(U. S. Army stationery hand written.)
Paper is scarce — I’ll only write 1 sheet at a time
September 28, 1943 Denny’s Birthday
I sent mom a 9 page V. Mail letter the other day but I’m afraid it will be sometime before she gets it — I’ve learned today that Air Mails travel faster — hence this note to you.
I’ve sent you letters & cards on the way, so you know I’ve been to London. At present I’m with my unit “Somewhere in England.” I’m in a beautiful section of this country — you’d really love it here! The landscape is so gorgeous — green, green, green, in every shade you can imagine. I walked to a nearby mountain Sunday crossing windswept moors to do so — and actually saw wild horses! We could view the entire landscape from there and you can’t believe its breath taking loveliness. Our hospital is brand new — my job is to “set up” the Red Cross facilities and believe me that’s something! Everything is at a premium here — you do what you can with salvaged items & tear your hair trying to be ingenius (sic). We have spent most of our time scouring nearby villages for pianos, radios, rugs, drapes, furniture, etc etc. Everything is 2nd hand, but its fun. I keep my open (sic) for something that can be shipped home also. Our buildings are all brick which is most unusual I understand as most people get tents. Its cold as hell, believe me! But its fun. Funny type of cold tho’ — it is like springtime.
I get along beautifully with my C. O. and our outfit. They like us very much and can’t do too much for us. My C. O. paid me the highest compliment I could receive last nite — we had a big shot here for some reason or another — and my C. O. asked me to date him and show him a good time! Visiting salesman stuff, I know, but out of about 100 women, I’d say I rated! Felt like Queen of the May, I did. He said, “You’re a gracious lady and would be doing me a favor.” I had a good time was accompanied by another of our officers and one of my group — & it was fun.
Gee, Sal, write & tell me how mom is, will you? I keep saying “no news is good news.” Get my cable? Lost Denny’s address — wish him Happy Birthday for me. Elizabeth
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Elizabeth’s reference to V Mail was short for Victory Mail. Letters home had to be written on small sized sheets of paper. They were first censor reviewed, then microfilmed in thumbnail size negatives and shipped by sea in cargo vessels. This was primarily a space and weight saving measure. Thirty-seven mail sacks filled with 150,000 single page letters weighing more than 2,500 pounds could be replaced by one sack weighing 45 pounds of V-Mail. This had the additional benefit of defeating such espionage techniques as hidden microdots, micro-printing and invisible ink which did not photo copy. Stateside, the V-Mail images were reproduced at 60 percent of their original size and delivered.
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October 17th, 1943
Folks: A typewriter! Maybe now I can write all the things I’ve wanted to write for so long and haven’t been able to put on paper fast enough. I think I’ve written to all of you at some time or other — I sent John some stamps I found in London, and also some we found in a salvage shop where blitzed materials are stored. I sent Judy a little fawn made out of China manufactured in this area, and that’s all I’ve sent home. I haven’t much money — imagine that! I haven’t received my maintenance money yet, and the money I had of my own had to be used to meet incidental expenses of setting up this place until such time as I had a check book to draw checks with — I got that yesterday and will reimburse myself as soon as my books are straightened out. When I get my hands on some dough I hope I’ll be able to find some things that will interest other members of the family. Recently my letters caught up with me and I received 15 in one crack. Every member of the family was accounted for only Steve. I even received Mrs. LeP’s letter telling me she’d been to see “This is the Army.” I was glad to hear that and from the date of her letter, it sounded as if mom got down there about the time of her birthday so maybe she had a birthday celebration after all. I couldn’t believe mom was well enough to go all the way downtown, but that sounds wonderful. I’m wondering what’s happened to Steve, and only gathered from Sal’s carboned “Hi, ya Buck!” what had happened. I hope he’s getting along o.k. I think of him every time I hear thousands of planes passing overhead — not really thousands but many — on their missions, and I watch those planes each time wondering what I’d do if I thought one of the kids were in one of them. Steve’s job would be to fix ’em up, wouldn’t it? I just hope he makes out o.k. in the future. I wanted to answer your inquiries about V-mail — seems that there is no way of telling which gets priority, V-mail or air mail. I think what happens is that if the V mail gets to the station in time to be photographed it is the first thing to go, but if it is late getting there the air mail just goes out automatically. In some instances the V-mail gets there faster in others it doesn’t. Both the V-mails Sal and John sent got here quickly, John’s arrived on the 12, having been written on the 4th. Sal’s took about twelve days. Either one is o.k. but my experience with the V-mail is that you can’t say enough on them and they are disappointing when you get them if there is only one coming. I was surprised to hear that Washington had telephoned Mom of the safe arrival stuff — did Sal ever receive my cable? I haven’t had a single letter yet with my new APO on it and wonder what is holding it up. Be sure you let me know. About this Christmas deal, you can send things anyhow, can’t you, provided I ask for them? In that instance, just produce this letter and show the postal authorities I’ve asked for things. I have thousands of cotton slips with me, and could use some silk ones, also there is never any possibility of getting too many stockings, and if you can get some like the ones Mary Ellen bought me, they are made of cotton or something, and are $1.50 a pair, they’d be appreciated. I want to tell Dennis and Steve and Mary if she thinks of it, that I’d like some chocolate, the kind they sell at P.X’s. I brought lots with me but it’s dwindling. You can’t get chocolate candy here, and it is greatly appreciated by all. If you buy the kind at the P. X. it’s cheaper and better than you can get elsewhere. I can also use Kleenex and flannel pajamas. But that is as much as I’ll need. My advice is to send them soon if you are sending them and if you are going to send anything else, do so soon because one never knows how long one is to remain in one spot. And you do know what I mean. You’d die if you could see my barracks. You know, the funniest thing about this deal is the fact that we don’t have to live on the post if we don’t want to. Our maintenance money is given to us to spend as we see fit, and if we want to go out and rent a room or an apartment we can do so with the sanction of Red Cross. However, we get along so well with our outfit and they really like us a lot, they’d be hurt to the quick if we left them, so we suffer in smiling silence. Three of us are in a barracks with nine other nurses. It’s a long low brick building with twelve beds in it. Also, there are three tiny coal stoves in it. We each have an easy chair, something like the ones mom borrowed from Perlowski’s for Mary’s wedding only larger, and there is one white dresser as large as the dresser in Denny’s room, for two of us. Our clothing hangs on hooks near our beds, and our footlockers with our hand luggage are alongside our beds. The cots have mattresses and pillows. “I’ve heard you Americans have feathers in your pillows!” is what an Englishman said. They must use rags or something because they are awful. We have plenty of blankets, some huge white woolen ones that mom and Sal would love! We have a woman come in daily to clean the barracks and clean out the stoves because they are small and burn the coal quickly and it seems you are cleaning them out constantly. There are three women hired by us at the rate of 2.0 a week — that’s two shillings, I’ll have you know. Boy, have I learned that money fast! And they clean the places very well. This week we are going to have some kind of training program and we are to be toughened up, but I don’t know for what. I understand most outfits come over here with all that training but we haven’t had a chance at it. Our C. O. is very fond of us and won’t let us go away from here at all and he feels we should do everything that the nurses do. Consequently we shall be out there drilling away, methinks Red Cross doesn’t want us here, but would like to use us somewhere that we will be more useful professionally. By that I mean, in a hospital that is already occupied by patients and where we can carry on the Red Cross work. Here we just work with our Enlisted men. However, it could be that we will move on with the group. I’ve taken up a new hobby — believe it or not but one night a week I truck over to a little school in the village where I take a lesson in French Conversation. I don’t know if I’m learning anything, but in my time off, I read little Frency Primers she gives me, and it is fun to see how much I remember. Maybe I’ll get tired of it and quit soon, but we shall see. In the meantime, I’ve entertained myself in various ways. This Dorway lad I met on the boat, who worked for International Harvester in Chicago, lived at the Del Prado went to Univ. of Minnesota, worked with Jim Simmons and is now his C.O., has been very nice and last week-end I met him in Exeter where we viewed the remains of various bombings. I had a nice time with him, and enjoyed his company. For your description — he is about as much like Bob Jones as anyone could be, only perhaps nicer appearing. Looks something like Fred McMurray (sic), I think. Tall as Bob and built something like him. Awfully good egg. Very nice like. Had a letter from Bill saying he thought he was going to be moved quickly, and asking that I make London to see him before he left, but I couldn’t get the time off, when he was free. Other than that, the C.O. still thinks that being with Red Cross means I’m the gracious lady who does the welcoming for the visiting royalty, and whenever he is stuck with someone he doesn’t know how to entertain, he turns them over to me. Big fat skinny ones, long thin (?)assy ones — golly, funniest looking guys in the world, and the older they are the smarter they think they are and the happier they are to be with young girls. ’S funny life. For Denny’s sake, the letter he sent me including the write up about the R. C. gals was about the club girls, and not about us old social workers — so we ain’t as “rushed” as you think we might be — doggone. They asked us at Hdq. if we thought we could say “no” twenty four hours a day — ses I — mebbe not, but then on the other hand, who would say “yes” and survive? Anyhow, about this Dorway guy, I was surprised to read Mary’s letter telling about Ralph and giving his address, because it is almost the same as Dick’s and Simmons’ seems to me they must be close together. I’ve written Dick and asked him to find out where Ralph is. Dick’s outfit is the 609th Ord., and his shipping APO is 4834, Ralph is with the 655(?)th I think and his apo was 4835. Seems they are probably nearby. If I find out, I’ll let you know. That APO is an old one, because it is a four digit one, and he should have another soon. If I hear anything, I’ll get in touch with you. I hope you notice I’ve not indented at all on this letter — paper is too scarce to be throwing it away on such trivialities as paragraphs. About this land, I’ve noticed some of the newspapers that are around here and see that the British are up in arms about the results of our Senatorial investigation committee that came over here and decided we were being outsmarted and were paying through the nose to the British. Don’t believe anything any one else says, we are being definitely taken in, and I’ll let you know how when the day comes we can have bull sessions over this deal. You learn it more every day here. They’re an awfully smug bunch, and those who are of the upper crust try to humiliate us when they can. They are nice in a smug way, and you can see that when they razz us they are really jealous. They envy us everything — like our cigarettes better than theirs, would like to have some of the clothing we have and so on — not the quantity of clothing, because you understand that is severely rationed, but they like the quality and style. The laborer however, had a different attitude. I’d lay a safe bet they were much closer to socialism here before the war than we ever realized. They have thousands of Cooperatives here, and the laborer is really poorly paid compared to our laborer. I’m quite interested in their attitude. The common man won’t talk about the India situation because he dislikes it and is ashamed of it. The upper crust know that is where the greater part of their money comes from and they close their eyes to what’s happening. In all, I’d say this war is helping us to understand them better, and it will bring about a better feeling between the laboring classes of our nations, but it is going to be tough on Briton when it is over, provided they continue as they did before the war. It’s all very interesting in the mean time. YOU’d love their villages and the tradition behind everything. Imagine, one of the pottery works here was built by Chippendale. I’d give my eyeteeth to be able to get some of the things they have in there but nothing is for sale. They are concentrating on defense things. And if they sell anything, they charge 100% luxury tax on it. Hence you ain’t gonna get much from Elizabeth in England. This is being completed on the 20th, and last night I went in to Torquay where I saw “Rain” — member Joan Crawford’s portrayal of Sadie Thompson? This was on the stage and it was very good, altho Englishish. I enjoyed it. I can’t think of anything more — may see Jim Simmons this Friday — I’m finnegling a ride down there — say hello to his mother for him — Elizabeth.
