We think the warm caps look worse than gas masks


Jan 20, 1942.

Dearest Ruth:

I suppose you think I have forgotten about home cause I haven’t wrote for so long, but I have been so busy for the last 2 weeks that there has been no evenings at all, ever since I started working on the line from Tulsa to here. We don’t get back till the lights are out. The only time I had off was the night I called from Neosho and that was just a couple of hours.

You can’t imagine how good it was to hear a voice from home again although I was about half asleep yet, and with officers sitting around in the Orderly rooms, there wasn’t much chance to say anything. Being the call was transferred to camp from town it had to be reverse charges. But I sent the money to the folks the next day and told them to pay you whenever you get over there.

We are really having some cold weather here now. Monday night it was 12 below and I was on guard duty that night for 2 shifts, and then back to work yesterday morning again at 7. We stop a couple of times going back and forth to let the boys out and march a mile or so to warm up cause the back of them trucks are really cold riding these days. Have the rest of this week and next left. Then comes switchboard and that’s all inside work.

It was really disgusting to leave A. C. W. but the Army will do some funny things at  times. If I could have stayed with that I would have gone to Drew Field Fla. in another week, but now it may take a couple of months. But rating comes faster at this work and that is something looking forward to mostly for getting out of all the extra detail, as it’s called here.

Tonight we got back to camp at 5 but then a bunch were shipping to Vermont and they had to be taken to Joplin by 7, so that spoiled another evening. Stopped a short time at the bowling alley, they have some very good teams here, both ladies’ and men’s. At Tulsa, Okla. there are 2 bowling alleys, one with 20 and the other with 36 alleys. But they run 3 shifts each night so there is no time for open bowling except Sunday, and it’s too far from here to go then.


Have only seen one movie this year. That was Whistling in Dixie. If you kids get a chance to see it you should go, its very good. It was held over for a week here at camp. Mostly shows are changed every other night.

Haven’t heard from Toots lately < sister-in-law, mother of our cousin Harry > but it’s my turn to write. I am so far behind now that it will take a month to catch up again unless I start some Sunday morning and write all day. If K. P. don’t come again next weekend that’s a 15 hour job each day so they can have that for all of me.

You should see the caps we were issued when the cold weather came along. All that shows is the eyes. We all think they look worse than the gas masks but they are really warm. The fellow that sleeps next to me is on K. P. tomorrow. He said he was going to put his on tonight when he goes to bed so the C. Q. won’t know him in the morning when he’s to wake him up. Hope it works. There are lots of tricks to this game but the next thing is to get by with it.

Well I think I shall quit for now. 5 comes early in the morning. Will try try to write sooner next time.

Love T. K.

Got K. P. duty for first time in the Army


Jan 11, 1943.

Dearest Ruth,

I received your letter over a week ago, but have been out of camp for 7 days. A week ago yesterday I tried to call you from Joplin but Central said it would take 3 hours and I did not have time to wait. So, we went to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We have been working on the line between there and here since. We slept in tents and caves every night until Saturday and when we got back here, what do you suppose the first thing I saw on the bulletin was K. P. for Sunday, the first time since I have been in the Army.

I can see by your letter that the boys at home had a good time New Years. That day was the same as any other day here. 32 of us in my Company were on 24 hour guard duty from 5 p.m. until 5 p.m. the following afternoon. I was really thinking of home that night when walking out there in the dark for four hours at a time.

When we come off duty we get all the coffee and sandwiches we can eat and sometimes a few beers if we have a good Officer of the Day or one that forget to look under the bed where the case is hidden.

Had a letter from B. Decker today, he is really sick of the place where he is, but in 3 more weeks will become Staff Sergeant so he is doing alright for himself.

12 including myself in A. C. W. were busted 2 weeks ago, the lowest with a 92 grade, and put on filed line and switchboard for what reason we don’t know yet today. But the Army will do some funny things. We were to ship out the middle of Jan. but now it will be 2 more months. But by the way some boys write us from other camps, Crowder is not bad, only for its location.

