Wednesday, September 29, 2021

October 5, 1944: Opa's Not in Kansas Anymore


Letter from Opa to Grandmother, October 5, 1944.


Oct. 5, 1944


Finally, we landed at Camp Crowder where we will be for at least seven or eight weeks. This morning, at 3:30, I was awakened from a wonderful snoar, had to report at my P.O. at 3:45. I hurried to get there in time, then waited in his office till 4:30. Why they didn't let me sleep that extra hour, I don't know. We ate breakfast and boarded an army truck which took us to the train. There were only five of us; I was the youngest in the bunch, the others ranging from 26 to 33. I felt sort of funny, being the leader of that group of older men. The sergeant gave me the railroad tickets, orders, papers, meal tickets, etc., told me when I would get where, what to do there and why, and asked me to keep the destination etc. secret until we had boarded the train. It so happened the I had told the gang already, but the sergeant didn't know that. We left Leavenworth at 5:35, had about half an hour layover in Kansas City, and arrived at Camp Crowder at noon. No change of train from Kansas City to Camp Crowder.

The trip was very pleasant. We played poker from Leavenworth to Kansas City (I lost 24 cents). In K.C., we just had time for a cup of coffee before lining up for the train. It certainly makes it simpler to travel when one is in uniform. We could pass up the entire line, women, children, 4-F's, and boarded the train first. I didn't feel quite right about that, for most of those people were far more tired and exhausted then we guys.

I never did know whether we were in Kansas or Missouri during the trip, for we went straight south for the greatest part of the time. At about 10:30, the M.P. announced that we would have a 15-minute stop with free canteen for all service-men. I thought we were deep inside Missouri, but the place was Pittsburg, Kansas. We had coffee, cookies, sandwiches, cake, cigarettes... I think we are getting spoiled.

The further south we got, the more did the landscape turn to my liking. Fall is coming rather late this season, and the trees are just beginning to turn. Some still green, some yellow and brown, and there were some birds in the prettiest red. Gradually, the country became more hilly, and there were strips of forests, ever increasing in size from shelterbelts to something which almost approached a real forest. Small lakes and streams kept reminding me that we were getting out of Kansas.

I inquired about meals in the diner, but found out that they won't be served till 11:45. At 11:59, our train was supposed to arrive at Camp Crowder. So, I gave the chef cook a little pep talk, and, sure enough, at 11:15, half an hour before regular serving, he had fixed us five meals. Uniform did it again. It was a good meal at that.

At camp, we had to wait around quite awhile and then ate again (at about two o'clock). They had dinner waiting for us, and couldn't disappoint the K.P.'s. Well, it didn't take much persuasion to make us eat it. (Fried eggs, bacon, potatoes, veal loaf, oranges, and apples.)

The barrack here are not nearly as good as Leavenworth; rather shabby and dirty, also, at present at least, very crowded. They put beds up in the center to hold the crowd, one of which I have.

Nothing official as been said yet, but according to rumors, we will start our basic training a week from this coming Monday. It will take abut six weeks for basic, then about three months for special training. Only then shall I be eligible for a furlough. All that, however, is not official, but just a rumor. Official is, however, the fact that I am scheduled for K.P. tomorrow. I guess that's the way to break us into camp, for all five of us have K.P. tomorrow.

I took a little walk around the camp today; it's awfully big and not nearly as nice as Leavenworth, but I shall probably like it alright. Tonight, I feel kind of lonesome and would like so badly to be with you. It may be a long while now before I can see you again; also, I want more than just seeing you or spending a weekend or a furlough with you: I want us to stay together, to build a home in which we can live for a longtime. Where we can unpack our suitcases and boxes without storing them at a place where they are easily available. But that time seems very far away, so far that it becomes difficult to even make plans for it. Even after the war is over, it may take years before we can find such a place. When we have it, though, it is going to be the best home in the world, with love radiating from every brick, every window and open door. We both know how badly we want and need this, and how ready we are for it; all we can do in the interim is to remain strong and always keep this goal in mind, and to have faith in each other.

While I am writing this, I am sitting in the telephone office, where I put in a call for you. It ought to get here any minute, and I am so eager to hear your voice. You don't know how comforting the idea is that you are my wife now; that I have you for keeps, that I may love you and be loved by you!

After an hour of waiting, your call just came. It always helps, darling. The rate is considerably higher here, so I guess we will have to quit at three minutes on our calls, and I shall use the money I save that way to call more often. I am sure glad about Yvonne's and Herb's presents. You don't need to be embarrassed about the silver, for Yvonne would not have done it had she not wanted to. Herb's record album is quite a surprise; we just have to get the record player now. There may be a mix-up in address. I'll write to the K-C. Post Office and see what can be done.

Well, this is quite a long letter, but I just felt like writing to you. Furthermore, tomorrow I'll have K.P. and therefore little time to write. I'll go to bed now and try to fall asleep before I get too lonesome.


Opa has had a long trip and a mindless day of assimilation to think about what he's embarking on. He's reeling from the rumors of six weeks of basic followed by three months of special training with no room for furlough. This is not the beginning of marriage that he had envisioned, and he hoped that even in the Army he'd have a little more stability. He's learned already that Army life is unpredictable. Everything is working out OK, but it's different from what he had imagined. He misses Grandmother, and the distance stretches further now, both geographical and time.

Opa's description of his hope for their future home gives me such warm feelings: "Love radiating from every brick." It has been so very long since Opa has had a home at all, especially one that he can store his suitcase and boxes without needing them always available. Grandmother and Opa are hungry to settle down, set some roots, be in a routine and have a family. Not even kids yet- but each other. I can only imagine the hunger for that life after so many years of uncertainty. 

The Army isn't going to give Opa his certainty just yet, but he is happy knowing at the very least, he has Grandmother for a wife, even if he's not in Kansas anymore.

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