most successfully. We cleared over and above expenses, seven hundred and forty dollars for our company fund. The crowd was a good one, for the most part and I think everyone enjoyed themselves, including the Major, who went down with me. Lieuts. June, Anderson, & Thorpe also went down with me. I didn't dance at all, for I haven't done it for years, & am afraid to exhibit myself. Besides, I don't care a rap for it.
Ralph was one of the lucky ones up in his company, and got leave to go down home Saturday morning till this morning early. They divided up the Christmas holiday in two parts in his company, so that more men could go.
My best wishes for a very merry Xmas go to you, and I'm sorry they're going to be late. I miss the holly this year. I wonder if they are going to trust you with the plum pudding in your household - you tell such direful tales about the results of things you cook for people's digestive systems.
Now I must get busy and send out a few Christmas cards. I seem to have plenty to do during the holiday to keep me from being lonesome, and no doubt it's a good thing to have it so.
Be a good girl.
As always, your friend
Tonight has been another Christmas, for your package came, after some tossing around. But it was all here, even the currants. A hanging garden it is, Eva, but I couldn't find a gas jet. But it is hanging on one end of a wide shelf I have, somewhat up in the air, end of said shelf just over the right of my writing table. So it is in plain view. And I think you would agree it is a pretty Christmas Tree; you certainly took pains to make it so. The holly I made into a bunch and hung in the window. I have been wishing that you would send me some, so you can see how pleased I was. Lady, your Christmas to me was perfect, most of all the little memento in brown.
I have enjoyed your Christmas letters, too, ever so much. I hope your Christmas party came out fine. There isn't much to tell about mine. Full details however in next extra. I must say good night, and another thank you.
Ever your friend
I'll tell you a queer incident about the sending of your box and what came of it. I'm afraid you got it late if it took as long to come as your pictures are coming.
I got your box and letter ready to mail Friday night and was going to mail it Saturday afternoon but had to go over to Atlantic so left instructions with Frank to mail it; When I returned about ten, there was the package. I was so disappointed as then I thot it never would reach you in time. I had left some of my packages in a store and on my return for them determined to take your package and letter and give it to the motorman of the next car to mail as I knew it would be May Cramer's father.
I went to the station and started to wait. There was a woman there and we started to talk about the weather as it was some cold. After I had waited some time and no car had come, I said that I wasn't going to Atlantic but just going to give a package to the motorman. She said she would mail it for me. Yesterday I went into Miss Winch's and she asked me for your address. She said she had had it but lost it. She wanted to give it to a niece of Mr.Winch's, the head dietician at Galen Hall. The mother of the niece often entertained the men from the camp and I think you are to be put in line for an invitation. She told me the niece's name. She was the woman to whom I had given the package.
Queer, was it not?
I saw Walter Block the other day. He had enlisted in the Navy and is stationed in Virginia but was home on a furlough. Zillah Sapps brother did not get home after all.
I want to get this letter off this morning, so I'll stop.
I have a whole ream of letters from you to answer tonight. Don't talk about their being too often; except that I get spoiled easily, as you know.
I wonder if you are having as bitter cold as we are. Probably not, although the greater dampness of your climate may make it seem as much so. 15 and 20 below zero has been the regular thing for the past four or five days with us. If there were no snow on the ice there would be skating enough to last all winter.
I am glad you had such a fine Christmas. It must have been quite the best one you've spent. I haven't eaten the trimmings off my tree yet; I don't know as I dare with all the dire possibilities you suggest. The tree came alive and was just the right sort of thing to hang up. It's drying up a little now but I think it won't have to come down right away yet. It is nice that you had a good long time off for Christmas, so as to have plenty of time to get ready. How I do like that little brown book! Did you just now write "Willow Water" for the book, or did you write it last summer? I remembered after our little party that I hadn't given you a chance to compose anything, when I penned the roller-coaster flippancy; which should have been done, to make the game complete. And on our next party, I want a chance to see the poetess at her art.
