November 2, 8 and 14, 1944: Dad writes a few letters home from Topeka Army Air Base. The weather is turning colder in Topeka and he is just getting over “a very slight cold”. As has been his practice, he sends some money home detailing “two money orders totaling 145. If anyone asks about the dough, Pa can tell them its towards my education when I get out of the Army which will be the truth. However, if I’ll be 65 yrs. old before they finally let me out of the Army, I’ll pension myself.”
He writes that he has been fortunate to have been overlooked for one of the more mind-numbing jobs on base. “I don’t know how they missed putting me on counting the amount of fellows eating in the mess hall for a day, but they did and now it’s another squadron’s turn. However, I’m not complaining and I’ve never told them so it’s one less thing I had to do around here.”
He also comments on Anna’s description of the celebrations that took place back home for hers and little Terry’s birthdays. “I enjoyed reading about your birthday celebration and wish I could have been with you on that day, Terenia must have looked pretty during her and her mama’s birthday. Glad to hear that Stanley remembered you… I didn’t know what to do outside of relishing the memory in my mind how someday we will all be together and have one big bang up of a celebration…”
There is not much news in Dad’s letter of December 8. He does cover some current events, writing, “Yesterday was election day and today it appears Roosevelt’s dog, Fala, will have four more years to sprinkle the rest of the trees around the White House… Kansas held out very well for Dewey giving him a considerable lead in this state. …The Democrats are doing a fine job at consoling the Republicans who were for Dewey. They seem to have long faces.”
In his letter of the 14th, Dad details that the weather has taken a turn to the warm side and he’s gotten another round of golf in. He’s also been busy with his Physics course and has “only got two more lessons then I take the test”.
He mentions that he has met a fellow Albanian in the office. “He works in the Wing Signal Office and his name is Lt. Congdon and he lives on Manning Boulevard near Elm Street. He used to work for International Business Machines…and he remembers coming around Interstate Plumbing Supply to fix our electric typewriter… He has a moustache and I believe I do remember some fellow who used to come around to fix the electric typewriter and who I believe had a moustache.”
In another turn to current events, Dad writes, “I have been following the news closely on the radio and newspapers, and it appears that the Germans are hearing very little from Hitler, but are hearing a lot from Himmler who controls the Gestapo. Any gang of hoodlums that would betray their own, I believe, would just as soon kill each other off. Incidentally, I myself wonder just how Hess is making out in England. You remember he parachuted down to England quite a while ago.”
Before wrapping up his November 14 letter, Dad details, “Today is Tuesday but I don’t think we’ll have a USO show as I’ve heard they ran out of appropriations around here. Nobody will do anything without first getting paid for it. That is what I call paid patriotism. I just don’t know exactly how these USO shows run but I don’t think they’d get very many people to entertain, as they say our boys, if they only were paid and provided for their food and sleep alone.”
That’s about it from Topeka for the first half of November 1944. However, if you could indulge me for a few minutes, I’d like to get back to the subject of Fala, Roosevelt’s black Scottish Terrier, and his role in the 1944 presidential election. As we are currently in the middle of a general election campaign, it is important to remember that all kinds of attacks are nothing new in politics, and sometimes nothing seems out of bounds. In one of the stranger attacks in the 1944 presidential campaign, Congressional Republicans accused Roosevelt of accidentally leaving Fala behind on a visit to an Aleutian Island and subsequently sending a Navy destroyer back to retrieve the dog at taxpayer expense. In a speech on September 23, 1944, Roosevelt took his attackers to task for dragging his dog into the mudslinging. Parts of the president’s comments were said to have been written by Orson Welles, who was a supporter of Roosevelt’s. Below is an excerpt of what has become known as “The Fala Speech”. I wonder if Nixon had Roosevelt’s comments in mind when he gave his famous “Checkers Speech” about his dog eight years later to the day.