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William J. Goucher of Oklahoma. Cold Bay, Alaska, 1942

William J. Goucher of Oklahoma. Cold Bay, Alaska, 1942

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

"Stag" Staggs.  No 5 machine gun quarters (Charles Staggs) 1325 E. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles - Cold Bay, 1942

"Stag" Staggs.  No 5 machine gun quarters (Charles Staggs) 1325 E. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles - Cold Bay, 1942

Yep, we’re soldiers too. Georgia Fagan, Lela Bearden. 1940s

Yep, we’re soldiers too. Georgia Fagan, Lela Bearden. 1940s

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 8, 1942

*I thought this letter was postmarked 1943, but inside it is dated 1942 and that is the year Strip Polka was released, so I believe 1942 is the correct date. It also makes more sense for the tone of the letter. -JG

Dear Alice:

Though you have been on the job for quite a few minutes, I am at this time still in the dead of the night. I had the radio tuned to Dallas and was just listening in on the Stamps-Baxter Quartet. Sorta made me homesick. I get Dallas every fourth night, because that is the time I am on from midnight til four. There is a certain time between then we can get Dalls and even then it is full of static. Any other time, it is impossible to get Texas at all, on our radios.

I was just listening to our favorite tune, the “Strip Polka.” I hear you had quite a bit of noise over its release. Well, you know my love of the polkas, of which Beer Barrel is my favorite, so you probably aren’t surprised to know I’m also crazy over Strip Polka. Ha.

I am anxiously awaiting the day we can dance the Polka again. But even more so, the day I can just see you again. I am still under the influence of shock over your writing me again, you see.

Well, Dear, there is, as you know, nothing I can write. Though I’d write every day if it was not for that fact and for the censor’s sake. My best wishes for your happiness.

As Always,

Shorty

Le Blanc, New Orleans, LA. at Spitz, swiftly receding tide in rear

Le Blanc, New Orleans, LA. at Spitz, swiftly receding tide in rear

Bob Koch (cab wheels buried) 1942, Cold Bay

Bob Koch (cab wheels buried) 1942, Cold Bay

Don Thomas of Alturas, CA. 1942 or 1943 at Cold Bay.

Don Thomas of Alturas, CA. 1942 or 1943 at Cold Bay.

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