It’s been some time since I’ve updated the blog. Work has been pretty busy, and I took a long weekend with my wife Deena to take in the fall sights in New England. We even included a stop at Hyde Park to visit FDR’s home and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. I highly recommended a visit if you are inclined to make the trip. So much for the 21st century. Let’s pick up where we left off.
December 22 and 25, 1944. It is Christmas week at Topeka Army Air Field. Dad writes a few letters home, sending his wishes and updating everyone about the latest that is going on in his world. He reflects that “On 1 January 1945 I will be starting out on my 3rd year in the Army. It’s almost like High School wherein I am completing my sophomore year.”
He is “glad to hear the fine preparations” that everyone back home in Albany New York is making. Dad extends his wishes and hopes that “everybody will enjoy it.” He also writes that he wishes that he could be home to see his little niece open her presents “because she is of the age when you can have a lot of fun with her.”
He writes that there was a “Squadron Party at the Roof Garden of the Jayhawk Hotel. They didn’t serve beer but we did have bourbon, rum and gin to mix with cokes and 7up. Nobody got drunk and everybody seems pleased with the party. T/Sgt Bentley Stone …was talked into giving off with a jitterbug dance with our commanding officer as a partner. The old squadron commander sure got around. He even played saxophone with the band.”
On Christmas Day Dad reports that there were a few snow flurries, but not enough to consider it a White Christmas. Dad gives a blow by blow description of his Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As for Christmas Eve, he knocked off work at 5, went to a movie then went to the base chapel hoping to go to confession, but the chaplain wasn’t there. He went back to the barracks, then returned to the chapel for Midnight Mass.
As he describes Midnight Mass on base, “…it was a lot better than going to the city where the civilians push and crowd. …As a participant in the Chapel choir, there are six of us boys, we sang Gregorian mass and carols between. It was a regular high mass. When I received Communion, all of you folks were foremost in my mind and Stanley as well.”
He describes his Christmas Day as well. He “got up late, around 8:30 AM. …At 12:00 Noon…I went to the Mess Hall and feasted on a turkey dinner. Some fellows bring their girlfriends or relative to eat in the Mess Hall as long as you had made arrangements to pay a fee of 75 cents, which isn’t bad for a turkey dinner and all especially the way they fix it up special for a holiday. The base band was in the mess hall and gave out with dance music while we ate. The mess hall itself was decorated with decorating paper strewn along the beams and ceiling supports.”
Dad takes a break from all of the joviality of the holiday and mentions his future prospects in the Army. “I don’t think I have to worry too much about winding up in the infantry as our personnel officer stated he is watching out for us fellows. He has quite a bit of pull he knows where I want to go just in case things don’t look so bright.”
Before closing, Dad’s thoughts turn to his niece as is often the case. As you might expect, Christmas Day is certainly no exception. “I can just about see the smile on Terenia’s face today when she sees her present. The innocence of a small child’s face when filled with joy and smiles is most heavenly. You are very fortunate to have Terenia, Ann; she is a pretty child as well. Of course, Ann, you know I am complimenting my niece and let’s say your daughter as well. I sure love to be related to that little angel.”
Well, that wraps up Christmas in Topeka for 1944. Next up… a few holiday letters from Stanley in England.