US Naval Training Station
Great Lakes, Illinois
April 27, 1918
My Dear Maude,
I just rec’d your most welcome letter last evening. I was just going ashore but of course waited and read your letter before I went. I would miss liberty any nite to get to read a letter from you. It is 8:30 now and I may not finish this till morning. It will go out just as soon anyway. We have been having rainy weather now for quite a while. I guess I will wear my rubber boots and poncho ashore tomorrow. I would look nice going to church with boots on, wouldn’t I? I intend to go to church tomorrow nite, honest I do. I was going two weeks ago but didn’t get to. I bet you tho that the next time I write you I can say that I have gone to church. I am ashamed to say it but I haven’t been to church (outside the chaplain’s service) for six months and to Sunday School once, when I was out there. And I just went then because I knew you would be there. So you see you have a good influence over me.
I can tell you one thing tho, truthfully, that I have been a lot different since I have had my furlough. You can ask any of the fellows. I used to tear around a lot worse than I do now. Maybe you can guess the reason. Of course, I have a good time, I always did and always expect to but I am having a different kind of good time than I used to.
I am glad that Ellen is coming home. She will be a lot of company for you. I guess you will be glad to have her with you again, won’t you? I wish that I could have been there while Clark and Dick were there. I would like to see Dick again. Clark, too, as long as he didn’t stay at your house too much. That was a pretty mean trick he played on Miss Helpman. I wouldn’t do that to anyone, would you? I guess it is a good thing you sent the pictures. I would have sure come after them but in order to do it I would have had to deserted and then I would have been in the Federal Penitentiary for 99 years or shot at sunrise, one or the other. Nice, isn’t it? But that is the pleasant way they have of doing things in the Navy.
But, say, it is a good thing that it was Dick who had his arm around you in the picture. If it had been anyone else I would have sure beat up on him some time or other. The ones I like best are of you all alone. They sure are fine of you and are mighty swell pictures, too. They all are good but I wanted one of you alone.
Well, I reckon the play is over now. Would have sure liked to have seen it. Say, James Gunton sure is a lucky kid. I wish I could be in his place. Getting a chance to eat a meal cooked by you. Believe me, I sure wish I had the chance. I know by experience that you are a good cook.
So I look small at a distance, eh? Well I guess so I will be a lot further off in a month or so. I expect to go to the Armed Guard School next Mon. or Tue. Then after one month I will go to Brooklyn and from there to sea. Aren’t you glad that I am getting a chance to go to sea? I look at it this way. Being as I am so far from home I might as well be a little bit farther. If I get much further away, I will start getting closer again. And I want a chance to do some real work. I am going to try to get to be a gun pointer. So about June 1 I ought to see salt water. I will send you a birthday present from New York if all goes well. Well this cannon just went off in Main Station and the lites will soon go out so will ring off for tonite, so Good nite.
Well, here it is Sunday morning and still raining. I guess it is going to rain forever. I think I will go down to Main Station to services this morning. one of the fellows wants me to go with him, so I guess I will. Pretty good, eh, walking over two miles, just to go church.
I sure wish I could see you with the white blouse on. It is pretty cool in the summer and I guess you won’t shovel any coal in yours so it won’t be hard to keep clean.
Say, you sure were unlucky to have so many different kinds of aches in one night. I think you do need a nurse. I sure would like to fill the bill. Oh, well, I only have 3 1/2 more years, some consolation eh? My first six months were up Friday. I hope you do get to go up and see Bill before he leaves. While you are at it you mite come up and see me too.
I am glad that you like the ring. Does it fit? If it don’t I could get it exchanged. I think I got a size 7. You said 6 1/2 or 7 so I thought I had better get a 7. Better have it a little large than too small.
I was in Waukegan Friday night and saw “Amarilly, of Clothes-line Alley” in moving pictures. It sure is a good picture.
Say, what are Clark and Dick doing now? How soon do they expect to go to sea? I will have my mail censored when I go, I guess. But I can write from each end of the trip. I don’t like to have anyone open my letters and read them, do you? I am afraid that I won’t get any mail very regular when I go but mean to write to you just as regular as ever. Of course I will get all the mail you send but might not for some time after you send it.
Well, I guess I will have to ring off since it’s time to get ready for church. I lashed my [unintelligible] inside my hammock to keep it from being stolen, so will have to get it out again, and soon.
Yours as ever,
This is one of my favorite letters, not least because Sylvan is articulate and funny for an 18 year old kid! And beneath the bravado, he’s pretty philosophical. I also like Sylvan because he had good handwriting and used commas on occasion.