Sunday, February 28, 2010


Things have been quiet at TaxTyme where Mike works, so we decided to run up to the farm yesterday (Saturday, Feb. 27). It was 52 degrees when we arrived there at 10:30 -- warm for this time of year. Mike installed shower faucets, turned on the water, and pushed the fridge back into place. Then he checked in with TaxTyme and found that a long-time, out-of-town client had made an afternoon appointment, so after lunch we drove right back to the Valley.

Here's our farm report: It's very dry. The pond is appallingly low. I say "appallingly" because the pond level is indicative of the water table. There's no water in the pond spillway and the ground between the barn and the pond is dry. We've had a dry winter, and people here love it when they don't have to deal with snow, but without the precipitation, without the snow in the mountains, we will have a dry summer.

What the pond tells us is usually echoed by the cistern at the back door. We use the water in the cistern to irrigate the raspberries and other plantings around the house. We forgot to look, but if it isn't full now, it will run out of water there by August.

Look at this young lilac bush. Not only is it budded but appears about ready to leaf out. Under the bush, some early bulb is getting ready to bloom. Granted they sit in a warm spot. Still, the elevation of the farm is 3,000 feet and this blooming is unusually early.

This is usually mud season, but I could walk anywhere I wanted in my Nikes. I usually have to wait until June for the ground under my clothesline to dry. I could have hung clothes yesterday.

Of course, a lot could change in the next couple of months. Climate change is unpredictable. But, we hear that winter is over.

Mike and I have been planting 60 to 100 evergreen trees every spring. We wonder if we should this year since it isn't practical to carry water to them.

I suggested to Mike that he might till our town garden plot any time, so he did it today. I'll rake it out and plant spinach and peas soon. KW

Friday, February 26, 2010


[The very long letter of January 17, 1943, continues. Just think how many hours went into writing letters at that time. Just think how many hours we spend on the computer nowadays in the interest of social networking alone, not to mention so many other pursuits.]

I am answering your last two letters now so stand by. As far as "eats," there is no trouble in getting rid of them. Quite the contrary. I have shared the last two-thirds of most of my cakes with the bunch and they do likewise.

Do not bother about a sweater. I have plenty of clothes now to keep warm and last week we were issued four-buckle rubber overshoes. They keep the feet warm and dry but are they heavy! It's some fun trying to run in them.

I have written Harry Llewellyn [his supervisor with his previous employer] for an affidavit and should have it any time now. I hear rumors of lots of men being released here but I doubt it for most of them wouldn't have had time to get action on their releases. The army camp is just as vulnerable to rumor as the civilian town. Thanks for all the clippings from the paper. I got a copy of "The Bugle" from Raymond. It is a small mimeographed folder of about six pages of local news which some of the women up there are putting out for the boys in the service. It's a nice idea. They are going to put one out every month.

You asked how much my pack weighs. That depends on what is in it. What is known as "full pack" weighs about twenty pounds, I should say. "Combat sack" weighs about ten pounds. The rifle weighs nine pounds.

I did not hear Roosevelt's speech and I am glad you did and that you have plenty of coffee and sugar. Someway all three seem related. I am sorry to hear of the mix up on the stove. It has been so long coming and them to have it wrong. Maybe you will be able to get one in town later.

I have seen most of the Digests and have been buying them since I came into the army. They are only $.15 to servicemen. I was very interested in what you wrote of J. Paul Snyder. He has had some adventures, too, it seems. I lost track of him after he went to China. I am glad to know he got back all right.

You are right about church, I daresay, but when you hit the pace I've been hitting a whole day to loaf is good for the spirit also, and when I go to church I sit and pick the sermons to pieces just as if I knew all about it. Perfect snob! I'll try it again sometime, though.

We have plenty of garbage cans for waste paper and old letters and we have to empty the cans every morning. We're in the army, you know.

We heard on the radio last night that Berlin had been soundly bombed. Isn't it awful, on the other hand, for mankind to take pleasure at such news. Not that Germany doesn't deserve it. Also heard this morning that one of Kaiser's tankers at Swan Island broke in two and sank in shallow water. Wonder what the trouble is. Can't believe it was sabotage. Must be some faulty engineering somewhere.

