The first of Elizabeth’s letters were written, obviously, while still in America.
June 28, 1943. This hand written letter details the time she spent in D. C. She says she went swimming in the “exclusive pool at the Shoreham Hotel yesterday — got in there as an R. C. worker & learned ‘functional swimming’ that is, how to jump off a torpedoed boat & so on.”
She had a $200 “sub advance” which she spent happily, $7.50 of which “on youse.” A seersucker dress for her sister Sal cost $6.95, but she picked it up for $4.95. “Spent $2.50 on sandels (sic) for Judy” who was Sal’s infant daughter.
Elizabeth described how she saw the sandals on a kid in the street and went over to the father to ask where he bought them. “Then I trotted over & got them! Gee, I have more darn nerve when I’m away from home!”
Throughout her letters a sense of humor arises with slang terms popping up frequently. In that same letter she says she “disliked the woids to the R. C. hymn and writ me own!” In her August 5 letter she says “I ain’t had”, “Migawd!”, “Ain’t I nutty?” and “Don’t know whyinell” to punctuate her comments.
Not all the people mentioned in her letters can be identified. Johnny Maloney, Mary Mitchell, LaVern, Jim Simmons, John Miller, Gert Dunn and many others were undoubtedly family friends from back home in Chicago. And Mrs. Lepenske, to whom Elizabeth says hello at the end of the letter dated November 23, 1943, likely the mother of “Joe LeP,” and referred to numerous times as “Mrs. LeP” shall, perhaps always, remain a mystery woman.
Sometimes the letters are addressed “Dear Folks,” sometimes “Dear Sal, Bernard and Judy —-.” In addition to writing her sister Sara (Sal) but no others as in the June 28, 1943, letter, it appears Elizabeth often wrote her mother without making copies for her siblings. On at least one occasion, her visit to Ireland in 1945 as chronicled in the July 15 letter which is 6,500 words long, she addressed all her “Brethern and Sistern.” However, on July 20 she wrote a similar but relatively cleaned up version of that same letter addressed “Dear Mom.” That one is a mere 5,400 words long.
Elizabeth’s two letters about the same visit to Ireland are similar but different. Both are included herein, and they make good comparison reading. For example, here is one striking and amusing difference.
Elizabeth was fluent in Pig Latin as, I am sure, were her siblings. I remember attempts to teach the technique to me when I was probably five or six. Pig Latin is a word construction method of altering English to be unrecognizable by those unfamiliar with the rules. In the July 15, 1945, letter she describes riding horse drawn carts in Clare, “. . . peculiar to Ireland. They are little square jobs with leather seats on both sides. You enter through the rear. And the horse artsfay in your acefay all the time you sit in it!”
Apart from her self-censorship involving a “blue” word, the second letter addressed to her mother dated July 20 omits this comment.
In those letters about Ireland she mentions “the Dev” or “Dev.” Elizabeth refers to Éamon de Valera, a well respected Irish politician and leader in Ireland’s fight for independence. Dev was a commander in the 1916 Easter Rising, but was not executed when caught by the British perhaps because his father was American, and he held a U. S. passport. During the Second World War years, de Valera was Taoiseach (1937- 48), the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. Elizabeth’s brother, Dennis, is known to have visited Ireland and met Dev briefly. Both Elizabeth and Dennis visited that country after the war, but not at the same time.
The full name of her brother was Dennis DeValera Donnellan. He often signed his name DDD.
Ray LaLone, son of Harold and Elizabeth’s sister Mary, informed me “Nay” was his mother’s nickname to friends and family in Chicago. Nay is the familiar name Elizabeth uses to refer to her sister. Mary’s husband, Harold “Hal” LaLone, was employed by Western Electric which supplied electrical products to AT & T from 1881 to 1995. Hal was in the Army, was stationed in London, and met Elizabeth often. He is frequently mentioned in her letters. Hal and Mary’s daughter was Mary “Melly” Ellen; while Hal was stationed in London, daughter Nancy was born.