We are having some wonderful weather here so it’s nice working outside except for climbing them 40 ft poles to couple our wires. We dig them spurs in the post as deep as they can go. Sometimes one comes sliding down full speed, that makes a good laugh for the rest. I have had some good spills myself so it is fun to see the others do the same.

Well I think this will be all for now. Tell them all Hello!


August 1945: WWII ends!

Mom writes to her sister back home, from near Baltimore where they were stationed.

August 7, 1945

Last Sunday, the news had just some out about the new bomb they’re about to use on Japan, and we were pretty thrilled about it, and speculating what it might mean, etc. Later, when the girls got back from the movie, they invited me downstairs to partake of ice cream with maraschino cherries on it, and I stayed there, talking to them, until a little after ten.

August 8, 1945

I’m so thrilled about all the news of the atomic bomb that I can scarcely wait each day for the paper to come and find out the latest. I do wish we had a radio so we could tune in at night and hear the ten o’clock news.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Japan would give in, now, and we wouldn’t have to invade the China coast and Japan proper? Maybe we won’t have to take a furlough, but will be coming home with the war over. Every time I think such a thing might happen, it gives me the cold chills. I wonder, if Japan had capitulated at the time of our first ultimatum, whether the news of our harnessing the atom would have come out at this time, or if scientists would have kept it mum for years. It is curious to know what might have happened.

Tues. Aug. 14, 1945

Dear Marion:

Just got back from a trip to the Commissary. I hated to leave the radio in case of the big announcement, but it sounds as if it will be quite a while yet.

Last night the boys at the house were talking about how long they’ll be at the camp. Sgt. Naler says he thinks a conservative estimate would be 3 months — very doubtful if they’ll stay that long. We’re sort of forgetting about a furlough until further notice.


The war is really over at last! It’s so wonderful I can hardly believe it yet. When I woke up this morning I was so happy I wasn’t even sleepy.

<Movies were shown at the camp where they were stationed, near Baltimore.>
We went to the movie last night, and about 7:10 or so the lights came on and everyone just knew what it was. Col. Thomas came out on the stage and made a very short announcement, and I wish you could have heard the noise then! The boys yelled, whistled, clapped their hands, and really whooped it up. Pretty quick they started the picture, and quite a few got up and left. Then about 15 min. later the lights came on for a minute while a voice requested all MPs to report to their stations. I was so happy I couldn’t even see the picture, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. We watched for a while, but decided to leave before the picture was over.

We stopped at the PX and talked to a few of the boys. They were all terrifically exuberant, talking about going home, etc., and then we left as it was just getting dark.

Thorgel was restricted < to the camp >, but he got to walk part way home with me. Wilma told me about the 2-day Federal holiday, at which I was overjoyed. We didn’t know if we had to come to work, put in an appearance, or not, but thought we should.

Thorgel probably spent the balance of the evening drinking beer with his cronies. There have been some pretty large celebrations going on in camp since the night of the false rumor.

When I got home I went upstairs and started to cry, for about five minutes — just nerves and happiness together being too much for me — and then I went down to see Wanda. She looked red-eyed, too, and said later her husband just about cried when the news came over the radio. We listened to the radio till about eleven, and then drank root beer and ate cookies and Jello. Some celebration!

This morning Major Barrick still said he hadn’t heard anything official, but upon being confronted by an office force determined to take two days off whether he okayed it or not, he finally got in touch with Post Hq and verified it, and we all went home again with his blessing.

Sgt. Naler came home a few minutes at eleven and said they wouldn’t parade tonight as V.J. day isn’t official until the treaty papers are signed by Japan. So the boys will come tonight, thank goodness.

My, it must have been some celebration in New York and San Francisco last night. How was it in S.F.? Here a lot of cars drove around full of people honking horns, etc., but it’s such a small place they couldn’t do much.