We had a flurry of snow a while ago but clear and sunny again now. It has been a relief to have no rain for almost two weeks. I think spring will be nice here but doubt any of us will be at this camp. Rumor has it that they are clearing this camp out sometime which may bear out what you heard over the radio.

By the way, should you in any emergency want to get a "come home" message to me, you are to contact the Red Cross there and have the message come through the Red Cross at Medford, I suppose. That takes the phoniness out of it, you see. I never thought to tell you this before. We hear that in the future the government is to pay the transportation on furlongs.

Love, Vance

[Old time Orofinoans might remember something about J. Paul Snyder mentioned above. I just remember my mother speaking of him. The photo is of my dad and his cousin, Grant Montgomery, taken in Jacksonville, Oregon, near Camp White.]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Jan. 17, '43

Dear Folks,

I suppose you get tired of hearing how busy I have been. It isn't the work, it's the long hours. We have been going out to the range for two weeks now. The first week my outfit was working in the pits and on the telephones and this last week we have been trying to get our own firing done. Most of us finished last night. Yesterday was the first day in two weeks we have been able to fire the whole day. The fog has been so bad that sometimes we couldn't start until afternoon. Today is sunny and the rest of the outfit which is firing guns other than the Garand are going to the range this afternoon to finish up. I didn't do too well firing but I did qualify with the score of 147 which is the qualifying number. One of the fellows in our platoon made 207. The highest possible score would be 220. The chap is one of the highest scorers in the battalion. Grant made a high score, so Fay wrote me, and was put into Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) which is a rather high-power outfit and apt to move out fast. He is also rated Private 1st Class (PFC) which gives him a stripe when they can get the stripes. Fay says there is a shortage of stripes.

One more item about the firing range I wanted to tell you. In sending the shots on the target you have different colored discs on a long sole which you hold over the bullet hole to show what the score is. On a total miss you wave a red flag and we call this, quaintly enough, "Maggie's drawers." So we say a man got a certain number of "Maggies." Thought you might enjoy knowing this worthless bit of information.

Since we started shooting I have had the rifle to tear down and clean every night and that is quite an operation. It is always time to go to bed by the time I get through.

Your description of Christmas sounded fine! You really had a white one. I am glad you had some candles and silvered spray left and sorry you rated no green holly this Christmas. I believe I sent it every Christmas I was in Raymond.

It seems you got quite a number of books. I have read Osa Johnson's book [I Married Adventure] and it really is one you will remember. Her descriptions of the elephant country take you to another world. I have read Mrs. Miniver and seen the movie. There is no story to the book but it is very enjoyable. The movie was excellent in bringing to life a replica of what Mrs. Miniver would probably be in the flesh. I never got to read The Keys to the Kingdom but all the critics hailed it as an outstanding work.

New Years at Aunt's with oyster soup and the whole cellar on the table! I wish I could sit down to one of them almost any day now.

[I remember reading and enjoying Osa Johnson's I Married Adventure during harvest when I was about 12 – the same copy that Grandma Ina had read, I'm sure. It's still there in the bookcase on the farm. Maybe I'll read it again. Have you heard of Martin and Osa Johnson? It's amazing how much interesting history -- news of the day, topics people discussed -- is eventually overlooked. Have you read Mrs. Miniver or The Keys to the Kingdom? KW]

Monday, February 22, 2010


Jan. 10th [1943]

Dear folks,

We've been fooling around all day waiting for the fog to lift so we can go on the firing range. It is now nearly 3 P.M. so I guess we're not going. Had a nice letter from Lynn yesterday. She is back at work again. I wrote two letters – no three letters – today, one long one to Earle so you get by on a card. Got your letter safely and will answer soon. Sorry our connection was poor last Sunday but was glad to talk anyhow. The call was only $.95. I am feeling well. Have been doing lots of hiking to the rifle range about 3 ½ miles from camp yesterday. We went out and back twice with no serious results. Our platoon has been working as telephone orderlies on the range but tomorrow we start firing. I am told I am not to fire because of being ill for 2 weeks during practice, but I don't know for sure. Anything happens.

Love, Vance

[Here's a photo of my dad's sister, Lynn, taken in Portland in 1944. Her real name was Myrtle Irene. At some point she decided to be Lynn, and I always called her "Aunt Lynn." Some of the family always called her Myrtle, and then in later life she decided to be "Myrtle" again. Well, it was too late for me. I still call her "Aunt Lynn."

