May
2012

Brooklyn, NY, June 30, 1918

Brooklyn, N.Y.
June 30, 1918

My dear Maude,

Well I recd your ever welcome letter yesterday. Needless to say I was very glad to hear from you.

Well, I guess your sympathy must have had some effect all rite because I am not troubled with rheumatism any more. You made a good guess all rite when you said you didn’t think it was very pleasant. And you made another good guess when you said you bet I would do a cussing stunt when my bunch went and left me. You remember the expression my father used, “swore like a sailor.” Well he would have known what that meant if he could have been within earshot of me the day the bunch left. The air turned blue and the sparks flew all around. But it relieved me a lot and I felt considerable better afterwards.

I went out to Bronx Park last nite. It is sure a swell park but there are no lites out there at nite. Some consider that an advantage and some say it is a disadvantage. I think it all depends, don’t you?

I am at the Y hotel now and am going either to Central or Bronx Park a little later. It is only 5:20 now.

Well I have some good news. I am scheduled to leave some time this week on the Cleveland. Of course I don’t now for sure yet that I am going but I have very good hopes. They say the Cleveland is a pretty good ship too. I think it is a first class cruiser. It mite be second class tho, I don’t know.

I am glad that you liked the pen but I bot it from a Jew and still have a sneaking idea that it isn’t as good as he said it was. So if it turns brass throw it away and I will send you a better one. (As usual my pen went dry and I had to fill it with ink never intended for a fountain pen but I guess I can make it do.)

Well I am glad that you had a good time at the dance. I am sorry I couldn’t have a one step or two but just wait, our time will come. When I make one trip across on a cruiser and two on a merchant ship I am going to get about 20 days, provided I have the dough, and make another trip to Idaho. I figure that I ought to be able to come some time in December or January.

So Art Henderson was there and sober eh? He must feel quite a brotherly interest in me. I can’t say that I feel particularly complimented by his interest. Ellen must like to tell all she knows. You mite tell him its none of his business what I look like and that I am where he ought to be. I sure do like to feed those kind of fellows a lot of lies. Tell him that’s our engagement ring and that we are going to have a military wedding as soon as I get another furlough. Tell him anything you want to. I’ll back up anything you say. I only wish I were there to tell him myself. I’ll tell you what we’ll do, if I should get a furlough, we will go to Potlatch to a dance and then he can ask me everything he wants to know.

I knew your hiking club would fall thru with anyway if you hated to walk as bad as I do. I never used to mind it it so much till I went to Illinois. That spoiled me. I used to run the Ford out just to go the nearest neighbors. Of course I got used to walking at Great Lakes but I didn’t learn to like it again. Darn it, guess my mind’s wandering. Write down words I don’t mean to at all. [He’d written “wash” instead of “like” in “didn’t learn to like it again.”] I’m the dippy one, not you. Anyway if you are what you call dippy I am perfectly willing to be that way the rest of my life. I never want to be sane again.

Well you are doing a pretty fair but you can’t come up to me in weight. I weigh 165 with my shoes and little white hat off.

That Indian was just about rite when he said too much walk around. That’s what I thot too.

Say you never wrote me anything about your father being in a dark room. Or if you did I never got it. I sure feel sorry for him tho. I can imagine how it would be. A person wouldn’t mind it so bad if he were sick but to be well and not to be able to get around is worse. When I was laid up with the rheumatism I had to stay in bed for three days and I thot I never could lay there when I wasn’t sick.

I think I will get to see Clark all rite. He ought to be here when I get back off my cruiser trip. I should be back in a month or 6 weeks from the time I start. I may not be able to write much while at sea but even if I can’t write very often you know I am always thinking of you. I was talking with some fellows from the Des Moines and they had no chance to write for weeks but I am hoping to be able to do better than that.

I am enclosing a piece of poetry written by a soldier but it is just the way I felt last winter when I was at Great Lakes. When the windows were put up on both sides and the wind came in so cold that the clothes we put to dry on the radiators froze stiff we felt just about the way described in the poem. You would be surprised to find out how cold a hammock feels when you wake up in the middle of the night and how warm if feels at reveille.

Well I guess this is about enuf for this trip so I will ring off. Will write again before I leave, all for now.
As ever yours,
Sylvan

The poem isn’t with the letter, unfortunately. I’m hoping I may uncover it in some of the other papers.

This letter is interesting (and difficult) on a number of levels, primarily the base antisemitism and the casual reference to “the Indian” who appears in other letters as just “the Indian” (is it the same man?) and not by name. From a transcript of an oral history taken from Maude’s sister Ruby, Native Americans were frequent visitors to the farm and would dig camas plants, but the kids were scared of them. Ruby told her interviewer: “I was scared to death of them. Why, I don’t know, but I just didn’t want to be around them. Dad, he always liked talking to ‘em, and they liked Dad, very friendly, but I was scared of them.” Ruby Canfield Wheeler, Oral History Interview 1, Date Unk., by Laura Schrager, 10) Latah County Historical Society.