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This letter is nearly 2,200 words long and typical of Elizabeth’s ability to cram a lot of material into a brief number of pages. The oft repeated phrase from the Great Depression, “Use it up, wear it out. Make it do, or do without,” is echoed with her observation, “. . . paper is too scarce to be throwing it away on such trivialities as paragraphs.”
She provides clear evidence not all her letters were written in one sitting. This one was begun on the 17th and completed, as she says, on the 20th.
“Hi, ya Buck!” probably indicates Steve was busted to buck private.
Frederick Martin MacMurray (1908 – 1991) was a popular film actor in the thirties and forties who became a star to me as the mad scientist inventor of flubber in Disney’s “The Absent-minded Professor” (1961).
Asking “Dennis and Steve and Mary” for chocolate from the PX indicates the brothers as well as Mary were allowed to shop at a PX because Mary’s husband, Harold (Hal), was with the Army.
“Harold Elias LaLone was born in a log cabin near Pound, Wisconsin, January 1, 1911,” according to his son, my cousin Ray. “He was educated through high school and went to work for Western Electric sometime in the late 30’s. He was in the Army twice — once before the war (we don’t have exact dates) and once when recalled for WW II. Upon re-entry, he was assigned to OCS in the Signal Corps. Because of his work with Western Electric, he was assigned to the 805th and sent to London. According to my father, he met Churchill while assisting in the installation of sigsaly equipment at Number 10 Downing Street. He also monitored transmissions between high ranking officers and Washington D.C. government officials.”
As mentioned previously, Hal was stationed in London and Elizabeth frequently mentions having looked him up or just missed him or found him and had lunch. A good if brief description of their activities together can be read in her April 26, 1944, letter.
At this point in the narrative the reader should ask what SIGSALY was and what was my uncle Hal doing at Number 10 Downing Street in the middle of World War Two?
Codes and code breaking was a special branch of service for all combatants in Second World War. Fifty years after the war ended “true” stories were written and continue to be told about the Enigma machine and Winston Churchill’s determined effort to crack the Kriegsmarine’s ciphers. Considered then a nearly impossible achievement, the Bletchly Park secret was the creation of the first machine now known as a computer.
Both the Japanese and German codes were broken. SIGSALY was never broken. She was the Allies secret means of communicating at the highest levels. Unlike Enigma which was used to encrypt Morse Code and employed daily, even hourly, as a method of communicating battle plans or weather conditions, SIGSALY terminals were huge racks of vacuum tubes requiring an air conditioned room and bulky equipment such that they were used for relatively rare transatlantic telephone conversations between Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt. The first of those encrypted telephone calls took place July 15, 1943.
SIGSALY was an elaborate digital quantizer which took the analog voice and encrypted it using pulse code modulation and, among other devices, a Bell Labs 1930’s invention called the vocoder, short for voice encoder. Western Electric manufactured Bell Labs’ equipment.
SIGSALY was not declassified until 1976 and the vocoder is now commonly used as a musical instrument.
Hal was one of the hand-picked soldiers in the 805th Signal Service Company whose task was to operate SIGSALY. That name, by the way, was a pure fiction made to sound as if it was an acronym for something else. Its initial code name was Green Hornet in honor of the then popular radio show, because the machine made a buzzing sound reminiscent of a hornet.
Back to the letter of October 17th which is the first indication my mother was a Francophile. I located her high school and college transcripts and discovered she took courses in French. She admired French culture and couture and saw to it that I went to French school when I was little more than a toddler. Among my first books were “Histoire de Babar” by Jean de Brunhoff and “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, both in French.
“They asked us at Hdq. if we thought we could say ‘no’ twenty four hours a day,” is the first mention that Red Cross women were surrounded by homesick men who saw them all as potential brides. The sentiment in this line will haunt many of Elizabeth’s future letters.
In this letter we find one of the first appearances, but not the last by far, of the political and social comments Elizabeth makes. She will observe British behavior at the dinner table and describe what she sees as their attitudes and class distinctions.
However, I searched the internet in vain for any explication of her mention of “Senatorial investigation committee that came over here.”
Her having seen a play in Torquay is the first mention she makes of that city. Based on the W. Somerset Maugham short story, “Miss Thompson,” the 1932 film, “Rain” starring Joan Crawford as a prostitute and Walter Huston as a morally flawed missionary, was apparently performed as a stage play there.
Elizabeth stayed with her unit in a barracks environment for a short while, then moved out with her friends. She must have been contemplating this when she wrote, “Our maintenance money is given to us to spend as we see fit, and if we want to go out and rent a room or an apartment we can do so with the sanction of Red Cross.”
The 1943 morale boosting film, “This Is the Army,” seems to have had a positive effect on Elizabeth who wanted her mother to be sure and see it. Adapted from a Broadway musical, the film had 19 Irving Berlin songs and both the film and stage play included U.S. Army soldiers. The movie’s ensemble cast included future President Ronald Reagan and future U. S. Senator from California, George Murphy, both of whom also served as presidents of the Screen Actors Guild.
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Nov. 11, 1943
This is my weekly — hope you find some information in it that is interesting — last week I went to Brixam again, thinking I’d buy the pictures I saw there once that were so cute — they were water colors, and they were going to solve all my Christmas shopping worries, because I was just going to send one to everyone and have it over with. As it happened the artists went on strike or broke an arm or something because I couldn’t get any. I only got two, and the were not enough to give to anyone, so I just sent them to mom and asked her to have them framed and hung up, but to save them for me for the godknowswhenchest. That solved that problem. I did find some funny looking dolls in Brixam however, and sent them home for the twins. They’re awful looking things, rag doll stuff, and not dressed well at all, but they are so typical of what the kids here are getting for toys that I thought they’d be nice for the twins to have for future reference. The people here have been ingenious with what they have to work with, making wooden toys and material dolls and so on. They even have small cut out materials that can be sewed together and turn out to be dolls or donkeys or Mickey Mouses, etc. I saw some cute knit dolls that are very dainty, and I’m going to try to get three for the three nieces, but I don’t know if I can, as they too are scarce. If I get them I’ll send them but it probably won’t be in time for Christmas. They are cute dolls too, and again are typical of the time. I’ll let you know what I bought for Bernard and Judy — riding crops. I don’t know what they’ll do with them, the one for Bernard would be good for riding an elephant I guess, but it looks nice and if he doesn’t want to use it on a horse, he can always use it in the Den. And Judy’s is cute. She can use it for the pony she should have next year. I sent Sal a table cloth that is real Irish Linen, but it is not new. I don’t know where it is from, but most of the linens they sell second hand are from blitzed homes, and people have broken up their estates and sold their belongings. The lace on it is hand made. You can’t buy anything new here, you know because they quit manufacturing and importing luxuries long long ago. What ones were available have been bought out by the Americans. I sent John a load of stamps, all hand picked ones too, I picked them out myself. I’m anxious to know what he thinks of them, as I had a boy in the detachment look at them and he said they looked good. When he gets them I want him to give me the American valuation on them and then I’ll tell him what I spent on them. Margaurite received two chair covers, items that are popular here and I thought she could put to good use. They are from the Irish Linen shop too, and are hand made, but they can be used for anything if you don’t want to use them as chair covers. Again, it was hard to find anything, and I thought just something from here would be sufficient. Mom received three pieces of Irish Lace, that is supposed to have been made by nuns in Ireland. I don’t know how true it is, but they are obviously hand made and should be nice. It is really a dresser set, but you can use them for any place. I bought two large towels and sent them home too, altho they are PX variety. I just thought they’d be nice to have. Sent a crocheted bag for Mrs. LeP thinking she’d like to carry it to the A & P and tell the gals there it came from England. I WENT INTO TOWN YESTERDAY TO FINISH THE SHOPPING, AND ARRIVED IN TIME FOR (sic) marketing. Everyone in the area goes to market on Wednesdays. I wish you could see them drive the cattle down the middle of the street on the way to the stalls in the market place. Town is very crowded, and you can buy luscious vegetables and fruits there. All of the men wear riding breeches with the puttees. It’s quite a sight. The other day we had to go on a hike that was unexpected. At 9 a.m. we were told to be ready to drill at 10. We did, and marched off into the woods surrounding our camp just in time to see a real Fox Hunt. Our C. O. knew it was in progress so he arranged for us all to see it by making us drill. It was exciting — the old hunter dogs were cavorting all around, and the little fox terriers were really down to business. The hunters themselves were very serious about this work, there were about 15 of them — don’t ask me how they find time for that stuff when they are at war, but they also get time to take tea every morning and every evening — anyhow, they really mean it when they’d yell “Tally-Ho! The Fox!” We only saw a part of it while we were out, but they finally caught the animal later that day. They cornered him at the fence near our grounds, and called some of us out to see the kill. One of our MAC’s who seems very young, and reminds me on many occasions of our Denny, got all excited about the hunt, and ended up getting the head (ears?) of the fox that was (were?) caught and displaying them at the dining room. Just imagine a bloody head being held up while you were eating your dinner! He is going to have the durn things mounted and sent home, he says. — to get back to the Christmas deal, I found something for almost everyone but I couldn’t find a thing for Steve or Denny or Harold. There just is nothing available to send you fellows, so I think I’ll give up. Mom can spend any of my money she wants to on any gift she thinks you should have. And if Denny makes it at O.C.S. I’d like mom to give him $25 so he can buy some of the things he’ll need. I had his letter the other day pleading for someone to come and help him buy things. I sure hope he makes it o.k. It’s a funny thing, but that gal in Washington who read the cards so constantly for me told me that mom was going to go down to visit Denny, and that one of my brothers was going to get married very suddenly. I don’t know how much of that can happen at this stage, but I would swoon if I read that mom had been down to see Denny’s graduation. And of course it would be worse if I heard she’d visited Steve for his wedding!