Aunt Lynn was born about 1894 and graduated from Lewiston High School. Then she went to Portland where she worked for years as a photographer's assistant and photo re-toucher. During World War II, she was employed by the Kaiser shipyard as an office worker. She never married. During the late 1940s she came back to the farm and was a companion to her mother, Ina, until her passing. Aunt Lynn passed away December 28, 1971, at the nursing home in Orofino. KW]

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Late winter in the Valley: the days have been beautiful – bright and sunny with temps in the 50s. The last couple of nights our lows have been in the mid to low 20s. Mike's tax prep work is now less intense than it was for the first couple of weeks. Sometimes he steals away from the office for a bike ride, and this weekend he is devoting his spare time to servicing his bicycles. Our evenings are spent watching the Olympics. While others complain about late broadcasts keeping them up, we record them and are further behind with each passing day. We'll still be watching Olympic events into the third week.

I had a lot of fun the day I went to Jo-Ann's and bought patterns for $1.00 each. Knowing that the sale was coming up, I marked my calendar two weeks in advance and had the list of patterns ready, mostly craft items. Last year I came to grips with the fact that I am a collector of patterns and allow myself the privilege of buying them when they are on super-sale. I also check Jo-Ann's frequently for remnants, usually cottons and muslins but also pieces of taffeta, tulle, and satin -- the kinds of fabrics I used to find in my mother's basement. That's the way I'm developing my stash.

Thursday I drove to Moscow for the embroidery club session. The club meets once a month and my childhood pal, known affectionately to my children as Aunt Chris, is the leader. Actually, I have loved learning the ins and outs of machine embroidery in this way, as opposed to a hurried "mastering" session. We work through just one application per three-hour session and take home a finished project. Since I've been going, I've made a Christmas ornament, a valentine banner, a potholder, and embroidered a towel – all of which taught me some embroidery technique.

While I was at embroidery club, I showed off my latest vintage sewing volume, titled The Sew-It Book. Originally published in 1929, it's a compilation of sewing projects for children. It was then that Aunt Chris confessed about the sewing volumes Uncle Dan had picked up for me. You might remember that in the fall of 2008, I was looking for a pattern to make a "frumpy frock," a housedress or housecoat, such as my Grandma Ina might have worn. I wanted to make myself such a dress for a presentation I was to make at the P.E.O. Christmas luncheon. Chris had tried to help me find a pattern and Uncle Dan (her husband) was aware of the search and picked up on my interest in vintage patterns and applications. Well, in the same timeframe, Dan happened to make a trip to the landfill, and there he spied a twelve-volume set of sewing encyclopedia from the 1920s. Thinking of me and my quest for the frumpy frock, he selected five volumes he thought would be of interest. (I just have to say – what a guy!) Arriving home, he announced to Chris. "Look what I got for Kathy!" "No! She can't have them!" was Chris' immediate response. "And you go right back and get the rest of them." So back he went to the landfill, the better part of an hour round trip, but they were already gone. I have to say again – what a guy! Actually, Dan came into the shop while I was there, and I thanked him for thinking of me. I'm so glad Chris has them, but I think it's okay for me to say that if it hadn't been for me, Dan might well have overlooked those old books.

Well, that was Thursday. On Friday I decided to take a step back in time at The Hangar, a local co-op of antique and collectible dealers. It's an old airport hangar where wares are displayed in booths, and I love to spend time there. I wanted to make a rag doll so I was actually looking for silk stockings or something I could substitute. I found a stack of nylons new in the package from the 1950s but no silk stockings. Still, it's always fun to look around there. I bought a Holly Hobbie Christmas ornament (2002) and several books: Sunset's Western Hostess Guide (1938); Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel (1982); Patchwork & Applique (1980); and Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (1976); plus a Butterick pattern for stuffed animals (1970s – or whenever the envelope price was $2.00). Perhaps I won't keep all these books, but the beauty of it is that for little more than the cost of a magazine, I have some reading material I will enjoy and can keep if I want.

