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Say CHEESE! May 12, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, People.

Continued from . . . The Best Service Assignment Ever!

One of dad’s primary interests while overseas was photography.  Because cameras and film were in short supply in Korea, he asked his dad to buy him a Kodak Bantam camera and case and send it over via first class mail:

“A good camera is almost necessary in this work.  The outfit here has some Kodak Bantams to sign out to the various men in the outfit.  At present, they are all signed out.  I will be able to get all my films (except color) developed over there.  That will be a help because I plan to take a lot of pictures.  I will probably never be in the Orient again.”


On November 28th, he wrote his dad:

“Today is Thanksgiving Day, but you would hardly know it.  Film is very scarce here.  Don’t be afraid of sending too much.  The other fellows will want any that I don’t use myself. Send all small packages first class. They get handled better and come over by air.”

In addition to cameras and film, he also asked for “care packages” of cheese or cheese spreads, other spreads or sandwich fillings, soda crackers, cookies, candies, soap,  razor blades, raisins, hair tonic, shoe polish, etc.

In the same letter:

“There isn’t much news from here.  The work is interesting and keeps me busy most of the time.  I am reading A General Introduction to Psycho Analysis by Freud.  You have probably heard of Freud because he is supposed to be one of the most brilliant men in his line.”

“I have become more convinced than ever that I shall try to go farther than to get just a Bachelor of Science degree.  I think that I will at least try to get a Master’s degree.  The more I study and learn, the more I want to learn.  The fellows here are all college men.”

“My roommate has his college degree and has been a minister for 1 1/2 years.  He gave it up when he found he did not enjoy preaching what he did not believe. He is going back to college to get a master’s degree in Psychology.  Perhaps you can guess where I borrowed the book.”

He wrote Marjorie on December 6th to wish her a Happy Birthday:

“Hope you can understand that introductory paragraph.  I am afraid it is a complete grammatical flop.”

“As yet, I have seen no tigers.  I suppose there may be some around but they keep away from the cities.  I think there are more in the Russian occupied area than in the U.S. occupied area.”

“Do you take regular college subjects at Castleton?  Since I have had the opportunity to find out what college is like, I advise everybody that has the opportunity to get more education.  It is something you will never regret the rest of your life.  Learn all you can about everything you can.  Your mind will change and you find that you are interested in new and more subjects.”

He concluded:

“I notice you mention my good job in the army with sarcasm.  Anyway, it may interest you to know that I am now a corporal.  $108 a month.”

“They were going to make me a general, but I refused.”

Continued next Monday . . . Pulling Rank



1. Judson - May 12, 2014

This is great! If my Dad wrote anything home from his time overseas in WWII, I have never seen it. I suppose he would have written his mother or sister and perhaps they kept his letters. Hard to determine at this point 70 years later. I did get him to pen a sort of memoir in the years before he died and it’s nice, but most of it is simply a re-hash of stories he’d told us many times as we grew up … nothing new or particularly revealing. I’d love to know what his 19 year-old mind was really thinking at the time as he piloted that B-25 across the Atlantic through North Africa and eventually across India to his base in Burma. A written description of his months stuck in Europe after the war waiting to be shipped home would be priceless too. There must have been letters home, but who knows where they ended up? Oh well, I’m lucky to have what I have, I suppose.

nrhatch - May 12, 2014

Good point, Judson. Memoirs written years after the edges of our experiences have softened and letters written in the midst of the moment vary to significant degree ~ dad’s letters compliment his autobiography with no major contradictions.

Might anyone else in the family be a repository for WWII letters? For example your aunt’s children?

2. Jill Weatherholt - May 12, 2014

Did your father take that photograph, Nancy?
I enjoyed reading his special requests for the care packages. 🙂

nrhatch - May 12, 2014

He did take the photo. It’s my favorite of the ones taken in Korea and kept with these letters ~ I would love to know a bit about this fellow’s back story.

3. Rainee - May 12, 2014

Interesting post Nancy. Reading about the ‘care packages’ reminded me of when my eldest son (army) was in East Timor a few years ago – I used to package up big bags of lollies to send to him!

nrhatch - May 12, 2014

Care packages are such fun to receive. I’m sure your son delighted each time he received a package from you.

Before BFF and I got married, we were in Columbia SC and on a VERY limited budget. No frills! His parents sent us regular care packages with cookies to augment our tight food supplies.

4. katecrimmins - May 12, 2014

In the early 2000s we had a female employee who was in the national guard. She was called up and shipped out to Afghanistan for a year. I remember vividly her letters to us. She asked for feminine wipes in every letter. It turns out that showers were scarce and you know women like to be clean! Your Dad’s requests are so masculine. Food first!

nrhatch - May 12, 2014

Whenever we got home from camping, I savored my “after camping” shower . . . I expect that was nothing compared to your friends “After Afghanistan” shower!

Dad must have had a similar experience of wanting to be cleaner since he asked for soap.

5. nancytex2013 - May 12, 2014

What an amazing gift you have here! You are so fortunate that these letters and photos exist!

nrhatch - May 12, 2014

It’s been interesting to review his thoughts from halfway around the world ~ he had a certain patient and acceptance of the “what is” that seemed pronounced for his age.