I’ve received a number of Christmas packages already, one from Sal, and mom, and Mrs. Greer — in fact I think I’ve had two from Sal — anyhow I haven’t opened them yet, and will save them for Christmas. Most of the fellows that have received things have opened them already. I’ll wait and see what happens. I have two pictures here that I’ll send to Judy and the twins. They are just pictures that can be framed and put up in nurseries — rather cute — original scissors cut drawings that are unusual. I’ll send them off as soon as I can. Haven’t heard from Nay so I have no idea where she is or what is happening to her and her family. In fact, I haven’t had a letter from (th?)em since the 15 of October, and that was one written by Sal when mom was still down on the farm. I had been getting mail very regularly, but decided that because of the shipping problem of getting the Xmas packages here they were holding up mail. I still don’t know what to tell you about the V-mail, because everyone is receiving V-mail whether they get packages or not, and it looks as tho’ they’ll send that through no matter what happens but they hold up the regular and air mails. I had Larry’s letter the other day in which he included clippings about Ellen Leonard and Sister Kenny. Other than that and Denny’s letter I ain’t hoid a woid.
Last night at about 11 p.m. we decided we’d go for a walk, because the moon is very beautiful at this time and it is clear and lovely out. There is a lake across the road from us, and it is part of the estate that the golf course was on, so it is a beautiful landscape. We walked around it and had lots of fun singing as we went. There were about ten of us, including the three Red Cross gals and our Chaplain. If ever you want to see a lovely sight, you should see that lake in the moonlight with the beautiful swans on it. They seem even whiter in the moonlight than in the daylight. Every body of water around here, no matter how small, has its swans on it. And they are lovely.
I’ve been trying hard to think of something else to tell you, but can’t think any more. Tonight I’m going to go to an RAF – American Corps dance, so maybe I’ll have something else to write you in a few days. I understand they are very exciting — since I can’t think of anything else, I’ll quit writing, but first
(This letter was transcribed from a poor Xerox copy that ends abruptly. There appear to be more pages but they are unreadable.)
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This description of a fox hunt is priceless. The means of getting the Americans outside for an “unexpected” early morning hike was a charming ruse and well told, don’t you think? Elizabeth clearly appreciates drama and uses various authorial methods to tell a story with a proper build up and dénouement. This is exactly the sort of tale she would have taken to great lengths in the retelling after the war had she lived to write it. It is a good example of why she asks her siblings to keep copies of her letters.
Brixam is a small fishing village which has long attracted tourists. It is across the bay from Torquay in Devon.
“MAC” will frequently appear in her letters. The combined American operations of the Navy, Army and Army Air Force in the Mediterranean region 1942 – 45 was officially termed the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO). Within that were the Allied air forces known as the Mediterranean Air Command (MAC) which was commanded by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder. The initials “T.O.” means Theater of Operations.
It is difficult to believe that the practical, educated, intelligent Elizabeth Donnellan would seek out a fortune teller, but that is the only way I can interpret, “ . . . that gal in Washington who read the cards so constantly for me …” Yet this is not the only reference to seeking advice from a card reader. She describes doing this with friends in a later letter, but more as a lark.
Steve eventually married Virginia Lawler in 1951. I met them both at the family reunion in Isabella, Missouri, mid-70’s. Virginia told me she was a young woman living in Honolulu when the Japanese attacked. And then she refused to say anything more.
RAF stands for Royal Air Force.
Elizabeth comments that the last letter was, “. . . written by Sal when mom was still down on the farm.” Uncle Bernard’s farm has long been a sort of magical place in my mind. A photo exists of me age one and a whole bunch of cousins, all grand children of Stephen and Ellen Donnellan, taken on the farm circa 1948. Perhaps six years later we visited the farm again and Bernard let me start the tractor and drive it in a field, ever so briefly. Judy to this day retains the land which she leases to a grower and it continues as a source of income for her family.
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Nov. 23, 1943
Dear Sal, Bernard and Judy —-
I intended to write this all last week, but I didn’t have a bit of time — I don’t know where the time goes, but all of a sudden it isn’t there — Last week I was busy from Monday on — my C.O. had to visit Taunton at one time, and he asked me to go along. That I did, as it gave me the opportunity to see another section of the country. It was a beautiful day, and the drive was lovely. It’s a funny thing, but you only have to go about ten to twenty miles away from our post to notice at least 15 degrees difference in the temperature. We are supposedly in the warmest part of England, and I see why they say that — the other parts are even colder than this. I didn’t do much there, but managed to visit a large General Hospital and take a slant on what they are doing in Red Cross Work. The town itself is pretty, but is swamped with army personnel. Then the next day he was going to another spot considerably distant from here — Salisbury. I wanted to go there too, and he asked if I could come along. That I did. I found that town to be wonderful. It is quite ancient, and could be, it is the home of the original Salisbury steak. They have a beautiful old Cathedral there that was built in the 10th century, altho it was originally started in 685. Doesn’t that sound old? I was at work then for then next three days when my two day leave came up, and Louise and I went to Salisbury for the weekend, where we met Dick Dorway and one of his friends. Dick had inquired through the Red Cross last week for a place for us to stay, and on the advice of one of the girls, reserved two double rooms in a hotel there. Migawd, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Our room was so cold you couldn’t stand it in there. They have no heat in those places, and when it’s cold you don’t do anything about it only get into bed. It was too cold to change our clothes. If Sal remembers how cold the front bedroom used to get she has a vague idea of what it is like being in an English hotel room. Only this is worse. They had those big basins with huge white pitchers for you to wash in, and the bath tub was down the hall in a colder room than the bedroom. That was to make sure you didn’t use the bath tub, I guess, because you would have been an icicle before you slid into the tub. The fellows had a room in the Annex, and believe it or not the Annex was much better than our place. They didn’t have much more heat, but they had a nicer room and more conveniences. That is something over here that I’ll never get used to — they treat men much better than they treat women. For instance, in a restaurant, a man gets a larger portion of everything that a woman does. Also, they will not serve certain things to women dining alone that they will serve if they are with a man. I can’t get over it, but then I guess the cab driver that I had the other night explained it . . . he said, “I hear that over in your country there are more men than there are women.” Here it is just the opposite, and the women have been catering to the men for generations. A man thinks he’s doing a woman a favor if he marries her, I’ve heard. Anyhow, the hotel we stayed at was awfully cold. It was nice however, they had a parlor with large old fashioned but comfortable furniture in it, and it was the only spot in the house where they had a fire. It was an open fire in a fireplace, and Saturday night before we went to the Officer’s Club Dance four of us, and an old maid who was staying there sat before the fire and drank scotch and soda. — Pardon me, it was water, because we each carried our glass of water away from the table with us so we could have a mix. It was nice sitting there we enjoyed that part of the stay. There was an old woman of about 75 or 80 staying there who had her meal with us, and believe me she was a character. The old maid in the parlor was her travel companion. The old woman talked to us all during our meals and asked us all kinds of questions about America. She had traveled all over the world and had been to the States so she was curious about us. She asked all about the price of wheat in the U. S. as compared to Canada and so on. We enjoyed ourselves at the officer’s dance that night, and were pretty tired when we rolled into bed. We thought we’d sleep late, but at about 7 in the morning, we heard that old woman saying something. It sounded like a nightmare, but she was in our room and was saying in the polite English way but the old lady’s voice — “Will you please take the cat off my back?” We thought we were dreaming, but when we woke up there she stood little old thing that she was, with a huge cat up on her shoulders. She had been coming up the stairs from breakfast when the house cat jumped on her from the upstairs landing. You know how I hate cats. Louise hopped out of bed with both eyes shut and plucked the animal off the old lady. The poor old thing was scared to death, but she wouldn’t be discourteous for anything, and stood there as calmly as possible. We enjoyed the town of Salisbury. Gee, it is old. The buildings are beautiful, but they are all of the 13th and 14th and 15th centuries. Elizabethan period is what they are — with the overhanging second story and the high pointed roofs with red shingles on them. Just like the pictures you’ve seen in Dickens. The oldest buildings however, seem to be the public houses, which are just beer joints to you. Steve would love them, provided they served American beer instead of the stuff they serve here — (one of the boys here says that as far as he is concerned they can put it back in the horse –) but we actually went into a beer joint the other day that was opened in 1335. It was a lovely spot too, had the huge open fireplace with the seats on either side, and an oven in the side of the wall above the fire.
