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Dee and Roielee’s daughter Linda Joyce. 1943 or 1944.

Dee and Roielee’s daughter Linda Joyce. 1943 or 1944.

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 4, 1943

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Darling:

With greatest apologies to and profound sympathy with anyone, you or the censor, who may be compelled, by duty or devotion, to read this, I’m going to give you a few technicalities on tonight. If it should be on the insane side, well - after all, can I help the condition I was born in? to say nothing of Alaska being an improving ground along these lines.

To begin with, it is twenty minutes past 12:00, midnight. But that is beside the point and purely irrelevant. The point is - it is a beautiful night. (I sorta hope old James Curwood is buried somewhere around here. He was the bird to fill my foolish young head full of illusions on the “Glory of the Great North.” May his soul rest in peace, damn his hide.) But to get back to the point, which we have not come to yet, the old dump is changed a bit since a few days ago. Seems like someone ought to start singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” For the earth looks as if it was so scared that it lost all its color and became a deathly white.

I had some hours of my own today and took them as such. I grew so tired of everyday routine that I just went to town and saw a show. What is town? Well, it is just another place like this one, only more so. The show? A sad case. A flop called “Girl Crazy.” I was rather disappointed in it. But so was everyone else; so I wasn’t the only sucker to go to it. I also decided I’d just spend a lot of money and be carefree. I would have too, only I couldn’t find anything to spend it for. I believe I would have got drunk too, but I thought of you. Besides, I could not have found anything to drink. This place is practically world famous for its absence of wines and liquors. It breaks my heart, too, for, frankly I don’t use the stuff. But I am straying from the subject.

To get back, (back to where, I am sure I don’t know) this is one of those nights you read of in the story books. The snow floats lazily down to a carpeted earth, as if it had no place to go and no set time to get there. Of course, I left out a few details. For there is the villainous wind that makes up the snow flake’s mind on where to go and how fast to get there. And this wind is always in a hurry. But on the way to work tonight, the wind had stopped to rest and the stars shone through holes in the clouds. And for awhile, the glory of the Great North, as depicted by Rex Beach and James O. Curwood, was very evident. Great white nothing was stretched out before you. All the fictional objects were in view, star light, barrens, loneliness, cold, etc, except the wolf that always howls on such a night. But, then, most of the fellows were in bed or there might even have been a few “wolves” out prowling. Yes, when Rex Beach was along here, it must have been a clear night. Else, he would have had a far different trend in his scenic views in his (I gotta admit it) great novels.

For awhile I stopped and turned off my flashlight, to stand in silent praise of the beauty of it. And I hate to admit any beauty about this hole. And usually, can’t if I wished. But tonight I caught the old place off guard and saw the glory of it, before it was aware of it.

Honey, I received your letter with the picture and card with the imprint of the most adorable pair of lips I’ve ever kissed. I shall keep that card among my souvenirs. For I am sorry to say, I can’t fill your request for finished the card out and returning it. For we have a censor regulation that forbids sending clippings, comic cards, picture cards, etc. I am sorry to say this card will come under that law. The idea is that messages could be carried out that way. I am sure I don’t know what there is here to be kept secret, but I ‘spect we’ll keep it secret anyway. Ha. However, I’m glad, personally, for now I have not only a memory of, but the actual imprint of, the lips I have never been able to forget. To say nothing of twenty nine pictures of the “Girl that could not be forgot.”

Well, My Darling, the night grows old. The news grows short; so I must close. I hope you’ve heard from your brother by now and have learned he is safe. Dee is O.K. after a fit of excitement. I’ve heard from him twice since it occurred and he only laughs about it. Neil is back at Greenville and thinks he may stay there awhile. Tell Fran hello for me. The fellows think she is cute. Of course she is, too.

My love forever,

Shorty

Shorty’s brother Dee.

Shorty’s brother Dee.

Dee at Camp Funston, San Francisco, prior to shipping out. 

