Letters Home

December 29, 1943

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My Darling:

Received your letter just a few hours ago and again received that life giving inspiration. You are such a constant bunch of mystery and surprises, My Love.

I had just waded through some deep snow covered tundra, facing a cold wind. (This time I won’t call it “a little cold”) But when I read your letter, I was all warm again.

Honey, you say, and I agree, that Nature is God’s creation. But the closer to it, the more you love it. Well, that depends on the nature. Ha. And that remark about was I getting wild or was the fox tamed. Ha. The answer is I don’t know. Is it any sign that I am wild if I grow long ears and a tail and howl like a wolf when the moon comes up? Anyway, I don’t think I’m a gentleman, since I heard what one is. They tell me a gentleman is a worn out wolf. 

I have not seen the picture “Report from the Aleutians” yet. I want to see it if it ever comes here, so I can see if they filled it full of propaganda. The shrill wind sounds very familiar. If they’ve filled it with propaganda and false information we should sue them. Ha.

In the letter before this one, you sent some clippings and a joke or two. Said if I wanted more you would send them. Well, next to getting your letters, my greatest pastime is jokes. And the poems were swell. I like to read poetry, but it is scarce as frog hair around here. You also asked me if I got the catalogue. I did and thanks a lot. I guess I forgot to mention it. I also thank you for the gum in the last letter. Though I felt like a pig chewing it. They tell me you can hardly get gum down there and we can buy it by the box here, if we like. Now, I believe that old propaganda about “No sacrifice too great for the boys over there.” For if a woman will sacrifice her gum, they would sacrifice their life. Ha. It also has got me to worrying You see, it’s like this: it reminded me of a poem I read someplace, and I can’t remember what the poem was or where I read it. It was something like this:

"The rose you gave to me

That you took from your hair

Smelled, not of the rose, but thee.”

Can you help me out? Ha. 

As for my hair, it isn’t any darker. It’s getting almost a strawberry blond. It must have been a trick of the camera. Now if you had asked if I were getting grey, I would have said I wasn’t surprised. Ha. But I deny any frown. That was taken when I first got here and I was full of (as the fellows here express it) hell and vinegar. So the mischievous look was a possibility, but the frown could only have been caused by the sun’s glare.

You said you could see the beauty of this forgotten land reflected in my letters. I am sure I don’t know how you do it. Ha. Really, though, if I were to see this place on a sunny day or moonlight night; and know that I could leave it when I wish, I could see beauty here. I’ve often stood in the cold to see the mountains bathed in white array of moonlight or to see the setting sun (seldom seen) painting the clouds and mountains golden. But most of the time grey skies are predominant.

Well, My Love, I’m out of paper. I close. Please pardon the slow letter, my stamps are about 1/2 mile from here. 

Yours forever,

Shorty

Floyd Diggs Alford of Greenwood, Miss. Bank of Cold Bay opposite side in background. 1943

Floyd Diggs Alford of Greenwood, Miss. Bank of Cold Bay opposite side in background. 1943

Love and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. All well. - Raymond J. Gowen

December 18, 1943

My Dearest:

Received your letter tonight before coming to work. It was swell to hear from you - and at just the time I needed your letter so.

Honey, you wrote as if you were very tired. I know just how you felt. Ten hours a day is too many hours, My Love. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Maybe you ought to take awhile off. Go places, do something different. It breaks monotony. Then you can go back to work with a new zest. Why, a few nights ago, I rode a truck in a blizzard, staying up all night - just to break routine. It’s nerve wrecking. There is such a thing as staying too close to home. The next thing you know, you’ll be saying “what’s the use?” And that, my Pet, is just what I don’t want to happen.

You said you didn’t get the idea of something I said about a hopeless feeling. Well, whatever I said, must have been said in a period of dejection. I am sure I do not feel hopeless now. 

Often, we may become so bored that we think we have lost faith in everything. But usually after I reach bottom, I rise up and begin to fight back. True - there are times when I would not believe even a promise of the U.S. Gov’t. But even then I know that I have supreme faith in it. You said you couldn’t understand. I do not expect you to - no one could. Remember, I have often said you couldn’t understand this life unless you had been here? This place does things to you. You may catch yourself telling your best buddy to go to ___. But, then, at night, sometimes, a moon will rise above a snow capped mountain, casting its glow on the water, and the place becomes a place of beauty. Or the sun (seldom ever seen) may set behind the far off hills and the ever present clouds will be painted gold. Then, as you see God’s own art, you realize that He is even here, in the world’s most forsaken land. And you can’t feel hopeless.