New Years I shall spend here, too. The New Years' holiday is just the single day, whereas the Christmas holiday for those who had them was from Saturday noon to Wednesday morning. The Major ordered me to clear out of here over this Sunday, as I was the only one here thru the whole Christmas holiday. I guess he got an idea that I stayed around here the whole time. However, I have disobeyed orders, but I claim to have obeyed the spirit of them for last night I went up to Lowell with some of the other officers to Keith's Theater, and this morning I stayed in bed until half past nine, and after dressing played cards until dinner, after dinner went up to see Ralph and at three o'clock to a concert given by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the Y.M.C.A. auditorium at Camp Devens. I should say I had rested from my labors just as much as though I had gone off somewhere over Sunday; and at such short notice I had nowhere to go. The company that Ralph is in has been quarantined for measles so he is locked up for a couple of weeks. But although enlisted men from other organizations cannot enter quarantined buildings, officers are perfectly free to do so. They are not allowed to get sick or catch anything, you see. I surely enjoyed the concert this afternoon; I really enjoyed it more than the one I heard the whole orchestra give a couple of months ago in Boston. I am quite sure that two of the selections were played by Sousa's band at Willow Grove, when we were there.
Christmas Day there were six of us sat down to our 17 pounder here, Major Schoonmacher, Lieut. Greene and his wife, Lieut. June, and myself. The Red Cross sent packages enough for all the men who were here, and I went over to the company right after supper to distribute; had the sergeant call the roll and as the man stepped up I would reach into the pile of packages behind me. I had a few little stunts ready in case the men didn't seem to know what to do with themselves during afternoon or evening, but they seemed to have devised individual means of entertaining themselves, and a number of them who are married brought their wives up to Christmas dinner.
I am going to send you one of my dance programs, as I thought you might be interested in it.
Saturday I heard two lectures by an English Colonel, who was Machine Gun Officer for the 9th English Army Corps, and planned the machine gun tactics which were the great winning factor in the Battle of Messines in June. The first was on methods of employing machine guns in warfare, & it included a minute description of their employment at the Battle of Messines. To think of hearing of this battle from a man who had himself planned out one of its most essentials was a general wake-up one on what we needed to do to win success in the war.
About the Jordan almond - you say wouldn't I like to see it? Unfortunately I had eaten it before I read that, and of course felt very much chagrined that I had eaten what was only meant to look at.
Yes, Ma'am, you did go skating last New Years' Day, and you went the next evening after that, too. I tagged along that next evening and I remember you said you had been the day before. That evening after New Years' you were to be home at 7:00, and you went home at 10:00. Am I not correct? And I broke a hole in the ice and made a bridge out of myself. And you wore your curls all down.
Your news about Miss Hodgson was the first I had heard about it. I must write and congratulate them. Are they living anywhere near you? I hope to hear those photographs arrived safely; if they don't, let me know, and I'll send a duplicate.
I have a notion, Eva, that some of those same birds will come back to the nest in the apple tree. Don't forget to watch for them, will you?
As always, your friend
We have had some time today. When we got up all our pipes were frozen. I tried to thaw them out with a candle. Imagine what all that carbon was like and then imagine me. I certainly would have made an admirable minstral. Icicles were hanging from the hot water spigot and (this is no joke) I had to that out this ink before I could write to you.
I am glad you got your package but I am awful sorry it was so late, that made it almost a New Year's tree.
The "little brown memento" I am afraid was rather a hurry up affair. First I just made the little inside as a memo pad and at almost the last minute decided on the wonder illustrations.
Frank has been writing to Dad and asking how to spell words and just now he brought his letter for correction and I think I blotted it on your letter.
I fear something unusual is to happen tonight. Miss Tolbert's mother is here and she has decreed that we all must go to church tonight.
We have three ferns, one is little Daido, little Frank and the other little Eva. They all got badly frozen last night but little frank got it worst of all. Poor thing all his fronds had to be cut off.
The bay is frozen over. We can see people walking out on it from here. It is about the coldest day we have had here for some time. I suppose it sure is cold up where you are. Did you ever notice on a real cold day how the train whistles all sound as if they are hoarse as can be? Even the rooster, this morning, sounded as if he had a cold.
Some time is it not, frozen pipes! zero weather! poor heat! exploded thermometer and a stopped clock! Horror of horrors we don't know whether or not it is time to eat or whether to complain of the heat or the cold.
I am developing into a regular old 'fraid of the cold stay-at-home. The whole world - all but me - has gone skating. Talk of the blessing of keeping house I sure am getting my share of them. Best of all the blessings are the blessed dishes. Oh how I love to do dishes! All the poetry of keeping house lies in doing the dishes. And Frank! Frank's going to be a "hathen" sure. I sent him down stairs this morning to look at the furnace. Heard a commotion. Investigated and found he was playing golf with fruit jars as bunkers. And it was Sunday.
P.S. Your pictures haven't arrived yet.
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