Letters Home

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

April 9, 1943

My Dear Alice:

You are on my mind again tonight, as usual. But more so tonight than usual. Possibly it is because I’ve been thinking of “the days of yore”, and just naturally you fall into all those thoughts. A stair case, a phonograph, piano, and “work at midnight”. Why does one torture themselves with such thoughts, instead of putting them away for the duration?

Yes, my Dear, I will remind you of the night I begged you to go to Paris with me and of the night I asked you to wait for me till the war was over, if we ever meet again. For it was not idle chatter that I was indulging in then. It was something far deeper than that. I got enough nerve then to ask for the moon. I may never have the opportunity or the courage again, but I’ll always have your last promise, “no matter how long, I’ll be waiting.” For that I am happy. But how long it makes the days seem, and how far the miles between us!

For a long time, now, I have been hoping for mail, but we are even denied that. When we get none, as has been the case these many weeks, we all but lose trace of civilization. Letters call us back to days of old and the changing world. Gives us reassurance and some degree of hope. But, alas, someday it will all be over and there’ll be no more going to work at midnight. From the way I feel now, I will only be starting to dance at midnight. It seemed I’ve never known dances, shows or gay crowds. Or at least as if it were definitely a thing of the past. We just see soldiers, and more soldiers, till I think I’ll never want to see olive drab again, if I live to be a hundred. It is a joke here that when we get back, we are going to zoot suits, because that is as far to extremes as we can get from olive drab. Ha.

Do you ever hear from any of the Sulphur Springs gang, or are they all gone? Pat says what have not gone to war, have joined defense industries. I hear from him and Nancy about once every four months.

My Dear, I am completely out of anything to write. But, oh how much I could say, if I could only see you! So for now I’ll close. “Be Honest With Me.” And remember I love you dearly.

Forever yours,

Shorty

March 17, 1943

My Dear Alice:

Here I come writing a lot of nothing. You once said I’d get tired of hearing the same thing if you said it over and over. Well, that is what I do. There just isn’t anything to write on in this place. I think of you every day and there is so much I could tell you if only we could have a good personal talk. But, Alas, I am afraid that time will be a long way off. Furloughs from here have been canceled. Of course that didn’t effect me much since I was so far down the line that I would not have gotten one anyway.

Alice, you said you had not heard from Nancy. She is working in Ft. Worth. Pat is working in the bomber plant there. They live at 3205 N. Ferry St. I finally got a wee letter from Pat, but Nancy hasn’t written a line since they married.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to tell you. I got a letter a good while ago and it had some very hot propaganda in it. I want to laugh when I think of it. Some one sent me a letter and told me to forget you. They even said you were not good enough for me. Now which of us has the enemy? It could be one of my enemies who could not bear to see me reaping golden harvest. Anyway, they used the wrong line. The propaganda was loose and unfounded. I thought of the west Texas guy, but it was a woman’s handwriting and I thew the letter aside before noticing where it was marked. No one can tell me anything about you but you yourself. I don’t even remember what the rest of the letter said. I should have kept it. Maybe you could recognize the writing. Anyway, they were talking to the wrong fellow when they say for me to “forget you.” That is impossible. So if it is your enemy, tell them to use another line, one that will stand up.

I am enclosing a snapshot. It is the only one I have on hand that will pass the censor. It was taken with a snow bank in the background. I may have some in a week or two that were taken inside. If they come out O.K. I will send them.

Well, My Dear, since I am out of anything to write, I’ll close and try to wait patiently for your next letter. You are my all, so please don’t ever let me down.

With all my love,

Shorty

February 4, 1943

Dear Alice:

This is the third time I have tried to write to you, but I have found so little to write on that I have had to give it up as a hopeless case. But I can say this much: your letters (four of them) were received with greatest appreciativeness. For I was in a very despondent mood when they came. They, as always, were a great morale builder.

The four leaf clover gave me hope, for it recalled a song, something about “I put a four leaf clover in your pocket to bring you back to me.” I know you would never admit it, but I like to believe that it was significant. Also, I’m saving that “ration book.” The fellows here in my hut read the “Long Letter.” We got a great laugh out of it.

It was sweet of you to want to send some books, my Dear, but it would be quite impossible. For I suppose you heard of our change in mail regulations? Well, we have to ask for something to be sent and then it has to be O.K.’d here. They will O.K. a package if it isn’t an article of issue, or of sale through the camp store, and a few other regulations. I have been permitted to order a Bible and that was about all I have been able to find that would come under the new law. One of the fellows here told me that I would be sure to get it, for there would be plenty in stock. Sometimes I get to wondering if people will ever begin diminishing that stock. Most of the fellows seem afraid of a Bible. Ha. Ever since I’ve been in the Army, I have had a few Testaments laying around, and here I keep three laying on a table. The fellows often without thinking, pick up a few things without proper permission, but never has one picked up a Testament. Well at least, it seems I’ve found a good place to keep change out of sight. They’d never look under a Bible for it! Ha. Only we don’t have to hide money anyway. I have left it laying in plain view of all. I’ll say one thing for the guys. They are honest here. Have you seen Roielee in Dallas? I think she and Mrs. Lawson are living there. I got a letter from Mary Etta. She seems to be quite crazy about you.