You said your brother had moved. What was his last A.P.O.? Of course, he can’t tell you much, but if he had gone to Sicily, I am sure he could tell you that. For I got mail from there, telling me of the people, scenery, name of place, etc. That may be changed by now, as censor rules are set to fit the circumstances. I hope him the best of luck, wherever he is.

Some of the guys from Alaska have already gone back to the States on this rotation deal. It may work out, yet. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Gee, but I’d love to see civilization again. More so when I read such lines as in your last letter “—and we can be together forever.”

Yes, Dear, I’ve had quite a bit of experience at going to work at midnight. I have grown so used to it. It has been 20 months, now, that I have been on a shift duty. But after the war, no one is going to put a night duty job off on me. Ha. Here it is all the same, and you get to where you don’t pay any attention to it. I can sleep as easily by day or by night.

One more week and Christmas will be here again. My third one in the Army.  It will sure look funny with all the G.I. socks hanging up. “‘Twas night before Xmas. All the G.I. socks hanging in neat military row. Midnight! A form looms up in the door! Is it Santa entering? - No. It’s a dog face going out for fresh air.”

Three years ago, this was a gala week. Long gone relatives returning, laughter, fun. But this year, as so many others are doing, military and civilian alike, I get my Bible out and read Luke Chapter 2:11-15, alone. Yes, I can still feel some of the Xmas spirit. “Peace on Earth, good will toward men.” Though you go to bed with a gas mask in handy reach and a rifle by your bedside, you say a prayer for those you love, and say “Lord, thy will be done —-“; you also know that someday the children will laugh again. There will be no anxious tears, heartbreak, and loneliness. And Shortys will have their Alices. Smile, fair maid, for ‘tis Xmas time! “May God watch between thee and me while we are absent from one another.” 

Yours,

Shorty

Frances Farnsworth, 1943

Frances Farnsworth, 1943

December 12, 1943

Alice, Darling:

Received your wonderful letter and Christmas Greeting. But that was not all. My love, that picture is just too lovely for the eyes of a sinner! Such bewitching costume, too. ‘Tis far lovelier than the one you wore on that fateful night in July - over two years ago. When I look at that picture, the old mystery returns to ask why such a lovely woman could care for such a guy as I am.

You said you had neglected to write again. My Dear, you are forgiven, for: (1) you made up for it with this last letter, and even over mad up for it. (2) I realize I am not the letter writingest guy in the Army, myself. (3) The mail didn’t come in as regularly as usual and I only missed your letters at one mail call. 

Darling, you are a wizard at remembering dates. I well remember the night you were with Frances’ boy friend, and we left him to ride the Ferris wheel. But to save me, I could not have told you it was the 29th of July. Woe is me, if I should ever forget your birthday or our wedding anniversary!! Ha. I even remember the guy. To use his words “Why shouldn’t I?” Why, when I wanted to take him apart and see how he was put together? And, yet I couldn’t blame him. He had the Queen-of-the-Carnival for that night, and after all, I was tied to a job that permitted me but little freedom. It is funny how it all turned out, though, was it not? He got Frances, eventually I got you; and so everyone was happy. Like a fairy story. The lucky guy! He got back, eh? I am sure we are going to be great friends one of these days, despite the bad start we got. Give him and Frances my best regards and congratulations. I hope them both the best of luck till they meet again.

You said you were proud of the gift. I am glad you could use it. But that is not what I had hoped so much to give you. But, alas, the curse of war, it has kept us apart another Xmas. So your main gift will again have to wait. I do remember how you used to keep your finger nails, though. You used to tell me they were your protection. I remember how you used to wear that ring to match them, whatever shade they were painted. Funny, but I still remember so many of the little things of you, the way you wore your finger nails, your hair, your dress, the way you would be silent when you were asked a serious question, as if you were wondering whether you should answer or not. That smile - that only you could give - even when you knew what you were saying was breaking my heart. You gave it the day in front of Perry’s when you said you had rather go to the library with those girls than to be with me. That smile somehow made it easier to bear. I was to see that same smile later, only in a far different way. Came war, came Alaska, came a letter. In this letter was a pressed rose. I tried to see the sender of that rose, but it was you that smiled at me, “you will never forget me. She could send you a thousand roses, but it’s me you will think of every time she does”

I hope you can keep forgiving me for not writing so often. I started to write night before last and I came to a blank wall. The night before that, I was up all night riding a truck through a blowing blizzard that turned into a steady rain. The night following was fair, according to what we call fair. The next night I was in the big middle of another cold blizzard and it has held on ever since. The wind is a demon and cold isn’t a name for it. In four more hours, I will leave my fireside to face it again, for a midnight hike back to camp. That is anything but a pleasant thought.