About my work, we hain’t had many patients yet, which seems to be my old cry, but we have had a few from surrounding installations who are suffering from colds and flu, and so on. I haven’t had trouble with a cold yet, and wonder seriously if I’ve inherited an immunity because mom and pa were born and raised in this climate. I don’t know if it’s possible, the doctors here say it isn’t, but we shall see when I collapse with t.b. Anyhow, in the mean time, I’m getting along swell. The work is still in the infancy stages, but some day we’ll have something fascinating to do.
I’ve received most of my Christmas packages, already, and haven’t opened any, however. I opened the one sent by Margaruite and John thinking it was the sweater they were sending me, but I was surprised and pleased to notice they were snuggies and I thank you indeed for them as they are just what I wanted — bunk, of course, but they are definitely what I needed. I also received two little packages that looked something like two little prayer books, they were sent from Carson’s and they were not marked as Xmas Pkgs as are everything else, so I opened one. They are candy kisses, tiny coffee flavored ones, sent by Mary Mitchell. I think that was awfully nice of her, and I’ll write her soon and tell her so. I’ve received the package sent by Gert Dunn and assume it is one sent by Sal. I haven’t opened it yet, but it strongly resembles toilet paper and kleenex.
We are planning great things here for Thanksgiving, we are to have a tremendous dinner at 2, but breakfast won’t be until 9. It is a holiday, altho the English can’t understand why we celebrate it. I intended to stay here for the day, but yesterday was invited by a young Cavalry Officer from New Jersey to spend the day with him — the Huge Cathedral in his town, which isn’t too far from here, is having church services for his regiment. A Regimental service, he called it, and it sounds impressive. Of course it is High Anglican, and will be a lot like the Catholic services, but it won’t be Catholic. Their dinner at his post will be the same as ours, as the entire European Theater of Operations gets the same menu for meals, no matter what day they are served on. They will have a formal dance that evening, but I don’t know if I’ll stay that long. It is fairly close, and I understand it is something to be invited, so I’m looking forward to the experience.
Well, this is my day of labor. I started this thing at 8 a.m. and it is now a few minutes after nine, and I’ll have to start working. I’m enclosing a picture of me for everyone to see. It was taken out near our mess hall on the post by an English photographer, so it isn’t good. It just gives you an idea of how I look in uniform, altho I don’t like the legs at all. The dam Englishman insisted I stand with my heels together and you know what that does to my legs. If you don’t know, just look at the pictures. The suit is the winter suit, and the little things up on the collar above the ARC pin are of a light blue flannel. The rest of the suit is an oxford grey serge. The ones of you that get the one in the overcoat, that’s how I look when I’m dressed for English weather. Please note the kid gloves. What I would do without them, I don’t know. — I’ll quit now — hope to hear from everyone soon — how is Denny making out, and where is Steve and what’s happening to Harold, and how’s Melly and what is Judy wanting for Christmas, and how’s mom and so on and on? Hope the twins are making out o.k. — and say hello to Mrs. Lepenske for me.
* * *
It is only about 50 miles from Torquay to Taunton which is in Somerset and has over 1,000 years of history. Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire and renown for the Salisbury Plain and Stonehenge, of which Elizabeth makes no mention. Taunton and Salisbury are approximately 70 miles apart. If she had visited the prehistoric monument she would undoubtedly have mentioned that.
This is a rare instance where the letter has breaks between main subject matter.
One of the curiosities learned about Elizabeth in this letter: She hated cats. But she does seem to enjoy British ales. Her American male traveling companions, however, do not appreciate them at all. My favorite line: “as far as he is concerned they can put it back in the horse.”
The comments about the separate treatment of men and women in England at the time are just the beginning of Elizabeth’s observations. Later descriptions tell of the way the aristocracy lived, how the more common folk used eating utensils and how they salted their food.
This is the last letter from 1943 in my possession. I am sure there were more since Elizabeth was capable of and quite willing to tell all her exploits and there must somewhere be a chronicle of Christmas, 1943, but it is lost to me.
* * *
(Undated — Probably early 1944)
S & B
I’ve enjoyed everything so far, and get a huge kick out of the letters you send, Judy sounded like a big girl. I’d like to have a clear picture of her, if you get a chance to give it to me. I thought the Xmas one was good but it isn’t as nice as I imagine she is. Also, the other snaps you send are darling, but again, not too clear, and not as cute as could be. I want egg in my beer. I enjoy watching these English eat. You know, they think it is impolite to “spear” food with a fork the way we do, and they push all their foods on the back of their forks with a knife. They don’t use salt shakers in the nicer places, but instead, they have cute little silver or pewter salt cellars with tiny cute spoons that you take the salt onto your plate with. They do not sprinkle their foods with salt, or with seasoning of any kind, instead they put a tiny mound of the seasoning on their plate, and after packing the fork well, they tap it gently into the seasoning. Quite a sight, and indeed a feat. They look very ill-mannered, but then they think we are terrible. Our decision on their manners is “Wasted motion! It’s easier to eat the other way.” You should see a tiny kid eat that way. Riot!
All the xmas gifts were received intact. Glad Bernard liked his. I thought it could be used for an elephant. Can you do anything with it for a horse?
Tell Mrs. Greer I appreciated her Xmas card and her note, and that I think of Mr. Greer with every prayer. Hope he doesn’t really suffer too much. E
* * *
January 14, 1944
Hold your hats folks, here it comes!
I know I’ve been lax in writing you but I’ve tried to keep mom posted by sending a few V-mails every now and then. For the rest of youse guys, I just haven’t had time to do anything and will try to make it up now. I wrote you after Christmas I think, and told you all about what I was doing. Now I’ll try to tell you a few other things — not interesting, but an account of activities. I’ve received mail from most everyone of late, had Denny’s letter from the La. Post, John’s V-mail, and Sal’s weekly wherein she described Judy’s description of Pa. Also got a letter from Mary that was written the first of December, and must have been way-laid somewhere. Received a letter from Mrs. Lep written the 30th of November, but it came yesterday. Some of the mail come through very quickly and some of it is tied up months. I haven’t heard from Steve, but as I told you I’d received his chocolate and have been just reveling in it since. I’ve been busy doing stupid things since the first of the year. For one thing, I had to take inventory of everything we had here, and believe me it was a job. We have this little room we use as a handcraft shop that is a mess. We’ve been trying to fix it up since arriving here but are getting no place in a hurry. We’re still crowded into one small office and it is hell trying to do a good job with thousands milling around. We want to move Louise into the kitchen but she refuses to go until it is fixed. I’ve begged and begged the army for some cupboards, and have finally rounded up four that are going to be lining the walls of the kitchen, and will have all the stuff we own tucked into them. At some time we hope to make it look like a handcraft shop with the recreation worker’s desk in it. We’ve painted the floors in the Day room also, that is the E.M. did it for us. We had cement floors and they raise a heck of a lot of dust that was just ruining the stationery and furniture and so on. So again I begged and begged of the army, and finally we’ve been able to snare 10 gallons of paint the color of our house, and we’ve got it on the floors. That threw everything hay wire because all the furniture had to come out of the rooms while the painting was being done. Now we’re waxing the paint job, in the hopes it will give smooth glossy finish to the rooms. Many times this week the place has been such a mess and I’ve felt so frustrated in fixing it that I’ve walked out hoping it would straighten itself out. I felt like I used to when mom was house cleaning or decorating, and the place looked as if it would never get back together again, and I’d wonder why we just didn’t lock all the doors, bolt the windows, and sell the house as is, instead of trying to straighten it out. All of youse guys know the feeling because you had it too. Louise is gone to London, and won’t be back until Monday, and I just know she left hoping to heck we’d have the messy job finished when she comes back. I’m hoping it will be done, and from the looks of things, I’d say it will look good. I hope I hope I hope.
