Wednesday, October 10, 2012

With the help of Melody Snyder of Simply Organized, we spent two days sorting through our garage. We managed to toss out and recycle quite a bit of stuff. And we discovered a lot of items we'd forgotten about, not to mention all the family mementos stashed away for decades.

My mother found the Meier & Frank gift box containing The Oregonian issue announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor. In an identical box I came across my father's letters written while in the Army. Last night I sorted them by date (1940-45) and began reading the letters.

Rather than take the chance of being drafted my father joined the Oregon National Guard (41st Infantry Division) as a band member (trombone). He'd started playing professionally in Portland, and he was a member of the popular Woody Hite Band. The Guard was stationed at Fort Lewis (Tacoma, Washington) and environs, so he could make weekend trips home when issued a pass.

So far I've read through his 1940 correspondence and I'm well into 1941. My father was not impressed with the Army and he counted down the months of his one year commitment. The infantry made a trip to California (outside San Francisco) for maneuvers and his descriptions of the mock battles are pretty funny. As they prepare for the return north the men are hearing rumors that they may not be released when their time is up.

At midnight last night I decided to go to bed -- I'd not yet come to the December 1941 correspondence.

It's interesting reading the thoughts and feelings of my 20-year-old father. He declared his mother's cooking the best in the world, teased his younger brother who was completing high school, and talked music with his father (violinist with the symphony). He asked about his high school buddies, and complained when the band unit lost several good musicians who returned to civilian life. He repeatedly asked his parents to send more stamps (note the 3 cent price) because they weren't always available at the base canteen. He sent money orders home to have most of his pay deposited in a savings account.

Reading the letters of a young man who'd rather be home playing his trombone with a jazz band and enjoying his mother's cooking is even more poignant knowing what was to come. My grandparents would soon have two sons fighting at opposite ends of the globe.

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