There is a guy here who was brought up in the Los Angeles city limits. He stands in deathly fear that some night he will walk into a bear. Since one was just outside the door here once, he fears there will be another here sometime. He said he couldn’t understand why I made these midnight treks without a gun. I told him the other day that with a face like mine, I didn’t need a gun, for what bear could face a mug like mine and not scream for help?

Yes, I saw “True to Life.” “Hello, Frisco, Hello” was here but I missed it. I’ve seen quite a few older shows. Major and the Minor, Doctor Gillespie’s New Assistant, Follow the Band, etc. They were pretty good. I could see the newer shows if I chose to brave the ride and the weather for about twelve miles, but often I’d rather stay in and listen to the radio. But when Frank Sinatra sings, it makes me wish I’d gone someplace else. How does that guy get his popularity? He was singing Pistol Packing Mama the other night in such disgusting manner that it’s a wonder the networks didn’t refuse to function.

Well, Dear, I must close and write to Mama.

Forever yours,

Shorty

December 7, 1943

My Darling:

Tonight is a beautiful night. I went out for a walk. It is one of those nights seldom seen in these Aleutians. There isn’t even any high winds.

As I was walking alone in the quiet of the night, I recalled another night - two years ago. It was a different place and different weather, but, as tonight, you were on my mind - two years ago. I stood, that night, in the rain, on a craggy California shore and thought. As now, there was no fear for my life. I laughed that cold rainy night; because fate played me a seemingly good trick. War! War! You heard it, you saw grave faces. But to me, it sounded as casual as some one saying “chow is ready.” For, even then, the thought was going on and on - “She mustn’t know what I feel. She must be happy.” And then, as fate had played a hand, came the thought “How easy! Just tell her a white lie, just say you’ll be happier without her. Then she will have no regrets, she will not, for duty’s sake, wait through a war that may make that waiting vain.” Yes, it was you, not a war that filled my thoughts. What mattered the war. You were gone. You must forget that you knew me and find happiness. I meant it that night I wrote that letter and said I hoped you happiness. That from a heart that knew no happiness, only looking toward a future of pain and misery. 

But tonight there were different thoughts. You refused to be forgotten. I came to Alaska, but you came too! Those brave resolves, that war would replace you in my memory, were gone. For at the most unwelcomed times, your face would appear and my heart would cringe. But tonight, I could look at the moon without crowding back memories. I could let them flow sweetly and have hope of again holding you close, instead of saying “She’s gone.” I could dream of looking again into a pair of eyes that made stars jealous. Two years ago and today, you are the same - the one for me. I love you so and hope and pray that someday soon I’ll again press you to my heart and thrill to your smile, as we hear again, that song so many centuries old. For, now, I don’t look into a future of dread, but to a horizon lighted with the rising sun of a new world, a time when we can say the world of war and misunderstanding is a closed chapter and start our journey into the sunset.

Well, Dear, duty calls, so I shall close. I am well and doing OK, a little cold maybe, but I’ve grown to expect it. Ha.

May God keep my beloved.

Your,

Shorty

December 2, 1943

Alice, My Darling:

Last night I received another letter from you. You are wonderful - the way you write so faithfully. I can always expect your letters when mail comes in; and the time or two they didn’t I was so disappointed I felt like my last friend had died. I disagree with you - in that you don’t write as often as you should. For you are wonderful. If I don’t write as often as I should, it’s only my fault. I do try to write really often, but time goes by before you are aware of it here. Every few days I change shifts (from day to night, from the swing shift to the graveyard, etc) and often have to ask what day of the week it is. It confuses your days to work that way - or- have you already found that out? ha.

