Wednesday, March 31, 2010


[This letter ends the winter series about my dad's brief encounter with the army during World War II. He was already 38 when he was drafted, and apparently the training and usefulness of these older men was controversial, though I haven't been able to find much about it. Anyway, we'll let Vance tell us about his last days in the Medford, Oregon, area. The picture was taken by his cousin, Fay, who wanted a picture of him in "civvies."]

Jacksonville, Ore.

March 5, '43

Dear Folks,

I was discharged Tuesday afternoon and went into Medford and stayed the night with Grant and Ruth, coming on out here [to Jacksonville] the following afternoon. Yesterday Fay, Mavis, and I went up to the old Britt home and photo studio and saw their collection of antiques. The whole house is practically a museum. I played on the old Steinway square grand piano which dates back to 1876 and Pete says it came around the Horn. It is still in fine shape and the rosewood case is a beauty. We got a big kick out of the old glass and the old picture frames, etc.

I rather hated to leave the camp when it came right down to it. I had made one close friend, an awfully fine fellow from Pocatello, and we had both been in radio together. He is due to go out on the cadre sometime in the near future. Everyone wished me well and I wished they were getting out, too.

I am going to leave for Portland tonight on the 7:15 train. Would have taken the bus but my reduced fare certificate is only good on the train. We are supposed to arrive in Portland about 8 a.m. tomorrow. I will probably be there two or three days, then go to Raymond for about a week and on to Seattle to see Shirley if I think I can afford it. I was shorted on pay from what I expected [as I was allowed transportation only from Medford to South Bend instead of Quincy, CA, where I transferred.] All I can say is that I have been a bill of expense to the army and the army to me. I do have $10,000 insurance, however, which is one boon.

This afternoon Fay and I are going to look at the cemetery which they think will prove interesting and no doubt will. I got a few left-overs washed yesterday so have a spot of ironing to do. I wrote Lynn, Shirley, and Stanley but threw away Pearl's address when I cleaned house so could not tell her of my discharge.

As far as I know there are no strings attached as to where I shall work but I suppose I will locate in Portland.

My love to you, Vance

Back in the land of stamps again. I must be a civilian.

Monday, March 29, 2010


[Vance writes to his parents from Camp White, Oregon, February 16, 1943:]

Now, to your last letter. It is nice to hear of quail in the land again. For so many years we saw almost none, as you remember. No doubt they are thankful for the food. I hope your little friend found his kinfolk. It is a comfort to know both of you have stood the severe winter so well.

I hope you find you have enough coffee to get by on. As you say it may be as well not to drink so much. I am glad you have the blankets to use. I bought the big figured one at Chester and I don't think there is much if any wool in it, though I paid about eight dollars for it.

As you suggest the world is certainly in "a mell of a hess" and whether the present administration is off on the wrong foot or not is certainly problematic. Everyone feels the 11,000,000 men under arms to be beyond reason. I fully believe such a program will be ash canned. It seems to me we go whole hog at the wrong time both in peace and war. I hope there are enuf congressmen against F.D.R. to keep him in line. Never a dull moment. It has passed thru my mind that Hitler might be dead but I doubt it. He's too much of a devil to be so obliging. Of course, the three days of mourning do sound fishy.

I am charmed with Robin's rhymes in her version and glad you quoted them. [Roberta (Robin) Shockley, my dad's two-year-old niece, must have been entertaining her elders with her own nursery rhymes.] Lynn mentioned them also. Lynn says she is feeling 100% better and may stay another week. I hope she does. I think that Portland climate is poison to her but she is so attached to the place. I am glad to hear of the new dresses. New clothes do help the morale, and I'm sure you must need them.

I am so sorry to hear of Jimmy Jewell's death. I remember him as a mere baby and a very small child. It just doesn't seem possible [that Jimmy could have been old enough to go to war and now killed]. I was always so fond of Mrs. Jewell. Well, such is war ------- [Some readers may remember the Jewell family. Mrs. Jewell was my Grandmother Portfors' best friend. They lived kitty-corner from my folks on Brown Avenue.]