Elizabeth had her own familiar family name which she imparted to me as a child. She was known as “Tin Lizzy.” Few readers will recognize this as the popular or colloquial name for the Model T Ford, but the Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy, probably derives its name from the same source. She was also called “Liz” by people close to her and speculates in her May 11, 1944, letter that one of her siblings knew the man who was looking for her and writes, “. . . he called me ‘Liz’ which floored the people around here.”
Elizabeth’s brother John was married twice, the first after Elizabeth set him up with a blind date. He married Margaret Barry in 1938. “She died 100 days later from internal hemorrhaging from the earliest stages of pregnancy,” according to a letter written in 2000 by their brother, my uncle Dennis. The twins referred to in a number of Elizabeth’s letters are Dinah and Denny, her brother John’s children by his second wife, Marguerite.
Sal was her sister Sara whose daughter, Judy, is often referenced. Sal was married to Bernard Greer. “B & J” in the salutation of this first letter were undoubtedly Bernard and Judy.
(Handwritten, plain paper.) June 28, 1943
Dear Sal & B & J:
This is to be short & sweet, but to tell you I’m perfectly content and pleased with my new life. Have gained a good three pounds already. I’ve met up with a fine bunch of people and have throst meself into me job! Even decided I disliked the woids to the R. C. hymn and writ me own! They’re rather good, better than the foist and our class is going to use them instead. Went swimming in the exclusive pool at the Shoreham Hotel yesterday — got in there as an R. C. worker & learned “functional swimming” that is, how to jump off a torpedoed boat & so on. Everything is interesting and I’m happy spending my $200 sub advance.
Spent $7.50 of it today on youse. Bought a seersucker dress for Sal that I think is cute — cost $6.95 but I paid for $4.95. Compared to Nay’s green one in price & class the seersucker is a prize. Should look very well on Sal with that hair do & good makeup. The other $2.50 was for sandels (sic) for Judy. Saw a kid walking down the street in a pair like them, stopped his father & asked where they bought them. Then I trotted over & got them! Gee, I have more darn nerve when I’m away from home! Even had dinner with a bald headed Field Director last nite! At home I wouldn’t be seen with him! He’s in my class so, a fellow sufferer.
About the cost of the items I sent you, if you’d prefer to pay me, you may. If you would rather send me the money you may do that too, but wait ’til I get stationed some’eres next week. If the dress doesn’t (NOTE: lost bottom line. Next page begins) think its best for Sal. As for the shoes, if they don’t fit — they’re size 9 — keep them for next year or return them to the Juvenile Shoe Shop 936 F St. N. W. They said they’d exchange them.
I’ll write again sometime! Elizabeth (Santa Claus)
* * *
In an undated print article which has no source information, but from internal referents may have been clipped from a Chicago newspaper, it says, “Now at an eastern port of embarkation, Elizabeth Donnellan, 5945 S Princeton, is awaiting shipment overseas as a field director for the American Red Cross.”
There is a large profile photo of her with a brief caption from a publication apparently called “In Town of Lake” in a section called “Journal.”
“Miss Donnellan, who for several years did social work here in conjunction with the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, proved herself a real friend to many Back of the Yards residents. Her ability to cut through official red tape and get the assistance when it was needed was invaluable.”
That last is a telling comment that will be proven over and over in the ensuing letters. As circumstances require, Elizabeth recounts how she recruited soldiers to paint and even of how she acquired the paint itself in order to cover hospital walls; of receiving and then retaining a jeep for her department; of finding vaults of Nazi supplies and using them in daily life.
The article continues: “She incorporated her work in Back of the Yards into a thesis for her master’s degree in social work at Loyola university (sic).
“In June, Miss Donnellan left the Chicago Red Cross headquarters to take a short course in field directing at the American University, Washington, D. C. Overseas, she will be in charge of all Red Cross activities at the station hospital to which she will be assigned.”
A good description of what type of work and training Elizabeth had at American University can be read in an article from the Washington Post titled “50 Train Here Fortnightly for Red Cross Jobs” dated August 3, 1943. A copy of that article is appended to this memoir.
