This letter is from my grandfather to his mother, and was written while he was stationed in Philadelphia toward the beginning of his service. Based on this letter, one could fairly surmise that my grandfather flirted his way through World War II, and he certainly succeeding in attracting a number of pen pals. Apparently, dating in the 1940s was a rather competitive pursuit, and the goal was to go out with a lot of different people and enjoy the evening without an expectation of anything more. The purpose of dating wasn’t necessarily to pursue a long-term relationship, but it was considered good for figuring out qualities you’d like in a spouse. I’m a little surprised that my grandfather was so frank about it with his mother, though.
Phil. Pa. Tuesday, Oct.13,1942
Believe it or not I think I have a couple minutes to write a letter. I just finished eating supper and I feel fine. We had Tomato Soup, Pork Chops, Potatoes + Beets with cake for dessert. It was all very good. They call this ship the “League of Nations” It flies the Honduras (Cen. Am.) flag–Norge¹ crew–Operated by the U.S. Line–and Chinese Cooks. The officers are all good fellows and I know I will have a good trip.
This morning I went down to the Port Director’s office with one of my crew who had his pay card and identification card stolen. I tried to get him new cards but it was no use. While I was down there I got the dickens for not having the gun crew’s quarters spick + span. I thought the boys were pretty good about keeping things clean and neat and I have an idea he got me mixed up with someone else. This bunch of fellows are much better than the last group I had. While I was down town today they cleaned the gun and painted it entirely on their own initiative. Now that’s a good sign! I feel quite confident.
By the way, I sent a package home to-day which has in it some things I won’t need. Will you please tuck them away for me along with the other things I left home. I think I will have shoes enough to last the duration!
I wrote five letters yesterday but this is the only one today, so far. –Last night I went roller skating and had a fine time. The girls were all quite young, about 14-18.² I picked out the best one in the lot and had a couple skates with her. I think she told me her name but I don’t remember it. I asked her if I might see her home but she said that was promised to someone else. However, she did say that if I will come again next week I will probably see her there. Of course I wouldn’t be here next week but don’t you think it was awfully nice of her to say that! Phooey! I expect to go again tonight so maybe I’ll anchor something this time.–I met a girl and apparently her mother on the sidewalk today. It happened like this:–1. We got off the same street car. 2. They had parcels to mail and we had that one I mentioned. 3. They had noticed we had the parcel and we must have looked lost because they voluntarily started to direct us to the Post Office. 4. They both seemed very nice + friendly and when we left them they gave us their address and told us that any time we wanted a meal to come over to their house (3256 Tilden St.). I really think they were good people because they mentioned that they had some member(s?) of the family in the service and when this is the case I have found people to be more friendly than a person who has no one in the service. They seem to understand the difficulties a service man encounters when in a strange city. Such things as transportation, what to eat, where is the Canteen, U.S.O.←joke³, and Post Office. When a fellow comes to a strange town the first thing he tries to do is to get a girl with whom he can go out every night while he is there and go to dances, movies, and see the town and at the same time have good company and someone to show him around. But try and get it! The U.S.O. has a few girls but they have to stay there–you can’t take them out.* As far as I am concerned the U.S.O. is absolutely worthless!
Well, I didn’t intend to ramble on so much and now it’s getting nearly time to go skating. I think I will send a man to New York tomorrow to get our mail and that will be the last for a while.
You will hear from me again before I leave here–I hope but anyway you will hear from me again before I leave the States, but not from Phil.–No it’s not B!**
I really must quit now but I’ll write again soon. As ever, love to all.
I would also like to share my grandfather’s rather exceptional signature:
¹I’m intrigued that he used the Norwegian name for Norway, although I suppose he got it from the crew. From other letters I’ve read, it seems that the Captain and First Mate were Norwegian, and he knew and liked them. Incidentally, my grandmother, whom he hadn’t yet met, was Norwegian-American, and her father had also been a sailor. So now I kind of wonder if that had been a conversation starter.
²Ummm…that’s a little weird.
³He was not a fan of the U.S.O. I’m sure they’re a very good organization, though.
*He makes them sound like reference books.
**I don’t know what this means.