I had decided that on Saturday I would make a sock doll -- yes, regardless of all those unfinished things on the bed. However, in the middle of the night I awoke with a start remembering a scheduled luncheon I committed to attend. (I guess I need to start using my engagement calendar.) It would have been embarrassing had I forgotten to go, especially since I'm one of the "young" members. And at the luncheon I had a great visit with Mary Lou, especially noteworthy because she is Aunt Chris's mother – in other words, an adult with whom I interacted as a child. There aren't many of those folks around. KW

Friday, February 19, 2010


[The letter of January 1, 1943, continues:]

Tomorrow I go on rifle range for the first time to fire the N130 rifle otherwise known as the Garand but not called that in army parlance. Some of the fellows have been out already. We get to fire only three shots tomorrow but that will probably take us all forenoon with all the coaching, etc. We have been learning the rudiments of firing positions by practicing on the floor of the barracks. When we do stunts of that kind in barracks we stand our bunks on end against the walls. Grant [his cousin] has already had some firing practice and has done very well at it although he has done very little shooting. I am very erratic with a gun so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I have been re-reading your last letter, Mother, and found it coherent though I can imagine how you felt with two days to Christmas. I take it you had a white one and I am awaiting the account of your day. [The photo is of the farmhouse and grounds as they might have appeared during a white Christmas. Note the depth of the grove -- many more trees than today. And note, too, the orchard to the south (left) of the farmhouse.]

We had the forenoon off today but worked this afternoon. Our food was nothing special today. We had salmon fried to a crisp at noon and tonight our main dish was macaroni and cheese which I enjoyed. Day before yesterday we had turkey for dinner (noon), so you see there is no rhyme or reason to how menus come up. For the most part, the food is fair but quite heavy and starchy. We generally have canned fruit at supper and we almost always have some kind of citrus fruit or apples at breakfast. Generally we have a raw salad of some sort at dinner and very often they serve soup at dinner. As you see, our noon dinner is the heavy meal. We have coffee at least twice a day and not of too good quality. Of course, we take our meals in one of the company mess halls. I have done K.P. duty only once here so I expect it any day again now. Our beds are comfortable and lots of ventilation. There is lots of reading material in the day room if you can find the late issues in the mix up. I have been buying the Readers Digest. It is $.15 at the post exchange. And I buy Time whenever I can find it. The newsboys come around almost every day. By the time we do our chores and write letters there is not much time left. I have a formidable correspondence list.

Yes, one of the fellows has a small radio and it is good. Of course, there isn't much chance to hear the really good programs. The general taste doesn't run to such. There are "general protestant" services on Sunday but I have not attended.

Love, Vance

P.S. I haven't mailed the package of shirts yet. Have to go some distance to do it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Jan. 1st, '43

Dear folks,

And may 1943 see us thru and see it thru. Mother, I apologize for not mentioning the testament and your picture. [Perhaps Ina sent him this portrait taken in 1940 -- "Mom, apple pie, and the American way."] Thanks for both. I was rather fuddled when I wrote the last letter for I received three other packages the day yours came and I was trying to keep who sent what separated in my mind. Tom and Phyllis Fairchild sent me a sewing kit – much nicer than the one I had purchased. The thread is on little spools and looks to be of good quality.

I believe I wrote you last Sunday after my leave was over. On Monday Lieut. Steig took me out of the "wire and switchboard" section and asked me how I'd like to try "radio and visual," another section of communications. He said he realized I was older than most of the men in our group and radio would not entail so much drilling. I hope it will prove that way. Anyhow I made something of a record picking up the first lesson in code and think I am about ready to pass the test in lesson two. [My dad once told me that the army was impressed with his ability to quickly learn the communication codes.]

This last week has not been very strenuous. However, I [was excused from] a 3 ½-hour hike night before last. Our platoon was to go out with full pack and rifle. I thought I might make it with pack but not if I had to carry both. So I went to the top sarge and asked to be excused from carrying rifle. He said 'all right by him' but that men should go on sick list if they thought they couldn't take it. I told him I thought I might be able to stand the hike with pack but not with rifle. He told me to get final permission from my platoon sergeant. I came back and told Sarg. Higdon, platoon sergeant, and he said 'perfectly all right,' so I got my pack ready and on and sat down on my bunk waiting for the time to take off. Higdon came up to me and asked me if I thought I should attempt the hike. I told him if I found I couldn't make it, I guessed I was privileged to drop out and come back. He looked thoughtful and said, "I tell you, you just stay here. I think you'd better not try it." Higdon is a young Texan and very popular with the men.