The next letter we have is dated August 5, 1943, and was also hand written. Elizabeth’s cursive script is clear and clean. This one is on Gotham hotel stationery in New York City, however the letter may not have been written while she was there. In it she said, “I was in New York last weekend. Went there in response to a wire from, and with the hope of seeing, one Captain William B. Hugill.” This is undoubtedly the “Billy” who is mentioned in a number of letters and to whom she was eventually engaged. She “saw him only for 4 hours Sunday as he is at a Point of Embarkation and supposedly incommunicado — but he told his C. O. the whole sad story adding that I was going overseas to forget him and the C. O. slobbered all over & gave him a 6 hr. pass.”
She says there is nothing to do while “on my way out.” “They tell us here that the shipping problem is our reason for sitting here. The Navy had 1500 ships engaged in the invasion of Sicily.”
“This afternoon I’m going to a cocktail party with my unit at the Wardman Park Hotel, one of the nicer hotels here.” The Wardman Park is in D. C.
She concludes with a post script: “How do you spell asthma? and Pneumonia, Sal? Or was it the boiler makers that clouded your brain?”
Transcription of the handwritten letter on Gotham stationery:
5th Ave. at 55th * New York City * Phone Circle 7-2200
August 5, 1943
Dear Sal etc:
Received your double header today and was glad to get it. Since I told people I was on my way out I ain’t had a bit of mail. I knew it was because no one knew where I was but that didn’t make it any easier not to receive mail. You can always reach me by addressing National Headquarters as they have a complete department whose only function is to forward mail & packages to R. C. Gals all over the world. In the meantime, unless I call or wire you suddenly, continue to address me at the Burlington.
Do you know I’ve never once heard from you whether or not you had received the packages I sent you? Never knew what happened about Judy’s slippers or that grey seersucker. Bulieve (sic) me — if anyone sent them to me I’d let them know what finally happened. Mom said you sent the slippers back and she sounded as if she didn’t like the dress — what about you? Sent mom a dress yesterday — brown voile print with white embroideried (sic) organdy insert trimming. It looked as tho’ it would launder beautifully & it should be very cool for her in Dayton. I sent it to the village. I also sent her $45, owed her $30 and told her to buy something for the twins out of the balance. Migawd! I’ve spent about $200 since the 21st of July, and my food & shelter are paid for! Spent $40 on a single dress!! Ain’t I nuty? Don’t know whyinell I did that. It’s just a plain two piece — light blue crepe. Has two beaded (NOTE: Lost last line. Next page begins.) the deaths of Bernard’s relatives. Bet you two did some racing around those days. I believe Cooney’s dad’s death was a blessing because he must have suffered terribly. Extend my sympathies to Mr. & Mrs. Greer. By the way, how are they? Know something funny? I miss Judy more than I miss anyone. I was glad to see you wrote Joe LeP. Send me his address in your next letter and I’ll drop him a line sometime.
I doubt that Steve was in any trouble with Military Authorities. The shiner probably developed after a train brawl. He couldn’t have had a bomber ride back to Florida if he’d been A.W.O.L. and one way always of making sure is to look at his furlough papers. The bomber squadron had to see them before they’d let him on.
You’ve probably heard this (from) Mom that I was in New York last weekend. Went there in response to a wire from, and with the hope of seeing, one Captain William B. Hugill. He knew I was going overseas thro’ a neighbor who works with me and he knew also that there’d been little shipping out during July so he took a chance on wiring me thru Nat’l. I saw him only for 4 hours Sunday as he is at a Point of Embarkation and supposedly incommunicado — but he told his C. O. the whole sad story adding that I was going overseas to forget him and the C. O. slobbered all over & gave him a 6 hr. pass. Not without giving him Hell first tho, for wiring me when he shouldn’t. I’m glad I saw him cause he looked real good, and had a contrite air about him.
Haven’t had a single word from Mary since I left home. Selfish leettle brrrrattttee. I sent her a note yesterday — we shall see what type response I get.