We are having fine weather but we have a warm east wind of some velocity tonight and I think I smell rain. We go out on a division problem Thursday for overnight and I hope it isn't sopping wet.

Love to you and again, thanks for the food and the work it took. Vance

Sunday, March 28, 2010


The three of us (Mike, Nellie, and I) made a day-trip to the farm yesterday. We took four baby fir trees that we planted in town last year in hopes of giving them a head start, and Mike planted them behind the woodshed near the upside-down outhouse. If the summer is long, hot, and dry, we will be able to water them and provide extra care.

The first thing I did was to check out the daffodils in the grove. Here you see that the first ones are just beginning to bloom. The process will take three weeks or a month as the various plants come into bloom. The more shaded patches will bloom last. These daffodils may have been planted in the beginning but are growing wild now.

Nellie ambled up as I was taking this picture of my Crown Imperial Frittalaria. A relatively expensive bulb, it emits an odor that is supposed to repel rodents. I planted four and transplanted a number from a neighboring homestead that was being dismantled. However, I can't tell that the rodents are repelled. In fact, I think they were able to hold their noses long enough to chew up my bulbs!

Until a few years ago, Mike cherished fond hopes of a beautiful, lush lawn, seeking advice as to how to go about seeding and caring for it. I finally suggested he leave well enough alone. You can work so hard in this environment and it all comes to naught in a trice. If the deer don't get it, the rodents will. The farmyard amounts to about an acre of ground, so keeping it manageable is important. I'd love to have flowers and vegetables, but my thumb isn't too green and we think of our backs when it comes to back-breaking work. (Or, maybe I should say, we think of Mike's back.) Still, we keep trying and it makes for experience. The soil is clay here, and yesterday we reminded ourselves that there's only a short window of opportunity in the spring when the ground is soft enough to be worked.

So, after we finished our chores – Mike sprayed the lane with ground sterilant and I cleaned out a flower bed and poisoned rodent holes – we took a 4-wheeler ride over the property, Nellie running along with us, before driving back to the valley. Today Nellie is tired and sleeping on her pillow in front of the fire. KW

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Feb. 16th [1943]

Dear Mother and Dad,

I'll take up where I left off last night and answer your letters. First, tho, the goodies and popcorn came today and in excellent shape. They are very good and a few of the fellers say so, too. Fortunately for the cookies part of our platoon is out on a problem so I managed to save a few. They went for the corn, too. Everyone pretty much shares their cake and cookies so every now and then we get a treat, and as I have said before we can buy unlimited amounts of candy bars. I wonder if you'd like to have me send you a box of milk chocolate bars or are the bad for what ails you? Thanks for the cookies. I really do not know whether I'll be able to mail you the can or not but I'll do my best. You see, we have to go to Division P.O. to mail anything and wrapping paper is scarce as hens' teeth. As you said I won't worry too much either way for I really think I'll be out of here before you would mail me anything more.

I went out to Fay's two weeks ago last Sunday. Grant and Ruth went also, Mavis meeting us in Medford with the car. Fay had not been able to get meat because they lost their market at Jacksonville and anyway Fay is very casual about her entertaining. However she had hot light rolls and cinnamon rolls and they were delicious. In the evening she fried off a batch of raised doughnuts and we left there about 9 P.M. simply gorged with food. I did a long session at the piano. I am enclosing two snaps taken on that day. The group is good but my coat looks like sin. I have gained some weight so it really is a little snug for me. Please keep the pictures for me. It is really difficult to keep too many things on hand.

I must say, Mother, that you do a wonderful job on your letters and need never worry apparently for something to write about. I am glad you folks are getting out a little even if only back and forth to June's. It helps break the monotony. It is a comfort to know both of you stood the severe winter so well. So you're reading The Unobstructed Universe. Yes, I recall many of Betty's statements. A very fine book. I have not yet had time to read Beyond the Unknown which I brought with me.