“No-Tipsy” picnic holders save the day (or, at least, the beer).

bottlekeeper11Every picnic basket needs some “No-Tipsy” bottle holders made with BUTTONS from your stash. 

I once heard Elizabeth Zimmermann call a knitting method an “un-vention” — meaning she couldn’t be sure that process was never done before, but it came from an original thought of her own, based on applied, practical experience.

That’s exactly how I developed these “No-Tipsy” holders to keep bottles from falling over when the lawn is not perfectly flat. I’ve seen commercial versions used to support wine glasses.

Here’s how to make your own!


(1) For each “No-Tipsy” you will need… one BBQ skewer with a loop/ring at the top, one button (with 2 or 4 holes, not a shank) that fits inside the skewer ring, one very large button (a great use for those big, vintage buttons you inherited), a bracelet or other sturdy hoop that’s big enough to fit over your favorite bottles, some strong thread, a needle, and scissors. (Or, instead of thread, some wire, a wire snipper, and really pointy pliers. I have never used wire, but it should work out OK.)


(2) Be sure to test the bracelet for sufficient diameter of the hole. Any design will work as long as it’s strong enough to support the bottle. I usually use bangles.

(3) Thread into the small button, through the ring of the skewer, into the large button, back through the second hole of that one, then back through the ring and the second hole of the small button. Wrap the ends around the bracelet and tie a firm knot. It’s OK if it’s just a little loose, it will tighten up later.

bottlekeeper04 bottlekeeper05

<If you are using wire instead of thread, use your judgment according to the gauge and tighten as needed by twisting. YMMV. Be sure to roll under the cut ends so no sharp points stick out, hence, the pliers.)

(4) Assuming you are sewing, repeat the process so the thread goes at least four times round. If your buttons have four holes, you’ll alternate, sewing through each.


(5) Next, wrap the thread a few times around the “thread shank” as you would when sewing on a button (perpendicular). This tightens the attachment.


(6) At the end of the process, fasten with an overhand knot. You’ll likely have to slide it up into place by using the needle as a tool. It’s hard to get your fingers into the confined space.

bottlekeeper08 bottlekeeper09

(7) Cut the thread and tuck the ends in, between the buttons.


(8) To use, push the skewer into the lawn as far as needed and drop the bottle in. Voila!!


Both Tom Brown and Robert Preston are in our battalion



Dec 25, 1942.

Dearest Ruth:

Thanks a lot for the Xmas present, just what I wanted most of all. We had a good time last night after all the presents were passed around. Captain Newell makes a good Santa Clause (sic). We all ate candy and cookies till we were full in the face. At 11 o’click most all went to church, it was filled to the roof.

Both yesterday and today we slept till 7:30, went to breakfast, and back to bed till noon. I am sending you a menu so you can see what a dinner we had today. But there don’t seem to be the spirit to it like home, even if it is as good as it would have been at home. This afternoon we went to the Field House for the broadcast, maybe you heard it.

Both Tom Brown and Robert Preston < actors > are in our battalion. Here they are only Pvts. like all the rest, even when it comes to K. P. Both are on duty Sunday.

brown Tom Brown, actor
preston-This_Gun_For_Hire_movie_poster Robert Preston, actor, show poster

I am waiting to get it New Year’s but that day will be the same as every other day here except for pay on New Year’s Eve. I have only 47¢ and 2 pkgs cigarettes left so there will be a hot time in camp that night.

Had a letter from Dayton < Sneve, a neighbor back home > today. You can let him see the menu for he was wondering if we would have a good Xmas dinner. I haven’t got time to answer right away. Only been in school 2 days this week and a test coming up tomorrow so I will have to do some studying tonight yet, before lights go out.

Wishing you a Happy New Year.

Love, Thorgel.


