December 31, 1943 and January 1, 1944. Dad writes a few letters home from Topeka. He spends New Year’s Eve staying in camp and enjoying the peace and quiet in the barracks. New Year’s Day sees him working in the office. He recounts a few stories from around camp, reflects on his service, comments on the news from home about the recent holiday and tells about seeing a well-known magician of the day in one of the USO shows.
Dad writes about some of the recent news, “…it was swell to hear of the German ship being sunk, but we still haven’t won the war yet.” With the recent takeover of the railroads by the government, he says it is like his father is in the Army too (his father was a freight handler for the railroad). He writes, “Ask Daddy how he feels being practically in the Army working for the government. The only difference is that he can go home after he gets through working, but we, we just go anywhere until we have to fall out in the morning….Tell daddy that since he is working for the government, I hope he gets to be a Cpl. Sgt. or even a Lieutenant, since the presidents of the railroads are being made Colonels” As far as the prospects for going overseas, “it is uncertain…whether we will be over there someday. Probably we will, as soon as we get to the point where we’ll be more useful over there.”
Dad also recounts a story about one night when he had C.Q. and they got four inches of snow on the base. “…just before the snowfall I let in some little dog who was out in the cold. He wanted out a few times and when the snow got bad, he preferred to stay inside. He practically kept me awake all night. I’d be sleeping on a bunk they have there and almost every 20 minutes the dog would get up on its hind legs and pat me over my feet with his front paws and wake me up. I got up in time to get the K.P.s to work and wake up the barracks at 6:15 A.M.”
On New Year’s Day he is in the office and pulling C.Q. again, so he has “a lot of time to acknowledge the…Greeting Cards I have received.” He notes that “Today I celebrate my one year anniversary of the date that I swore allegiance to the US Army. In future life I guess it will be a fine record to have anyway as these records are kept forever at Washington, D.C. I wouldn’t be surprised to know that the Revolutionary War fighters have their records still on file. That’s the reason why I want to do a good job in the Army… So far I have seen my service record and my character is rated Excellent. As a soldier they seem to be satisfied with me.”
He also comments on the news from home about Christmas. “After reading about the list of presents you people have been receiving, you sure are extravagant and amid all the presents you don’t get much time to think about Christmas. I still prefer the good old days when we would sit down to a good dinner, have guests or go around visiting other people without worrying about presents.” He also writes about the impact of the holidays to him personally. “I am beginning to gain weight as I believe I have reached the age where you don’t grow up very much as you do from side to side. It could be all the candy I’ve eaten, and many other fellows around here think they are getting fat. Now that the holidays are practically over, we will be settling down to our 3 meals a day and digest regularly.”
On the entertainment and diversion front, Dad writes that movie star Walter Pidgeon was supposed to be at a dance at the gym but that he “sent a wire with his regrets and sates that he will get to see us someday.”
One big star that Dad did get to see was the magician Harry Blackstone, Sr. Dad relays his impressions. “He is a fine old man, and you can believe me that from what I’ve seen there’s no devil work as I was bought up to believe, especially by the old country sisters who taught in the grammar school I used to attend. I read a book written by Blackstone just before I even knew Blackstone was coming here, and the way the tricks are performed are a pure deception. He explains the tricks and even a five year old child can perform them. When I see a magician, it makes no impression on me as to what he can make disappear, but the handling of it all… I try to see how well he can put it over. Some of them sure deserve a lot of credit with how much skill they put in it.”
With that he wraps up, “That is all I guess. God Bless you all!