I do a little laundry but only when I run short of small items. We get our laundry done for $1.50 per month so I don't bother. Many of the fellows do all of theirs but I can't see it. No pressing. There isn't much to be done anyhow and it is only $.40 to have trousers cleaned and pressed! No, I wrote the last line on previous letter in the hall where a light is usually on. You'd be surprised how much correspondence is done in the latrine. Sometimes every throne is occupied with late letter writers. To me such surroundings are not conducive to really creative writing. Ha.

[So, the jacket that fit so well in November when he was inducted is now a little snug. My dad never worried about his weight. He said what he gained in winter he would lose with the summer farm work. He did say the diet in camp was starchy and apparently he wasn't drilling enough to work it off. On the other hand, were they fed well in camp in order to "fatten them up" for what lay ahead -- battle on foreign shores, etc.?]

Monday, March 22, 2010


Saturday afternoon the regiment gathered for a little talk by Col. Murray. He complimented us on passing tests and said that now basic was finished things would be easier and that there would be more furloughs and leaves for everyone and as a little gift no duty until 6 A.M. Monday. At that the cheering broke out and if you don't think our part of the camp took off for Medford in herds you are mistaken. Even I went in after calling Ruth up and finding Grant was on his way in. It was a mad jam getting onto a bus but after waiting in line an hour we made it. After Ruth finished work the three of us took off for their apartment and spent most of the night talking and lunching. I slept on the davenport and we rose very late on Sunday. In the afternoon Fay's family and Aunt Mabel came into town for a little while and visited. They said a friend of theirs has been discharged from the army, and I guess he has gone to work in California. Late last night I grilled a big steak I had bought on Ruth's electric range and after eating heartily Grant and I got back to camp about 1 A.M. so we had quite a time.

I have not heard yet about my discharge but when I do I'll probably leave in three or four days time. You see, the new regulation is that all men 38 are to be discharged whether they have physical disabilities or not and just the other day the men 38 and over were called in here at camp and told to get letters of employment if they had not done so. Two men here in my platoon go out next Thursday and my affidavit was filed about the same time as theirs. There seems to be some sort of hold-up on the discharges. One fellow who is waiting to hear claims they are out of x-ray film for photographing our lungs, which I guess is part of the procedure. I think I'll spend a couple of days at Fay's before I take off. They are very insistent and I'd like to.

I have just discovered it is nearly 9 o'clock and I think I'll ring off and get this mailed. What a winter! Glad you have weathered it so well and glad the blankets reached you.

My love to you,


[On the one hand, Vance seems fully engaged in army maneuvers and problems and interested in what's happening. On the other hand, he can hardly wait to be discharged. But now it's not a matter of whether or not he wants to be discharged. He will be discharged because of his age, but he must return to civil defense work. KW]

Friday, March 19, 2010


The letter of February 15, 1943, continues:

We have finished basic training and passed the 9th Corps army test, which was Sunday a week ago. We went out only a few miles and I rode both ways because of my feet. Saturday night before I went to the dispensary and had my blisters drained and my feet dressed for I thought I might have to hike. I hung around the radio car that day and did nothing but kill time. The examiner asked us a few questions on radio procedure and that was all. The 9th Corps area headquarters are Fort Lewis and that was where the examining officers came from.

Also a week ago Saturday the 1st Battalion went on "alert." Now I can't tell you for sure what alert means except you have to be ready to pack up and do almost any silly thing. For instance, last Sunday we got back from said test about 6 P.M. and no sooner had we struck the barracks than we were "alerted" and just had time to swallow a little food when we were told to pack everything we owned in our barracks bags, roll a full field pack with overcoat and overshoes tied on top of pack, carry rifles and wear our helmets and be ready to leave at 8 o'clock. As a matter of fact, we fell out at 7:30. There was some speculation as to whether it was the real thing or not for whenever the time comes to move on we will do just that. As it turned out we marched about two miles and returned to barracks and unpacked everything.

Then middle of last week as part of the alert we got ready for an all night problem. Everybody got ready with packs and the hour of departure was postponed from time to time until it got nearly 10 p.m. Our lieutenant came in then and said, "Parkins, Dobson, McCeary and Watkins go to bed because you have to go to school tomorrow. The rest of you will fall out at 10 o'clock." Well, those poor devils went out and didn't get back until 5:30 a.m. and they really took a beating for they walked up hill and down and fell in the mud with rifles and all. They fell into bed as we got up and got ready for school. Of course, they got the day off if you can call cleaning up after a mess like that a day off. That was about the end of the fireworks.