Has Marion seen her sailor sir? Or is he froze in at the lakes.
< This is a joke. My mom’s sister later married Art Serr, who was in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. >

I was in Joplin today after a load of raincoats.

Our dad was a native speaker of Danish. He never finished high school here in the States; he quit school to work on the farm. So it’s been interesting to read his letters about going back to school in a military setting for a couple of different reasons — well, three actually.

  1. I’ve never read anything Thorgel wrote before. Really, I haven’t. Oh, maybe a grocery list, but never what I’d call “content,” nor original writing. He never wrote me a letter. Mom always did the writing for both of them, whenever I was away from home. I didn’t find these letters until many years after he died.
  2. He always liked to learn new things, he was a whiz at arithmetic (always done in Danish), and he had incredible mechanical aptitude for building and fixing — especially from repurposed materials and found objects. A true dumpster diver long before the term became common. I’m sure he felt very positive overall about the training and “schooling” he got in the military. He didn’t do a GED process in WWII, as far as I know, but he certainly could have earned the like.
  3. Thorgel never quite mastered a few words/phrases in English and he used what he thought he heard, not what would have been correct in written form. Of course, the favorite mom and I had was the way he used to say, “nipped in the butt” instead of “in the bud.” You have to admit the mental picture is memorable. He confused several homonyms, punctuation was arbitrary, there are run-on sentences. He thought “sequins” were “sequence” and he spelled “Santa Clause” with an “e” at the end, 50 years before the movie title. But I have college students whom I teach today whose writing is far less clear and direct and engaging than T. K.’s narratives in these letters he wrote to mom.

1942, the week of Christmas. Stuck in small-town Missouri…


Dec 20, 1942.

Dearest Ruth:

Just a few lines to let you know I got your package today but I can’t open it til Xmas Eve. Our Captain wants to be Santa Clause (sic). He is really going to be busy, there must be over 150 packages for our barracks alone.

I was in Joplin today after a load of raincoats. It’s rained here for 2 days and a lot of the boys did not get a raincoat until now. It’s 32 miles from here and that’s the only town around of any size. It’s around 8,000 population. Had to wait 1½ hours to get loaded, so I went around town and got a few things. The small towns around here have been sold out long ago so I was about to give up hopes of doing any Xmas shopping until today.

When I got home tonight I had 12 cards and letters, most of them from Minn. They must have got my address from my buddy at Miami cause they had been there first. I am ashamed of myself for not writing to some of them but I guess they won’t mind too much.

Here we wear our O. D. trousers and tan shirts and black ties, with blouse for dress. We have coveralls for everyday. I really like them better than trousers and jacket like we wore at Miami.

You were wondering if I had rode in a Jeep yet. Yes, ever since last Friday I drive one every afternoon out in the woods a few miles to a receiving station out there for the A. C. W. school. It’s just like riding one of these Mo. mules, herding it down the trails in the woods, but they can really plow mud and climb the hills.

We are going to have both Thursday and Friday off here, there will be services Xmas Eve at 11, and 9 and 2 Friday. There will also be a play at the Field House Friday afternoon so it won’t be bad after all, although it won’t be like home, by far. But the Army is doing its best for each and every one here so what more can be expected under the circumstances.

Sunday I sent you a picture. I had 6 like it taken at Miami. I was also to have 2 big ones like the one the folks have. You can see it when you go over home. But I shipped out before they were ready so if I will ever get them now is a question. I had intended to give you and Harold one of those instead of the small ones.

I hope it’s a picture of you that’s come today. It’s a good thing it’s only 3 days to wait or it would maybe mean K. P. (A few have tried to open their packages and that’s what they get.) It’s kind of rough but orders are strict here and it’s best to stick with them.

Well, I think this will be all for tonight, I haven’t read all my letters yet and we have another mail call at 10. We have 3 a day now until after the holidays. So Good Night and lots of Love, Thorgel

Tell them all Hello! from me.