Now if I were a gifted writer or a poet, I could write you every day; for you are always on my mind. (I must be in love with you, for they say that’s the way you are when you’re in love. ha.) But, alas, I am not a poet nor a gifted writer. All I can say is that I love you more than you’ll ever know. Sometimes you seem so near that I can almost imagine you are by my very side. I can still hear your voice, so different, so charming. And all our times together I can recall in most minute detail. Even your every smile, every little act, is always vividly before me. I have lived them all over and over again.

I am sure you never believed me or even believed I was serious when I used to tell you I had always known you. But long time ago, when I was just a little shaver, living in the old house by the lake, long before there was a lake there, I knew what you looked like, and tried to imagine your name. That night as you came down those stairs, I was taken by surprise, for it was that childhood dream in real life. And so amazed was I that when Miss Collins wanted to introduce me, all I could think of to say was, “No, I must go to work at midnight.” But, really, I was suddenly and inexplicably afraid. Yes, that night I was afraid to meet you and yet, I knew I’d eventually do i, even if I had to come back there every day until I did. The rest of that night, I sling orders across the counter with a song in my heart. Every time I rang a sale on the cash register, it made music instead of having a dead clang to it. Yes, from that minute I saw you on the stairs, I can remember everything you did and said as long as we were together.

You should see this place tonight. All the magical splendor is gone. It is so dark you could cut it with a knife. But it is a nice night. I started out early and took time to linger awhile alone in the solitude. It seems so restful sometimes to be out in the night alone. One of the newer guys here said he couldn’t get over it - that I never carried a gun on these midnight treks. I told him the night was my friend. He thinks I’m crazy or something.

A bear came up to this place one night and ever since then, he feels sure he will run into one just as soon as he goes outside. I told him I didn’t have sense enough to be afraid, much less afraid of a little thing like a bear. Ha.

Had a letter from Dee. He hasn’t learned to hate the Aleutians so badly yet. We can write uncensored letters to each other, since we are both in the Aleutians; so it isn’t so hard to write to him. I hope your brother in N. Africa is doing O.K. I’ll bet he would like to trade some heat for some of our ice, eh? Ha.

Well, My Dear, I must close for now. I love you dearly -

Yours,

Shorty 

November 26, 1943

My Dear Alice:

I have some time to while away and how better could I use it? I never have anything to write, but I can bore you with saying the same thing again.

Yes, I’m sure had you slipped up behind me when that picture was made (the last enlargement) I would, as you said, have mistaken you for a bear. For we were in the heart of the “bear country.” That is a name it has taken on, because in that area is where the bears usually stay in the summer when they come down from the hills. To add to that, we were in a gulch where a very nice salmon berry patch was. We had just been eating the berries, and I am sure Bruin, had he been there, would have disputed our right to do so. Right behind us was a clump of growth, good concealment for a bear. Had there been a rustling of sudden movement there, I fear we would not have asked if it were “friend or foe.” Ha.

Oh, but ‘twould be a different scene in the little gully now. The bears are gone, or leaving, except a few that may hibernate around here. The little gully is no longer green with ferns, the berries are gone, and even the salmon go no more up the streams. No more hikes over in there, for, lo, the beastly winter has come. Unwelcomed old man, with his blowing fury and challenge to man or beast to withstand his fury. With snows, blizzards, rain, melting snow and ice, mud, and general misery.

And now, he is here with his changing weathers, all of them disagreeable, and men becoming frustrated. Today, maybe rain, tomorrow, blowing snow or frozen earth. Or maybe you don your sheep skin lined knee length coat (parka) and go to a movie, but when you come out the gale has stopped and you stand there looking silly with a heavy coat on. Ah, but you dare not predict tomorrow’s weather. Sometimes last winter, the storms lasted four or five days. Sometimes, it was only a matter of hours. This winter? Can tell you next summer. 

Oh well, life is no bed of roses. So I shall try to bear patiently, with the lingering hope that I may not be in the never-never land another winter. 

For the hope is still lingering that after our two years, we go. I can already vision green fields, sunshine, and civilization. How often I have rehearsed our reunion. Think, My Darling, over two and a half years since we have quarreled. Yes, two and a half years away from the sweetest woman I ever knew. Maybe the day I land in Dallas, you will be at the station with your rolling pin. But what a thrill it will be, to be hit over the head by you. But we will make up for the interlude of our separation. Yes, between the quarrels, we will be happy.

My Darling, since I am out of news, I will close; and go back to my memories of you. With a heart full of love, I remain

Yours,

Shorty

Alice in a hat, 1943

Alice in a hat, 1943