Monday, March 15, 2010


[Again, Vance writes to tell the folks at home about his experience in basic training. I found I was able to scan some photos from a copy of "The Camp White Rogue," Vol. 1 No.1, that I found amongst Vance's things. The handwriting on the above is Vance's: "The tree above was the only full sized one in camp. Stands in front of Div. Headquarters." ]

Feb. 15 [1943]

Dear Mother and Dad,

I'm sorry time slips by so fast but so it does and as usual we have been going pretty fast. At least it seems fast but as I look back it seems we sit around waiting for orders a good deal of the time.

We went out on a field maneuver a week ago last Friday. We rose early and took off long before sun-up out toward Table Rock to the west of camp. A large share of the 91st was on the problem and it looked like quite an army when we got strung out with all the men and equipment. We stopped a lot on the way out for simulated airplane attacks of gas. At the order "Gas" we scattered to either side of the road after first putting our masks on. Off in the distance we kept hearing bombs exploding and as we progressed discovered the explosions were coming from the bridge across the Rogue River. As we neared the bridge we put on masks again and were given "on the double" which means a fast dog trot. Just as we got on the bridge the bombardment became fiercer and the explosions made the bridge tremble. Some of the soldiers got well splashed with water. There was a little fog drifting that morning and it seemed fairly dense on the bridge. Due to the exertion of running and the hard breathing I got a suffocating feeling so I pulled my mask loose and took a few deep breaths of air. On the first one my eyes started to sting and I realized what I had mistaken for fog on the river was tear gas. I snapped my mask back in place and found I could breathe after all rather than be gassed. We ran for a short distance after we crossed the bridge and it was a blessed relief when we got out of the gas area to take off our masks. I didn't get enough gas to bother but one or two other fellows did the same stunt I did and got a pretty bad dose. Of course they were the object of much ribbing. It was very realistic and good training. We hiked about 20 miles round trip and coming back we really hit a pace. I stood it fine except my feet blistered badly and the last few miles were pretty painful. My shoes are too big and every hike I've been on I have been more or less worse for wear. Guess I'll have to fill them up with socks but sometimes when you put on too many socks it is bad, too. As I said I felt fine otherwise.

[I love the photo on the left. The caption reads: "Brigadier General Percy W. Clarkson, U.S.A. Asst. Division Commander, Major General Charles H. Gerhardt, U.S.A. Commanding the 91st Infantry Division and Brig. General Edward S. Ott, U.S.A., the Division Artillery Commander, in front of Division headquarters. From 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. all men in the 91st train in the hot sunshine bared to the waist and general officers are no exception to this rule." My opinion is that Gen. Gerhardt indeed looks fit. I'm not so sure about the other two. Gen. Ott seems tense to me, like he's sucking it in for the camera.

The photo on the right is captioned as follows: "The commander of the 9st Infantry Division believes that officers should be able to perform as well as direct any task expected of their men. Pictured above: The Division Staff, led by Generals Gerhardt and Clarkson, are swimming the swift Rogue river, fully armed and with regulation packs." KW]

Sunday, March 14, 2010


We were up by 6:30. Or was it 7:30? Here it is again -- time change messing with my inner clock. I don't mind the switch to daylight savings time so much, though. I'm one who likes the extra light at the end of the day.

Mike and I had already determined to make a half-day trip to the farm, so after a leisurely breakfast and reading the paper, we set off. The reason for the trip was to return one 4-wheeler and bring the other (the little blue one) back. The forecast was for sunshine and "pleasant" temperatures, though it was a chilly but sunny 28 when we got up.

As we neared the top of the Gilbert Grade, I noticed the tall pines were decked out in white frost and beautiful in the sunshine, the effect of fog and freezing temperature. The temperature was 39 and dropping as we arrived "on top." As soon as we stopped in the farm yard, I grabbed the camera and started taking pictures before the sun melted the frosty effect. I was really none too soon with my efforts. Once around the house snapping pictures and bits of frozen moisture began to fall from the pines, quickly turning to rain-like drops.