I remember always being in a big rush when I was younger.

nancytex2013 - May 12, 2014

Yep, so many if us were.

nrhatch - May 12, 2014

I think he had the right idea. Self-created suffering often is rooted in the frantic desire to attain something other than what we already have . . .

But nothing lasts.
So what’s the rush?

6. ericjbaker - May 12, 2014

I have to laugh at the shortage of razors. 50-something years later, they still seem to be in short supply. Not that many men need to shave over there I guess.

I’m fascinated by the intellectual awakening revealed in the text of his letters. I recall that time in my life and view it as very much a before-and-after thing in terms of self-identity.

nrhatch - May 12, 2014

I don’t recall that time in my life very well. The four years I spent in college are “fuzzy.” I won’t say why. 😎

Some of them (like the guy in the photo) grow some luxurious mustaches. He reminds me of a guy in college nicknamed “Fu Manchu.”

7. I am J - May 12, 2014

“They were going to make me a general, but I refused.” I laughed out loud when I read this. I can see where you probably got your fabulous sense of humor, Nancy.

Imagine $108 a month – and I’m sure some men were sending that money home to support wives and families.

These posts are so interesting. I look forward to them every week. Thank you so much for sharing your dad (at least his letters) with us!

nrhatch - May 12, 2014

I loved that line too, J! I can hear him saying it to his little sister as a payback for her teasing him about his “good job.”

Glad you’re enjoying the series. I’ve had fun sharing dad’s younger self here.

8. The Best Service Assignment Ever! | Spirit Lights The Way - May 12, 2014

[…] Continued next Monday . . . Say CHEESE! […]

9. Pix Under the Oaks - May 13, 2014

Interesting about your Dad being so sure about how important education was.. is. So, he loved photography.. 🙂 Still impressed by the fact that he knew what he wanted to do with his life. At 19 I didn’t have a clue and probably still haven’t figured it out. Looking forward to “Pulling Rank”!

nrhatch - May 13, 2014

His father didn’t go to college and wasn’t sure that dad needed to either ~ so some of his letter writing may have been in an effort to persuade his dad that college was a priority for good reason.

Dad ended up with a Masters in Electrical Engineering, going to school and studying at night after working at Bell Labs by day.

nrhatch - May 13, 2014

I’m with you ~ I had No Clue at 19 what I wanted to do with my life other than PAR-TAY! (I thought it might involve Law School at some point.)

10. Three Well Beings - May 13, 2014

What a wonderful “learner” you dad was! I can’t imagine being in the circumstances he was and reading Freud! He was just hungry to understand and know as much about the world and people as he could, I think. I think that’s a rare quality in even much more mature (older) people. The photograph is imposing and really interesting. Even in wanting a camera he was attempting to document his experiences from the standpoint of learning more about “the Orient.” Did he do any further international travel after he married and had a family?

nrhatch - May 13, 2014

Dad did LOTS of international travel ~ for work and pleasure. He spent months in South America and Australia and China helping to improve and coordinate their phone service with ours. He made regular trips to Switzerland (twice yearly, or more) for communications.

He and mom traveled to Egypt, Greece, France, Fiji, Tahiti, Italy, Scandinavia, etc.

Wherever he went, his camera went too!

Three Well Beings - May 13, 2014

How wonderful that they shared such wonderful travels. After hearing what an adventurer and lifelong learner he was, I really understand in a deeper way how his final years were hard for the family to accept. It’s never easy, but for some, the contrast is just so sharp. I have really enjoyed “getting to know him” through what you’ve been able to share. I think he was a rather exceptional guy! ox

nrhatch - May 13, 2014

Thanks, Debra. In the last month of his life, he tried to convince my older brother and me that he had gone on a 500 MILE hike the day before.

We quizzed him, but he wouldn’t back down until:

Jim: So, dad, how far is it from NJ to VT?
Dad: Oh, about 300 miles, or so.

Jim: And you’re saying you walked almost twice that distance in a single day?
Dad: Well, my calculations may have been a bit off.

11. jannatwrites - May 13, 2014

That last comment was great, about passing on the General! I imagine the care packages were much anticipated. Freud had some interesting (and disturbing) ideas… I’m sure it made for some fascinating reading.

nrhatch - May 13, 2014

I loved the comment about refusing the proffered position as General ~> way too much responsibility!

I loved getting CARE packages in college. If I’d been overseas, I expect I would have loved them that much more.

12. diannegray - May 13, 2014

This is wonderful, Nancy. I love the way his roommate decided to do psychology instead of preaching 😉 Also adding boot polish to the list of needs is an interesting one. They must have been very strict on the dress codes.

nrhatch - May 16, 2014

If the Army didn’t provide shoe polish, razors, and soap, I’m guessing the dress code (and daily hygiene) slipped a bit.

13. pix & kardz - May 16, 2014

such a story teller! how awesome that these letters have been preserved, Nancy. and i love that photo. thanks for sharing.

nrhatch - May 16, 2014

Of the photos I’ve seen from Korea, that one is my favorite. I think that the dragon’s shadow resulted from a happy accident during film processing . . . I love what it adds to the photo.

I’m glad I’ve had a chance to read and share these letters home.

14. Pulling Rank | Spirit Lights The Way - May 19, 2014

[…] Continued from . . . Say CHEESE! […]

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