Dee at Camp Funston, San Francisco, prior to shipping out. 

October 16, 1943

Darling:

I received your letter of the 11th yesterday. Imagine, only four days from Texas to Alaska! My Love, I was so happy. Though I felt like a heel after writing such a letter as I did just previously. I hope you will forgive me.

I guess I have been making too many excuses for myself, lately. I was, at the time, feeling as if everyone had forsaken me, and there was no excuse for it. Then I got your letter about your brother going across and realized what must have caused you to suffer. For it cause me some unhappiness when Dee sailed; and you women take things much harder than we do. So, Dear, please forgive me again, and I’ll try not to be that way again. I love my little girls so that I guess I get a bit finicky where you are concerned. 

You asked me if I knew where Neil and Dee are. Yes, I know Neil is at Greenville, but I can’t give Dee’s location. His place was bombed the other day and I have been waiting with anxiety for his next letter. I’ve had no word from him since the action. Please don’t mention it to Mama or Roielee yet, in the event you see either of them. For I don’t believe it to be serious and they would worry too much.

Sweetheart, you asked me if I had no possibilities of getting a furlough. I didn’t intend to mention this yet. Anything can happen here, and usually does. I have lost all faith in promises that are made us; for more often than not, they never pan out. But there is at [about a third of a page cut out by censors] the plan collapses. But even if it goes on, at the present rate, I will be at least six more months here. If I dared to hope, however, I would hope the plan may be changed. In that event I may be home by Spring. But if you knew Alaska as I know it, you would not put too much trust in that. When I am headed South and, at least, halfway back to Seattle, I will have hope of returning. I am not sceptical; I am just keeping off the limbs. I don’t want one sawed off while I’m out there. also, you tell me fellows are coming home on furlough from Alaska. I am well aware of that. I have friends in or near several Alaskan towns. From those places they have had furloughs. Yes, I can understand why the ancient kind said, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.” If his kingdom was like this one, it wasn’t worth a horse. I’d trade my kingdom for a cigarette.

Oh, yes, the picture I promised did not turn out so well, but I have some that are supposed to be completed by tomorrow and shall send you one before the end of the week (Providing they are worth it).

Well, My Dear, ‘tis almost chow time and consequently my relief. So I better close. How did you make out as supervisor? Still at it?

Good luck and all my love,

Shorty

October 8, 1943

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My Dear Alice:

I got your letter of Sept. 29th just a few minutes ago. It came in just the right time to save my morale from crumbling. They had mail call, but no letter was in it for me, I thought. But a guy came in three hours later to tell me he had collected my mail and stopped along the way to play cribbage. I was greatly relieved for I feared you had failed to write again. for the last three hours I’ve been asking myself what could be wrong.

Also, I’ve often thought something was coming between us. But I keep hoping it’s only my imagination, that because I think so much of you that I get to actually fearing you will change. 

So, My Own, when you speak of that “little white house” and “our life after the war” be sure you mean it. It would be a cruel thing to let me live with those hopes and rosy dreams, only to return some day and find it could not be. If I didn’t love you so, I would not notice your letters growing shorter and further between. I knew you wouldn’t intentionally hurt me. You are not that kind of person. But when you write such impersonal letters as the one I have now, it does hurt. It seems as if you were putting me out of your confidence. You used to tell me of your shopping, shows you saw and many other irrelevant things. They were not important in themselves, but they were words from your pen, words from your heart. It was like talking to you about the day you had spent since I saw you. Then at night I would reconstruct your days activity. As I read your letters, I can see you talking and sense you as being beside me. Maybe you have been asking yourself if being apart so long has not changed me. Or maybe if you mean so much and have always meant so much to me, why did I walk so calmly out of your life once?

To take the first one. I have changed. I have come to my senses at last (have been for two years) and realized that without you, life will never be the same. Second - I did not walk calmly away. I walked away with a heavy heart and that time we were apart was no picnic. I like to tell myself that I did a good bit of acting. For I don’t believe anyone, unless it was Mary Etta, knew what it costed me to put on that act.