We had rain in town Friday night, and apparently that was snow in the upper country. You can see remnants of snow in the photos. The pond remains low, but Mike checked the water level in the cistern and said it was fairly high. Here you see Ina's old spirea bush covered with frost.

The grounds were muddy and Nellie was required to stay outside. In fact, before I knew it, my Nikes were wet and muddy. Thank goodness for extra socks and shoes. I had thought I might be able to plant spinach and peas, but the soil in my raised bed was too wet.

The daffodils in the grove are up but not blooming. I think it might be several weeks. I hope it works out for me to see them when they're in bloom.

All in all, a good day -- a good outing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


It was August 1997. We were having a family reunion at our house in Lewiston. Our young grandchildren were there. Douglas was two and a half while Annie was 21 months. Suddenly Cindy, Annie's mom, appeared beside me in the kitchen.

"There's an old doll in the basement and Annie wanted to play with it so I put it where she can't get it," she said.

"There are no old dolls down there," I replied, "and nothing that Annie shouldn't play with."

"This looks like a very old doll," said Cindy, accentuating the "very old." "I just know Annie shouldn't play with it."

As soon as I could steal away from meal prep, I went to the rec room to see what Cindy was talking about, and there, up where little hands could not reach her, was Mopsy, the rag doll my mother made for me when I was not much older than Annie. For a few moments, the words "very old doll" rang in my ears. All of a sudden I saw my precious muslin doll through the eyes of someone else, and she looked old – "very old" indeed! The unspoken question was, Where does this leave me?

All of a sudden as I stood there, I was again three years old. "It's about time for your nap," my mother was saying. "I can read you a story – or we can work on your doll. What would you like to do?" I chose work on the doll, and that day Mother embroidered one of the doll's eyes. That this flat piece of cloth would develop into a doll I could hardly imagine. I'm sure my mother knew she was making a memory as much as a doll. My mother was like that.

As Mother was finishing the doll, Aunt Naomi came to visit Grandma Portfors, my maternal grandmother who lived just a block from us. Now, Aunt Nome, as we called her, was Grandma's aunt – Grandma's mother's much-younger sister. So, Aunt Nome was my mother's great-aunt, and my great-great-aunt – and we couldn't have asked for a better aunt. She was a kindly, unselfish individual with a good sense of humor – a good example of a "retro" woman.

Anyway, back to the doll. I think Mother wasn't too pleased with the way she turned out, especially her hair. She knew she hadn't gotten it just right. I took one look at the doll and named her "Mopsy." Mother was ready to be finished with the project, but Aunt Nome said a doll without clothes wasn't much good, and she set about to make Mopsy a wardrobe – all by hand without benefit of pattern, old-fashioned, and utterly charming. She made underpants, a nightgown and matching blanket, and a dress.

Well, I grew up and Mopsy continued to live at Mother's house. Sometime in my 20s I touched her and found her innards – foam bits – had turned hard and crunchy. Mother said we should re-stuff her. It didn't happen. As I stood in my basement in 1997, my mother having passed just months earlier, I sadly thought that I should be taking better care of Mopsy, but more years would pass before I would step up to it. That day came on a recent Saturday.

It was a lovely day, so I took Mopsy to the back stoop. I had my seam ripper and a plastic sack. It was necessary to remove her arms and legs from her body. Working carefully with the ripper, I opened seams and pulled the awful old yellow sand – the disintegrated foam – from the parts. The foam had caused a blotchy yellowing of her muslin body and underpants.

Once she was reduced to her basic parts, I washed them gently by hand. When the parts were dry, I then re-stuffed them lightly with polyester fiberfill, being careful not to stress her aging seams. Once her parts were stuffed, I carefully stitched the openings and re-attached her arms and legs.