I’ve had nothing to do for the past two weeks. Just sleep and eat — vegetating away. We have a nice roof garden on the hotel so I wander up there daily to absorb some sun shine. At this point I’m all red and sore again — as it was when Bernard was so sorry for me. Hope I can (?lau — ?low) sometime. I hate to dress during the day so when I can I just sit like this mending hose, sewing tapes on my clothes, turning hems on uniforms & making the room clerks hop around bringing breakfast and lunch to me. Four of us have a suite of rooms with twin beds in each room. My current mate is a 24 year old cute little Jewess — she leaves Saturday for a Camp as she’s a domestic worker. The other two are over 35 and disgustingly old maidish altho’ both are divorcees. I don’t know what I’ll draw next week.
Haven’t seen or heard from Johnny Maloney since he told me about the twins. Think the idea scared him? I think he thought I was on my way out then but he hasn’t even tried to find out. They tell us here that the shipping problem is our reason for sitting here. The Navy had 1500 ships engaged in the invasion of Sicily We’re told and (NOTE: Last line lost. Next page begins.) they haven’t been able to get other ships for us.
This afternoon I’m going to a cocktail party with my unit at the Wardman Park Hotel, one of the nicer hotels here. “My” secretary has extended the invitation for us to visit her cousin & drink with him — and, she adds, he’s a General in the Army. I don’t know what that means. Probably he’s fat and pudgy & old. The secretary — who is over 35 — is anxious for her cousin to meet her “boss” — that’s me!
I’ll send you my picture as soon as it comes. Say hello to all for me — and write when you can. Elizabeth
(Below the signature)
How do you spell asthma? and pneumonia, Sal? Or was it the boiler makers that clouded your brain?
* * *
“Double header” is a baseball term for two games played one after the other. Here, Elizabeth probably means two letters received from Sal. Or it could have been one letter with two separate dates in it. Since we do not have those we cannot know for certain what the reference truly means. However, baseball terms will pop up in the letters from time to time because this was a baseball venerating family.
“The shiner” means a black-eye. Stephen Donnellan was known in the family as a brawler. I met him in his senescence in 1975 at the family reunion in Isabella, Missouri. He and his wife were there and I heard stories of how as a young man Stephen would go into a bar in Chicago, sit down next to someone and order a drink, slam the glass down empty and choose the guy off. The two would go out in the alley and duke it out returning with arms over one another’s shoulders the best of friends.
Voile print: A light, plain-weave, sheer fabric of cotton, rayon, silk, or wool used especially for making dresses and curtains.
“Sewing tapes on my clothes,” is a reference lost on those of us who purchase clothing pre-made. Bias tape or bias binding was sewn into apparel at the neck or sleeve opening to prevent wrinkling or puffiness.
We no longer use the term “old maid” as Elizabeth does. Several times she will refer to women as old maids, apparently any unmarried woman over the age of thirty. Elizabeth was dangerously close to that age herself.
The invasion of Sicily began July 10, 1943, after the Allies won the North African campaign in May. Winston Churchill called Italy “the soft underbelly” of Europe and the Axis stronghold. Sicily was the starting point for the evisceration of the Nazi.
Three days later, a bored Elizabeth writes again.
* * *
August 8, 1943
There really isn’t much to tell you, and I don’t know why I’m wasting my money this way, but I’ve noticed this typewriter in the lobby since I came here, and I’ve never done anything about it, namely because costs .10c a half hour to run it. I’ve seen thousands of R. C. gals plugging away at it, but I always thought it would take me a lot longer than 30 minutes to write my usual lengthy letters, so I just passed it by. Tonight I have little or nothing to do — mostly nothing — and all my friends are out — so I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to sit down in the lobby where I can see everything, and can also get my letter-writing completed. Anyhow, it’s costing me .10c to type this.