Now, I don't want you to think I am in a dangerous condition from this but the dregs of my cold have kept me down and as everyone knows these hikes are no pipe. I still cough a good deal at night but I am getting gradually better.

[Can you believe this? He's being prepared for war, but his superiors agree that he can drill without his rifle and finally kindly suggest that he just stay back. I think he was unquestionably sick – probably had pneumonia. And can you imagine what it was like for these young officers to have to train men old enough to be their fathers? I think unless you were pretty hardened, that would have been really tough, especially as you saw them sick and struggling. Gradually better? Perhaps. But I think the officers knew that strenuous exercise in the cold or a soaking with icy water might well put him in the hospital – or worse. What we don't know is how many were sick and hospitalized. KW]

Monday, February 15, 2010


Since I wrote you just yesterday I think I'll describe the barracks to you. They are two-story buildings about 70 feet long and 30 feet wide. There are about 30 single steel cots on each floor, 15 to each side with a wide alleyway down the middle. There are two doors at either end and from one end a stairway goes to the 2nd floor. I am on the ground floor, but I prefer the upper for they are generally warmer and there is less traffic through. Each barracks has its own hot air heating plant and they are adequate when properly fired. Sometimes the janitor seems to take Dutch leave and we freeze slightly. When we are in barracks we usually sit upon our beds for there are no chairs. We can sit on our lockers but not so comfortable. I can't write so much about routine because it changes so much from day to day. However, we always line up at 6:15 each morning for roll call. Between 6:15 and 7:30 we must eat breakfast and clean up the barracks and be properly uniformed for whatever the day calls for. We generally have an hour at noon for chow and mail call and after the afternoon session return to barracks a little before 5:00 p.m., change into dress uniform, and turn out for retreat which is the evening ceremony at which the flag is lowered. After that we go to chow, have evening mail call, and the rest of the evening is ours. Sounds simple, doesn't it? And it wouldn't be so bad except for the climate and the fact that the general is such a fresh air and fresh water fiend.

I got the shirts and am returning them for they are not heavy enough to be much force. I guess I left my sweat shirt somewhere else for you would have recognized it had it been there. They are of grey material (cotton) and fleece-lined. I bought two yesterday over in Jacksonville so expect to be able to keep warm. I did wear the heavier ribbed shirt you sent for a few days so you'd better wash it. The other two are not soiled. You will note that the box and paper are yours to me in reverse. I put some unusual Christmas paper inside which the Hannan's gift came wrapped in because I thought it would make such pretty cut-outs for your next year's boxes. I am going to turn out for regular duty tomorrow and I think I'll be able to stand it. Oh, yes, I, too, read A Christmas Carol. It was reprinted in Coronet magazine and I found I had forgotten most of it.

Love to you, Vance

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Welcome to the M/W Homestead. We are currently posting letters written by my dad, Vance Dobson, while he was stationed at Camp White, Oregon, in 1942-3. The series begins at the posting of January 15. KW

[As the previous letter of December 26, 1942, closes, Vance explains the difficulties of getting discharged from the army. You have to prove yourself unfit to serve and then prove that you will be employed in defense industries including agriculture. He also relates that he has had contact with friends from his previous employment who have offered encouragement and support. They seemed to think his best option would be the "38-year ruling." Apparently a ruling that 38-year-old men are too old for service is pending. Now back at Camp White from his Christmas leave, Vance writes home again:]

Dec. 27, '42

Dear folks,

I got back to camp last night about 10 P.M. and didn't find it as bad as I felt it would be. There was no duty today. On Sundays unless we happen to have field drill of some sort we do not have to get up for roll call or breakfast, so this morning it was nearly ten before I crawled out. I had been told I had a wad of mail so I was looking forward to 12:30 mail call. I had packages from you, the Dave Andersons, the Bob Hannans, Mom and Pop Fairchild and Carney and Fern Phelps. Besides I had a half dozen greeting cards and a letter so you see, I had myself a field day.