My Dear, letters can never tell you what you mean to me. But I will not hold you to your promise. If you find that you are writing because it’s your duty, you shouldn’t write. Only write when you find I am on your mind. If you should find I am not on your mind, then don’t write. I want all or nothing at all. I don’t want you to keep a promise that you no longer want to keep. If you think you don’t care as you used to, tell me. It would hurt, yes! I’d probably curse the day that I saw a vision in black descending that flight of stairs. But I’d feel worse if I should learn you have been pretending. “Be Honest With Me.”

You asked me when did I start smoking a pipe. I’d paid not so much attention to the one in the picture. But now that I’ve been caught, I’ll ‘fess up. Ha. I started that in the year of our Lord, 1939. But I promise not to litter up the parlour with pipe smoke and ashes. I only smoke the obnoxious thing when I am sitting around relaxed, usually. Yes, I still smoke the deadly weed called cigarettes. But don’t send me any, because I can buy them for 5¢ per package here.

I hope you hear from your brother and find he hasn’t gone overseas. Dee and I have finally established regular exchange of mail again. We hear from each other in quick order now. We are only about 800 miles apart, but it is far enough to assure us we are not likely to meet.

Well, Dear, time speeds by. I’ve got three more letters to answer and it’s eleven P.M. and I must arise at 5:30 A.M.; so you see how it is. Ha.

May God bless and keep you.

Unconditionally yours,

Shorty

August 23, 1943

My Dearest Alice:

As you know, it has been about ten days since I wrote. Or at least, that is the last time I remember writing. So much has happened and so little can be told; therefore, I’m not going to try to explain. I’ve thought of you constantly. So it wasn’t that I’d forgotten. Maybe it would be better if I could forget for awhile now and then, but that is not the case.

You were telling me about going out with the guy. I hardly know what to say and make you see what I mean. I certainly don’t think you should stay home all the time. That would be the easiest way I know of losing you. Loneliness is a dreadful disease. You owe it to yourself and to me to go out when you choose. Only I hope you don’t go out too often with the guy in question. As long as you go with several, I’ll not think anything of it. But, Dear, you do understand what going, often, with one certain guy can cause, don’t you? I forbid not that you shall go with whomever you please, whenever you please. I trust you not to forget me. I am not sure we will be here the duration, but if I should be, it would be a long time to stay home all the time. I will admit I am still, as I have always been, just a bit jealous where that guy in question is concerned. But I do trust you absolutely; so you be your own master. Just don’t let anyone ever tell you that I don’t love you. You are all my dreams in one. Remember the song - “Be Honest With Me.”?

I am glad you got to see your brother while he was on leave. I’ve had three letters from Dee and he is about seven hundred miles from me. I still may get to see him some day. He is at a place you have often heard mentioned in the news. But he is safe, now. You have probably wanted to know more about the occupation of Kiska. Well, someday, I can tell you all of it, maybe. Any way, we are the master of the North Pacific now. The Japs are gone from their last stronghold. If you ask ‘what now’ you will be asking the same thing we are. But our career is planned without asking us. Ha.

I had some pictures made the other day, but they were terrible, so I will have to try again before I can send any. I have planned another cross country trek. Maybe I can get a few pictures along the way. This one is to be ten miles further than the last one, and it took three days! Of course, since these hikes are of my own free will, I have to take them whenever I can beg, borrow or steal time from the battery duties. So don’t know just when it will be. We want to do a bit of mountain climbing. Guess you could figure out an easier way of breaking your neck, eh? Ha ha. Bob and I plan to go. You remember him, don’t you?

I saw the show “Slightly Dangerous”, you mentioned. I enjoyed it. Also, you should see “Mr. Big”, “DuBarry was a Lady” and “Random Harvest”. They are all worth seeing.