Other than this fat mess on my hands, I’ve tried to visit the wards regularly and I’ve met all kinds of kids. Some of them are anxious to get back into the swing of things and after having been in on two or three invasions are scared to death they’ll be separated from their units when the next big invasion comes along. Others are just happy to sit back for a change and take things easy. I met a colored boy the other day who is being observed for neuropsychiatric symptoms, only I doubt he’s anything but smart. He said he’d never worked in civilian life, because he always “managed to get along somehow without working. But in this Army, look like you jus’ kaint get outta work. But I’m fixing of thinking up some way to get out of work!” And he’s found it — just laying there in bed! I had to laugh at him. He was frank anyhow. The work is piling up and sometimes I doubt very much if I’ll ever be able to do all the things I should do, but I’m at the point the Army gets to — figure what the hell if I don’t get it done, who cares? I’ve been having lots of fun on the sidelines tho, and it makes up for the work proposition. The other day at lunch, I was interrupted by an announcement that a Chaplain from Southern Base who was Chief of Chaplains for the section was going to talk to us. They said he was Chaplain O’Brien, but I was busy eating and didn’t pay much attention. When I was thru’ Fr. Martin came up to me and asked, “Elizabeth, are you through eating? Chaplain O’Brien would like to talk to you, he thinks he knows you.” And you can imagine my surprise when I shook hands with Fr. O’Brien, from St. Annes. And first thing he told Fr. Martin was that we refused to go to the Irish church! He seemed genuinely happy to see me, and said he’d seen the write up in the New World, and has been looking for me since, but hadn’t thought about seeing me here. He was at St. Annes when I played basketball for them — Sal will remember driving me down to St. Columbanus’ to be licked each Tuesday evening. He talked like an old friend, and at the meeting at which he addressed the whole post he told them how their “Good little Red Cross Worker Mrs. Donnellan was from his home town.” I remember his sister Dorothy went to Loyola before I did and she held a lot of the jobs I intended to hold for the State Dept. He is head of Chaplains in this base area, and is a Major, quite well respected. He looks considerably older than he did when he was acting Pastor at St. Annes, but he looks good nonetheless, money from home, really — I could see him strutting out in front of St. Annes’ along the boulevard on a sunny day, I could, instead of seeing him as an influential Major in the Army. He told me of a number of boys he’d met in ETO who were from Chicago, and had a fine old chat with me. It was very good to see him, and I believe he was just as tickled to see me.
The other night I had a nice experience. I visited the home of an old family in Chudleigh a beautiful little quaint town in Devon. The home was that of the Mitchell-Moores, and it is a lovely old estate. The entrance is through a huge white gate, and down a long road to the house. The doorway was a massive oak thing that evidently has been hammered on by the lords and ladies of the past. We went into the parlor, which was lovely in its day, but is now crowded with junk that is apparently the result of years of living in the same household. We sat by a huge open fireplace and chatted and listened to the radio news broadcasts. The radio is the thing they listen to at 9 each night, as Big Ben strikes at that time, and the English people respect the chimes of that old clock. You rather bow your head as you would at 11 on Armistice Day when Big Ben chimes. Anyhow, Mrs. Mitchell Moore sat in a straight winged chair that was very high, on one side of the fire and her husband sat in the other opposite her. She was clad in a beautiful black velvet dress that might have been a house coat, it was long and flowing. She wore a beautiful diamond brooch, pearl earrings and cute little velvet slippers that looked like they’d been made in Victorian days. He was also in evening clothes, with a soft white shirt and the usual bow tie in the winged collar. He too wore little soft pumps with bows on them. She carried an evening bag that contained an enormous amount of junk for such a little thing, and she was fishing in it all night. She had a good 8 inch hand carved ivory cigarette holder that she smoked from all night, and she was quite a sight when she’d reach into the fire with a long wax taper and light her cigarette from it. Later in the evening they took us to their Game Room, which astounded me. It was as large as our entire house, but it was one large room. They had a “Snooker” table in it. That is an over grown pool table, twice the size of LePenske’s, and on which you play an unusual game, using 18 balls. The balls are divided and lined up about 2 feet from each end of the table, and the object is to hit them in such a way that you get the balls belonging to the other fellow down on your side of the table and vice versa. It is fun, but I don’t know why they bother to put pockets in the durn thing. It is quite a tricky game, but is most popular here. They also had a huge library in one end of the room, and a lovely bar and radio victrola machine on another end. On one side was a tremendous open fire place that was flanked by two ceiling high china closets that contained treasure of generations ago. They had beautiful things in them. Then there were all kinds of hunting trophies about the room, huge white polar bear rugs, leopard skins, elephant heads and tusks and so on. They have four sons in service but before service they’d traveled all over and had been on all kinds of expeditions. It was quite an experience being with them. I visited with a lieutenant who is stationed nearby with the Engineers. He comes to Church every Sunday and had seen me at Mass. He came over one day and introduced himself, and has proven to be a nice guy. He knew the Mitchell Moores and just took me there as he would any date. You’d think he was their long lost son the way they treated him. I sat in a chair like the winged ones I described, before the fire, and he sat on the floor. They had a huge Newfoundland dog that was black and big as a lion. The dog lay on the floor near the fire and was as much a part of the setting as was the lady-in-the-housecoat. I was open mouthed all night, and loved the whole thing, but I must say it was more movie-like than real.
* * *
Elizabeth was not a racist and her remarks cannot be taken as such. The word “colored” is the term I learned as a child. When in kindergarten another child on the playground called me a nigger lover, I asked my mother what that meant. She explained that we don’t use that word. It means an ignorant person and we don’t say that about anyone. I never forgot this and tell the story because it popped into my head when I read her letter the first time. The accusation, if such it was, may have come from the mouth of a child, but it is clear the child learned it from their parent
In elementary school I had two friends who were black, Franklin Journiette and Anderson Johnson, but I didn’t know they were black. I knew them as friends. I recall another incident when my brother, Steve, and I were accosted by two police who had been called to investigate the vandalism of an empty stable in the canyon behind our house on Rockledge. The cops were pleasant enough and explained we were not supposed to play there and when they asked where we went to school, one of them responded, “Oh. You must know my son Anderson.” I said yes I did, and told him we were great friends and the cops sent us home.
As you can see, Elizabeth thought the soldier to be quite intelligent.
The comment “bow your head as you would at 11 on Armistice Day” is a World War 1 reference. That war ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Today, we call it Veteran’s Day which falls on November 11.
She played basketball at St. Annes. She played snooker at the Mitchell-Moores. However, that is a misspelling of the family name.
Chudleigh is a town in Devon. I received a remarkable reply from Steve Coombes of the Chudleigh History Group when I emailed a request for information about the family known as the Mitchell-Moores who lived there in 1944. I sent him the paragraphs describing the interior of the house.
“It took me a few minutes,” Steve wrote, “as I thought the name ‘Mitchell Moores’ rang no bells at all. In fact the surname is MICHELMORE.
“Harold G. Michelmore had his house built in Station Hill, Chudleigh in the early 1900s and was resident there by the time of the 1906 town directory,” Coombes wrote. “The house was then, and still is called ‘SAFFRON CLOSE.’ The name was chosen as it was built on a field that had had that name since at least the early 1800s.”
January 31, 1944
Once again I’m at it and this time I must hasten to state I’ve received letters from every one on schedule, and some of the ones have been coming through from December. I guess the mails were held up unduly. Anyway, I would say at present writing that I’m pretty much up on all the dope. Now for me — The work has let up for a while, I don’t know for how long, but I guess it’s the lull before the storm. I manage to keep pretty busy, and enjoy it, but it is not as difficult as it was in December. Our area supervisor was down here last week and spent some time with us, living on the Post. She liked our lay-out and the work we were doing, but I don’t know how they expected us to be. She thought our set-up was good and she did a lot of backslapping, probably to make us feel good. She threw a couple of hints about possible transfers, so how long I’ll be here I don’t know. But then this is the army, and you have to live from day to day. She liked my work very much, and had me dictate a few cases in detail to be used for teaching purposes. As far as camp is concerned however, everything is much the same.
Say, I was tickled with the clippings you sent me about Joe Meegan. What ever happened as the end of that battle? I smell Saul Alinsky behind all that, but I’ll have to get the straight dope from Helen. Had a letter from Ellen Doran, and was glad to hear from her. Also rec’d a lovely Christmas card and note from Mrs. Barry. Her card was beautiful and shall be framed and put up in my office. I’ve written to both Aunt Kate and Aunty Maggie’s relatives but have not had any word from them. I can’t imagine what happens to their mail. Perhaps they don’t want to be bothered with me. There is some kid on 59th street name of Florence Farrell who has been writing me — I sent her a letter. Hipe (sic) she receives it.
Since my last letter, I spent one hysterical night out — gad, I must have been a sight. I had nothing to do of a sattiday evening, and one of the older male officers here knew it. He is a tiny puny guy, about 5 feet tall, and thinner than I am. He has a long funny face with a broken nose in the middle of it, and lots of grey hair. He is as funny as he is funny looking, and I usually can laugh at him no matter what I do. He asked me to go to town with him, and as he knew I had nothing to do, I couldn’t back out. He also asked Louise to go and got another officer to accompany her. We went to one of the ritziest hotels here that is now over-run with Americans. It was hardashell to go out on the Dance floor with him, and it took every noive in my body to do so. I didn’t depend on the nerves, however, I got a few scotches in me and it wasn’t too difficult. As luck would or wouldn’t have it, I met a lad I’ve known here for some time who was from Gary and he laughed like a fool when he saw me and told every American in the place where I was from. It got so whenever I passed the stag line, which I had to do to get to the dance floor there were remarks like “Where did she get the ghost?” or “Would you like to check your crutches here sir?” It so happened the ghost was a captain and the other people lesser — so they really razzed me. The happenings of the evening were just a gay hazy memory to me, but oh, my the aftermath! On Sunday, the following day, a tall beeeeeeuytiful Paratrooper Lieutenant showed up here at camp for Sunday dinner stating I’d invited him out, and what did he do but stay until Tuesday! He was on leave and had nothing to do so he just parked here! The man-who-came-to-dinner stuff. He never did say so, but I think he really thought I knew what had happened and just took it for granted I remembered asking him out! It was quite a deal introducing him to people home that afternoon for dinner, and he came along like any old friend. He said he had nothing to do and if the English didn’t mind he certainly didn’t. The payoff was when he remained until Tuesday! I had to work both days so he just hung around. Then Monday, — no Sunday night, someone called and said he was “Danny, from Chicago.” Seems he is an Ensign who also made a date for Sunday. I didn’t get the message until Monday, when I got a letter from him, and then Tuesday he called and said “Didn’t you keep the date with the pilot for Monday?” Seems I met a pilot from Chicago too! This Sunday I went out with “Danny f. c.” and when we were walking into a Club where he expected to meet some friends of his, he turned to me and said “What shall I introduce you as, Elizabeth, Betty, or what?” So quick as a flash, I comes back with “Just say Htebazile (sic).” “What?” he shouts. What did you say?!” “Htebazile.” I answered as simply as that. “That’s it,” he shouted, “That’s IT!” “What’s IT?” sez I. “That’s the name you gave me! When we were dancing last week, I asked you what your name was, and you said ‘You’ll never believe it if I tell you, but its hxzzllee or something. Later, on Sunday when we were sitting at the officer’s club waiting for you, the pilot said, ‘I’m not sure I remember her name but I think she said it was Elizabeth.’ I said, ‘Naw, it’s not as easy as that, it’s an Italian name, like Zaly or something!’ What does it mean.” Of course I laughed so hard I was ashamed of myself. When I explained the origin of it, he nearly died. All evening long he’d look at me and say “Htebazile” in a disgusted sort of a way. What a night I must have had? But it was so funny, I just had to tell you. I bet mom would enjoy a first hand version of that.