Everything you sent was fine and your box was certainly attractive. The sox and tie are perfect and of course, the soap and razor blades ditto. I appreciated Stan's gift, too, and hope they'll let me hang the tie rack for I'd like to get the ties out of my foot locker. They are called foot lockers because they sit at the foot of the bed. They are plywood chests with a till in them. I sampled the pork cake and am sure it is like the old. Well, many thanks.

The Andersons sent me some candy, some mints and two packs of cigarettes. Hannans sent me a carton of cigarettes and the Phelps sent me a handsome billfold which I was glad for, for I hadn't a good one. Mom and Pop Fairchild sent me the service edition of Science and Health bound in khaki-colored leather and a date and nut cake. . . . . Aren't people wonderful? – some of them? Nellie and Howard [Gaylord] sent me a money belt and a couple of soap boxes I had requested. Russell and Frances Saling sent me a box of candy and cookies. The Schaefers sent me a most delicious box of homemade fudge plus a small fruitcake, and Bertha Lewis in South Bend sent me a box of home salted nuts and stuffed dates. So you see I have been very well remembered and am simply swamped with letters and "thank you" notes to be written.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


[The letter of December 26 from the Montgomery home in Jacksonville, OR, continues:]

My main reason for writing from here was to tell you some of my peeves about Camp White. While I don't think there is any censorship at Camp, I don't care to take too much risk. On the other hand I don't want to worry you so remember the written word looks worse generally than the spoken sounds. For one thing Winchell referred to Camp White recently as Little Alcatraz. Just why I don't know unless it is because the physical standards are so high and they are rather unmerciful in trying to bring all men up to them. The Dec. 14th issue of Time has an article on the camp and a picture of Gen. Gerhardt stripped to the waist, soaked to the skin astride a horse. His idea is to harden his troops as a matter of self preservation when it comes to the actual campaign and battlefield. Many of us say the hardening is worse than the battle and more lives lost. Ha! Well, anyhow I managed this awful cold and I'll go on the sick list again if I catch any more.

To continue with the general. One morning about two weeks ago Lieut. Simpson had us out for early morning drill and someone asked him how long he thought our outfit would be in camp. He was apparently mad clear through and blew his top pretty much in this wise. "I think most of you will be right here when the war ends. Lots of you men are older than I am and they can say what they want to but men after a certain age are no good for soldiering. The commanding general (meaning Gerhardt) is crazy. Absolutely nuts. It's crazy to have you men stand around out here in the cold and rain and crazier still to have you sleep out nights in the wet. I left an outfit in New Jersey because I thought it was bad but it was not a patch to this. And let me tell you, you'd have had even more of this being out in the wet if we hadn't all been raising hell about it the last few days. Particularly the medics. The medics have been crying their eyes out at the appalling numbers on the sick list and the amount of pneumonia in the hospitals. The general is crazy and they know back in Washington that he's crazy. He's the type that wires Washington every other day: 'We are ready. We are ready.' All he is thinking of is making some sort of record for himself. I think most of this outfit if you do get sent away from here will be put doing guard duty around defense plants and guarding roads, tunnels, and bridges."

Well, I stood there with my mouth open for I never thought an officer would dare come out that flat-footed in public criticism of the commanding officer. He was really madder than a hatter and I judged from his state of mind the camp was probably full of others just like him.

[My research on Gen. Charles Hunter Gerhardt indicates that he was a tough taskmaster and his methods were indeed controversial. A small man, he was in great shape himself and he expected his officers to be trim and physically fit, even those of middle age. No paunches. It sounds as though he imposed a standard of fitness on the men immediately rather than working up to it. Or – maybe it was his way of weeding out those who couldn't keep up. The Time Magazine article of December 14, 1942, can be found at this link:,9171,774103,00.html ]

Sunday, February 7, 2010


[This is the continuation of a series of letters written by my dad from boot camp in the winter of '42-'43. Posts began on January 15.

Over the weekend I discovered genealogical info on the Montgomery family, my dad's cousins. Fay was born November 6, 1904, so is just six months younger than my dad. She married a dentist, Stanley Peters, in 1923, and Mavis (born 1925) is Fay's daughter. So, at the time of this correspondence, Mavis is 17. Fay also has a baby. Grant was born October 6, 1906, so is two and a half years younger than my dad. That makes him 36 and also old for soldiering. These folks were never players in my life. I don't know what happened to them.]