I have not heard from Mama in a couple of weeks of mail calls. I guess she has gone to Alabama. Have you heard? Or do you write to Nancy often?

Well, Dearest, I’ll close for now. Hope with me that whatever happens next, here, will be for the better.

I am yours devotedly,

Raymond Gowen

"GOWEN, A.D. Jr. Cpl Son of Mr. and Mrs. A.D. Gowen, husband of the former Roielee Lawson. Entered the Army  in September 1941, trained at San Francisco. Served in Aleutians, on Attu. Has Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with battle stars.”
Sounds like Shorty was right to worry about Dee in the Spring and Summer of 1943. Dee may well have been involved with the Battle of Attu, in which 549 Americans and 2,850 Japanese were killed and another 1,148 Americans were wounded.

"GOWEN, A.D. Jr. Cpl Son of Mr. and Mrs. A.D. Gowen, husband of the former Roielee Lawson. Entered the Army  in September 1941, trained at San Francisco. Served in Aleutians, on Attu. Has Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with battle stars.”


Sounds like Shorty was right to worry about Dee in the Spring and Summer of 1943. Dee may well have been involved with the Battle of Attu, in which 549 Americans and 2,850 Japanese were killed and another 1,148 Americans were wounded.

July 16, 1943

Note: this letter was written before the one posted yesterday, which is dated July 21, 1943, but they were both postmarked July 22, 1943 so I just discovered that when I took it out to transcribe it.

My Darling Alice:

I haven’t felt so far from home and familiar places and faces in a long time as I have today. All day you have been on my mind along with so many other thoughts. I tried twice to write today, but it trailed out into nothing and I destroyed the unfinished letters. I’ve been very homesick and lonely, despite the fact I’ve had very little time when there wasn’t a crowd around me.

I know it is bad to let thoughts of home and loved ones get too much of a hold on you. I usually try to prevent it. But today was one of those days that it couldn’t be controlled; when all bars and guard are slacked and I feel very alone. Do you remember how I used to hate western plays, with all their melodrama? Well, today I saw one. Or rather sat through one. Instead of seeing the characters on the screen, I was seeing another set of characters. I even now see Dee as we used to mount “Smokey” and “Prince” to ride fifteen miles to say hello to his friends at Antioch. Or the times I used to saddle “Queenie”, my favorite, and the queen of the herd at home, to ride eight or ten miles under pretense of getting some books. And all the time knowing it was because I wanted to ride like wild wind and she was the only one of the bunch that never seemed to grow tired. Again I see the woods and trails we so often followed. Especially the woods. I loved them so much. Remember one night we, you and I, were going down a moonlit road; and you showed me a large oak tree that you and Frances used to go to and talk over your days activities. I still see the tree and still today wonder what you talked about. If my name was mentioned in that chosen rendezvous. It was near that same place that we said our last goodbye, officially, remember? There are so many other things I remember about that night, too.

As I’ve said, I’ve also had many other thoughts today. As you may already know, Roielee is back in Texas and Dee is in Alaska. I don’t know where he is, yet. But I am very unhappy about the whole thing. Yes, I am afraid. Not for me, but for Dee. I can’t say much more and stay in limits of censor regulations, but if anything should happen to Dee, a part of me would die. He is more than a brother to me. He is a real friend as well. If only I could know where he is, it would be of some help. But I must keep wondering. He says “for a long time.” I think I could laugh at death, my own, but not his. My prayers are that he is not going where I think he eventually will.

I suppose this letter has not been a happy sounding one. I just had to say something to someone and this is one way of saying it. But I am not so unhappy as it may seem. For I still have hope that this war’ll end someday. All of us will return and you and I can carry on where we left off, and carry out that long hoped for marriage. I am keeping the ration book you sent me in anticipation of the great day that I return to civilization.

Darling, it’s getting late and I must rise about 5:30 in the morning so I better hit the hay.

I love you and miss you more than words can say.

Yours forever,

Shorty