December 30, 1943. Joe Damusis takes advantage of a slow period towards the end of the year to write to Dad. Joe is still at Pendleton Field in Oregon where he is with the Headquarters of the 11th Service Group in the Office of the Commanding Officer. He updates Dad with the latest news on where the 11th Service Group may end up, writes about some sightseeing that he did on a three day pass, and passes along wishes for a Happy New Year.
He apologizes for not writing sooner as he has been “real busy…as an Acting Group Sergeant Major”. He writes that “It may be hard for you to believe that I’m performing this duty – but take my word for it – I’m doin’ it.” He writes that the rumors are that they will be headed “East into the States. But I won’t believe it until I’m actually out of here.”
He writes that there were four main highlights to his travels on his three day pass. The first was his flight to Portland, Oregon via United Airlines. For someone in the Army Air Corps, this was Joe’s first plane ride ever. The second highlight of the trip was the George White Serviceman’s Center in Portland “where you can get plenty to eat – free”.
He then goes into detail about the third highlight, a tour of the Oregon seaside area. “a summer report…something like 100 miles from Portland. It’s right on the ocean and it’s got a concrete walk along the end of the beach.” He went to the Aquarium “which is nothing when you compare it to New York City’s” but he admits that he “saw some things…that I never saw back home.”
The highlights of the Aquarium was the octopus, the shrimp (Joe notes, “I ate plenty of shrimp but I never saw what a live one looked like”) sea anemone, and seals, which “are known to put on a good show when someone’s watching them.” He covered the entire aquarium “in about ¾ of an hour”. Joe also writes that he “had a chat with the proprietor of the place and he was saying that at times the ocean would rise so high that large waves would break right near his Aquarium (which is right on the concrete walk) and cause water to come pouring into his place. When storms come up he has to nail his doors up so that they wouldn’t be blown open. The Aquarium doesn’t suffer any damage though.”
For historic photos of the Aquarium, you can go to their website here. Apparently it is the oldest privately owned aquarium on the West Coast.
Finally, the fourth highlight was “The bus trip along the Columbia River from Portland to Pendleton.” The bus ride back to base afforded him a chance to see “the Bonneville Dam and plenty of the State of Washington as seen from the Oregon side of the Columbia River.” He mentions that it was the kind of trip that Dad might have enjoyed and comments “maybe someday after the war we’ll be able to come to Oregon with our wives and civilian automobiles – Yup those will be the days!” He signs off “So long, Tony”