She was telling me that you were door neighbors on Fosque Ave. The letter was almost all about you. I had to grin. She didn’t know we had been writing each other. When you see her again, kiss her for me. I think she is a very wonderful old gal. Have you heard from Pat and Nancy since they moved to Ft. Worth? I haven’t, but I’d like to have their address. I don’t guess you knew that S.S. isn’t home to me any more? Well, it isn’t. Collis and Mary Etta and my Dad are the only relatives I have left there. Mama is down on the Gulf Coast, living with my Sister. I’m not even sure Dad still lives there. Christmas was the last time I’ve heard of him. I was surprised to hear of Norene’s marriage. But people will act that way sometimes, won’t they. Ha.

Has your brother been called into the Draft yet? Dee is afraid he is soon going to see “over seas” service. But don’t mention it to Roielee. He may be waiting to see for sure before he tells her.

Well, I must close for now. As always, I’m still.

Yours,

Shorty

January 22, 1943

My Dear Alice:

Oh, glorious day! For two days now mail has been streaming in. The glory of going without mail two months is the recompense of getting a lot at once. As I started to answer your first letter, I got your second one! And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if before I’m finished here, I’ll have still another of your life inspiring letters.

Believe me when I say your letters are inspiring. A few lines on paper, meaning nothing to anyone except for the one to whom they are written. Believe me, Dear, when I say that your letters have the power to make my darkness turn to sunshine and my tired and weary being to take on new life. I guess it must be true that back of every man’s actions, there is a woman to urge him on. Life has had a fuller and happier meaning to me since you let me out of the dog house. I got a letter yesterday from a girl in Savoy, Texas. She proposed marriage. Do you think I should accept the offer? Ha. She also asked “how much insurance do you have?” Ah, such heartbreak, and just as such beautiful romance was starting. Ha. I have never seen her, heard of her, or even heard her name before; and probably will never again. I ought to have told her yes, just come out to camp. Ha.

Alice, you should not stay at home so much. You need diversion. Life is too short, or rather too long. There is enough loneliness at best, but after you have come to the point where you no longer can be one of those carefree and laughing youths, you will always wonder if you could not have been happier had you followed the gang. One can never really choose between two lives until they know both types. Be young, Alice, and have no thought of tomorrow, except where your soul is concerned. Above all, have no thought of me, except where our friendship is concerned. When we ever meet and start over again, I hope we can meet on frank and well understood ground. Let no uniform or war talk be the cause of our re-union.

Speaking of movies, it may sound strange, after telling you what sort of place we are in, but we had a good film here the other day. It was “Holiday Inn”, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. This is the third one we have had in the last two months. They had planned to show one every week, but films, like mail, come when convenience allows. We see the shows free, naturally, and only part of the men can see them. There are four of us on this job, and we have arranged it so that we each only miss one show out of every four. You see, we never, for any occasion slack vigil. Regardless of the occasion, some of us are on duty. Well, that is the law of war.

I guess you have heard that my home is not in Sulphur Springs now? Sounds silly, but what I mean is that I have no relatives except Roielee and Linda and my dad living there now. Pat and Nancy moved to Ft. Worth. Neil is in the Army Air Force at Greenville and Mama has gone to Baytown, on the Gulf Coast. She distributed her household equipment and went to stay with my sister. I am just an orphan child. Ha. Ah, but it will be grand when I can reassemble the scattered family after the war. If Neil gets married, as I fear he will, that will only leave me and Mama out of a once big and happy family. Well, I guess it won’t hurt to dream of a brighter future, will it? The present is pretty enough to dwell on. The only certain thing we know now is God. Life is like trembling quicksand. You may be spared permanently or have your life taken in a period of minutes. so why plan for the future too much, or spend any time worrying about the hills we have to climb before we reach them.

Alice, I have quit hoping for a furlough. They are still giving them, but they are doing it so slowly that even if they are not stopped completely (a little later on), I still would not be up for furlough for nearly another year.

I have some more pictures being made. If they turn out O.K., you can have ‘em. By the way, about sending pictures that you wish to retain. As much as I would enjoy it, and as hard as I would try to get them back to you, I would not advise it. Mail can be lost too easily. Even if it were not lost it damaged, it may be a long time before you got them back. But thanks a million for the offer. I’m sure you understand why I advise you not to send them.

Yes, Alice, I’ve been writing every week, but I’m sure you get my letters as I get yours - all at once. I must close now.

Forever yours,

Shorty

January 10, 1943

*note that although this letter is dated 1942 and the postmark is obscured, the content and the street address in Dallas leave me confident that it was actually 1943 and Shorty just wasn’t used to the new year yet.  In the letter that follows this one he did the same thing but caught himself and corrected the 2 to a 3.