I don’t know why Maude’s father was in the dark room, unless the family history of migraines goes back that far! 

May
2012

Camp Kearny, California, June 25, 1918

Camp Kearny, California
Medical Dept.
Co. B., Base Hospital

Dear Miss Canfield:

Here’s a little surprise for you, Miss Canfield, and I hope it won’t be annoying to you.

No don’t try to figure out who you know by the name of Larson at Camp Kearny for I’m taking upon myself all responsibility of introduction, and will now proceed to make you acquainted.

It’s like this. One day Mr. Tompson showed me a picture of his wife and you happened to be in the same picture. Well, to tell the truth of it, Miss Canfield, I sure did get stuck on your picture and was telling Tompson what a nice girl you was and how I’d like to correspond with you.

He told me that he thot you’d ans if I’d write. So here I am but I don’t’ want to get Tompson in bad. So if this should prove to disaprrove with your feelings, please lay all the blame on me. Now perhaps it’d be good for one to give you some idea who I am. Well you know my name and to make a long story short will say I am only a lonesome soldier boy and not getting enough mail.

Some of the boys are upstairs playing cards and I don’t know where all the rest of them are. However Tompson is taking a nap. I’m afraid he’ll spoil his night-sleep tho as it is only half an hour till bed time.

I have now been in the Army about 3 mts but don’t’ like this Medical Department at all. Would sooner serve in any other branch but we have no choice so its of little account to crab about it.

Well, Miss Canfield, how’s every thing out your way, weather has been rather hot out here.
I haven’t had any letters this week so can’t figure out what have happened to any correspondents.

There’s nothing looks better to a soldier than a nice long letter, and there’s nothing as disappointing as when an expected lever does not show up.

Well I have no news this time and am afraid all this will prove very uninteresting to you so I will cut short hoping you will ans this in some way or form. Next time I’ll be more explicit if you care to continue corresponding with me.

Well the lights will soon be out so much skiddo.
Hoping to receive an early reply &
Remain,
Sincerely yours,
Privt. Theodore Larson
Co B. Medical Department.
Base Hospital
Camp Kearny, Calif.

Right. Because I’m sure writing only about boring stuff and yourself has NOTHING to do with getting little mail. Just saying, Private Larson. Just saying.

May
2012

USS South Dakota (NY), June 21, 1918

New York
June 21, 1918

My Dear Maude,

Yours received and was sure glad to hear from you. I thought you had forgotten me. That is very easy to do in such a busy place as Harvard – so much excitement and so many people.

Say I never did get them pictures or the letter it might drop around later at least. I hope for I have not got a real good picture. You had better get some taken and send me one.

Tell Virgil not to worry about Ruth for I have not got a letter from her since I was home. Too bad, but such is the life of a Sailor. He worries a lot and builds a house on it. But she had no reasons to get angry at me for she did not play fair.

Say has Frank Peterson gone and left Bessie? Too bad Frank is such a dear boy and just married, too. That makes it hard but it is harder on Frank than it is on Bessie, for he will have lots to contend with for, I know. You see I have no one to worry about me. Why should I worry? He’s off to war and may never come back. That’s what they say, isn’t that what you think, dear girl? Now tell me the truth.

How about Lew? Still sticking around I suppose and several other of them birds. I sure think the world of Bill Lawless for what he done. If this country is good enough to live in it is good enough to fight for. But I hope it is over soon.

We sail tomorrow at eleven o’clock. I can’t tell you where for if I did and they found out it would be all off. But you keep writing won’t you and I will do the same. I am goign ashore tonight so good-by.

From your sailor Clark. Ans. Soon.

USS South Dakota
c/o P[ost]M[aster] N.Y.

Remember my address this time and for God’s sake, write. Tell everybody hello, for she may sink this trip.
Clark.

May
2012

Camp Ross, June 5, 1918

Camp Ross
June 5, 1918

My dear Maude.
Well still in Camp Ross. I haven’t recd a letter from you lately but we are not getting our mail very regular and I know you have written so here goes.

There isn’t much to write about here. All we do is sleep, eat, and work. 51 of the fellows left on a draft this morning. I don’t know when the next bunch leaves. Whenever it goes I go with it. We heard it was not till a week from today. I sure hope it is sooner tho. Today we passed in review. When we woke up it was raining so we wouldn’t get out of bed. The Com[pany] Comm[ander] came in and tried to make us get up at 5 but some one counted “one-two-three” and everyone threw a shoe at him. He took the hint and left so we stayed in bed till chow time, a quarter till seven.