During this week, I went to London. I had to go to Hdqs. with some material and wanted to meet my big boss that the Generals all know, so I took three days off and went there. I made previous plans to stay at Claridges, one of the finest hotels in Europe. I decided I’d really put on the ritz, even tho it costs lots and lots. I had a wonderful suite of rooms and was really swell. The place was beautiful. They had more doormen and footmen and so on than I’ve seen anywhere. My bed was so big and soft and beautiful, the stead was a quilted job, with a huge spread and of course no foot on it. There were so many mirrors around I looked at myself all the time. The bathroom was as big as my barracks, and the tub was one of those sunken jobs. Plenty of hot water and so on. I had breakfast in bed each morning, and really put on the ritz. Food was unbelievably good. I lolled in luxury for some time, until the waiter who brought my breakfast got too chummy. He brought me down to earth with his remark “If you are still here tomorrow, it is my day off and I’d like to show you London.” He was a Polish refugee, and of course, waiting on tables and so on was not his job. “I yam a song wrrrrrrriter. I would like to wrrrrrrrrite a song to youuuuuuu,” were the words he used, but he made me realize no matter how you fry it I’m still a woiking goil and I can’t convince anyone but myself. I was pretty much alone in London after my business had been transacted, so someone at Red Cross made arrangements for me to go to Bagattelles restaurant. It’s quite a lovely place, and it took again the noive of me to go there alone, but I got me a cab in the blackout and went there just to look. I didn’t look long however, when three of the Navy Pilots who are stationed nearby walked in, and they were as pleased to see me as I was to see them. They pulled up chairs, and from there on I had a fine time in London. The following day we went to a stage play — “Strike a New Note” which was hilarious but just a light comedy, musical type — one Mr. Five by Five is from — and had dinner at Odinnino’s, another bright spot of London. I was well escorted. I looked all over for some things to buy, and finally wound up with two tiny Wedgewood placques that were made by Wedgewood in 1780. They are a little bigger than a silver dollar, and are blue the color of Sal’s dishes, with tiny white figures on them. I’d say they were about the size of that little blue pin Bernard gave Sal once, looks like a cameo. They are originals, and whatin hell I’ll ever do with them I don’t know, but I think they’d be cute framed in tiny ovals and hung close together on the wall, but they can be used as pins or brooches or clips or soon (?), but they are too valuable to be broken. They cost me 5 pounds, ten shillings or about $22. Yerse, I’m nertz. I’m going to get that stuff I told Sal about once, and I’ll send it home, but it won’t be in my name. Hope she likes it. Yerse, I’m nertz.
I was told in London that I’d have to be taking my leave soon, because when the “Drive” starts they won’t be able to give us time off. That means sometime in March I’ll be horsing around Ireland, if I can make it. I think I’ll take the time anyhow, and then just have a good time later, if I want time off, taking it on my own. Mom, you’d better put some more money in my checking account, if I see anything in Ireland I want to buy. Big event of this week, so far, this being Monday — Bill Hugill called me. Expect I may see him sometime soon, if they let him stick around.
Had a letter from Vince Billick, and expect to see him too. Also heard from Jim Simmons. No word yet from John Miller, we shall see. Margies (sic) letters come through regularly and are nice to get. Mom be sure you buy something nice for Billy’s kid, from me. Hope you got your check for $50 for the suit. I’ll look for some thing in Ireland for the Bronsil offering. Elizabeth.
* * *
Elizabeth was an admirer of Saul Alinsky and quotes him in her master’s thesis. Alinsky was a community organizer, perhaps best know for his book, “Rules for Radicals,” who in the 1950’s began working to improve the plight of African-Americans.
Joe Meegan was co-founder of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, a name Elizabeth borrowed as the title of her Master’s thesis for Loyola. Meegan died in 1992, age 82, but was a resident of the 1 ½ X 3 ½ mile area next to what was the Union stock yards on Chicago’s near south side also known as Packingtown, according to his Chicago Tribune obituary.
Dancing at “one of the ritziest hotels here that is now over-run with Americans” was undoubtedly the Imperial Hotel in Torquay, a seaside resort on the English Riviera which she at last named in her January 21, 1945, letter.
Elizabeth often mentions theatre and here she saw “Strike a New Note” with the song “Mr. Five by Five” in it. This and other comedy shows were written and performed on stage by British comedian Sid Field. This particular program opened March 18, 1943, at Prince of Wales Theatre.
“Little” Jimmie (James Andrew) Rushing was Count Basie’s featured vocalist from 1935 to 1948. Short and stout, he was the eponymous “Mister Five by Five,” written by Don Raye and Gene DePaul. The song was a hit for Harry James and others and Rushing did record it. It seems Field performed it in his show.
Her reference to “man-who-came-to-dinner stuff” is the 1939 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, “The Man Who Came to Diner,” which was made into a film in 1942, wherein the dinner guest arrives, but does not leave.
The fact that Elizabeth was popular with the men in uniform makes interesting reading, especially for me, her son. Anyone who has ever juggled relationships knows what kind of trouble you can get into and she was no exception.
Apparently she liked scotch. We already knew she liked ales.
Referring to “when the ‘Drive’ starts” is surely one of many euphemisms people used for what we now know as D-Day.
Have you ever wondered why they called it “D-Day”? In military parlance, “D” in D-Day stands for the word “Day” when the exact date is secret. Thus, it would be Day-Day. And they do use H-Hour for the time, thus Hour-Hour.
She planned to go to Ireland, but that did not occur until the war in Europe ended. She wrote two fascinating letters in July, 1945, detailing the adventure.
I could find nothing about a restaurant called Odinnino’s and the only London Bagattelles restaurant I could find was a Café Bagatelle in Manchester Square which is now the Wallace Restaurant. However Claridge’s Hotel at 49 Brook St, London, is open today and probably where she stayed.
I am frequently delighted by Elizabeth’s turn of phrase, her slang or, one might say, clever comment, such as these examples in this January 31 letter: “No matter how you fry it I’m still a woiking goil” and “Yerse, I’m nertz” meaning, “Yes, I’m nuts.” In earlier letters she wrote, “they worked the pants off me” (August 8, 1943), “Visiting salesman stuff” (9-28-43) and “Other than that and Denny’s letter I ain’t hoid a woid” (11-11-43) all of which adds to her stories by revealing her fun self.
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(NOTE: Two pages, hand written on plain paper. Date missing on opening page.)
Haven’t looked up Ruby and Ralph ’cause I tho’t they’d look for me. Hoped to see Vince Billick. Mom’s suit sounds wonderful — hope its as nice as it sounds. I’m sending her a check to cover the coat — hope she doesn’t mind. Be sure you send me a snapshot of how she looks in it. Also, do you suppose you could take the pictures we made of her at Field’s to Fields & have miniatures made? One for Steve & Denny & me. Kinda as a surprise gift. I’ll be glad to pay whatever it costs. Let me know what you think. Judy’s picture on the post card was cute — only she’s prettier than that. I’d bragged so much about her & I couldn’t prove it by the picture. How about a clear cute one of her?
Mitchell Moores sent us a dog — a golden retriever — for our C. O. & Mr. M. M. asked we call it after him as its an honor to have a dog named after you! Harold is its name — But I can’t seem to call it that — I insist unconsciously on calling it Larry!! How is he?
I’ll write Mrs. Greer one of these days & thank her for her gifts — they were all very acceptable!
Write when you can. Elizabeth
* * *
The dog named Larry must be from Harold G. Michelmore, which I discovered is the correct spelling of the family in Chudleigh whom Elizabeth described meeting in her January 14 letter. The person named Larry is mentioned in the next letter, but I still have no idea who he was to her. As a letter writer he first appeared in November 11, 1943, and several more times including this next, but with no further description.