I call headquarters every other day to find out what’s cooking, and I feel stupid every time I call because I have to ask the same question each time, but today they were somewhat hopeful, telling me they really believe we’ll have some definite information about the whereabouts of my unit this week. They consoled me with the words, “You can be certain if we thought you were going to be here indefinitely we would send you out in the Area (which means to some camp) and let you work.” Knowing how they worked the pants off me at Chicago Chapter, I’m inclined to believe that because they use everyone no matter what happens. I’ve been doing nothing for the past few weeks but lying out in the sun on the roof garden here and then I’m too lazy to go out for meals so I just order them served in the room. Today I sat in a full tub of tepid water for more than an hour just sitting there perfectly relaxed. If anyone told me I could do that I’d never have believed them. The sunshine is nice however, and in a few days I won’t have to worry about leg-make-up because my legs are beginning to tan. Actually they are many shades darker than the rest of my body, but I’m so darn fair you’d never know it unless the rest of my body was bare, and I can’t go around like that, so I’ll have to wait a few more days so the public will know that my legs are tan.
I haven’t had much word from anyone — had Denny’s letter and enjoyed it thoroughly, especially the “hang up the receiver gently” part. I enjoyed Sal’s two letters, altho I’d lay a safe bet she was feeling good when she spelled asthma “asma.” I fully expected to hear from Bill Hugill this week, either by phone or wire, but I guess he has been sent out already. For youse that didn’t know, I had a rush wire from Bill a week ago — he had learned I was with the Red Cross and going overseas and then the Army got ready to ship him but he took a chance on wiring me through National because he figured I hadn’t gone out yet. It was real nice seeing him again — I met him for 4 hours in New York. He is a captain now, and seems much taller and fatter, altho I may be dreaming. (That crack is for Bernard.) I haven’t heard from LaVern since last week you know she’s at Ft. Knox, and intends to go to Chicago soon and may drop in to see mom. I had my picture sent to everyone, but to Denny because I didn’t think he wanted one. By the way, I hope Denny makes it this time. Johnny Maloney told me one of the toughest courses where he was was the public speaking course. I can imagine it would be hard to get up and make a speech in front of a class when you know life depends on it, but Johnny said they tried to make them humorous and it was fun. He spoke for ten minutes on the “China Clipper” the barber shop at camp. He compared them to the “blood letters” of medieval times who had the red and white barbers pole for identification. I can imagine what a roar the class made when Johnny talked about the barbers because he hasn’t a hair on his head. He told me about Clark Gable giving his speech at school, and said it was Gable’s ability for public speaking that brought his grades in a lot of other things up. Gable used a tiny piece of toilet paper — held it up before the class quietly for a minute, and then told them that that was the one thing in the world that made us all equal. From there on he launched into a discussion of the differences in the way people live, and gave them a wonderful picture of the way they live in Hollywood. I think that is classic. Denny will probably blush when he reads about the t. p. but it is veddy symbolic —
I saw East Lynn — a Meller drama the other night, it was lots of fun but the thing that I liked best was I remember mom saying it was the first stage play she saw in this country and I sat all through it wondering if that was really the way they put on plays forty or fifty years ago. I can hear mom saying “FIFTY” years ago! I kept the program and sent it to mom — it was supposedly printed the way they had them in those days and they advertised mustache cups and bustles — I got a kick out of it.
I hope Steve got back to camp all right. From the innuendo in Denny’s and Sal’s letters I have a sneaking feeling that everyone else has a sneaking feeling that Steve was AWOL ere he returned to camp. If he returned on a bomber as reported, they hardly would allow him on board if his furlough papers were not in order, and unless he pulled a fast one, he was not AWOL. I’d certainly like to hear from him about the trip, what he did and how he liked it. Boy, imagine what you’d pay to fly from Patterson Field to Florida in a transport! Always did say Steve had more luck than brains!
I can’t think of anything else to write, and anyhow, my .10c is running out — as soon as I get definite word about what’s happening, I’ll let mom know. I have Bernard’s suitcase almost packed with things that have worn out already since I left home, and things I’ve found I can’t take with me so I’ll send that suitcase home as soon as I know I’m leaving. I am not forgetting the dough I owe Nay, but I wish she’d write and tell me what to do with it. I’ve thought of sending it directly to the bank for her, and then I’ve thought perhaps she’d rather have the cash — if you know what you want me to do Nay, let me know because I’d like to straighten that up before I leave. By the way, how’s Melly — and boy, wouldn’t I like to see those twins! Elizabeth
* * *
Elizabeth’s reference to “East Lynn — a Meller drama” seems to have been misspelled. Not “Meller drama,” which was purposeful and a wry way of saying “melodrama.”