It’s all military secrets we are not even supposed to mention

42-12-20Almost Christmas, 1942.
WWII training in Nowhere, Missouri.


Dec 19, 1942.

Dearest Ruth:

Thanks a lot for your letter, got it just before chow tonight. I did not get to read till afterwards cause I was really hungry. The Miami gang < guys who trained together there the month before > all had another shot just before dinner < immunizations >. This makes 9 now. It makes a person a little dizzy for a couple of hours so it was very little we had for dinner.

We really have a swell Captain in this Co., he came around right afterwards and told us we could go to a show this afternoon in place of school. The King of Kings is on for 3 days here at the field house. The only thing none of us like about it is we have only wooden benches to sit on and they get plenty hard hard to sit on for 2½ hours.

Have now gone to school 8 days. We have nothing but open classes, so there is no studying to do after school. It’s all military secrets we are not even supposed to mention anything about it to other boys at the barracks. I could now tell you exactly what you would hear from a plane coming over Sioux Falls wanting to make a landing but I guess it’s best not to. You would maybe land it right in the middle of your tree garden or over in our chicken yard.

The best I can do describing our schooling is like playing Dominoes only it’s done by head and chest phone and the fellow you play with is across the street telling you what ones to use. It’s really great to be in the Army playing games 8 hours daily. Most of us don’t seem to think we are even earning our meals after 5 weeks of this.

I think I could best you in a game even if you are the best bowler, you are doing all right with that left of yours.

You should see all the Xmas packages we have here. We have an 8 ft square in the corner of our barracks with a pile about 4 ft high. No one is allowed open their packages before Xmas Eve, so there will really be some time here then. A few have tried and got caught. That means a day of K. P.

By the way, you were mentioning about that in the last letter I got. I haven’t been on K. P. yet, but after being here 2 weeks everyone gets 1 day. Every 2 weeks they are picked by alphabet, that way everyone gets a fair chance. By the way I forgot to thank you for the snapshots. The one I have in my billfold and the other is hidden in the footlocker. that’s the one on the fireplace. < T. K. built a brick fireplace out in the yard at mom’s house. > The boys say they would really like to have something like that to back up to and make hotdogs in the moonlight. That’s something we don’t have here at Crowder.

It’s been cloudy and raw ever since I came here and we wear our raincoats most of the time back and forth to school. We also had a blackout here the same night as home. They fired 3 shots from the cannon, by the last shot everything here was dark.

The boys here thought it was funny, but us from Miami were used to that every night so we thought it was just to have lights in the evening. Here we can stay outside every night till 11 o’clock but there is nothing to go to outside the camp. The towns around here are only small ones and everything is so high < expensive > it’s terrible. We can get the same things at the P. X. for almost half. Homes around here look like the ones in Arkansas. That house of your Uncle Charley’s would be a mansion here so you can imagine what these would be.

All of us were really disgusted when we came here after being in Florida and then landing out here in the sticks, but the boys here are all swell fellows and we have lots of fun together the best we all know how. So I suppose a couple of months here will pass by too. From here it will either be back to Tampa or Fort Lewis Wash. The ones that finished school when we got here went to Fla. and the ones before that went to Wash. It seems to be every other shift that go to the opposite direction. I would like to go to Wash. from here then I would be only 30 miles from Harold < his brother > and the rest of our relations out there.

From there it’s an A. P. O. in about 6 weeks. I am going to try to get a few days off before leaving here but at the present time it’s impossible cause so many have gone over the hill lately < AWOL >. 2 were brought back yesterday and they will be in the guard house 6 months at least. Every day the Captain warns us that it’s best to stick around through the Holidays. After that he will try his best for all and he is a man that don’t say much but he has served 27 years so he really knows the ropes.

Well I guess I must quit for tonight. Have ½ hour before bedtime. I am going over to the P. X. for a malted milk first, so Good Night and lots of love, Thorgel.

Merry Xmas to all and don’t eat too much candy and nuts.