Her hair was a particular challenge. Originally cotton rug yarn, it did not survive the washing process and I had to carefully snip it off. I studied online instructions as well as every sock and cloth doll pattern I owned before selecting a method and getting on with it. Now Mopsy's hair is Red Heart acrylic 4-ply yarn.

I could have just tossed her away, you know, but I couldn't bear to do so. For years I have cherished the desire to be a maker of sock and cloth dolls. The making of Mopsy inspired me all those years ago and her renewal marks the first of my own efforts.

Monday, March 8, 2010


[This post finishes the letter of January 30, 1943, written by Vance to his folks.] You are right about the mail and food being the soldier's dish. We eat an awful lot of candy for some reason or other. I hesitate to have you bake stuff but, of course, I'd love to have some molasses cookies or on second thought maybe filled cookies would be better if you have or can get raisins. They would not break up and anyhow I don't care much for molasses cookies unless they stay crisp which I doubt would be possible. Some way cake doesn't appeal so much right now. We have cake every once in a while anyhow. So how about some filled cookies if you have nothing better to do.

Had a letter from Nellie Gaylord last night and she promised some cookies sometime in the near future so it looks as if I may fare well. She and Howard had driven to Portland and had a hectic time getting back home. She drove off the road in a blizzard and nearly upset the car. Had to crawl out over Howard and walk over a mile into Pe Ell for help. Finally got out but left the car in Pe Ell and took the bus to Raymond. I guess they must be in pretty good shape to stand such a rap. Howard was terribly scared but had no ill effects.

[Howard and Nellie Gaylord, an elderly couple, were friends of my dad's in Raymond. When Daddy married Mother, Nellie came for the wedding. When she passed away, she left her car to my dad. I think brother Chuck used it for a while – drove it to and from the University of Idaho for a year or two, I believe.]

Most of the fellows are in town tonight and lights should be out but aren't. However, I won't tempt the fates too far so here goes for so long for this time.

My love to you, Vance -- P.S. Lights just went out.


There's no doubt about it – Grandma Ina's recipe for gingersnaps (or molasses cookies) was my dad's favorite. When he baked cookies, this is the recipe he used. I'm surprised that he thought better of her sending a batch of these.


5 or 6 cups flour

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsps ginger

1 tsp cloves

½ tsp cinnamon

1 cup Crisco

1/14 cup molasses

1 ½ tsps soda

1/3 cup hot water

Mix and sift dry ingredients except soda. Cut in shortening until like coarse cornmeal. Make a well in center and molasses and soda dissolved in hot water. Add more flour if necessary for stiff dough. Roll out thinly on floured board. Grease cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Now, my dad loved to change recipes. He always thought that he could improve any recipe. Often he didn't even try the recipe before he began to experiment with it. Grandma's gingersnap recipe was no exception. He added an egg and ½ cup brown sugar to this recipe. When I make them, I stick with Grandma's recipe.

I mixed the dough last night while cooking supper. Knowing that this recipe makes a large batch of cookies, I halved it. I used a 2 1/2-inch round cutter. My dad used a larger cutter – probably the lid of a Crisco or coffee can when such were tin – and then stored the cookies in a large tin can where they stayed crisp as he gradually ate them up.

I don't know the origin of this recipe, but it's similar to recipes for "Joe Froggers," historic to New England. KW

Thursday, March 4, 2010


[This continues the letter of January 30, 1943, written by my dad, Vance, from Camp White, Oregon, to his folks on the farm in Idaho. Vance was drafted at the age of 38 – apparently at the high end of age eligibility. Many of these "older" men became sick because of the strenuous winter training in the cold, damp Oregon environment. Vance has applied to return to civil defense work. He notes that "men are leaving all the time."]

I enjoyed your large letter. I have written Shirley but not Ethel. I hope to soon. I'd like to relieve you of forwarding letters but I write you details I really haven't time to write everyone in the hope you will send the letters on. Why don't you let me forward some of yours and relieve the pressure on your correspondence. I had a letter from Shirley a few days ago. From news from the north it seems the country from Portland to Seattle is having a bad cold spell and lots of snow. No snow here and not very cold, praise be! Your weather has been on the jump, too.