“East Lynne” was a Victorian “sensation” novel by Ellen Wood published in 1861. There were many film and stage adaptations, so pinning down the exact version Elizabeth saw in Washington, D.C., would be somewhat suspect.
The plot was convoluted and implausible which spawned parodies. The married-with-children Lady Carlyle elopes and has another child before she is abandoned by her lover. Disguised, she takes a position as governess to the children of her former husband and his current wife.
Sounds a bit like Robin Williams in “Mrs. Doubtfire” which was equally incredible.
At the time, oft quoted lines from the work were “Gone! And never called me mother!” Or another version, “Dead! Dead! And never called me mother!” Supposedly Irish slang, neither appeared in the book. They came from stage or film versions.
* * *
August 19, 1943
I’m back at the typewriter, and know it has been a long time since I sent words to youse, but I’ll try to make up for it. I’ve had letters from most everyone, and appreciate them — glad to hear from the LaLones for a change — sounds like they’re having fun. Wish I knew what was happening to Denny — don’t even have his address you know. Have had many letters from John – even if they are about stamps – and received Sal’s letter last week. Telephoned mom last night, because I wondered about her she had written a long very good letter to me earlier this week and she mentioned her side was bothering her. I talked to her about it last night and found out she intends to visit the doctor today, so I hope she’ll let me know what happens.
Last week I didn’t do anything again. I’m such a fat thing at this point weigh about 115 and really look good. The weight has gone to both my faces. I have quite a sun tan and am told I look awfully healthy. I have become so lazy I hate people that interrupt me when I’m not doing anything. The high light of last week was the letter from John telling me he thought I’d bought special stamps for him. You see, I live at the Burlington and along with some Red Cross gals, the only other occupants are a bunch of old men and women who just live here day in and day out — old as they can be and really they are beyond usefulness, they just sit around all day, like I do only different. Well, the gal at the cigar counter sells stamps and I bought some from her. When I received John’s letter I roared aloud, and I said “Gee, you’d think he thought I had nothing else to do but go buy stamps for him!” and my room-mate said in a cold voice “Well, what else have you to do?” So I went down to the gal the (sic) cigar counter and told her what had happened. She said the man that brought the stamps always brought different ones because many of the aged gentry here were collectors and she had to keep them in humor. She arranged for me to see the man-that-sold-stamps and he told me where to buy the sheets. So one day I actually got dressed and went down to the Post Office and bought stamps for John. It was a full day’s work! I tried to buy plate blocks of the Poland and so forth issue but they would not sell the plate block unless you bought the whole sheet that accounts for why I can’t get the name block for the Luxumberg (sic) series.
Another day last week was spent doing something I’ve always wanted to do and never had the time to do. I always wanted to go to work only not go to work, that is get on the streetcar or elevated and when they come to my stop, I’d like to ride on to the end of the line and see where the car goes. Well, I did that last week. Only I took many rides, getting off at the end of one line and getting on a car going in another direction to the end of that line. I had my roommate with me, she’s a divorcee who is 35 years old, and she thought it sounded like fun, and went along. We ended up at the Glen Echo Park, which is Washington’s version of Riverview and of course I went on all the rides there. She went too, and if I tried to jump through a hoop she’s (sic) attempt too to sho me she ain’t so old — and the roller coaster knocked hell out of her. She was sick all night and what’s more, she rode the roller coaster all night. I laughed at her!
Then, Saturday I saw TITA — better known as This is the Army. It was very good, and I imagine all youse guys would like to see it. I’m going to send mom money to view it, and I’d like to have her take Mrs. LeP with her when she does. Plan is to have you go in the afternoon to the matinee, cause the evening performance would be too crowded — and then have dinner down town. I’ll enclose the money im (sic) mom’s letter.