My Dear Alice:

I can at least call you “my Alice” in a letter, for we are too far apart for you to throw anything at me. My Dear, I started to write you last night, but I was so lonely, I was afraid of what I may write. Tho I’m sure I may as well write it as to think; and you already know what I think. I haven’t changed that part of my life since you came down the stairs at Big House and thus into my life.

Since that time, I have given you every reason to believe me false, and altogether thoughtless. Though, at heart, I’m not such a thoughtless guy. I had never known anyone like you. And consequently, I took your caution as indifference and thorough disgust. We couldn’t agree, but I always took your judgement as the sound and mine as the unsound and improper. I’m Irish and you are English. It was the age-old difference trying to find a happy medium; only I didn’t know how to compromise. I only knew that I had found the one I had been waiting for. I am not saying all this just to redeem myself in your opinion, I merely hope that you may know why I was what I was. And I say “was” in every sense of the word, except that I still adore you. Somewhere, some day, I’ll see you again. It may be after it is too late. But if it is, I will still have the memory. In this futureless land of loneliness, we live with only memories; so I know what a memory really is.

I had not intended to write this letter until I heard from you again, but our mail has been delayed and its been over a month since I’ve heard from you. So, of course, I have not had replies to my last three letters. But if you recall, I told you a long time ago that those times would come. Some day the mail will come in, and I’ll have a month of mail all at once. And what a day that will be!!

Alice, I promised you some pictures and you shall have them, but it will have to wait again. I had some taken that would pass the censor, and before I could send them out, they passed a new rule. Well, needless to say, that rule banned the very pictures I had. I can’t say I don’t have any pictures, for I have nearly a hundred. I’ve pictures of animals, scenery, etc. But they are too good to send out. So maybe when the war is over and this place is no longer a military secret I can show you enough pictures to show you exactly what it is like.

Do you ever see or write to Nancy? She and Pat have not written me since they married., though I’ve written them. and practically begged for a letter. They sent me a Christmas gift, or I’d say they were not on speaking terms with me. No, the truth is, Pat never was a hand for letter writing. I used to get him to write me once in a blue moon. And I suppose Nancy does not know what to write to a brother she doesn’t know. Ha ha.

Well, My Dear, I’m again out of anything to say; so I will close and start looking for a cargo of mail to show up.

Meantime, I’ll be praying that this will soon end and whatever the future holds for us, we will see it together. My waking hours are spent with thoughts of you. And to you goes -

My undying devotion,

Shorty

P.S. Pardon the slow mail. I can say it is because the new law treats all mail alike, but really I haven’t a stamp. We don’t know how the law will effect us yet.

October 6, 1942

Dearest Alice,

I have been weak with happiness since you wrote me. I got your letter a few minutes ago and I can hardly be still long enough to write now. Would I write you? I can hardly see how you could doubt it! They said I looked funny when I read your last letter; and I guess I did, but not nearly as I felt when I answered it. I hardly know what I put in that letter. All I clearly remember is that I thought, “She has found some one she cares for more and she must be happy at any cost.”

Blame you? I never did and can not in the least. It was my negligence and haste that did it. I realized that as I read that last fateful letter. Though I expected the end long before it really came. You were the most patient, gentle, and truthful girl I had gone with. The only thing I can see that you were wrong in was my true intentions. The thing that has rung in my very brain since I got that letter was this phrase - “you carried me to that old deserted house”. And one of my faults was not explaining that. We started to a dance that night and I had no idea we would end up there. The rest of the things that happened were as harmlessly meant, though I could never blame you for feeling as you did.

So, Alice, let’s start over. I could and I would be different. But I don’t know if you will forgive me the things that happened after we quit. I tried to do exactly the thing I’ve condemned others for. Grace was willing to take me back and I decided to make a try of it. Then I fooled myself into believing I was serious. I told myself that she was my choice until I believed it. But I realized the truth when she married, for I had not the slightest bit of sorrow. The strangest thing of all was that when she told me, my first thought was “I’m free”! I’m not asking you to come back to me as we were. All I ask is please write me as a friend, and let me prove that I am truly repentant. Just the fact that I’ll be getting your letters is more than I deserve. Your picture is a treasure to me. Thanks a million times.

Yes, Pat told me that he and Nancy were to wed. I’m very glad, for I like Nancy a lot. You caused the wedding. For if you had not been at the Big House, I would never have been there and so Pat would not have gone with me. Therefore they would not have met. Ha.

Have you been to see Nancy since they were married? Give them both my regards when you see them again.

I have a lot of pictures, but they will not pass censorship. So when I get my others back, if they pass censorship, I will send you one to show you how much I’ve changed. Whereas I weighed 121 before I came in the army, I weigh 140 now.

Well, as you can see, I ran out of stationery, borrowed some and now am out again; so I must close. Till I return, I remain,

Sincerely,

Jones Gowen