This bunch of Armed Guards are sure some bunch. If a petty officer or boy kicker (Company Commander) tries to make us do anything we just laugh at him. They call us Avery’s Angels because Avery was our chief in school and because we are so onery. When they send us to Main Camp or Paul Jones to work in about an hour if you go to the Y. you can find nearly every one of them there. We want to go to sea and we all swore not to do any work till they send us. They threaten to make us shovel coal from 9 till 2 at nite but we say, “Go to it. Lad, we shoveled coal before you ever heard of the Navy” and then they think we wouldn’t mind it so don’t make us do it.

The uniform of the day is whites now, everybody even officers must wear them. They are nice and cool and look nice when clean but it sure means a lot of scrubbing. Oh well I should worry, I know how to scrub.

Today after the review, they had some elephants on the drill field. They had a sham battle and one thing another. Looked funny to see 4 elephants there on the drill field with sailors all around them. There were 10,000 in the review this afternoon and they took moving pictures of it.  Maybe you will see them somewhere in Path Illustrated or something.

Well how are things around Harvard? We are having cooler weather now and believe me it is much better too. It rains nearly every nite and that makes it cool during the day time.

I reckon you have taken your hike by now. Where do you hike to? I reckon you could go up to the HooDoo mines all right. I wish I could go up there camping again like I used to every spring.

I sure got the laugh on me this afternoon. I was the left guide and in the rear of the company. The Com. Comm. called squads left but I didn’t hear him. We were going rite alongside the sidewalk and a girl was trying to flirt with me. I was grinning at her like a fool when the company went squads left and I walked about half way down the front before I noticed the company had halted. I sure must have been a pretty site going down the front with a grin from ear to ear and not even noticing I should have stopped on the left end of the company. Believe me everybody laughed like a bunch of fools. I turned around and beat it back to my place and I sure hated that girl then. That’s what I get for looking at the girls. Next time when in ranks I won’t even look at a girl. Oh, well, experience is the best teacher they say and if so I sure won’t have that experience again.

Well darn the luck I won’t get liberty this week and I was figuring on stepping down Broadway and taking in NYC Huell. I will get there the next week if not this week.

We got a letter from a fellow in last month’s class of AGs and he said in Brooklyn City Park Barracks they got liberty every nite and 48 hours every other week. And pie every day except two and ice cream and cake those two. And chicken every Sunday. So I bet I will like it there. Don’t you think I should, all rite?

A bunch of rookies moved in our barracks because of the fellows who left this morning. We sure make life miserable for them.

Last nite while eating chow a couple got in a fite so we made them put on the gloves and go to it. It was sure a good fite too. I don’t think either one was licked. They just fought till they were both all in. Then we went back in and finished chow, which had in the meantime become cold. But it was sure a good scrap and one of them has two black eyes this morning while the other one had a big ear.

I sure will be glad when I get to where I get liberty again. There is no liberty out of Ross unless you have been here 12 days and Sat will just be our 9th. So that will make two weeks aboard. Quite a rare occurrence for me. I always go out even if only go to Waukegan.

I am on guard tonight from 10 to 12. I will try to get a little sleep before 10 but I don’t expect to get much as we have a noisy bunch. The bunch that left this morning had to shove off at 5:15, so they got up at 4 and kept the rest of us from sleeping. We sure did cuss them when they bumped against our hammocks but they were so glad that they were leaving that nothing made them sore.

They should have left yesterday morning and got up, packed and went to headquarters only to find that their health records were not made out. So they had to come back and wait till this morning.

Do you have any more dances in the hall? I would like to take in one or two. Wait till Germany is licked, we will dance then to our hearts content.

I sure have a variety of work over here. Since being here I have loaded sea bags aboard a car, unloaded rock and sand from cars, dug 6 ft ditches, carried timbers and stacked tile. And yesterday afternoon did the work of a chambermaid, swept and swabbed out the officers’ quarters and straightened up their rooms. A fellow came and got 12  of us. I thot he wanted us to shovel coal and tried to get away twice. Come to find out all we had was about a half hours work and then we had nothing to do so I washed all my clothes. They are not dry yet on account of the rain but I guess they will be dry by nite. Well it is about time to eat so guess I had better ring off for this time,

Yours,
Sylvan

May
2012

USS South Dakota, June 9, 1918

June 9, 1918

My Dear Maude,

I am very angry at you for not writing, now what is going to be your excuse? I am on the South Dakota and have been [with]in eighty miles of France.

We seen one sub. but did not fire for if we did not get them they would get us.

Has Ruby heard from Dick? I have not seen his address and maybe he will write. I am just going to drop a note till you write.

From your Sailor,
Clark
USS South Dakota
Box in care Postmaster NY, NY