Jacksonville [Oregon]

Dec. 26, '42

Dear Folks,

Yesterday we did our best by Christmas and today we are being quiet so far and doing some letter writing. I didn't rise until nearly 11 o'clock this morning. Fay, Ruth, Mavis and I sat up until 1 A.M. last night so naturally all slept in. I have had a room at the neighbor's because they were overcrowded here. Grant didn't get home for his leave which was a great disappointment to everyone but most of all to Grant, I know. His company was quarantined late Wednesday afternoon just a few hours before leaves started for spinal meningitis. There have been a few cases in camp and as soon as someone comes down with it that company is put in quarantine at once.

I got here Wednesday night about 10 P.M. My leave was supposed to start Thursday at 6 A.M. but my top sarge sent for me Wednesday evening and told me I'd better get the hell on my way and that he didn't want to see me there Thursday morning. I was very surprised. I had already called Fay that afternoon and arranged for Mavis to meet met at 9 A.M. Thursday morning in Medford but I decided I'd risk it so got ready and took off. I was delayed catching a bus and it was 8:30 before I got to Medford. Fay has no phone at the house so I tried the cab companies but it was an hour before I could get a cab. Finally one arrived with two other soldiers bound for Jacksonville and I walked in on the folks at 10. They were very surprised and pleased and I was glad to find everyone up. In fact Ruth was still baking and the kitchen was full of cookies, cake, and pies. I was still very hoarse but I sat and rattled on until after midnight. My cold has been improving day by day and I am almost back to normal today. My leave expires tomorrow (Sunday) morning at 6 a.m. so I will go back to camp sometime this evening and it seems just like going back to prison. I surely have enjoyed my three days of civilian life.

Fay's baby is very cute and husky and Fay looks very well. Ruth and I had a couple of afternoon strolls and visits and got pretty well acquainted. She really is a grand gal – not pretty but lots on the ball. She cooked the Christmas dinner and did a good job of it. Our main dish was a 6 ½ pound loin of pork roast and it was really delicious. I have put in several sessions at the piano which seemed to please everyone.

Thanks for all the cards and good wishes. I read several of Aunt Mabel's and Aunt Bertha sent me a card here. Your package did not arrive before I left but may be there when I return – so I went ahead and read the inside sheet and I'm sure you made wise choices in what you sent. I'll thank you in advance.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


It was late summer 1977 and I was pregnant with my first baby – which somehow has nothing to do with what I'm about to tell you except that I remember I was pregnant so I can date this event. I knew that within a few months my life would change. My dad was 73 and I wanted to conduct an oral history with him. Cassette tapes were the media medium of the age. With an inexpensive recorder and some blank tapes, anyone could conduct an oral history.

So I met my dad in his studio at home in Orofino and we talked for a while about his life. It was obvious he was prepared. He had thought through what he would talk about. As we began our conversation, I couldn't find a good position for the mic, so he said, "I'll just hold it." Not having had much experience, I let him do it, and that was a mistake. There's a lot of noise of the tape from the movement of his fingers. I was greatly disappointed at the time and listening to the tape was difficult for me. Still, it's like a picture of yourself that you don't like – as time goes by it doesn't seem to look so bad. With the blog posts specifically about my dad, I thought of that taped conversation and longed to hear it again. So, I pulled it out of the drawer where very special things are kept and put it into a player we have left over from the age of cassettes. (Wasn't that yesterday?) In the process of rewinding it, the tape broke right at the beginning.

I refuse to be upset about these things. It was an imperfect medium to begin with. But, neither was I willing to toss the tape without seeing what might be done. Hallie researched for me and sent a link for a Seattle business – Reclaim Media – that specializes in transferring LPs and tapes to CDs, etc. I mailed the tape to Reclaim Media on Monday and the finished product was in my mailbox the following Monday. All in all, it cost me about $30, including shipping both ways, to have the tape repaired and transferred to CD – worth every penny. Somehow that noise on the tape just doesn't bother me like it used to. The voice and the information are just so precious to me.