Monday they called me into National to tell me to be ready to go out with my Unit by three p.m. Tuesday, and then they found out Monday night that it was not my Hospital unit that was coming in at all, but instead there were nine General Hospitals to be outfitted. Remember, I’m to be with a Station Hospital which is smaller than a General. They told me Monday night that if I wanted to, I could break up my unit, and go out with the Generals as a staff social worker. It just happened that I’d been talking with a member of the teaching staff out at American University that day and she told me she’s just come back from her vacation in Chicago, and had talked to one of the supervisors at Chicago Chapter who knew me quite well and really thought I had something. This woman at A. U. said she thought I’d like the work, and said “Don’t go with a general hospital, thought (sic), go with a Station — they’re not as much work and they are better experience for you.” So I recalled that when I was offered the opportunity to really see action, and declined in favor of the Station unit. They said I’d just have to wait for a unit then, and there is no telling how long that will be. As a result, they’ve assigned me temporarily to the staff at Walter Reed Hospital. I’m to work there indefinitly (sic) but it is right here in Washington and I continue to live at the Burlington so they can send me out at a moment’s notice. Reed is a tremendous place, and almost daily they are bringing in more casualties from the battle fronts. Some are flown in to land on the Potomac, and some come in in convoys. You don’t realize what a war this is until you see these young kids, eighteen and nineteen years old without legs and arms, and more of them absolutely deaf, trying to learn to read lips. They are wonderful and they go about on crutches and so on as if it were second nature to them. It makes your heart ache, but they are so grateful for anything you do for them you want to kill yourself for the(m?), I wish you could see how hard they try to learn to walk, or to write with a left hand, or to read lips. When I see things like that I shore wonder how a guy like Steve can pull what he did. It made me kinda mad when I read his letter, but I could see he is mad too, and he’s sore at himself for what he did, but then that is the Army and that is one place you have to listen to what you are told. I kinda hate to see him get “Busted” because I was proud of the stripes he wore — I just hope nothing else happens to him and that he doesn’t get too big a black eye for what’s been done.
When I got Sal’s letter telling about Marge Seybold and the locked jaw I laughed so hard I was hysterical. I read it to the roomies, who think it’s a riot. I told them about the summer hotel Bernard runs, and how he never knows whatinell to expect from the family or relatives, so I could just see him cool as a cucumber going through the first aid book to find out how you unlocked jaws. That was a laugh. I had a letter from Margie the other day and enjoyed it. Hope everyone is ok. Say hello to all for me — and mom, tell Larry I’ll write when I can — Elizabeth
(The following paragraph is an apparent post script which was typed in below her name, but without a P. S.)
Steve wrote me about his guard house stretch and asked me to send the letter around. Mom has it, so you shall see it soon. How’s Judy? Marge wrote she was wonderful, and had fun with the new calves. How about my other self? Where is it and are you treating me well? Will you use it? I’m scared you’ll can it and I will have to eat it instead of drape it when I get home.
* * *
Typical of her self-deprecating humor, “The weight has gone to both my faces.” As well may be her reference to, “How about my other self?” which remains obscure to me to this day.
And Steve’s “guardhouse stretch” must also remain never fully explained.
In this and in several letters to come she observes her youngest brother John’s request for postage stamps. Undoubtedly he was a collector.
Her attempts to purchase plate blocks of Poland and Luxembourg make for interesting reading, but she was referring to the Overrun Nations Stamps issued over fifteen months between 1943 and ’44. This was a set of thirteen five cent U. S. postage stamps in full color depicting the flags of countries overrun by the Axis Powers.
Nowhere in my research could I turn up a distinction between the two hospital types, station and general, mentioned in this letter. The names suggest differences, one probably being a first line of repair in the field which might mean it would be located near battle, the other an all purpose hospital more fixed in location and distant from war. However, I could find no definition that distinguished the two.
And her comment on which one she prefers to work in appears somewhat contradictory. On the one hand she seems to be saying she would like to have more experiences; on the other, she passed up the chance to “really see action.” We don’t know what “experience” or what “action” means in this context from this distance away in time.