. . . next week we start exams since next week ends our first phase of basic training – then we go into the second phase. This radio course is for 12 weeks but I won't be here to finish it, I hope, tho I am enjoying it.

I am glad you got the extra revenue from the flax without a fight. I think you did well to pay up as much as you did. I hope you got enough for the beeves considering the present price of meat. So far the markets in Medford are putting out fine displays of meat if the market Ruth works in is any example.

I had a card from Pearl promising a letter when they got settled. I'm sure you did miss her. I enjoyed her a great deal on my visits to Corvallis. [The photo here is of my grandmother, Ina, with two of her daughters, Shirley and Pearl, at Volunteer Park in Seattle. I wonder if Volunteer Park still exists. I think Aunt Pearl spent some time with the folks on the farm in the fall of 1942. She and her husband, Al Sanders, were relocating from Canada to the United States, and my guess is that at this time they are getting settled in Seattle. Aunt Shirley also lived in Seattle.]

Yes, I get $50 per month. So far have had one pay day and got $60, but there were some deductions. We have another pay day next week, I think. I think Grant rates his stripe partly because of his marksmanship. He is a nice chap. I went into Medford Wednesday night and met him and Ruth in town and had a nice session. It was the first chance I had had to talk to Grant. We walked Ruth home and Grant and I caught the bus and rode out to camp together. [When I think of war, I think of the sacrifices made by mothers. It was hard on marriages, too. KW]

Monday, March 1, 2010


Jan. 30, '43

Dear Folks,

Did I ever tell you that Camp White is set right out in the middle of a plain completely surrounded with mountains? It is a desert in summer. It was apparently a big lake or inland sea ages ago and they find many beautiful agates here about. I thought of this item tonight, or rather afternoon, while we were on parade. It was a beautiful sunny evening and Mt. Pitt was white and shining to the east (south to me) as we passed our commanding officers in review. I had a freshly cleaned and pressed pair of trousers to wear so felt quite dressed up.

Tomorrow I am going out to Jacksonville to visit Fay. Mavis is to pick Grant, Ruth, and myself up in Medford and take us out. Ruth is working at a lunch counter in the grocerateria in Medford and has a room for which she pays $10 per week just to sleep. She and another girl are offering $80 per month for an apartment. Isn't that terrific! Medford is really making hay off the soldiers.

I started attending Division Radio School last Monday morning and have been getting along fine. This morning I passed my Z5 group which complete the alphabet and numerals in code. Now I start working for speed. So far all our study has been in receiving and will be for a while. My next assignment known as Z6 is receiving code at 5 words per minute. After that comes 7 words per minute, then 10 words per minute. I guess that will hold me for some time. We will start sending (using the key) when we work up some speed receiving.

Last Saturday night I went to Grants Pass – 30 miles north – to visit Carrie Morrison, who is Russ Saling's mother-in-law. Left Medford at 10 P.M. and got up there shortly after 11. We sat up and visited until about 3 A.M. so got up very late. Had breakfast in Carrie's room and then strolled about town, ate a late dinner, and I left there at 6 P.M. I had a letter from Carrie tonight saying she was sending me a sweater. She knit it for the Red Cross but had not turned it in so I tried it on when I was up there and it was a perfect fit. She knits beautifully. She got the committee to say I could have it so she will mail it as soon as she hears from me. It is sleeveless and in the khaki color.

[The above photo is of Vance (right) with his friend, Russ Saling, and Russ' girlfriend. Though the picture doesn't show it so much, Russ was a big guy. (I mean -- my dad is standing on something. Russ was probably 6'4".) When Russ was older his hair was pure white and he bore striking resemblance to United States Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. Russ and his wife, Frances (not the girl in the picture) lived in San Francisco, and he related that people were often deferential toward him because they just weren't quite sure whether he was -- or was not -- Justice Warren. Frances' mother was the Carrie Morrison mentioned in the above post. Alas! I confess that I let that khaki sweater go with the rest of my dad's clothes when he no longer needed them. I'm sorry now, of course, because it was a fine example of the type of work volunteers were doing for our soldiers during the war. KW]