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Looking to Learn Whatever I Can

Posted by on September 10, 2016

May apologies that it’s been some time since my last entry. I’ve been away on vacation (hiking a section of the Appalachian Trial in Vermont with my brother), and subsequently catching up on work stuff since my return. Now that things have settled down it’s time to get back to 1944.

November 19, 22 and 23, 1944. Dad writes home to Albany NY from Topeka with updates on the opportunities for learning on base and news about what Thanksgiving, 1944 is like at Topeka Army Air Base.

The prospect of pursuing an education post-war is still foremost in his mind as he details the benefits available as part of the GI Bill“…on 31 Dec. 1944 I will be entitled to attend some college or institute for three years and if I stay in the Army for another year yet I will be eligible to four years on the Government. That is, they will pay my schooling, books tuition and equipment up to $500 per year plus $50.00 a month for subsistence for that period. If I have dependents I will be entitled to $75.00 per month for one or more dependents. I have corresponded with two Institutes sort of fishing for information to see just how I stand, and see what courses I need in order to qualify for any particular school. While in the Army, I may make up for them by corresponding with the Armed Forces Institute like I am now doing with my Physics course.”

Aside from the benefits the GI Bill will present in the future, Dad is also taking advantage of the educational opportunities, currently available on base. “They are offering a machine shop course here on base Mon., Wed. & Fri. each week and I’m looking into it and will be with them tomorrow at the Sub-Depot. I hope to get some knowledge on how to work lathes and drills even if I won’t have the opportunity to use [them] when I am a civilian once more, but you can’t tell. I’ve become quite an opportunist lately and am looking to learn whatever I can. I’m interested in anything.”

Dad also mentions that Topeka is getting ready for the upcoming Christmas season and that he had a chance to get out on the own with one of his friends. “The stores around here are all decked up for Christmas and I spent my day off last Friday in town walking around all the stores and later on I did some bowling. Stueve was with me. He is now a Staff Sergeant as well. He is a stout fellow and looks very much at home with a glass of beer that we tried to convince him to be a bartender in civilian life. His home town is Minster, Ohio and he used to work for a printing concern., and the old guy running the joint has hinted strongly to take Stueve in after the war and give him a darn good break.”

In his letter of the 19th, Dad adds a P.S. asking, “How is Eddie making out with his duck hunting? My boss, the Major, has a friend that works in the Control Tower and who reports flights of ducks as they pass by. The last time, a report came through around 3PM and my boss left for the ducks.”

Dad combines the letters for the 22 and 23rd into one, reporting that they “had freezing weather for the first time”. He also heard on the radio that “…the news…is very optimistic but still not at the point to guarantee a quick victory.” He also writes that “Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving Day and it will in no way compare with those we used to have together back home.”

On the 23rd (Thanksgiving Day) he finishes the letter writing that  …the offices are quite empty today. …in addition to being a Holiday it is a beautiful, warm sunny day.” As far as the Thanksgiving meal on base, they had “turkey, dressing, candy, nuts, etc.” He goes on to detail “If you wanted to, you could pay 75 cents and bring a guest to the noon turkey dinner. Most fellows brought their wives and about ¼ of the mess hall was occupied most of the time by them. For some of these civilians it must have been their first time eating in an Army Consolidated Mess Hall. It’s called a Consolidated Mess Hall because all organizations on the base eat there.”

He closes, “I wish you all a fine Thanksgiving, and may God bless you all.”

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