* * *
February 10, 1944
I’ve been receiving letters so fast, and furious, I’m swamped. The letters have been coming through very quickly, I’ve had the letters you sent on the 31st already — have them in less than eight days which is good. I’ve heard all about Billy’s cheesild (? chessild?), and Aunty Julia’s broken wrist. Hope every one is all right now. Mom wrote and said Winnie and her mother had been to visit mom. It’s funny — last week I was at the Imperial Hotel dancing when I spotted someone I knew. I went over to the table and talked with him, and was as natural about it as could be, and after a few minutes of talking with him I realized I wasn’t in Chicago, or at St. Xav’s dance, but instead I was in ENGLAND. The fellow was Winnie’s old flame, one she dated all the while we were in college. I met him everywhere at home, and got accustomed to bumping into him. It was perfectly natural to see him when I was on a dance floor. He is a doctor, and now is a captain with a combat outfit. He is a good egg, finally got tired of Winnie’s goofing around, and married another girl. He saw me last night and we really had a gab fest about all the kids from home. It was old home week. He has introduced me to some nice people and will be a good deal. He happens to have a lot of transportation available, and insists I take advantage of it. I thought it was funny that I should be talking to him here, and mom was seeing Winnie at home. Last Saturday I went to a military wedding. One of the Cavalry men got married to an English girl. The cavalry put on a show for her. The wedding was in the Cathedral at Exeter and was very solemn, not as warm and understanding as one of ours would be. The Army got a lot of jeeps lined up, and trailed all over the town in a parade. They have an excellent band, and they had them on a truck that went down in front of the Church, and they serenaded from there. Then they led the parade back and played all the while the procession was coming back to the post. They had their officer’s club fixed up very nicely and had a beautiful spread of food made out of Quartermaster things. Even had a lush looking white wedding cake. They mixed a punch up of all the fruit juices available, and then dumped in every kind of liquor they could find — including wine. It was quite potent and they all proceeded to get stinking. Everything went fine until the reception was breaking up. At that point everything subsided (?), and in pranced one of the men on a beautiful horse! Right into the middle of the dance floor! Of course the dam horse wasn’t here a minute when it messed up the floor. Boy were the English amazed (?)! I was too for that matter, because it was impromptu and the other guys had no idea there was a horse available in the country. The cavalry has been here a long time, but never had a horse among them. They are mechanized. I don’t think the English family that guy married into will ever forget that ordeal. It was the funniest sight I’ve seen.
I’ve had considerable news from Larry of late. His letters have been arriving thick and fast and I’ve enjoyed getting them. I’m curious to know what Red Cross can do for him. Margie’s letters came also, and they tell me the goings on at her home. I’ve written to Aunty Maggie’s folks twice now, but haven’t heard from them. I finally got a letter — two in fact, from aunt Kate. She apparently thinks I’m coming up there on the next train or boat — it isn’t that easy to get there, you know. She says Uncle Bernie says every day, “Surely she’ll come today.” They must think I have an airplane and a passport. Some people tell me it is a simple trick to get there, and others tell me it is impossible. I don’t know which is right, but I intend to get there by St. Pat’s day if I can. The first letter aunt Kate sent she sent to Postmaster, N. Y., and it took a long time to make the rounds. She answered my other one right away, and that answer came in four days. The priest in the town of Newton Abbot visited here one day and he of course is Irish as can be, aren’t they all?????? — but he insists I should have no trouble. “With your face there’s no mistakin’ you,” sez he, “and they will do everything for an American.” Maybe he’ll go with me. Father Martin ses he’d like to go too, so we shall see. I’ll try everything — by the way mom, the trip may cost money, so as soon as you get this go get another $150 out of the savings account and put it in the checking account so I can have enough to spend. I sent Sal some stuff the other day that set me back plenty. I have some more I want to send home to have it saved for me, but it cost a lot. About $40, and on a $50 monthly allotment, that’s something. I think praps if I see anything I like near Aunt Kate’s I’ll buy it for youse guys, and I’d like to have possiblity (sic) of cashing a check before going in there. If I don’t use the money, it is just a safeguard for me.
(NOTE: Handwritten in pen at the bottom of this page. “The peanuts in the jar were a swell idea. Otherwise they get damp aboard ship & are lousy. Can you find some in a can? The ones in paper containers are N.G. Bernard’s letter was good. Wish I could celebrate with him!”)
This is being written about a week later. Everything happened in the meantime, so I couldn’t finish this letter. I’ve again received some mail, including some from Mary which was surprising to me. I’m glad she got a spot in Washington, from the way she talked about it it must be near the Catholic University. She should go into the Burlington Hotel which is on 14th Street near Thomas Circle, N. W., and look it over. I wonder if it is still over run with Old old women and Red Cross girls. Hope she makes out all right and that this time she uses St. Bernard’s. Received John’s letter and the picture of the twins and was as happy as can be to see them. Gee, they are beautiful kids! Really, they are as pretty as they can be. Dina is darling and that Denny is priceless. I show the pictures to everyone, but of course no one believes they are twins. There is one girl in our barracks who says if I show that picture once more she’s going to burn it. Wish I had a nice one of Judy, and of Melly. Melly’s are cute, but you can’t see her face. I had some of the patients make some picture frames out of string, and sent them to Margaurite. They are just little snap shots of the twins she sent me that I had framed, but I thought she’d like to see the frames. They’re cute, and if I get a chance to get another picture framed I will. Also heard from LaVern and Marie, and I’m thoroughly ashamed I didn’t write them because they’ve been swell to keep in touch with me. During the week, I had a letter from Dick Dorway saying he’d been in an auto accident and was in a hospital. He had broken his arm and had bruises and cuts. I saw Sam Hamilton, the friend of Winnie’s a few days later, and he had an ambulance going up in that direction last Saturday. So I bummed a ride and went up there to see Dick. It took longer to go up there than I expected as there was a lot of traffic on the road, so I didn’t arrive until late in the afternoon. The ambulance was like the ones you see the red Cross Motor Corps driving in Chicago, and was practically brand new — had about 700 miles on it. It was a real pleasure to sit back on leather cushions and have a heater in the car. I really traveled in class. There were two enlisted men with me, and we had a lot of fun. They were just kids. After we found it took so long to get there, and after the corps work had been done by the e.m., we decided to stay all night, which we did. The hospital detachment put up the e.m. and the red cross girls put me up. I saw Dick for a while, and he was fine. He has a cast on his arm, but other than a few scratches about his face, he’s fine. He was causing an uproar in the hospital because he didn’t see why he had to stay when he only had a cast on, and believe me he got on everyone’s nerves. The army regulation is to keep you in the hospital until the cast is off, as if you are not able to go on full duty your are not able to get out of the hospital. But that guy did a lot of crying and raising of hell, with the result he called me Monday after I returned home to tell me he had been discharged, so I guess he is o.k. I had a nice time in his vicinity, as it is an interesting, spot, but I was glad to get back to picturesque old Devon. I’ve had word from Margie Seybold all about the birth of the new one, and also had a valentine from Judy — in other woids I’m hearing from everyone now.
The guy who showed up one Sunday and stayed until Tuesday came down here in a bus one day with nine other guys and asked for dates for the crew. Imagine that! They had chartered a bus and were here on business, but managed to get in a few good times. You can imagine the fun of going any place en masse with a bus for transportation! Besides that, they’d gone thru some tear gas maneuvers and had the bus practically full of it, so that my mascara went down the cheeks like mad. However, he is a good egg, and it looks as tho he might know how I can get to the St. Patrick’s parade, as he might know someone in the transport command who will give a poor gal a lift. I’ll try all angles to get there.
I’ve written mom asking for shoes, but the more I think of it the more I feel I’ll need a size 7 and a half shoe instead of a 7, and perhaps a double width instead of a AAA. I can’t think of anything in particular that I need. I would like a red cardigan or slip over sweater if mom ever gets a chance to get one for me. Sometime if you think of it, a pair of pretty silk pajamas with maybe a robe to match would be nice to have. It wouldn’t take up space if I have to move at any time, yet it would be nice to have along on those luxury jaunts like the one at the Claridge in London. I could use it if I went to visit relatives too, and would be elegant in it. I have to go to a social workers meeting in Bournemouth next week, and will be gone two days, but I’m taking an extra day and stopping by to see Dick as he is on the way there. I don’t know what the meeting will be about, but we shall see. Hope Sal receives her material all right, and that she likes it. Make an Easter suit out of it. Also, I’ll write again when I get a chance. I’ll write mom some V-Mails to keep her posted. Steve’s letters are swell, and Denny has been writing regularly. I can’t figger it on Mercedes Riorden — I always thought she was a nun??????? I did until the last letter when she wanted a date for a friend, and that didn’t jibe. . . . write when you can and I’ll write more soon. Keep you fingers crossed on the St. Pat’s deal.
(NOTE: Handwritten on the bottom: Rec’d a note from Mrs. Greer. Be sure to thank her for everything. I hate to write short letters cause I want to say so much.)
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This is the first letter where it is clear Winnie and Elizabeth knew one another in college, probably as undergraduates at St. Xavier rather than Loyola University School of Social Work. The line, “I met him everywhere at home,” makes it a safe bet she knew Winnie and her boyfriend in Chicago. How two old friends found themselves together in England and stayed together throughout the war is an unexplained but serendipitous mystery. They undoubtedly joined ARC together and I would not be at all surprised to learn Winnie took the urine test for Elizabeth.
An American cavalryman marrying an English woman was probably not all that unusual. But the line, “cavalry has been here a long time, but never had a horse among them” is telling. The Army mechanized reconnaissance and mobile air units are called cavalry to this day. Not a horse among them.
The next letter, dated March 2, is a fairly clean carbon copy, probably only number two or three in a thick sheaf, but the second page is backwards. In other words, it is difficult to read and is the result of the typist having inadvertently placed the carbon paper facing the paper being typed on, rather than facing the succeeding blank piece of paper. This explains the next to last post script. The word “Ended” in front of the date probably refers to when the letter was complete. It undoubtedly took several sessions at the typewriter to produce any of her longer length letters such as this. The word count is slightly more than 2,000.