My dad didn't have a particularly good memory for dates and places and details, but that doesn't matter so much if you just want to know what someone thought or what his impressions were. But now and then in response to some question, he would say, "You'll have to ask Ethel. I don't remember." So I approached Aunt Ethel, who was five years older than my dad, but the thought of a recorded interview apparently made her nervous. She would write something out and read it, she said. "Can't we just talk?" I asked. Oh no! So – it never happened.

Next week, I'll pick up where I left off with Vance in boot camp preparing for Christmas leave which he will spend with family in Jacksonville, Oregon. And, writing from Jacksonville instead of from camp, he expresses what he thinks about the general. KW

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Remember last year when Hallie called to say she had received an engagement ring for her birthday. We took a nostalgic view at the day she appeared on our scene. And now we have added to our memories her wedding day and the receptions and the story goes on.

Hallie sent the above photo to Mike for his birthday. The moment was right, the smiles are right, and it's a great black and white photo taken by Toni, the groom's mother. KW

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


[The letter of December 21, 1942, continues:]

Now, this business of getting out of the army. [Get out of the army? This is the first I've heard. Whatever happened to "we must win this war" and "we must do what we must do?" But to be fair –he is sick and apparently confined to bed in the barracks.] I want you to do nothing until I can find out about it from here and I think our personnel office can give me the dope on it but it may be after Christmas before I can contact them. Your affidavits are part of my questionnaire so I doubt that you could get them. I plan to have Harry [his old supervisor] take steps to get me out , , ,

I don't know whether this will reach you before Christmas or not but it carries you my best wishes. It seems pretty un-Christmassy to me but I haven't shed any tears over it and don't expect to. I'm looking forward to my trip to Jacksonville and I'm sure I'll be feeling pretty well by then ---

The crops were pretty disappointing, weren't they? I think you did as well on flax as you would have on beans, however. But all this shorting and dockage makes you want to cuss [Ina inserts 'bawl'] everybody out. Frankly, I want none of it. If I can get out of here and get what I want, I want you to plan to rent the farm and take it easy. (But don't jump at anything for Harry is a very good friend but as temperamental as an opera star. So don't write to Polly [Harry's wife]. Let me handle this until I find where you come in.)

Tell Aunt Bertha to accept my apologies for not getting a card off to them. Yesterday was the first time I have felt like picking up a pen.

Merry Christmas and love, Vance

Monday, February 1, 2010


[The following letter, which I will post in two parts, was written Monday, December 21, 1942. The photo was actually taken early in 1943, but I thought you might like a mental image of the Montgomerys. From left, they are Ruth and Grant Montgomery, Fay Montgomery Peters, and Vance, my dad. Grant and Fay are brother and sister, my dad's cousins.]

Dear Folks,

I got your letter yesterday, Mother, with Ethel's enclosed and was glad to hear from you, of course. I have been sick since last Tuesday but did not go on the sick list until last Thursday. Have been having this terrible cold which has been really an epidemic here in camp and no wonder – the weather being what it is. It's all well and good to tell you to stay in bed but you have to get out and rustle food once in a while and I have been making most of the mail calls. I have never received the package with the shirts in it but am not worrying because I only got the coat hangers a few days ago. I have practically lost my voice with this illness but there are few people one cares to talk to anyhow so it is no hardship.

It is about 2 p.m. I went over a while ago to arrange for a 3-day pass to Fay's and am sure I'll get it tho the First Sargeant barked at me like he does at everyone. There are few civil-tongued non-coms in the army. For the most part they are a bunch of "battards," if you understand me. [Under "battards" Grandma Ina had penned, "bullies."]

I had a card from Aunt Mabel along the first of last week saying she wrote you of their coming in to camp. We had a fine visit and Fay came back with Ruth [Grant's wife] and Mavis in the evening. Fay is very sweet and seems very happy over her baby. Grant appears very sober and thoughtful and looks almost exactly like George [his father] – thinner, of course but the same nose and long upper lip. He told me he wears a moustache to help cover his expanse of Montgomery lip. I had my moustache cut off at Monterey but I need not have. I'm letting it grow out again now.

I only got in two days at the communications business I wrote you about before I got sick. We had one afternoon on hooking up field phones and operating switchboards. I'll be pretty far behind when I do get going again but I give a darn -----