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Dear Sal – (Typed letter, hand written at top) Ended – March 2, ’44
I’m getting that old attitude found so often in the army — there is no point in writing home because there is so little that you can tell — it is all censored. I know they are good about letting our mail go through, and you will note that I censor my own, and the possibility of them stopping any of my letters is slight, but the spot censorship is the kind that will spot mine immediately if I dare say a word I shouldn’t. The interesting things happening around me every day are the kind of things I’d like to tell you about but I have to overlook them. Nothing very exciting is happening, that’s true, but one can speculate considerably about what is going on. I’m a long way from London, and might as well be home for all I see or hear of what is going on there. I always thought when there was any bombing you would be able to notice it for miles around, but it is like having a tree fall in Wall Street while you are on 63rd and Halsted. You never would know it happened if you didn’t read about it. I don’t know as much about what’s happening there as you do. I haven’t seen anything myself altho it should be quite an experience.
I had to go to Bournemouth this weekend and the early part of the week so I could attend a social worker’s conference. It was most interesting, and I came back happy I was me and not some of the other girls. I guess we are in an ideal set up, and that our outfit is good to us. The conference was fascinating to me, because they used some of my case records as study material. I think that is nice recognition, and if you could see the age and caliber of the gals among whom I work you would see why I appreciate this recognition. The people were very nice to me from headquarters and at the moment I’m the fair haired child. I took advantage of their good will and asked them for permission to visit Ireland. It is impossible now to even get into Northern Ireland without an o.k. because of the concentration of troops in Britain. I guess they can’t move and if they shove you fall into the ocean. I think I’ll get the o.k. to go to Belfast, and if I do, from there I’ll try to visit Aunt Kate and Uncle Dennis. I’ve got my fingers crossed, and also my reservations made both in Belfast and where Dilly is from. I had to make boat reservations for the overnight trip across the water, but am still hoping I can connect with someone who will fly me there. I met a Canadian on the train the other day who had a friend who had made the type visits I wanted to make, and got the friends (sic) name and address. I wrote the friend for details, and received a prompt thorough report of instructions that are invaluable. It was on his suggestions that I made my reservations. He tells me Essie’s home town is that of milk and honey and they are living as they did in pre-war days, including steaks and silk stockings. Don’t let anyone give you a poor mouth, mom. But then I’ll be better able to tell you about it when April rolls around. I hope to get my leave on the 10th of March, and am only taking ten days because they might need me here — I’ll let you know what happens to me.
We’ve been awfully busy here — they are flooding us with patients from near-by outfits, and it is a real pleasure to work with them. The boys are all good kids, and appreciate anything they can do for us. By the way someone by the name of Itkin from Chicago — a good old fellow — thinks he’ll be that way soon and insisted I give him mom’s name so he could go visit her when he goes home. I’ll believe it when he does it. (NOTE: this is being transcribed from an original carbon, not a Xerox copy of a carbon. This is the only letter so far that has been cut, very nearly in half, and hanging by a mere 1/2 inch piece of paper on the left. When the two pieces are pressed together, what appears to have been one sentence has been removed. There is absolutely no way to determine what was in that sentence which appears to have been no longer than nine or ten words. The letter picks up again thus:) I had John’s recent letter, and one from Mary Maloney telling me of Eddie Hempelman’s death in the Pacific. I think that must have been a terrific thing he did, he lead the beach landing on one of those islands and was killed in action. You will remember mom, I always thought he knew he wasn’t going to come back and was actually anxious to see action. After seeing what happens to some of these kids, I know why he hoped he wouldn’t be injured or wounded, but killed outright. But as I’ve said, the ones who are actually wounded or seriously ill are the ones who are best and try hardest to be cheerful. I think they are wonderful and it is a pleasure to try to do something for them. I haven’t come across many Chicago boys, but the ones I have met try to think of someone or someplace they know I should know.
We finally got some stations of the cross at the Chapel and they are lovely. We have Stations every Friday night for Lent, and we of course have daily Mass. I try to get to Daily Mass, and run in like we did at St. Martin’s every day during Lent, but sometimes I get stuck on the wards and can’t get away. We are having a Mission this coming week given by two Priests from New York. I hope I’ll be able to make it. You’d be surprised at how many of the Protestants are interested in attending. I hope it is good.
This page of the letter is being written a long time after the first page was sent out of typewriter. I just can’t seem to find the time to finish long letters to youse guys, and I really am sorry, but then, you know me. I’d much rather write a good letter that you would enjoy reading than sending junk in the meantime, so bear with me.
In the interim, I’ve heard all kinds of conflicting stories about the prospects of going to Ireland. I think my friend is going to come through with the airplane ride to you know where. But then I’ve been told it is impossible to go further. I’ll just go as far as I can and keep my fingers crossed on the rest. I’ve had letters from most everyone, and one in from Steve written while he was home on furlough. That lucky dog! And then he got a chance to visit the Daytonians and Sal too. Swonnerful. I’ve been trying to collect charms for my bracelet — I’ve got about five already and boy, do they cost money. The dam English see the Americans coming miles away and jack up the prices. But it is fun looking through junk for something you like. I find it gives me something to look for every place I go. I have received a real Indian Jade bead from an English woman who comes out here three days a week to teach the men leather craft work. She fixed the bead up so it would hang on our bracelets and it is real cute. Then I bought a cute stamp that they used once upon a time for sealing letters, just a pendant thing, but pretty — and a Chinese pagoda of gold — and an Australian Opal that is lovely. It is fun to look for something different everywhere. I think I’ve spent about 30 dollars on what I have on it, and I could spend about 50 more before it looks interesting.
I’m getting along much better on the job than before, and for a change the doctors like to call me in to talk with me about patients and ask me to help in making the patient understand what is wrong with him or what he is to do about it. We think we shall be getting another girl to work with us soon, because we are bogged down and can’t complete what we intend to complete. I’ve been taking treatments for my psyorisis (sic) and it is clearing up a little bit. I sit under the violet-ray machine for 15 seconds each day and am a nice rosy pink by this time. Maybe I’ll be tan sometime soon, who knows. It will be funny to have a tan in this English climate. I got on the scale today and believe it or not I tip it at 120 — and it is all youknowwhere. We’re getting our stimulating doses of tetanus now, believe it or not, it is time for them already. Sometimes it seems as tho I just got here, and then there are times I seem to have been here forever. I was interested in Steve’s letter saying that all the kids in the neighborhood were home. Gee, they are lucky they don’t have to get into messes like some of the kids can who have been over in invaded territories. I was surprised too to hear that Marion Wilke had a baby — that is swell. Sal and Bernard asked about the pilot friend of theirs who is here — even if he is married, tell him to look me up. If he can get to Torquay on leave he would have a very great time, and I could go there to see him. I received the bottle of VitaFluff and the Kleenex and toilet paper from Marguerite and John and sincerely thank them. It was wrapped very safely and arrived beautifully. My first bottle isn’t run out, but I never intended you should spend $5 for a bottle, I thought you would send me a small one — I’ll have to think of something to send you to make up for it — I’ll find something. I’d be very interested in whether or not Sal got her material (NOTE: the word “material” is hand written in pen over the word “suit” which was crossed out.) — and mom, one thing I forgot — can you send me my brown and white checked suit — see if it is clean before sending it, seems I had it in New York or Washington with me, and it might be soiled, but I’d like to have it. I think I could use the red one too, but I’ll see what is happening here before asking you to send that. I couldn’t very well pack all that stuff up if they make us move suddenly, but the brown and white one is small and packs easily. I’d like to have it.
Louise and Wilma are both getting along swell, and are really swell kids to work with. Wilma is as funny as she can be in a naive sort of a way, and Louise is good company so I find they are good stuff. I wrote to the parents of the two g.i.s that work for me and told them they are good kids and worked hard, and you would love to see the letters they sent back. One kid’s mother told him how proud she was of him and how she hoped he was doing a good job, and I thought “if she only knew he spends his time sweeping the day room” but to her he is a hero — families are wonderful.
I’ll quit now, and will sprinkle in with v-mails to mom and so on — is Nay home yet with Melly? Steve says she’s awfully cute — Melly, I mean.
(REVERSE side in black and typewritten:)
DAM! Hold it up backwards to the light and read it that way — I can’t write it all over!
(Hand written final P. S.) Thank Mrs. G. for the chocolate etc.
* * *
This is an example both of how difficult it sometimes is to read Elizabeth’s letters and proof she did not write them in one sitting. The sentence that begins with “This page of the letter . . .” is the last page of the letter and was inserted in a sheaf of carbons backwards. Thus, I had to do as she suggests at the end and hold it up to a light in order to read it through the paper. At first all I had was the Xerox copy which is backwards. Fortunately I found the original she sent Sal which I transcribed.
That Elizabeth did not write a letter all in one sitting is not unusual. Several times she notes the letter was begun, abandoned and picked up again with the latest news.
Although Elizabeth appears hopeful of visiting Ireland in March, she does not get there until after VE Day which was May 8, 1945. However, the following letter tells how she made good use of the furlough she requested.
Censorship was a looming issue in WW II. “I censor my own” indicates Elizabeth did not have to turn her typed letters over to anyone for review, which was not the case with the men under her brother Dennis. As a Second Lieutenant he was required to read and censor all letters the men wrote. His rank allowed Dennis to be his own self-censor, much as Elizabeth said she was.
VitaFluff is mentioned in more than one letter requesting the product, a brand of cream shampoo that came in a squat jar. In an advertisement found in The Spokane Daily Chronicle from 1958, a 3 ounce jar was offered for $1. Five dollars must have bought a very large jar of the stuff.
“Daytonians” refers to Dayton, Ohio, where some of the Donnellan family settled and have remained living nearby to this day.